It’s hard to see the goodness of God sometimes in the midst of all the stress and turmoil going on in the world. What really helps though is coming across a feel-good story where we see God’s hand in filling a void in someone’s heart that’s been there for a very long time. For when we see God filling a hole in someone else’s heart, we can have confidence that He can fill a void in ours too.
I’ve got such a story for you today. It’s one of my favorites.
But before we get into it, here’s Carol:
Welcome to You Were Made for This. If you find yourself wanting more from your relationships, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll discover practical principles you can use to experience the life-giving relationships you were made for. And now, here is your host, John Certalic.
I'm John Certalic, your award-winning author and relationship coach, here to help you find more joy in the relationships God designed for you. You are listening to episode 169.
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Today’s feel-good story
Back on the podcast today is Gail Rohde, who has been on the show several other times talking about what it’s been like as someone who was adopted into a good family, but who as a grown adult with teenage children felt a longing to find her biological mother and father. I’ll have links to those previous episodes at the end of the show notes.
Today though, there’s been a new development in Gail’s story that she shared with me in a recent phone call. Keep listening, or you can read the transcript of our conversation in the show notes.
Transcript of the telephone conversation
Gail, I noticed that you have now set a record for being on the podcast with the most episodes. You were in episodes 29 and 30 when we talked about your search for your birth parents. And then also 124, just not too long ago.
Gail (00:17): Wow.
So this is going to look really good on your resume. I hope you appreciate that.
Gail (00:24): I do. I do. I feel honored.
Yeah. Well, for those that are new to the podcast and don't quite remember, we had talked in episodes 29 and 30 about the fact that you're adopted, and what that was like for you as a child. You were told at an early age that you were adopted. You had great, great parents, but you always wondered about who your mom and dad were, your birth parents anyway.
Gail (00:51): Right.
A feel-good story about finding one's mother
And we had talked also about you had tracked down your birth mother, and started a relationship with her, and that has been going well. But the new element that I want to chat with you today is finding your birth father, and actually meeting him. I think the last episode, 124, I had asked the question of you and others what are you looking forward to and what are you dreading? And you had mentioned meeting your birth father fell into both categories, as something you were looking forward to, but something you were dreading too.
Gail (01:29): Right.
John (01:30): So, can you tell us how you actually did meet, and what that was like, and how that's been going for you?
Sure. So, we had been talking on the phone for about the last year-and-a-half every now and then, maybe once or twice a month. And had great conversations, learning about each other, learning about each other's lives, but they were fairly short conversations, about 15, 20 minutes, maybe a half hour. So, there's only so much you can really get to know each other in that amount of time. And I think we had tried to do a couple of video chats, but everybody kept freezing, and it was hard to talk. And so that was disappointing, it was hard to really get a feel for who he was, and who his wife was.
Meeting Dad for the first time
And so we finally were able to set up a time to meet last month. And we both drove part way, and met in the middle. They knew this resort town, and so we got a place there and decided to meet. So, we were able to do that. And yeah, it was fantastic. I was so nervous, very anxious going into it, and I don't know why. I knew it was going to go well. He was going to be gracious. I knew he was going to be wonderful. I knew he was going to like his grandkids.
But there was still that lingering what if I get rejected kind of feeling underneath. But I would say the minute that we saw each other, and gave each other a big hug, it just all melted away and then it was just great after that. So yeah, it was really great.
Well, good. Well, I'm glad that went well for you. What was it like, maybe even before you met in person, when he admitted that he was your father? What did he have to say about his relationship with your birth mother?
This feel-good story didn't always feel good
Well, and it's interesting. I get a different story from each of them. They have very different perspectives on it. So for him, he said that it was kind of a fling. It wasn't a very deep or long-term relationship. And when I was born, he was actually on his way being deployed to Vietnam. And so he had received a letter from my mom with my photograph in it, and he took it to his sergeant and said, “What do I do with this?” And he said, “The sergeant said, “Oh, this happens all the time. I'll take care of it.”
