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By Staff | Jan 4, 2019

Our little blue marble has completed another revolution around our local star, so it’s time to twist sideways in the chair, crane the neck and take a gander at the flotsam bobbing in our wake.

As always, there are regrets. For instance, I regret expending all that time and energy thinking about the election. This proved every bit as productive and painful as repeatedly dropping a sledgehammer on my foot.

But one thing I will never regret is answering a message from a total stranger that arrived via the internet.

Last spring a young lady contacted me through 23andMe, saying that our DNA test results indicated that we might be second cousins. A likely story! If this woman was hoping to bamboozle someone, she had chosen the wrong guy. I have nothing to be bamboozled out of.

Her message said that she had been adopted at birth by a loving couple who dairy farmed at Kenyon, Minnesota. Her biological parents had lived in Pipestone, Minnesota when she was born. Did I know anyone who resided in Pipestone in 1977?

Well there was my cousin Greg. But the implied possibilities seemed more remote than winning the Powerball.

Tammi, the young woman in question, then shared some information from the adoption agency that led me to conclude that she is indeed my cousin’s daughter. I later learned that Greg and his wife, Sandy, had a baby before they were wed. Young and unsure of their future, they decided to give their daughter up for adoption.

I put Tammi in contact with one of her biological brothers and they began to email each other. Before long, Tammi and her biological family had made plans to meet on Father’s Day.

The highly emotional culmination of this saga took place on the sundrenched driveway of Greg and Sandy’s home. Greg and Sandy greeted Tammi for the first time and Tammi was introduced to her two brothers and her sister. Happy tears and hugs were as abundant as dandelions on a summertime lawn. Watching a video of the meeting was a two-Kleenex affair.

As 2018 dwindled into its final days, my wife and I received an invitation to visit Greg and Sandy’s home and meet a special someone.

The resemblance that Tammi bears to Greg and his siblings is remarkable. Greg and Sandy’s daughter Kayla looks like Tammi’s younger twin. You don’t need a DNA test to know that there is a strong familial connection.

Tammi and her husband, Kevin, have carved out admirable lives for themselves. Both are Air Force veterans who have flown gigantic C-17 transport jets into and out of far-flung warzones. They are both currently airline pilots who routinely ferry planeloads of passengers to distant corners of the globe. They have a four-year-old son, a grandson that Greg and Sandy hadn’t realized that they have.

As we chatted with Tammi, it quickly became clear that she’s a poised and accomplished young lady. My wife and I are very pleased to count her as one of our kin.

“Making the decision to send that first message through 23andMe was nerve-wracking,” said Tammi. “I had never done anything like it before. Kevin and I discussed it quite a bit. There were a lot of what-ifs and a lot of emotions involved.”

“Your reply from 23andMe was the detonator for all of this,” said Kevin, who exudes the type of confidence that reminds one of Captain “Sully” Sullenberger. “It initiated an explosion of wondrous events.”

Tammi said that her interest in aviation sprang from her desire to become an astronaut. After chatting with Tammi, I had no doubt that she has the right stuff for our nation’s astronaut corps.

It warmed our hearts to see Tammi and Kevin and their young son mingle and chat with their new-found relatives, aunts and uncles and cousins that they didn’t know existed a year ago. They fit together like peas in a pod. Like, well, family.

“Tammi and I Facetime every so often,” Greg said. “We’ll text each other several times each day. I guess we’re trying to make up for the past 40 years.

“At first Tammi called us b-Dad and b-Mom, meaning biological. A while ago, she asked if she could drop the ‘b’ and simply call us Mom and Dad. That melted our hearts.”

I couldn’t help but notice that Greg’s eyes were glistening when he added, “Every night, Tammi signs off by texting ‘Good night, Mom and Dad. I love you.'”

I felt that it was time for my wife and to take our leave. Because we were both suddenly having a lot of trouble with watery eyes.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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