“DNA is the gift that keeps on giving, whether you’re ready or not,” writes Dorothy Ellen Palmer. Palmer and her half-brother, Don Doiron, were born a week apart in 1955, in the same hospital, to different mothers: Florence McLean and Ana Cifuentes. It took 62 years before they learned that they were half-siblings, and were adopted into very different families. Palmer pens a poignant personal essay about searching for the truth, their buried family history in a time when “silence ruled” and “adoption was never discussed,” and their birth father. It’s a moving story about finding one’s place in the world.

Even as adults, adoptees have long been treated like children who need to be protected from our own truths. When we came of age in the 1970s, Don and I had to apply for the scant details, called non-identifying information, the government then permitted us to know. We received sparse biographies of our birth mothers (age, birthplace, education and occupation) and next to nothing about our birth fathers. It wasn’t enough for either of us.

Today, Don and I are still piecing together our stories. Not everything we’ve learned has been happy. Some of our shared history is heart-rending. But we claim every bit of our lives as our truth, as the story we have every right to know, to celebrate and to mourn, to pass on to our children.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.