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I can remember it so clearly.  He held my hand, looked into my eyes, and smiled.

"I'm so glad you're German."

I laughed and laughed, teasing him about how very 'Hitler  Youth' he sounded.  But truly, I knew what he meant.  I knew how much he valued his German heritage because it was one of the few things that made him feel connected to his mother.  In all of the years we knew each other he only spoke of her once or twice - his mother, the beautiful artist, who had moved here from Germany to marry and, when he was only nine years old, left this world of her own volition.  Still, it was such an odd thing to say out loud.

The funny thing is that, apparently, I'm not even German - a fact I wasn't aware of until four days ago.

I've been trying to figure out how to process this information, how to write about, what to do with it - mentally and otherwise - since I found out on Monday.  My dear, sweet grandmother, living angel that she was, had an affair.  My father and one of his sisters were likely the product of said affair.  I'm not sure if he grew up with any hint of this knowledge but, after she died in a car accident twenty years ago, my grandfather disclosed her indiscretion to my father and his four siblings.

This knowledge changes nothing and yet changes absolutely everything.  The facts of my life, my father's life, my grandparent's lives - they are all the same.  Nothing done can be undone.  But the shift in perspective is huge. So many of the things that have happened in the past 20 years make sense now.  So many of things that happened before...

Life happens, you calibrate.  Recalibrate. And move forward.  So that's what I will do.

But! I have so many questions and I doubt I'll ever have answers.  Where do my blue eyes come from? Is this why my father has grown so distant from all of his siblings, save for the sister with whom he shares a father? Does my father want to know the truth? Why is my mother so angry at my grandfather when he isn't the one who had the affair.  Is she in denial? And how has she hidden this anger for so long? Am I just oblivious?

I'm not supposed to know but my brother, having figured it out after a DNA test months ago, could no longer hold it in.  I'm not sure if I'll try to talk to my parents about it or if I will respect the fact that this is a secret they intended to take to the grave. For most of my life, until his retirement a few years ago, my father worked a job with an incredibly high government security clearance level.  I've accepted the fact that there are large portions of his life I will never know much about for this reason.  Is the knowledge of his parentage any different?

All I really know is that my family is still my family. And that I'm not German after all - a fact that never really mattered to me, but mattered for a short while to someone I cared about a long time ago.  It's funny how that's where my brain went after all of this time.

1:59 p.m. - 2021-09-24

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