Ep 484: Overcoming Impossible Odds with Rory’s Mom Part 1

I think, one of the most dramatic, compelling, true stories of, of a person who has made a huge impact, not just in my life, but in the whole world. So what other introduction can I do except say I’m so grateful for this woman and everything that she’s done for me and all the sacrifices she has made in my life for me and my brother, and my dad and our family. So, welcome to the show, Rory’s mom, Tessie Gale. Hi, mom.

Hi, Rory. Well, thank you so much for having me. I feel very honored and blessed and, and yeah, I’m glad to be here. And if my story can impact anybody, even one person to, to, to have hope and, and you know, know that, that whatever they’re going through right now is, is for a reason. And, you know, the Lord has a plan for every each one of us.

Yeah. And, and I, that is what I, I I wanna, I wanna start by understanding the real story of where you were at when you became a mom and what was going on in your life. So be, because I think, you know, I think a people look at, you know, me and AJ and our family and where we’re at today, and they might assume like, Hey, you guys have always been successful and had nice things and lived in nice homes and traveled the world and dah, dah, dah. Even our own grandkids or, you know, your grandkids, my kids, right? Yeah. Jasper and Liam. I, I remember we, we went to a we went to a, a sporting event not that long ago, and I remember we walked in and Jasper looked at us and he said mommy, where’s our room? Because we got free tickets from our bank to have box seats.

And they have had so many of sporting events they’ve been to where they’ve sat in a box. And I’m like, you little spoiled brats. I never ever had box seats ever until like my, my late twenties. And, and then I, I compare that and contrast that with how I grew up, and then really how you grew up and, and where you were. And so I wanna share that story. So, so talk us through, let’s start with high school. I think, and you can go back a little bit, but, but tell me about when you got pregnant and kind of walk me through what your life was like in high school when you first got pregnant and kind of like up through those, you know, the first five years of Randy being born, and then, you know, you having me.

Sure, sure. Well, I, you know, I was the oldest of five children, and I was born to a lower middle class Latino family. My dad was an iron worker, and my mom was a nurse’s aide and, and cooked for the, the priest. And growing up Catholic, we went to Catholic school and I went to Catholic school for 11 years. And my, I was junior class president and very involved in school. And my junior year of high school, I, I went to I started working at Winchell’s Donuts, was my first job. Nice. And, and I met Danny who was not you know, wasn’t part of my, my circle of friends or anything like that were very different anyway, so we were in love, right? And so at 17 ending my junior year, I got pregnant with my first child with Randy.

And I was going to be obviously I didn’t sit very well with my folks. However I was going to be 18 and, and by the time Randy was born, and so we, my dad gave us a wedding in backyard, and that’s summer in 76. And we got married and he joined the Navy so that we could, so we could pay for our child, right? I mean, how, how are we gonna pay for him? So, so we did that. And then soon after, I, I, I had left high school my senior year because of obvious reasons. However, I was really close to getting my high school diploma. I was short like a couple credits. And so I was able to go to the local adults night school and actually receive my high school diploma right after Randy was born. And so I, I got my high school diploma, and I made a commitment that someday I would go to college. And

And so just to be so, so you got pregnant when you’re 17?

About 17 and a half, almost

17 and a half. But so when, when Randy was born, you technically were 18, so you had, you got to determine whether or not you were gonna raise him. So you were very, very young, but they, you didn’t have to put him up for adoption or into the system ’cause you were an adult. You got to make that decision technically by the time he was actually born.

Absolutely. And that was a, that was a very very important, very important. But

That had to be a tough dec decision. I mean, I mean, not knowing what you know now, like, like having a son, but I mean, I mean, being, being pregnant in high school like that can’t, couldn’t have been an easy, that can’t be an easy circumstance.

No, no. But I, I was the oth the other thing too was I, being the oldest of five, I raised my, my siblings Mm-Hmm. And so I had, I mean, I was changing diapers with your aunt when she was a baby. I was seven years old. So I’ve been changing diapers and playing mommy with kids since I was seven years old. Yeah. basically, and that, I think that is where my love for children come from, was one of the places. Right.

So then walk me through what happens next? And, and so in your first, in your first marriage, I know that there were a couple difficult things that happened over the subsequent years. So obviously you and your first husband didn’t have a lot of money. You pregnant, you had a baby. You’re 18 years old, you finish, you get your high school diploma by going to night school, and then what happens those next couple years?