And that was the last he saw of me. He gave the letter and the picture to his sergeant, and that was the end. And then by the time he came back from the war, he was dealing with PTSD. He was in another relationship, and I think it just kind of got lost.
John (04:36): Wow, yeah. Yeah.
Different versions of the same story
Gail (04:37): So yeah, it's a very different story, or a different take on what I had learned from my mom, but totally understandable for me. I mean, it made sense, and I get it.
John (04:52): Yeah.
Gail (04:55): There's no ill will. It's not like he took off and didn't want to have anything to do with me. It was bad timing.
John (05:03): Yeah. Yeah. I remember in one of the previous episodes that you were told that he was a medical student when …
Gail (05:12): Mm-hmm.
John (05:13): Was that true?
I don't know that he was a medical student at the time, but he did end up becoming a physician's assistant. So, he was, I don't know if he was headed in that direction, or maybe he had started. I haven't really clarified that with him, but that is the path he took.
John (05:37): Yeah.
Gail (05:38): So, that was accurate.
Other people in this feel-good story
John (05:41): How did your father's wife and his kids and grandkids deal with the news that they had a new relative that they didn't know about?
Well, it's funny because, and I can't remember if I told this story last time, when I sent him my initial letter, I sent it by mail thinking that he'll get it. And I didn't want to cause any riffs with his wife, I had no idea what that was going to be like. And I guess they were together, and she picked up the mail out of the mailbox. They drove up to the mailbox, she got it, she's looking through it. She's like, “Oh, you got a personal letter from some girl.” And she said something like, “Is this about an old girlfriend?” And he's like, “No, just open it.” And so she started reading it, and she stopped, she's like, “It kind of is.”
John (06:33): Wow.
But she's been so wonderful, and so great, and so accepting. And I probably talk to her just as much as I talk to him. She's just really been great. I haven't met any of my siblings. They all know about me, but I've only heard how those conversations went. So, it sounds like it's all fairly positive, so that's good. Nobody's mad about me, or …
Feel-good stories can be complicated sometimes
Yeah. Yeah. I remember when we talked last when you were saying that you were on the one hand looking forward to meeting your birth father, but also dreading meeting him. And I think part of it as I recall was what is the impact going to be with your birth mother?
Gail (07:26): Yeah.
John (07:29): How have you navigated that whole dynamic?
Yeah, I mean that's been a little hard. It's in a good place. Our whole family went out to visit her over spring break, and that's the first time we've all been out there. And so we just had a really wonderful time. And there was a period of time in there that we had just the two of us, and we talked about it. She brought it up, and admitted that it had been very hard, but she knows that I have a right to know who my dad is, and I have a right to meet him. And that she knows she needs to be okay with that. And then I was able to reassure her that I knew that she's worried that he's going to take me away from her, or that I'm going to like him more than I like her.
And I just reassured her, “I'm not going anywhere. If I leave, it's up to me, it's not up to him. He's not going to take me away from you, that's my decision. And I decide to stay with you. I'm always going to be here, we're always going to be here.” So, just really tried to reassure her that it's really not changing my relationship with her. So, I haven't been putting it in her face. I didn't tell her when I was going out to see him, she knew I was going to be. And when I came back, we talked on the phone and she said, “You saw him didn't you?” And I said, “Yeah.” [inaudible 00:09:16]. And she said, “I'm fine with that, and I'm resolved.”
John (09:19): Oh, good.
Some feel-good stories involve healing
Gail (09:19): So, I think there's been a lot of healing. I think it's going to be okay, yeah. I've just been trying to make sure she knows that everything's going to be the same between us.
John (09:34): Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I really appreciate your concern for her too, and knowing that it brings out her fragileness a little bit, and understandably so.
Gail (09:45): Yeah.
John (09:46): What kind of questions did you ask your dad, your birth father? Do you remember anything in particular?
Gail (09:53): Yeah, we talked a lot. And when we got together, his wife brought pictures of him from his childhood, his young adulthood, his time in Vietnam. She had all these pictures of family members. So, we were able to just sit around the table one night, and they were showing me pictures, and he was telling stories.
