Wednesday, January 31, 2018


With so much of her life bound up with theatre—actor, administrator, director, producer—Sarah recognizes that this could make a good musical. It’s her story now. She’s owning it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Sarah embraces her DNA story as her truth. She doesn’t know exactly what is true, and she will likely never know. Is her father Hugh? One of his brothers? Is it all a mistake? But a mistake wouldn’t bring up the familiar name of an Ancestry-random person on the other side of the country. She believes that she is Hugh Callahan’s biological daughter. Occam’s razor and all that.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Her daughters seem most perplexed by Julie’s absolute denial. Sometimes, Sarah explains, people tell themselves a story so emphatically for so long that it becomes truth to them. Julie is ninety years old. The story is older than a half century. Sarah believes that her mother believes that she is speaking the truth—that this discovered “fact” is impossible and not a fact at all.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Maureen and Helen take the news pretty well. Sarah is relieved and a little surprised. She wasn’t sure they would.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Julie doesn’t budge on this. Sarah tells her mother that she will have to tell Maureen and Helen about the test and what she has discovered. She tells her that the information is out there and now anyone can discover it. Julie does not change her story.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Sarah tells Julie about the DNA test, the results, and her alleged cousin. Julie’s response? “That’s impossible.”

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Sarah knows that no matter what, no one can tell Steve (who’s been splitting his time between assisted living and psychiatric hospitalization), because there is no way he can handle this information in a way that isn’t destructive to someone. Like, chainsaw destructive.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Sarah didn’t believe that Julie would admit to this. But, she reasoned, the information is now discoverable. If Ancestry had sent her word that this Mary Callahan was her cousin, she would also appear as a cousin to Maureen and Helen, should they decide to take the DNA test. And they would have the same questions that Sarah did. (Maureen and Helen were curious about Sarah’s results anyway. After all, this was their gift to her.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Jack thought she needed to do both. The girls should be relieved of the worry of the bipolar side of the family. (They may need to be worried about other things, of course. Like alcoholism, Sarah joked/didn’t joke.)

Monday, January 22, 2018


But should she confront her mother? If so, how? And should she tell her daughters?

Sunday, January 21, 2018


Gradually the news begins to settle. Really, this fact of paternity doesn’t change much at all. Sarah’s life is her life. Her experience was her experience. It’s just a shifting of things, new filters. She isn’t genetically Bernhardt. Neither are her daughters. This part of the story is a huge relief.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Sarah spends a week reeling, processing the news.

If Hugh was her father, then people Sarah has known all her life and worked with growing up are her half-siblings. Hugh’s young grandson, who’d been struck by a car and killed, was her nephew. Her nephew.

If it’s true, who knew? Who suspected? Did her father know? Did Hugh’s wife? All of Hugh’s family had been good to her.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Sarah isn’t sure whether to confront her mother. On the one hand, she feels she’s just read her mother’s diary and invaded her privacy without ever meaning to do so. On the other hand, Sarah has been worried about her genetic history and how it might affect her daughters for thirty years. Her mother knew she was worried. If Julie knew that Ed was not Sarah’s biological father and knew how worried Sarah was and chose to let her worry—well, Sarah is steamed.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Sarah married Jack. Twenty-nine years ago, she gave birth to Maureen. Two-and-a-half years later, she had Helen.
Whenever Maureen or Helen has a problem, Sarah worries a little more than usual. Is this an early sign of bipolar disorder? Is this normal adolescent/teenage/adult angst/depression? How does one know?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


When Sarah got pregnant, she was most worried that she would have a child who was bipolar. Before deciding what to do (have the baby? get married? abort?), she went to a genetic counselor. Because all the bipolar people in her family were men, she wondered if it would matter if she had a boy or a girl. The counselor told her that it didn’t matter; that a girl would be just as likely/unlikely to inherit this; that maybe the reason only men in her family were bipolar was a mixture of nature/nurture. Or maybe it was just chance.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


But back to Sarah’s dad, Ed. Ed came from a long line of crazy, a family filled cases of homelessness, suicide, depression, mysterious deaths. Ed attempted suicide (unsuccessfully) at least once. He likely had bipolar disorder.

Brother Steve is bipolar too. He is almost a decade older than Sarah. He has never successfully lived on his own.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Sarah’s brother, Steve, had come home after school one afternoon and told her Hugh was dead. “Stop being so mean to me,” she said. “That’s not true! Why would you say something like that to me?”

But it was true.

At the funeral, she was inconsolable. Hugh’s widow eventually suggested that she pull herself together. “But I’m so sad,” cried Sarah. “How do you think I feel?” asked the widow.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Both men had died years before, Hugh when Sarah was just nine years old.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Sarah loved her father too. Ed had been a good father who loved her. The news was shaking her, but not her love for her father.

Friday, January 12, 2018


It would explain a lot. And it wasn’t necessarily bad news. Hugh was Sarah’s favorite adult friend. They had great rapport. She remembers him even tucking her into bed some nights.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Hugh Callahan. Could a name be any more Irish? Could he really be her biological father?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Julie works harder than almost anyone on earth. Always has. That alone would entitle her to a share of the business. But that’s not how the world usually works.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Because think about it. Hugh and Sarah’s mom, Julie, worked together. Hugh practically made Julie a partner, giving her co-ownership in his family business. Their two families were inextricably linked, spending work and social time together.

Monday, January 8, 2018


This means that Hugh Callahan is her father. Or, possibly, one of Hugh’s brothers. But probably Hugh.

Sunday, January 7, 2018


Among them is Mary Callahan, a likely first cousin. Sarah knows that name.

Mary Callahan is the niece of her mother’s business partner.


Saturday, January 6, 2018


Her last name is Bernhardt. So why is such a small percentage of her ancestry from western Europe? And where did all this Irish background come from? It’s a large percentage. Irish? She pulls up the list of her “likely” cousins.

Friday, January 5, 2018


She goes back through hundreds of e-mails in her in-box. Ancestry had sent her the results. She’d missed it. Too much going on. She opens her file.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


Sarah gets an e-mail from It notifies her that they have identified likely cousins. Sarah thinks it odd that she’d receive this notice before she got her results.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Weeks go by. She thinks she should have gotten her results by now.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


It is a birthday gift from her two daughters. With the ancestry/DNA craze, she’s been curious. Maureen and Helen had taken note. It’s a good gift.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Sarah opens the package. She reads the instructions. She spits in the tube, adds the chemicals, shakes it, repackages it. She mails it back.