KEENE, N.H. – DJ and his younger brother Cody were given up for adoption as young children and grew up unaware that the other existed, though their paths in life at times brought them within a just a few miles of each other.
It might have stayed that way had it not been for a DNA ancestry kit that sparked Cody’s curiosity about his biological family, some amateur sleuthing, and a cross-country trip that brought him back to Keene to meet DJ for the first time on a recent weekend.
The long-lost brothers spent the day together, visiting DJ’s favorite hangouts around town and his home, a residential program for adults with developmental disabilities run by Community Resources for Justice. DJ showed Cody the YMCA where he swims and does activities, his room, and albums of old photos of his childhood and his years of competing in the Special Olympics. They talked about DJ’s passion for coffee and basketball, and pieced together that Cody attended Keene State College while DJ was also living in town.
The family connection was immediately obvious, said Cody, who now lives in San Francisco.
“It just felt natural,” he said. “It feels really nice to have this relationship. It does kind of feel like something added to my life that I didn’t know wasn’t there.”
DJ, who is also a longtime participant in CRJ’s ACTIVELife day program, agreed.
“It was fantastic meeting my brother,” he said.
DJ and Cody’s first meeting was nearly 40 years in the making, but only started coming together in the past year.
Cody learned he was adopted when he was about 10 years old, but for most of his life, he hadn’t felt a strong interest in finding his birth parents, partly because of stories he’d heard from other people in who did contact biological parents and had bad experiences.
“I honestly didn’t give it that much thought,” he said. “It was sort of a Pandora’s box that I didn’t want to open.”
That changed when an online ancestry kit piqued his interest. He sought out his birth records under a 2005 New Hampshire law that allows adults born in the state who were adopted to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate. He also contacted the agency that handled his adoption and determined that his birth mother was no longer living, but that she’d had two other children, DJ and another son, who were separately put up for adoption.
Cody had wrestled with the idea of finding his birth parents, but didn’t have the same reservation about contacting siblings.
DJ was unaware that he had any siblings until the adoption agency reached out to CRJ saying that Cody wanted to get in touch. The two first spoke on FaceTime video calls in the summer of 2019 and planned an in-person visit for earlier this year. In the meantime, they traded emails with updates on their lives. DJ sent photos of his Halloween costume; Cody shared pictures of trips to Alaska and Washington, D.C.
When Cody arrived at the ACTIVELife program just outside downtown Keene, any remaining hesitation disappeared.
“He’s such a positive person and such a very happy person, it was easy to spend time with him and get to know him,” Cody said.
The two plan to stay in touch through FaceTime and Cody is looking forward to making another trip back to see DJ hit the lanes with his bowling team and compete in the Special Olympics. Cody is also making plans to connect with their other brother, who lives in California.
“It feels really nice to be able to have this relationship,” Cody said.