John (10:19): Wow.
Old photos helped fill in the gaps in this feel-good story
And it was really neat. It was really, really neat. And so, we were able to take pictures of all of those pictures with our phone, so now I have all of those pictures. They gave me all sorts of family information, who my grandparents were, all of my siblings, and their birthdays. And just have just been very, very great. And talking about his life, talking about any questions I have. He kept asking me, “Do you have any questions?” I don't know, you've told me so much stuff I don't even know what to ask.
John (10:53): Yeah.
Gail (10:55): So, yeah, it's been really good. They're just very open. And yeah, he's just been so gracious about everything.
John (11:06): Yeah. And what a great idea to bring all those pictures so that you had a picture of what his life was like in the past.
Gail (11:13): Yeah, it was so neat to be able to see pictures of him around the time when I was born. I'm just like, “Wow.” So, that was neat. And the other really, really fun thing for me is I look so much like him.
John (11:27): Oh, I was going to ask you about that. Yeah.
“It feels good to look like my father”
Yeah. There's some resemblance to my mom, if you look hard enough you can kind of tell that we're related. But he and I any time I posted a picture on Facebook, and everyone's like oh yeah, who would question you're not related? It's pretty obviously. So, that's fun for me because I always felt like I never looked like anyone. So, that's a really super special thing for me.
John (11:56): Yeah. Do you feel that this has brought closure to your quest to know more about who you are, and where you've come from?
Gail (12:07): Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I mean, even to think of all that's happened in the last three years, and in some ways it seems like I've known a lot longer all these questions. I mean, there's just a settledness to me that it just feels like this is how it is now. And other days, I just sit and think wow, never on this Earth did I think I would know names of my parents, much less to know them personally.
John (12:45): Yeah.
Gail (12:45): And just how amazing it is. And yeah, it's just so fantastic.
God's involvement in this feel-good story
Mm-hmm. Where have you seen God involved in this, Gail, in this search not just for your birth father, but your birth mother? And just kind of filling in some gaps in your personal life story that you always wondered about. Where have you seen God involved in this?
I mean, I just feel like I've seen him every step of the way. How everything happened, I think it started way back when my husband bought me the DNA test years ago. Just to help me know what nationality I am, and do I have any diseases I need to worry about for my kids? And in that, and through that I never even would have thought to buy a DNA test. I didn't even really know it was a thing. And through that to be able to get so many answers, and so much peace. To meet my mom first, who I think I needed to meet her first. I needed to have that resolution. There's something about the birth mom, it's a different expectation, or a different [inaudible 00:14:22].
Growing up looking for mom
I grew up looking for my mom at the mall, that's who I was looking for, I was looking for my mom. So, to find her first and to have that resolution. And then to be able to work through with her finding my dad, and then having this completion. And then with my dad now to have new siblings. My mom was all by herself, so it didn't really bring a lot of family relationships. But then with my dad, now there's all these siblings, and nieces, and nephews, and aunts. And some have reached out to me, I have a sister-in- law and an aunt who has reached out to me. And I'm like wow. Yeah, I mean it's just all of it all I can do is just say, “Thank you God.” There's nothing else to say.
John (15:09): Yeah. Yeah. I'm really happy for you that it's come out this way. Where do you see things headed forward now with all of this?
Timing is everything in this feel good story
I see every visit as a gift. Neither my parents nor I are young anymore, so every visit that we can have, every time we talk on the phone is a gift. Just trying to be able to get to know them as much as I can while I have them. And I mean hopefully I have them for the next 20 years, that would be great. But just really recognizing it for the gift that it is, and appreciating that, and appreciating them, and taking advantage of everything I can.
Yeah. Yeah. One part of your story that really captured my heart was that when you were telling about your adopted dad and what a great guy he was, I know you had a good relationship with your mom, but you were closer with your adopted father. And how when he was diagnosed with ALS, he had asked you about did you want his help in locating your birth parents? And at the time you weren't that interested. But then later you processed it that he knew that his time was short here on Earth, and he didn't want you to feel like you were fatherless. I just thought that was really incredible, and really a gift from God. Yeah.