So then Randy Dan and I moved down to San Diego, and he gets out of the service. He just basically did bootcamp and he was able to get outta service and got a job at Winchells. And I was eight weeks Randy was eight weeks, I’m sorry, Randy was eight weeks when I got pregnant again. And you’re right. I mean, we had no money, nothing. And so he drove me down to San Diego, downtown San Diego to the abortion clinic. And I had my first abortion there. And it was really awful. I was really scared. And, but there was no way, I mean, in my mind, at that time, there was no way. And the, when he picked me up, he just said that, you know, we would never, ever talk about this again. And that, you know, we wouldn’t tell no one, not even our parents, nobody. And if I ever got pregnant again, that he would leave me. And so, of course, you know, 18 years old and, and you know, so, so you gotta remember I was raised in the church. I knew that that was wrong. And yet I had no network, no family, nobody around me except him at that time. So we did that. And then you know, our marriage was always a struggle. And then what happened was in

I mean, clearly, I mean, that I, that’s understandable, right? Your young, your young kids, kids, you have a child, you go through this abortion experience. You, you have no college education at this point. You’re trying to make it, you’re working at,

I didn’t have a job.

You didn’t have a job. He’s working at, I didn’t have

A job at this point.

He’s working at Winchell’s Donuts, right? You get pregnant, have an abortion, then what happens?

Then we ended up moving to Colorado. We came for Thanksgiving. And I didn’t wanna go back. And so he went back, got our stuff. And so we ended up his parents lived here, or his mom and, and his mom’s wife, or his mom’s, not wife husband. And so Grammy Elaine and Mike lived here and in Colorado. And then they leave, we are there only, they’re only there for six months, and then they get transferred to Texas. So now I’m alone. And we’re 19 years old, 20 years old, and they leave. So in January of 1980, we end up moving to, to Boulder, Colorado. And we get a donut shop to manage, and we, we become the managers of that in, in Boulder. And we, we had enough money to get a mobile home at this time.

And so we moved in next door to Don andShelly, which, you know, God, God blessed us with these neighbors. And we, we, we ran the donut shop for probably a year, couple years maybe, and that one, probably a year or so. And so then again, we were growing apart. We were growing apart. And I think that I had that resentment from, I always wanted another child. I mean, I always wanted another child. And, and Randy wanted a sibling. I mean, Randy wanted a, a sibling. So at three and a half years old, I get pregnant again, but this time I don’t tell my husband right away.

And then at 11 and a half weeks so almost three months, he drives me to the hospital. And for the second time, I have a second abortion. And I, I remember waking up and the nurse saying to me, she’s gone, and you can go back to your life now. And so that day, I, I, I cried out to God, and I promised that I would never, ever allow this to happen again. And the little love that I had for Dan was gone, died that day. But the shame and guilt stayed with me for a long time. But I do want you to know, Rory, that on that bed, before I left that hospital, I also begged God that if I ever got pregnant again, that I would offer that child to him uhhuh to share and to help me his will or whatever.

So, so then what happens with Danny, so you, so you have a, we split up second abortion, you split up and then what?

So we split up, and my mom used to always say, it’s too bad you guys couldn’t have stayed business partner. But we split up and he went back to California. And this time, it was like around 1981. And he went back in the summer, well, there was a man, his name was Tom McLaughlin, who was a customer, a local customer. He, he worked at the CU Boulder. He was the paint foreman at the time, and would come in. And so we started dating. I mean, he was handsome and and tall. He was 12 years older than me. So at this time, I’m like 23 years old. And, you know, he, he was intelligent. He had huge dimples, and he was a very, very handsome man. And he was from New York. I, I had never been anywhere west east of Colorado up to this point. And so we started dating and I got pregnant with you. And he was thrilled. He was absolutely thrilled. So he was 35 years old, somewhere around there. Never been married, never had any children. However, the, the, I was eight months pregnant when I walked down the aisle with you. And that was the month that he lost his job. And so what I didn’t realize was that he was an alcoholic. And that day that, or that time period, he started becoming very verbally and emotionally abusive when he wasn’t drinking. He was wonderful. He was wonderful.

And when you, when you talk about verbally and emotionally abusive, what are the, I mean, this is now your second marriage. Mm-Hmm. , you’re 23, still no college education. You’re Mm-Hmm. Working at Winchells,

Oh, oh, oh, oh, no, let’s back up. So, you know, God always provides a way, and God works in mysterious ways. I’ve told you that your whole life. And so one of the things was when Dan went back to California, Randy and I stayed, and I got a job because of a customer of mine at a company called Storage Tech. And so they were a computer-based company, and I ended up getting a job in their cafeteria at that time. And I was the banquet coordinator. I used to serve, serve the lunches to all the c-suite executives, and, you know, the high-end clients, Xerox, Honeywell, you know clients like that. 3M how

Much are of you, how much are you making in that job? Because now you’re your ex, your fir, your ex-husband left. Mm-Hmm. , his parents left. Mm-Hmm. , you’ve got no family in Colorado. You’re staying there. Mm-Hmm. You have no college degree. You have some work experience at Winchell’s, but you’re a single mom. You’ve been through two, two abortions, and now you get a job. How much are you making?

