Why Do I Feel Different?

My name is Katy Coic and I would like to share my story. My story of finding out that my dad is not my biological father. 

As I’m sitting here (re)writing this, it’s the day after father’s day and I’ve been trying to process a plethora of emotions; guilt for wanting to know more about my birth father, sadness for my dad and myself, anger towards my mom, and trying to understand the disconnect I feel between my siblings and me. 

My story isn’t about my journey to find out who my birth father is, though; I know exactly who he is. 

I’m actually in the process of reaching out to him; writing a paragraph, delete! delete! delete! To writing another paragraph, and deleting again.

I trust it will happen at exactly the right time. 

Rather, my story is about my journey navigating a hard and confusing childhood to finding out (through a 23 and Me ancestry kit) that I have no shared DNA with my dad.

I was born in a somewhat small town in Texas called Lubbock. Actually, Lubbock is not really a small town, but it’s not a big town either.  Buddy Holly was born there so I guess it has its talking points. I lived there for about four years and then my parents moved me and my younger brother to Tacoma, Washington where I would live out the rest of my childhood and most of my adult life. 

I don’t have many memories of my life in Lubbock, but I do have some random odd flashes here and there; a baked potato buffet-style restaurant with black and white checkered flooring, playing Crocodile Dentist on my Meemaw and Pawpaw’s living room floor, a bookcase made out of cinder blocks and 2×4’s, and sitting on my uncle Pats lap while he played the guitar. My uncle Pat was always someone I remembered fondly. He was my dads’ best friend as well as my parents’ roommate in Lubbock. 

After we moved to Washington, I missed him dearly. I thought of him often and didn’t really know why, but it will make more sense as the story unfolds. 

In Washington, I had a hard childhood. I was loved, but I endured physical and emotional abuse. It took many years to process the pain I felt growing up; to understand that my parents loved me the only way they knew how. 

My parents had me when they were 25 years old; 4 years later, my brother, Mark, would be born; 3 years after that, my sister, Emily, entered our lives. We all had very different childhoods.  We had similar experiences when it came to the control my mom had over our household, but we had very different expectations placed upon us. My sister was the brains of the family; she would be the first of anyone in the family to graduate from a 4-year college. She is now a kickass lawyer. My brother was a comedian; he was always there to defuse a tense situation by making everyone laugh – he is now a father of 3 and a Navy Corpsman. 

I played a different ballgame… I was the troublemaker, the rebel. I was the one who brought upon many tense situations that my brother was there to defuse. 

At 21, I had just found out my ex was cheating on me and my mom disclosed some revelatory information… “there is a chance Pat could be your birth father,” she said, trying to make me feel better, by explaining that if someone cheats, the relationship can still survive.  Even still, I knew she regretted telling me as the words came out of her mouth. I pressed, of course, but she refused to talk about it any further, shutting down every question I asked. I was crushed… devastated. 

Things slowly started to make sense, though; I began to understand why I was so different from my family.  I was the only artistic one, the only redhead, and I didn’t look anything like my siblings. My relationship with my dad started making sense as well; I’d never felt super close to him… I mean, he was always there for me – he took me to my soccer games and concerts, he provided for the family and was always there to support us however we needed. We just didn’t really connect on an emotional level like he did with my sister. 

At 23, I was told I might have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was the only one in my family with such health issues, so my questions about Pat began to surface once again. 

But instead of going to my mom, this time, I opened up to my brother. My brother didn’t want anything to do with it, he actually asked me to not talk about it with him again, as he didn’t want me “causing any unnecessary drama”. I was devastated but quickly learned that you can’t buy oranges from a hardware store. I dropped the subject with my family and only talked about it with my boyfriend at the time and my friends. 