A second family when the first one passes away
Yeah. And in my mind, I just picture him just smiling at this whole situation. Just being so happy that I
have this, because now both he and my mom are gone, and so now I have kind of my second family.
John (17:17): Yeah.
Gail (17:17): And I think that that would bring him great joy.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I'm really impressed with your birth father too, the fact that he is so happy to reconnect with you. Some would not be. I think I shared a story with my birth father, he wasn't happy, he was just apathetic, he could care less. And the fact that your birth father is wanting to have a relationship with you, because it's part of his past too. And then the acceptance of his wife of you into their life, I think is just really commendable. Really commendable.
“Welcome to the family!”
Yeah, I think the whole thing has played out the best way it possibly could. When I wrote that letter to him, I was ready, I had to mentally prepare myself for anything including rejection. And just to know that okay, well I tried. I had to be ready for that. And when he got tested, and he wanted to confirm through DNA. And when he got the results back and he called me and just said, “Welcome to the family.”
Well, thanks again for your time, and for this wonderful story. I just find it very encouraging, Gail, on several different levels. Just encouraging how you've managed to navigate this relationship with your birth mom, and your birth dad, and some of the dynamics of that with your mother especially. And actually being able to meet with your birth father is just a wonderful story of completion.
Gail (19:03): It is. It is.
John (19:04): Yeah.
Family relationships aren’t always easy
Gail (19:05): And it's not always easy. There's hard times, and there's hard feelings. And you get more family, you get more problems, right? That's not always problem free, but it's worth it.
Yeah, very true. Very true. Well again, thanks so much for your time, and for sharing this story with all of our listeners. I got some really good feedback the last three episodes too, and I'm sure I'm going to get the same with this one too.
Wonderful, yeah. My 19-year-old sat down next to me just before Mother's Day, and it was when we were in the process of planning meeting my dad. He sat down, he says, “Dang mom, you collect parents like they're going out of style.” I said, “Yeah, well more grandparents for you.” He says, “Oh, that's true.”
John (19:57): Yeah. Well, that's very true. That's very true.
Gail (20:01): So, I'm done now. I have no more parents to find, so I'm done.
John (20:06): Okay, great. Great. Okay.
It helps to share our story
Gail (20:09): Thanks, John. I appreciate you helping me talk through this too. It's really good for me to be able to get that perspective too. I don't always think that.
John (20:17): Yeah, sometimes it's good to just talk out loud what's going on inside your head. I sure believe that.
Gail (20:23): It's true.
John (20:24): And thank you for sharing all of that. And not just what's going on in your head, but what's going on in your heart, which you've done so well here, so …
Gail (20:32): Thanks.
John (20:33): Well, you have a great rest of your afternoon, and thanks again. And we will stay in touch.
Gail (20:40): Sounds great; I would love that.
John (20:41): Thank you, Gail, bye now.
Gail (20:43): Bye-bye.
Here’s the main takeaway I hope you remember from today’s episode
Sometimes we just need a feel-good story to remind us of the goodness of God. When we see him meet the longing of someone else, we can rest in knowing that He can meet our deepest longings, too.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode.
In closing, I hope this feel-good story makes you, well, feel good. It did for me. I spent years wondering about my birth father, and then months working to track him down. And when I finally met him in person, it didn’t go nearly as well as Gail’s meeting did. That’s a subject for another podcast.
But my experience hasn’t diminished my joy in hearing Gail’s experience one bit. Her joy is infectious, and I loved sharing in it. And I love seeing how God worked in her life. I hope you did, too. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Well, that’s it for today. Please consider telling others about this podcast you think might be interested in today’s topic. Especially parents who have adopted, and also adult adoptees. And anyone else who could use a feel-good story like this one.
And as we talk frequently around here, don’t forget to spread a little relational sunshine around the people you meet this week. Spark some joy for them. And I’ll see you next time.
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