$5 and 64 cents an hour.


But I had life insurance and I had medical benefits, and that’s what I paid to have you. That’s how I was able to have you. And so Tom and I are struggling at this point. I had moved in, or he had moved in with, with me and Randy while I was pregnant with you, and, you know, had my mobile home and didn’t like my mobile home. And you know

So you had me. So he moved in with us. So you had, so, so you had me, you guys got married?

I got married at eight. We got married when I was eight months pregnant with you. And so he moved in. Okay. And then you were born one month later? Just one month later.

Okay. And when you say abusive, can you just, like, what exactly does that mean? So he wasn’t physically abusive, but he was

Right? No, he was not. He’d never, he had never hit me. He had never hit me up to this point. And he would just be, he was always ranting and raving. His father died, his father committed, committed suicide when he was older, when, when he was in his fifties or whatever. And, and Tom was older. He was in his twenties, and he, that affected him a lot, I think. And well, I know. Sure. And, and he was drinking. And so he would just get very belligerent very argumentative, call me names. Which by the way, the first one used to do that too. But anyway, so, so, you know, my self-esteem is starting to go into the toilet. Right. And but again, I had the Lord, even though I knew that I had, had been separated from him and, and walked away from, from my values, and I, at this time, I wasn’t going to church.

Right. The church kind of disowned me. I mean, I wasn’t going to church. And so but I, I, I knew, I just knew that I had, that there was something better. And so we, we struggled too. But Don and Shelly, I mean, and at this time also, you know, Charlie, you know, you know him as Uncle Charlie. I mean, he had a print shop next to Win’s Donuts, and we became friends. He was a single dad. And and we were just friends. And he had a boy that was just a year older than Randy. And so you know, he, he was in the picture, I guess, you know, the three of them were pretty much, and Betsy, I mean, from, from from work. So before I left Tom, so at this time I’m working in storage tech as cafeteria. In the cafeteria.

Six months later, I meet who I call my Colorado dad, Chuck Tillman. And he needed to create a job because of the rule breaking cowboys that engineers, he used to call ’em, that were losing all these parts all over the country. And it was costing the division a lot of money. And so he had to find the right person for this position. This was a brand new position, never been cre hadn’t been created. And so he interviewed me because he, he liked, he liked the fact that if I could work at a donut shop and deal with all these personalities, that sure surely I could corral these guys.

I mean, clearly that’s one of the things, like, you’ve always been very resourceful with relationships, being adaptable to people and environments. Like even in high school, I know you were the, you were friends with the, like, the, the, the Latinos, and you were friends with the nerds and friends with the jocks and friends with the popular, like, and, and then at Winchell’s you’re meeting all kinds of people. And here at Storage Tech, you go from basically being cafeteria


Person to marketing and managing like a bunch of engineers, and then, you know, making friends with, you know, the neighbors and, and all that sort of stuff. So, so when does, so when does Tom leave? So, so, so Tom never hits you or anything like that, but you guys split up when,

Okay, so, so so, so Tom did hit me, but before that, so, so one time he trashed our house. I came home and he was just, you know, he, he was drunk and he just trash, it was trashed our house. So we, you were a baby. And Randy was five and a half. So he remembers this. And so we went to the Boulder Safe House for three days, just for three days. And when we came back, I told him, you know, he apologized and all that, but I told him, if you ever raise your hand to hit me or my child, Randy, we would be gone. And of course, he’s like, I would never do that, da da da. So in right, right after your first birthday, so in August of eighty, eighty three, we, we moved because he didn’t like my mobile home, so he talked me into leaving it. So now I have to declare bankruptcy. So now I’m working at, at Storage Tech, and I’ve started creating a network of people and friends, and we move to, to a rental house. And my brother died. Okay. So this was right, this was actually right after you were born from back up, but right after you were b you were born in July of 1982. And my brother, my only brother committed suicide in October of 1982. So here I am with a tiny infant and a five and a half year old, and an alcoholic husband. We go to California, and that’s how your parents, that’s when your grandparents met you, that’s when the whole family met you. I mean, you were the bright light of that whole

Is that Chuckie’s funeral?

Yeah. You were the bright light of that.

How old? So Chucky, how old was Chucky when he committed suicide?

