Meet­ing the brother I never knew at 70!

What’s it like to reach your 70s and dis­cover a half-sib­ling you never knew ex­isted? It hap­pened to Carol Dix­son-Smith and Robert Kilv­ing­ton

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

‘The DNA test con­firmed he was my fa­ther’s son’

One Mon­day morn­ing in May 2018, Carol Dix­son-Smith woke up and checked her phone for mes­sages, as usual. She was pleased to see one from her cousin Michelle, who lives in Michi­gan, USA. They of­ten share fam­ily chit-chat, but this was rather dif­fer­ent. ‘I hope this isn’t go­ing to be a shock, Michelle wrote. But I think you may have a brother...’

‘I re­mem­ber turn­ing to my hus­band John and say­ing, ‘You’ll never guess what I’ve just got from Michelle...’ I don’t think I was shocked, ex­actly, but I was cer­tainly sur­prised,’ says Carol, who is 71 and lives in Es­sex.

The story un­folded like this: Michelle had sent off a sam­ple of her saliva to the DNA test­ing com­pany An­ces­try, be­cause she was

in­trigued to find out the per­cent­age of Bri­tish genes she car­ries – 55% as it turns out. But DNA test­ing, as well as re­veal­ing in­for­ma­tion about peo­ple’s ge­o­graph­i­cal roots, can also

find ge­netic links with oth­ers on the data­base, and Michelle dis­cov­ered that she had a first cousin in Sh­effield, a den­tist called Robert Kilv­ing­ton, known as Kilv. ‘If he’s my cousin he must be even more closely re­lated to you and Stephanie [Carol’s sis­ter] – prob­a­bly your half-brother,’ wrote Michelle. ‘How do you feel about that?’

Though in­trigued, Carol, a re­tired busi­ness­woman, de­cided not to rush into things. ‘I didn’t want to speak to him un­til

I’d sent off my own DNA test and knew we

were def­i­nitely re­lated,’ says Carol, whose par­ents had both died. ‘I reg­is­tered with An­ces­try and sent off for a kit, which all cost about £120.

‘A few weeks later,

it was con­firmed be­yond doubt.

Kilv was my fa­ther’s son, and my older half-brother. Hav­ing been adopted at birth, he was now, in his 70s, search­ing for his ge­netic fam­ily. He’d al­ready made con­tact with cousins in Canada, from his mother’s side. Now, the DNA test had given him the link he needed with his fa­ther and I re­ceived a long, chatty let­ter from him, telling me about his life.

‘He’d been hap­pily raised by a cou­ple in Mid­dle­sex, who had told him he was adopted when he was 10,’ says Carol. ‘When he wrote to me, he’d al­ready met half-sib­lings, cousins, aunts and un­cles on his ma­ter­nal side. His mother, although still alive, was suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia. She died soon af­ter, un­aware that the se­cret she’d kept all her life had been re­vealed.

‘Kilv said he’d love to know about me and my sis­ter, our lives with our mum and dad, what kind of man our fa­ther he was. He asked whether we might meet up, but said he re­alised it might be un­set­tling for us to dis­cover his ex­is­tence, that he was con­cerned about, as he put it, “the rip­ples, or in fact waves, that I might have cre­ated in oth­er­wise calm seas”.’

When Carol read that, all doubts dis­ap­peared. ‘I

thought, well, he’s def­i­nitely a de­cent chap,’ and I picked up the phone and rang him. I just said, “Hello, this is Carol,” and he said, “If you hadn’t rung me, I was go­ing to ring you later to­day.’’’

A long chat on the phone was fol­lowed by a two-night stay with their part­ners at a ho­tel in Rut­land Wa­ter, half­way be­tween their homes. Bizarrely, Carol and Kilv chose to wear al­most iden­ti­cal clothes – jeans with navy jack­ets, and jumpers in an un­usual shade of aqua. ‘That was a bit weird,’ says Carol.

Carol and John, and Kilv and his wife Chris, talked for hours. ‘We dis­cov­ered fam­ily sim­i­lar­i­ties – Kilv’s very good at DIY, like Dad was, and he

went into the Air Cadets – Dad was in the RAF. And dif­fer­ences – he likes the Rolling Stones and Elvis, I pre­fer The Bea­tles and

Cliff Richard. He does line dancing, I’ve got two left feet.’

They also worked out, as best they could, how Kilv came to be born. ‘In 1944, my dad Ken­neth, then in the RAF, must have come back from be­ing posted over­seas and met Kilv’s mother, Celia, a stu­dent nurse, who be­came preg­nant. They’d have both been about 21. Celia was the daugh­ter of a bank man­ager in Wales,’ says Carol. ‘One would sus­pect a preg­nancy out­side wed­lock would have been a huge em­bar­rass­ment, which ex­plains why Kilv was put up for adop­tion.

‘Two years later, know­ing noth­ing about the baby, we as­sume, Dad met my mother, Gla­dys, and they mar­ried in 1946. Celia mar­ried a doc­tor in the Cana­dian Air Force, em­i­grated to Canada and had three chil­dren with him, who Kilv is now in touch with.’

Carol is prag­matic about the fact her dad fa­thered a child be­fore he mar­ried. ‘This was wartime, peo­ple lived for the mo­ment,’ she says. ‘Peo­ple hardly had phones, let along mo­biles, and there’d have been no way for them to have kept in touch. But I think he’d have been over the moon to know he had a son. I don’t know what my mother would have made of it, but it all hap­pened be­fore she and Dad met.

‘From be­ing an only child, Kilv now has three half-sis­ters and two half-brothers. His four chil­dren have aunts, un­cles and cousins they never ex­pected. I think our emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ences must be very dif­fer­ent be­cause

‘It was wartime. Peo­ple lived for

the mo­ment’

we’ve al­ways had our fam­ily, whereas this is new for him.’

Un­der­stand­ably, Carol won­dered how things would

be left af­ter that first meet­ing. ‘As we were say­ing our good­byes, he said, “The fam­ily and I are go­ing to be in Corn­wall at the end of the year, and we’d love you to join us...” That’s when I knew this was go­ing to last,’ says Carol. ‘He’s a nice chap. We chat and text all the time. I’m pleased I took that DNA test and I’m glad we’ve got him in our fam­ily.’

The sib­lings’ dad Ken­neth inhis early 20s

Carol with her par­ents

Ken­neth in his 70s

Kilv and Carol have a lot of catch­ing up to do

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