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The Longevity Institute

Dreamed 2019/5/7 by Wayan

I'm a guest on the TV show Finding Your Roots. My mom's family tree goes back centuries, but I'm curious about my dad's ancestors--my sisters and I know only the first name of one great-grandfather, mainly because our dad was named for him. But who was he, who'd he marry, what were their stories? Dream sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

Henry Louis Gates finds us answers. Turns out everything we were sure we knew is a lie.

The man we thought was our great-grandpa was born around 1880 in an institution--a mysterious one called the Longevity Institute. He was an experiment; his parents were treated somehow--details unknown, for the Institute burned and most records are lost. Whatever they did, they tried on very few; no other experimental subjects have been traced.

Genetic testing shows he is our ancestor, but not our great-grandfather as we thought. 50% genetic match! He's... our FATHER.

The longevity experiment had worked. Our dad matured very slowly, passing as a kid for a full generation, as a teen for another... Slight name changes let him pass as his own child, then his grandchild. In his fifties, looking twenty, he had his first child, me; his wife or lover--name still unknown--aged normally, and eventually, as he didn't age, she did, and their child, me, appeared profoundly retarded--needing perpetual childcare--she left. I matured... slowly.

My dad found another partner, had another child, my sister Althea. I always was told she was three years younger. Nope! More like twenty years younger; during that gap I remained a young child, oblivious of the years passing. Again, marital problems arose; Althea's mom aged normally and she and I and my dad... just didn't. By the time she was a 45-year-old married to an apparent 20-year-old, they too broke up.

A third mate, a third kid; Miriel's not five years younger than me, but 30-40 years younger! But then, according to the show's research, I'm nearly 100 years old--and unaware of it.

How long will we live? Unknown. Given our slow maturation rate, it could be a VERY long time. Our dad lived... how long exactly? We thought he died in 2000, making him 76, but that's wrong; he was at least 120.

And he faked his death over and over! Can we be sure he's really dead even now? The show's researchers just couldn't verify that. If he's alive under yet another name (and maybe raising more kids) he'd be around 140 now.

Curious to find my sisters aren't exactly--they're half-sisters! But the deep strangeness of the half we have in common is so overwhelming--so isolating--that it explains our unusually tight bond.

The Institute may have thought this through and planned to expand from a genetically diverse seed population of... lazari? immortals? The longevity-gene they somehow created or spliced in is clearly dominant, so the pool of carriers will expand steadily over time. But the Institute burned, no other carriers have been found, and we lazari mature so slowly, we take a lot of care for the first decade or two; if my dad played stud and moved on right away, maximizing the gene's spread, each of his kids'd probably get institutionalized as hopelessly retarded! So even if he's out there, he has to be going slow, raising each child for at least 25-30 years. Our numbers can't grow fast. And even if my sisters & I do find other lazari, they'd likely be half-siblings or close cousins.

So for all practical purposes, for the next century at least we get no choice but my dad's: solitude, or mayfly mates. I'd have thought longevity'd stabilize relationships. Wrong! We either have to love and lose, going in knowing our partners will die long before us; or not love at all. Doctor Who's dilemma.

Did all those secrets and lies tear my family apart? Better to say they revealed my family was nonexistent. My "missing" paternal line wasn't forgotten roots, but simple reality--missing because they were fictional! My dad's cover. As he kept on with his lonely, patient campaign to make us all immortal.

NOTES NEXT MORNING



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