He was 20 years old.

So I never met, I never, I literally never met him. No. I was there at his funeral, but I had never met him when he was living.

Right. He never got to see you. Mm-Hmm. But he did call the day before to congratulate me or you. And he used to live with us in Boulder. He came for a little bit, and then him and Danny left. And, and Tom, Tom and him didn’t get along, and he was into drugs and stuff. So he, he went back home. He went back to California and he wasn’t even there. He was there about a year. He was there about a year.

So, and so then, did you, so that, so that’s a couple months after I was born. And then, and then you and Tom split up shortly after that.

We split up the net. The, the no, we split up the following year after that. We were still together. ’cause You weren’t, you weren’t a year old yet. But then we moved in August of 83 to, to Boulder to the house. But that whole time, right, I’m, I’m working full time. He’s trying at storage tech. He’s trying to get his paint business off the ground because he decided that he didn’t want to, you know, be, they offered him a position that I didn’t know till years later. They offered him a position as a painter, and he didn’t take it. It was beneath him, I guess. And so instead he, he said, no, I’m going to start my own thing. And so that’s what he did during this time. But he was mismanaging money, you know, he had a, he had a champagne taste on a beer budget.

And then when did you guys separate? So

Then we, so we finally separated and, and moved out on my 25th birthday. So that was December of 1983.

All right. So I’m a year old. I’m a year, like a year and a half old. Year,

Year a year, almost a year and a half old. My sister Letty, your Aunt Letty, she came to live with us. And she was living with us in the, in the mobile home, or not in the mobile home, but in the rental house. She came in October and we left on my birthday night, December, we were at Don and Shelly’s, no cell phones at this time. He’s supposed to, Tom’s supposed to come over. He calls, he’s at the bar. He tells me to come and pick him up. I could tell he’d been drinking. And I said, we are in the middle of dinner, and I, I’ll come and pick you after that. Well, obviously that didn’t go over real well, right? So we get there and we’re all in the car. We’re all in the car. And he throws my cake out of, out in the birth my birthday cake out the window while we’re driving. And, you know, he, it’s very tense. Your brother now is almost, it’s like six and a half or whatever. And he, he’s old enough to know that it, it’s not a good scene. I told him and Letty to take you upstairs, and then when we get home, we proceed to have an argument and it gets very heated. And he swung at me and clipped the head of, top of my head, just with his hand. But I called the police and I’m like, I’m done. I’m done. And so this

Is on your birthday?

Yeah, yeah. So on my birthday, so the 25th, yeah, I, I try not think about that one too much . But this is on my birthday. And

So he missed your birthday. So what happened was he missed your birthday dinner. He was at the bar, then you go get him, then all this stuff unfolds. Then he hits you because this is, you know, these are the stories that Randy tells me about. He remembers those encounters. He remembers being at the safe house. He remembers the yelling. Like the only thing I really remember is I remember being at the bar with Tom very young. I remember, because I remember eating cherries, which is funny ’cause that’s what Jasper and Liam liked to do. They liked to eat the cherries. And I used to eat the cherries out of the like, little thing that would sit up on the bar. And then I would play like the video games. And

You were, see, you were little. You gotta remember that. So that’s when we left that night is when we physically never, we never lived with him again. Yeah. But he was still in the, you know, he was still there at that time. He was still living in car, still

In the area. And like, it’s

Occasionally, but I, I had to work all day. So he would take you, he would take you with him. ’cause I’m not gonna pay for a babysitter. He’s not working.

I see. That makes more sense. ’cause I, I mean, I must have been still, I, so I must have seen him still when I was like three or four, like old enough to remember the bar because he wasn’t So he didn’t have a job then. Really? For like years. You’re working during the day He’s watching me taking the bar. Yeah. And then I got it. So, so there, so at this point, you’re 25, you’ve been divorced twice. You have two children, two abortions. Single mom, you’re making go ahead.

$5 and 65. Oh no, I had, you’re starting to

Make more money.

I was making, when I started working for Chuck, I was making almost $7.

All right. So Chuck pulls you outta the cafeteria roll. And he goes like, Hey, you’re gonna come like, join me. So now you’re making seven bucks an hour. But he had insurance. And then were we on food stamps?

Yes. We were on, we, you know, we were able to get on WIC and a little bit on, and, and you know, what happened was, do you wanna know what happened?

So, and then, you know, I remember we used to live in the dun the dungeon. So this must have been before. So this was after you left Tom? We lived in a dungeon, or we lived in

The dungeon. Okay. And you don’t remember it because you were less than two years old? I,

I only remember Randy telling me about it.

