They were always almost mythological, heroes of a people I could only imagine as my own, knowing I came from a far different place, one of shtetls and pogroms, of seaside villages, the beaches of Cascais. It was half a lie, but I couldn’t know it then, couldn’t guess my dream was reality, my reality a dream torn away by DNA. In a moment my unknown Portuguese father was unborn, replaced by a faceless man of Celtic soil who marched to the piper highland or uillean, the bodhran, who stood alongside Pearse and Connolly, Bonnie Charlie, and a century on, I’ll lift a pint of Guinness in their honor, take a wee dram of Talisker and whisper Slainte to the unknown generations that brought me here.
The fado fades under the weight of the Highland pipes and dreams of Cascais fade into the Scottish sky. Where once I thought of wandering Lisbon looking for my face, I imagine I see it in the Grampians, reflected off the lochs whose headwaters now feed my dreams.
One joy of being adopted is that what you imagine is not always what really is. For years, based on what my birth mother told the adoption agency, my father was “a Portuguese Jew.” DNA later showed that I had no Portuguese blood at all, and I doubt my Russell and McDonald paternal ancestors spent much time in Lisbon.