My cousin Roger Larsen called me from California, early in 2019: “You sittin’ down, cuz?” he asks. I say I can be. Once seated he blurts out, “You have a daughter!” “I know,” I say. “She lives in California, name of Ginger, did you forget?” Roger responds, “No, you’ve got another one. I just got an email from her and she sounds real nice. She lives in Minnesota. I just forwarded the email she sent me about herself. I’m going to hang up now, but you should read it. And I know you cuz, you’ll do the right thing.” Maggie, who’d come out on the deck as I’d taken the call asked, “What was that all about?”
After a brief explanation, I got on my computer and found the email Christina Will in Minnesota had sent to Roger Larsen. In this incredibly touching message, Christie communicated how she learned her birth father was “unknown” when her mother tragically passed away when she was nine. It left her longing for answers. As she grew up she wondered about her birth father and if he knew of her. Did she have a family somewhere in the world?
With the expectation of finding an aunt, uncle or distant cousin who might provide clues to her birth father, she got a 23andMe DNA kit, swabbed her cheek and sent it in. However, instead of a second cousin, on Christmas morning of 2018, she found something else. 23andMe said she had a father – with a name – Steve Larsen. After a few months of investigating, she asked for my cousin Roger’s guidance: Did he know Steve well? Did he think Steve would want to hear from her? Maybe meet, see his grandchildren? Would his daughter, Ginger, want to know she had a sister? How would they deal with a potential giant disruption to their lives?
Well, to say this was a shock to us would be the understatement of the decade. Maggie and I talked, then we called Ginger in San Francisco. She burst into tears, asked for time to process and said she would call back. Maggie and I talked some more. Then I replied to Christie’s email. In part, I said:
“Christie, Your email was passed to me by my cousin Roger Larsen via his daughter Lori and reached me today. Wow! As you have no doubt surmised, this is quite a surprise. I do remember your mother but was unaware she was pregnant or had you. Our relationship was not a long one. Perhaps I had moved to the Twin Cities by the time you were born and was difficult to locate. Emails and text messages were non-existent in those days. With only a few hours to process, let me tell you my initial feelings: I am thrilled that you reached out to me and would love to meet you, your daughters and your husband if you want that. The fact you thought of Ginger and her being your half-sister, and having two nieces she has never met, indicates to me you are a pretty wonderful and thoughtful woman. In fact, your entire letter was so expressive and beautifully written I can’t imagine any man not being thrilled by the idea he might be related to you.”
I went on to explain a bit more about our lives in Arizona and then flooded her with questions about her and her family. A few weeks later, Maggie, Ginger and I made plans to travel to Minneapolis and meet Christie in April of 2019. It was a tearful and wonderful meeting I will never forget.
A few weeks after our meeting, Christie’s pastor asked her to speak about finding her birth father on Father’s Day at her church. She did. Here is a link to her 14-minute sermon, which touchingly and eloquently explains what happened from her point of view: https://tinyurl.com/y2s38cco
Maggie and I chose to alter our summer plans to spend six weeks in Minnesota in 2019, visiting family and friends while getting to know our new family a bit better.
The Will family on their farm in Minnesota.
Christie, her husband, and my new granddaughters arranged their schedules to visit us in Phoenix, not only for Thanksgiving weekend but for a week right after Christmas as well. 2019 was one of the most momentous years of my life. It will take all the restraint I can muster to not fill this blog with stories of this overjoyed and blissfully happy new grandfather.