One day, I was working on a photo slide for my dad’s 50th birthday, when I came across a Kodak envelope of pictures of Pat. Knowing it was wrong, I took them from my mom’s stash of old photos stored in a green vintage Samsonite Hard Shell Suitcase; the musty smell of old stories excited me. I tucked them away so I could look through them later. I brought the photos to my boyfriend, we looked through them in awe- the resemblance was uncanny; there was no question, no doubt in my mind. I labeled the envelope holding the pictures “Uncle Pat” but my boyfriend, trying to be funny, labeled them “Uncle Dad”. I hid the photos for years, I didn’t want my mom to see “Uncle Dad”, it just wasn’t a conversation I was ready to hash out with her, and I knew she wasn’t ready to hash it out with me either. Thus, the elephant would stay in the room. 

Living with my curiosity was something I got used to – I didn’t even think twice about it anymore. I carried that curiosity for over a decade, and let it become a part of me. It was a rusty nail I was choosing to lay on. For Christmas in 2018, I gifted my sister and I a 23 and Me DNA kit. I was excited for some insight into my lineage, possible answers regarding my health, and hope that I could finally find the missing piece I had grown so accustomed to. My sister had received her results within three weeks, and she shared her profile with me through the app. I studied her health and lineage while I waited for mine, which seemed to take forever.  

I went on with my life, living in the present (which was not easy) and focused on the things that were right in front of me. Then one cold and dark morning in February, I woke up to an email from 23 and Me telling me my results were ready.

I groggily opened the app, and there it was, bright as day, Emily, predicted relationship – Half Sister on your mother’s side.  I remember I just laughed. My dad had also done a 23 and Me a year before my sister and me, so I went to his profile and saw “We do not detect shared DNA between you and David.” I felt so sad for him as more questions flooded in my head. Does he know? He has to see it, right? I don’t look anything like him. Did my parents keep this from me to protect me or did my mom keep this from my dad to protect their relationship? 

The one thing I did know for a fact was that my dad loved me very much. 

After receiving the results, I didn’t know who to talk to. My brother had shut me down in the past, I didn’t want to make waves between my parents and me, I hadn’t tried talking to my sister about it, but for some reason, I was scared to. I didn’t know how she was going to react. So I ended up texting my sister-in-law; I asked her to keep it between us right now as I was still trying to process everything. So, naturally, she went to my brother and told him. Shortly after, I received a text from Mark saying, “you knew what can of worms you were opening when you did this.” I was heartbroken. I knew he wasn’t emotionally capable of navigating this with me. 

I felt a sense of sadness and loneliness that I didn’t understand. So, I ended up calling my sister; I had to talk to someone, in hopes of some comfort and reassurance. I texted her, “have you seen my results yet?” to which she responded she hadn’t but that she would check it out when she got home. My sister called me shortly after… “oh my gosh, Katy. Are you okay?” I talked with her for a while that night. She was kind and understanding, comforting and patient, loving, and empathetic. She told me the results didn’t matter – that what the DNA says doesn’t change our childhood, our memories, or our connection. 

I felt a relief I hadn’t felt for years. I suddenly felt safe and empowered to go through this journey; her support truly meant everything to me. 

The past two years since I received my results have been incredibly healing. 

I have a million questions I’d like to ask Pat, and a million more to ask my mom. Did Pat know my mom was pregnant with his child? Was this the reason we moved from Texas to Washington? Do I have any other half-siblings out there? Could this be where my autoimmune disease comes from? Is my fear of spiders hereditary? 

I’m excited to move forward in this process of reaching out to Pat. I’m preparing myself for the worst but hoping for the best. I know that no matter what, my dad loves me very much and he’s doing the best he can. I believe that deep down, he knows the truth, and he chose to love me anyway. 

In closing, I’m grateful to finally get off the rusty nail and have some answers.  I’ve gained a new sense of peace, understanding, and love for myself;  I don’t feel like I have to conform to the same tendencies as my siblings – I’m not them.  

And if I don’t start my own blog, I’ll be sure to come back and share part two of this journey with you all… I’m sure there will be plenty to tell.

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