Two and a half years ago, after whimsically submitting my DNA to Ancestry.com for analysis, I made the discovery that the father who raised me—the long-dead father I adored—had not been my biological father. I could easily have never known this. I could have lived my entire life not knowing the truth of my paternity.
As I stared at the results on my computer screen, as I saw a match with a first cousin who was a perfect stranger, as I scanned the list of unfamiliar names to whom I was apparently related, I quickly understood what had happened. I recalled a long-ago conversation—the only conversation—I’d had with my mother, in which she’d let slip that she and my father had difficulty conceiving me and had gone to an institute in Philadelphia where a world-famous doctor (her words) had developed a test to monitor a woman’s ovulation. She then told me that my father would be called when she was at the peak of her ovulation, and he would drop everything and race to Philadelphia from New York, where he worked, so that the procedure could be done.