We all have fairly good odds of knowing our biological mothers unless we were adopted. The odds of knowing our biological fathers are less. Five-plus years ago, I paid $500 to a medical facility for a DNA test and verified that my oldest sister and I have the same father. It was good to know, but regardless of the outcome, I would still have admired my dad and loved him unconditionally.
Now ancestry.com and 23andme.com, as well as GEDmatch.com, have created quite a lot of interest among those searching for answers. The process is simple: register and pay online, collect saliva, mail, and wait for the results online.
“Long Lost Family” fascinates me as hosts Lisa Joyner and Chris Jacobs use these new resources to help those longing to locate their biological mothers and fathers and other family members as well.
As we move forward to celebrate Father’s Day on June 17, I want to share a story that will inspire you, give you hope, and let you know that our world is populated by some marvelous people.
The father is Fred Verceles, 80, of Piqua, and the daughter is lifelong Californian Marlene Christie, 62. Fred was a senior in high school in 1956 when he learned that his girlfriend was pregnant. The ’50s were a whole different world, and pregnant girls were sent to homes for unwed mothers, and their newborns were put up for adoption.
Fred thought that joining the Marines could provide a good future for the family he hoped to form, but via a letter from his girlfriend, he learned the infant would be adopted. She was at age 4 months, and the adoption was a closed one.
Marlene was initially told by her adopted mother that she was “too tiny to carry a baby, so Marlene was carried in someone else’s belly.” This explanation worked until Marlene was about 10 years old and observed a very small pregnant woman. Marlene, however, says, “Growing up, adoption was never a big deal to me. My adopted parents adopted another child, and I had first cousins who were adopted. We all grew up in the same neighborhood, and it was no big deal. I had no abandonment issues.”
After Marlene’s adopted parents died (her father in 2012 and her mother in September 2017), she was curious — about who she looked like and what medical issues might be in her genetic makeup. She says, “I always thought if I found my biological parents, I would thank them for giving me life, but I never wanted to hurt my adopted parents or for them to think I was looking for something better.”
In Christmas of 2016, Marlene’s daughter, Nicole, bought an Ancestry kit for her as a gift. When the results came back in February 2017, Marlene checked her ethnicity and learned it was what she had assumed. When she clicked on the tab for relatives, the match indicated that F.T. Verceles was her biological father.
She thought “OMG” and wondered if she was reading it correctly. She says she felt “shock, excitement and confusion.” Her adopted mother was still alive at that time, and she was busy spending time in caring for her, but her husband and daughter were researching. So Marlene sent Fred a note on Ancestry and heard nothing for 10 months, as he had discontinued paying the monthly subscription fee.
In January of 2018, Marlene sent a message to one of Fred’s nieces via Ancestry to request some family medical history. When the niece responded and asked how they were connected, Marlene replied, “I don’t know.” She had sent a list of possible relatives with Fred’s name stuck in the middle of the list.
As Marlene revealed her birthdate and place of birth, the niece asked, “Are you Fred’s daughter?” She then learned from the niece that Fred’s sister, Eleanor, carried Marlene’s birthdate in her address book.
Marlene received an email from her father on Jan. 21, 2018, and on Jan. 22, they talked — for over an hour. They have talked and texted every day since and met in San Diego. They will be together again for a family birthday party in California later this year.
Marlene indicates that as she began this journey, she expected nothing more than perhaps photographs and some family history. Her husband, Steve, had warned her, “ Be careful. You don’t know what’s out there. Don’t we have enough family drama?”
What advice does Marlene have for those who are considering searching for a parent? “Mine was easy. I had wonderful results. Do it only if you can be okay if it doesn’t turn out as well as mine. Don’t do it if you can’t handle the outcome.”
Marlene and Fred’s outcome is the stuff of which the most heart-stirring movies are made. Fred says, “At times, I feel like crying. I missed so much of her life. I have a collage of photos on my desk at home. My daily texts to her are like a journal to a loved one. And every night, I wish her a peaceful sleep, and I add hearts and smiley faces to my messages. This is an awesome Father’s Day gift.”
And Marlene says, “This relationship is absolutely wonderful, to know I have come from someone as phenomenal as Fred. We have bonded in love.”
Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.