I blame Ancestry.com for my heart attack

It started innocently enough.

I got my dad a subscription to Ancestry.com for Christmas, and I just renewed it for him for Father’s Day. Every so often I go to my parents’ house, and the three of us sit huddled around my dad’s computer in my dad’s living room. (And yes, my mom has her own computer … and her own living room. Don’t ask. It seems to work.) We start typing in names, clicking on little bobbing leaves, hoping to add more relatives to our ever-growing family tree.

We all find the process fascinating, though the misspellings of names can be a bit vexing at times. And, a few relatives we’re sure existed seem to defy being found. Makes me wonder if half the family weren’t fugitives living under undocumented aliases.

But I digress.

Yesterday I received a call from my mom … on their cell phone, which means one of two things, since they rarely use their cell phone: Either they’re out shopping and are calling me to ask me the size of something or the best brand of something else, or they’re calling me randomly to use up some of the 1,000 prepaid minutes they’ve racked up because they have to keep rolling them over so they don’t expire.

Yesterday it was neither of those things. The caller ID tells me it’s them on that cell phone.

“Hello? Mom?”

“Hi! Guess what!”

This is never a good game to play with my parents, so I fold immediately, although I realize playing the guessing game could at least use up a bunch of their minutes.

“Dunno. What?”

“You’ve got a sister.”

Silence. More silence. Insert crickets chirping.


“You’ve got a sister.”

Not only do I have no idea what she’s talking about, but I also can’t fathom why she waited till they were out gallivanting around in the car to call me to tell me this. I keep asking her “What?” as if the answer will change, or at least be augmented with, say, some actual information, but all she keeps saying in response is, “You’ve got a sister.”

I can tell she’s waiting for me to catch on, but I don’t. My mind is busy whirling around our last Ancestry.com huddle-time, and I start doing the math in my head. A sister—and the cryptic way she’s telling me—means one of several things:

  • My parents are a lot more spry than I’ve been giving them credit for. I do not like this option one bit because the resulting therapy might not be covered by our health insurance.
  • One of them has a past he or she hasn’t been telling me all these years, and they’re doing a preemptive strike before I find this woman on Ancestry.com. I do not like this option either because I’ll have to amend my entire view of my childhood, which is already a bit dicey because I’m over 50 and have trouble remembering my Social Security number properly, let alone what kind of childhood I really had.
  • My only sibling has talked his wife into letting him get a “sister wife.” I do not like this option either because, well, I shouldn’t have to explain this one. Plus, my sister-in-law is a lot smarter than that.


It’s my mother, trying to yank me back to reality. She doesn’t mind using up her ridiculous cache of minutes this way, but it’s probably still pretty annoying to listen to dead silence from my end of the phone. And, let’s face it, it’s also unusual.

“Okay, I give up. It’s not you. And it’s not Mike. So it’s …”

And suddenly it hits me. All this time on Ancestry.com has had me thinking in all the wrong ways—in terms of species. I’m having this conversation with a woman who calls my pet guinea pigs her “grandpigs.” She is calling from the cell phone because, yes, she is at the Beaver County Animal Shelter. And they are picking up an 11-week-old kitten this afternoon.

And now it all makes sense … and I can start breathing again. I don’t have to rethink everything I ever knew about my entire nuclear family.

Meanwhile, I wonder what my younger brother, Scooter the tabby cat, is going to think of his new little sister….