Family Histories

By Doug Mayberry

June 3, 2019 4 min read

Q: My eldest daughter has been getting into genealogy and got the whole family to do DNA tests. Although we were excited to see the genetic breakdown of our family, now I wish we'd never done it.

When we looked at the results, it became apparent that my wife isn't related to her siblings; she must have been adopted, but we haven't uncovered the records yet.

Both of my wife's parents passed a long time ago, so there's no explanation or resolution for our discovery. She's been reassessing her entire childhood based on what her parents kept secret for so long.

How do people deal with these kinds of revelations?

A: The plethora of information now available for genealogists is amazing and ever increasing. Whereas many family histories used to be obscured through time, we're now able to unearth the past.

Although these advances are impressive, they also come with unintended effects. Many families have found themselves in your shoes and uncovered painful and unexpected histories.

Reckoning with new discoveries makes us rethink who we are. Our identities are also so tied to our pasts and connections that it is shocking when we find things that contradict our known narratives.

It's normal to go through a period of grief, disappointment and confusion. It takes time to realign newfound knowledge with what we already know.

Soon enough, we start to remember the memories that we've gained over the years. Once the shock is less fresh, you'll be able to recontextualize the information or view it in a more positive light.

The best thing to do is give it time. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter


Q: When my brother and I went to go visit our mother this week, we arrived at a disaster. Our mother's home is squalid, and she doesn't keep track of her many medications. She also hit her head in the shower that morning and hadn't cared for the large cut.

The entire family is afraid for her health and well-being but doesn't know what to do or whether we should start looking for a nursing home. I want to preserve her wish for independence for as long as possible, but we also want to keep her healthy.

Unfortunately, none of us can provide her the level of home care she will need. I have an erratic and busy work schedule, and my brother has health issues of his own.

How can you tell when a nursing home is necessary?

A: Losing freedoms is one of the toughest things about aging, and there are often no good solutions. Although you want to allow your mother her self-sufficiency, she may not be able to meet her own needs.

Make a checklist of basics as an objective measure of what she needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

Does she have reliably available food and the means to prepare it? Or is there someone living with her who does this for her?

Can she take care of her bathroom needs and hygiene?

Is she able to take care of her medical needs, including medications?

Is she able to get herself up from bed and chairs in order to get around?

Your goal is to make sure your mother is in an environment that's healthy for her. Getting to the heart of the matter will help you make the best decision for her. — Doug

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay

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