Jewish mom Wendy Spencer got the shock of a lifetime recently, and it wasn’t exactly the kind of cuddly surprise you get when you come home to find a new puppy. The 50-year-old mom and hair stylist never knew who her father was until she ordered an extensive DNA profile through 23andMe, hoping she would discover more about her mother’s ancestry.
What she discovered was surprising: When her results came back, she saw a photograph of Bill Miller along with the word “father,” which was not the man she thought was her father. She discovered, to her surprise, that her mother LaBerta Goldstein met Miller at a bowling alley while her husband who is now deceased was on a two-week trip to New Zealand with the Air Force in 1964. Her mother has since declined to talk about the affair, but Wendy explained why to PEOPLE:
“She didn’t tell Roger there was a chance that I wasn’t his daughter. But they divorced when I was in the third grade. My mother was ashamed, and because of her shame, I always felt there was something wrong with me when I was growing up. Years later, when she finally told me the story about Bill Miller, a light bulb went off. It was very freeing for me.”
After she found out the result, Wendy sent a message to her father on Facebook; now recovering from prostate cancer surgery, Bill said he cried when he learned he had a daughter. Five days later, Wendy flew to Texas to meet 74-year-old Bill–and she was sadly disappointed, stating:
“I noticed that much of what he said had a racist tone. Everyone had a category–black, Anglo, Mexican–and he talked about slavery and segregation and the way things had been. He told me that Memphis, the city he was born in, had been ruined because of black people. It was very upsetting.”
For Wendy, the idea of her father being racist was especially shocking considering her husband, Victor Spencer, is black and they have four children together. She also learned that her grandfather–Bill’s father–Emmett Elliot Miller was a grand wizard in the Ku Klux Klan, and had been involved in a bombing attempt at an all-black college in Little Rock in 1960. Even so, Wendy somehow has managed to keep an astoundingly positive and compassionate attitude toward her father, stating:
“I didn’t wait all these years to find my dad, only to discard him. With every relationship, no matter how imperfect that love is, it’s better to have it than not have it at all. You can’t choose your family. Hopefully, my dad will see that we’re not the people he was taught about and has carried in his mind his whole life.”
It seems Bill is trying to make amends himself for his grandchildren (Brandie, 30, Michael, 29, Victor, 26, and Cosette, 22):
“I’m going to do whatever I can to make this new relationship work. I don’t spend any time hating anybody. I’m really trying to be a lot more adaptive since Wendy and my grandkids came into my life.”
Despite this, however, Bill’s relationship with Victor hasn’t been quite as smooth, after Bill made racial and derogatory statements toward Victor when they first met. As a whole, the entire family is still willing to forge a relationship with Bill, despite their different beliefs. Apparently, Bill is even considering a move to California in order to be closer to his family.
Personally, I find it incredible that Wendy and her family can overcome their discomfort in order to have a relationship with Bill, despite how uncomfortable it may be. While I can’t necessarily say I would be able to do the same, I also believe love is always worth it.