NEWPORT — On June 27, 83-year-old Newport resident Jim Deslippe met his first and only daughter Chenanne Wilson, 61, and his granddaughter, Tessa. Wilson had been searching for Deslippe for 46 years, and when she found him, she also discovered the closure she had been seeking her whole life as an adopted child.
“It’s been a long road, I’m 61 years old and I’ve now found my father and my mother, and it’s amazing,” said Wilson.
Chenanne Wilson began searching for her birth parents at 15 years old.
“For me, when you’re adopted, whether you know it or not mentally, there is a hole in you … and you don’t know why,” said Wilson.
Of course, she commented, it’s different for everyone. For example, the brother she was raised with — also adopted — never had any interest in looking for his birth parents. The biggest fear in looking for them, Wilson explained, is the potential for a second rejection after being given away at birth. But she can attest from personal experience that it can also be liberating.
“When I met my mother, I walked out a totally different person,” she told the News-Times one day prior to meeting the Deslippes. “Totally calmer and I felt more whole. I didn’t feel sad anymore … it just filled in that gap that was missing. And I’m excited to see what changes I see, meeting Jim.”
After years of trying different avenues, Wilson found Deslippe through Ancestry.com because two cousins, of varying distance to her, had done the same test which solidified who her grandparents were. From there, she narrowed down the options among Deslippe and his brothers by age. The last key was a description given to the hospital by Wilson’s birth mother in 1957, which matched Jim Deslippe perfectly.
Of course, calling to confirm this was a nerve racking endeavor — she recalled thinking, “here we go again.” Because she had found a few men who turned out not to be her biological father, and her true biological mother had initially had quite a negative reaction to being found.
But Deslippe was shocked, because he didn’t know she existed. Wilson’s mother hadn’t told Deslippe about the pregnancy and, over half a century later, he didn’t remember her — even after seeing a picture of her from when they would have known each other.
“It had to be just a one night stand type, per se. I mean, otherwise I’d recognize her, right?” chuckled Deslippe. “I mean, come on.”
Naturally, he had doubts at the start — and not just because he didn’t remember the mother.
“The idea that they would get my DNA, saying that her (grandfather) is my father … I knew nothing, zero — I know a little bit more now — I knew zero about DNA … so I had my doubts,” he explained.
To ensure a match, Deslippe and Wilson both submitted DNA to be examined for a match and it came back positive — but it was still hard for Deslippe to process, as he’s a believer in the tangible — what he can see and know is true on a base level.
“But it’s not important because I asked her on the phone, ‘do you have dimples?’” explained Deslippe. “Of course, I’ve got dimples, and they were very prominent when I was young.”
Wilson told him that she has one, and with the amount she sounded like his younger sister on the phone, things started to come together for Deslippe.
“I went through everything, back and forth and back and forth and in and out, in my sleep and through the day — the whole thing,” recalled Deslippe. “But one day, I told (my wife) Carol, I said, ‘you know, I’ve made up my decision: I’m accepting this. I’m accepting the fact that she’s my daughter.’”
Wilson remarked that she was very excited about how quickly the Deslippes accepted the reality, and her. She was also glad when they all agreed to have Wilson and her daughter, Deslippe’s granddaughter, come up to Oregon from California to meet in person.
After talking for hours on end across many days, a father in Oregon and a daughter in California prepared to meet for the first time.
One day before meeting her biological father face to face, when asked what she was most excited for, Wilson said: “I just want to put my arms around him, I just want to hug him … Say it doesn’t work out, we clash or something — at least I got to hug him, put my arms around him. But I think we’re going to be fine.”
For Deslippe, this was a very special meeting in its own way: Deslippe has no other children, and in one day he was going to meet two new generations of his blood.
When they did come together, Wilson was a little bit off: they were more than just fine.
“They can’t quit talking to each other,” Carol Deslippe told the News-Times on Friday, “it’s really amazing … After they left (Thursday) he said ‘you know, I found a love that I’ve never known was possible.’”
Not only had Jim Deslippe not had children, but he was from a big family and left home at 13 years old. So to have this kind of instant bond was, in his words, life-changing.
“It would take me 10 days to tell you how I feel entirely,” said Deslippe, after meeting his daughter and granddaughter. “I mean, literally, it would take that long.”
As for Chenanne Wilson, she simply had this to say: “Now that we’ve actually met, it’s just better than I ever thought it could be.”