Janet was abandoned at birth outside a hospital in northern BC. In 2017, she found four half-siblings who were also abandoned as babies by the same mother. Through DNA testing, she learned the identity of her deceased biological mother and her biological father, Emil Weinreich. Janet met Emil for the first time just over a year ago. In this article, Janet reflects on how their shared love for her led her biological and adoptive fathers to become family to each other, too.
Gordon Keall knew he was my father when the social worker called the house. I was abandoned in Prince Rupert by my birth mother, and this call was for my placement. Even before Gordon officially said yes, he was all in: knee deep, devoted, headstrong, and ready to collect this mystery child—his daughter—and give her a name and a new chance at life.
What Gordon didn’t know is that when he came to fetch me in Prince Rupert, my biological father was only 3.2 kilometers away. His only child was about to be taken away to be raised by strangers, and he didn’t even know she existed.
I don’t imagine that Gordon dwelled on how I came to be in his arms that day. I don’t say that as a flippant way of ignoring my loss or the loss of my birth parents. Gordon had a job to do. He had to consider my needs, not wallow in the depths of “what if.” He brought me home and committed to being my father.
As I grew up, I asked questions about my abandonment and who my biological parents were. Gordon was always willing to let me talk and ask questions, and he never disrespected the people who made my life possible. In many ways, as I grew up, he grew up in my story and became comfortable with realizing that I was passionate about finding my biological parents. As the years passed, though, road blocks increased and my hope dwindled. Finally, after 21 years of searching, I called Gordon and said, “I have a name for my biological father. His name is Emil.”
Gordon’s response was one of protectiveness and concern, especially since I’d discovered my biological mother had abandoned at least four other babies. I told Gordon not to worry, but he did anyways. That’s what fathers do. And on April 30, 2017, I texted Gordon: “I’m calling Emil today. You are always my dad. I love you.”
The conversations that flowed between Gordon and I after that were characterized by curiosity and concern—who was this Emil, anyway? It took only a few days for Gordon to realize that Emil was a good man with good intentions who only wanted the best for me, as well as for Gordon and for my mother, Jerrilyn.
The day before the results of Emil’s and my DNA tests arrived, Gordon said to me, “Janet, I really hope Emil is your father. I really want this for you.” His voice was confident, calm and loving. At that moment, I realized he’d always held space for Emil. It was time to open the door and let Emil sit beside him to share the role of father.The DNA results confirmed with 99.99% accuracy that I was Emil’s daughter.
There was only a hint of apprehension: Emil was concerned for Gordon. He didn’t want to step in and alter our family dynamic or cause any upset or slight to Gordon’s ego. Unbeknownst to me, they were working this out together. They understood one another and shared an instant trust and respect. There was never a hint of jealousy or resentment.
These two strangers made room for each other as they made space for me to heal and receive what both Emil and I were denied when I was abandoned 40 years ago. The way Emil considered Gordon’s feelings was something special, and the way Gordon to welcomed Emil into our lives without reservation was truly magical.
As the days, weeks, and months progressed, Gordon and Emil became family as they shared one of the most intimate experiences a person can share: becoming a father and a grandfather.
Emil says, “In the winter of 1978 when Gordon and Jerrilyn Keall came into Janet’s life, I did not know I had a baby daughter. Today I know that Gordon stepped in to be Janet’s father and I am very grateful to him and to Jerrilyn. Now, 40 years later, Gordon has welcomed me into his life. We understand each other and the story that Janet has uncovered. We have become family. Gordon has always wanted the best for his daughter and I realize that his welcoming me into his life reflects his love for her. This is a father’s love.” ●
Janet Weinreich-Keall, dubbed “Rupert’s Baby” by the press, spent more than 20 years searching for her biological family. Her story received significant media attention. Janet is currently searching for one more abandoned baby half-sibling and is the founder of The Keall Registry, the world’s first archive and registry for abandoned children (www.keallregistry.org). Find Janet’s complete story at www.withgreatabandon.com, and read her daily updates at www.facebook.com/withgreatabandon.