Adopted at birth, Jason discovered and sought out his birth family after taking a DNA test. Jason’s sister, Skyla, tells us how Jason and his new family connected and joyfully began a new chapter, together.
The toughest choice
My parents, Denise and Lonald, were young and unmarried when my brother was born. They weren’t in a great place, but they wanted their son to have the best life possible. So they made a tough choice and put him up for a closed adoption. He was placed with a family, but no one knew where.
After the adoption, my parents’ life stabilized. They married and brought me and my eight younger siblings into the world. We grew up never knowing there was an eldest among us in the world somewhere. It wasn’t until recently that my father spoke to us of the adoption and our older brother.
My siblings and I talked about trying to find him, wondering if it was wise. Would it be traumatic to find out his parents had created a life and nine more children together? We weren’t sure. So we decided to let him find us when he was ready.
Not long after, our grandfather received an email. “I’m Jason. And I think you’re my grandfather. Can you confirm?” Our long-lost brother had taken a DNA test that showed a match.
Imagine the courage it took for Jason to send that email. Our grandfather replied, “Yes. I am.” He was on vacation at the time and couldn’t have the type of conversation that a moment this big called for. He opted to wait until returning home.
But Jason couldn’t wait. He was eager to know more. He combed our grandfather’s social media profile, searching for anyone who looked like him. When Jason’s wife, Zoni, saw our photos, she said “Jason, this is your family.” We all look so much alike; it wasn’t hard to believe. In fact, when I saw Jason’s photo for the first time, I knew immediately. That was my brother!
Soon after, he reached out to all of us. We started messaging on social media. But that got chaotic with so many people involved. So we moved the conversation to Marco Polo. We created a group called – you guessed it – Jason, Meet the Jensens.
Jason meets the Jensens
In less than two weeks we’d gathered 32 family members and 30 hours worth of Polos. Everyone threw out questions like, “What are your traditions? What sorts of things do you like to do?”
We discovered that like us, Jason was raised LDS. And that despite growing up on opposite sides of the country, we have a lot in common. Jason said his adoptive family was never into the stuff he was into – but it’s all the stuff we’re into! We’ve had a lot of fun exploring nature vs. nurture.
Situations like this come with complicated emotions and awkward moments. Marco Polo has minimized that by providing a buffer of space but still a feeling of intimacy. Jason can take time to process whatever is being said. We all can. We can choose our words and responses with care. We’ve been able to get to know one another in the least stressful way possible. I’m even seeing my other brothers and sisters in a new light, on a new level.
The next chapter
What are the chances of someone going in search of their family and finding not one but nine siblings, and an immediate family with more than 40 members? It’s an exciting and emotional journey for us all, one that’s really just beginning.
This past summer, we gathered for a family reunion that nearly everyone was able to attend. Being together, taking family photos, and creating new memories was amazing. Meanwhile, we’ve been able to capture and save these incredibly intimate, rare moments on Marco Polo as we continue to connect and share life with our brother, Jason.