So, so the night we left, after the cops came, we all went to Uncle Charlie’s house. And we stayed in his basement. You know, his, his, his basement was finished. We stayed in his basement for two weeks. This was gotta remember, this was in December in Colorado. Mm-Hmm. the first December that your Aunt Letty’s there. And it’s actually in 83. And we had worst blizzards ever that year. And so we end up going to Charlie’s and I wanted to, to get my own place. And so we, we needed, we needed to find our place. And so I did, we found a place. And so, so Letty and I call it the dungeon. It was the dungeon. And basically it was in downtown Boulder. It was under a business. And the front door was in the back alleyway. It had no walls in your aunt letty’s room, just one by twos and installation.

It had no ceilings. It was just the wires and the insulation like exposed. It was all exposed. And there was just a little closet walk-in closet. And that’s where Randy had a bed. That was it. He had a little twin mattress on the floor. And then the kitchen didn’t have any formica. It was actually duct taped. The counters were duct taped. We had a tiny little little table, but you, they had, we had this big furnace in the middle of what was our kitchen. And you were crawling around at this time. And I was always so afraid you were gonna burn yourself because it was big and it was in the middle. And you and I had another room to ourselves. And, but you slept with me in the bed. That we had a mattress on the floor. And I don’t even know if we had a couch. We, it had, it had two chairs and a tiny table. I don’t, I don’t even think we had a couch. I don’t remember. Couch. And we were there for four months.


Your grandpa came, he wanted us to move back to California. I didn’t, I didn’t wanna leave. I had a net network. I had a good job. And I wanted to raise you guys in Colorado. I rem I, I I didn’t wanna leave again. And so Letty got a job at Littleton and took the bus. And then we finally moved to Louisville. That’s when we moved to Louisville, and we moved in with a bus driver friend of hers. And then we weren’t there very long. And then we just started moving. And, and the thing was, Louisville was real close to our job, my job. And so we moved for the record, let’s get the records right? Yeah.

How many times did we, so how many times did we move because we were bouncing around a bit, right?

So from the time you were born and until the time you were 11 years old, we moved nine times in 11 years. Wow. But this is the thing, Rory, the reason we moved so much was every year your mom would get, make a little bit more money and we would get a litter. Better, better place. Mm-Hmm. . You know, I mean, we

Were, we were upgrading. Well, the mobile home, you abandoned and went Yeah. And declared bankruptcy, but then

. Right? And so I didn’t have any credit for seven years. Right. For seven years I didn’t have any credit. And I, it, and, and I, I had to learn to pay Paul, Rob Paul, pay Peter. And I got really good at that. And I was trying to build my credit back up.

So how did we m how did we make it right? Like, I’m trying to do the math here, going like, you know, six bucks an hour raising two kids. Well, like, I, I mean, we have, you know, AJ and I have more resources. We’ve got, we have people to help. And I’m just going, I don’t, how do you raise two kids, work during the day, raise these two kids. Letty is there, but like, oh, but

Letty’s not living with us anymore. she moved out.

No, let out.

sHe’s moved out

Some somewhere in those first, in those five years. I mean, you know, Tom is gone. Dan is gone, parents are gone. Your family is, you got, how are you covering the spread here?

Well, there was several things. First of all, life was a lot simpler back then. You gotta remember that life was a lot simpler back then. You didn’t need, I didn’t need a lot of money. We didn’t need a lot of money. But God provided, he always provided, you guys never slept in the car. You never went to bed hungry. Now we did a lot of Top Ramen. We did mac and cheese. And your mom was very you know, in, smart in in, I did a lot of improvising. And I made mac and cheese casserole with tuna and hot dogs and all kinds of things. And so, so that was one thing. And, and Don and Shelly in the early days, I mean, we would go over at dinner time, they would invite us for dinner. But the biggest factor was all the guys I worked at Tech support, remember with these engineers and, and, and Chuck, he, he was your godfather. And you know, he, he loved us. I mean, they would, him and Maryanne his wife, we would, you know, we’d go out to dinner. You guys went everywhere with me. Everywhere. We didn’t have babysitters. You went with me. And so we would go to the pizza, whether we went to the pizza bar place or wherever. Trail dust. Do you remember the trail dust? I

Do remember the trail dust. Yeah, I

Do. Ken Campion used to pay for us to go to the trail dust. And and you guys loved that place. And, and so, so I had a, a family

And and this is your boss. So this is your boss. That’s

My boss. And all the looking after

My coworkers and all their friends, all their

Coworkers, my coworkers. So Eric he was my banker. He was, he was, he was our banker. He, he, he was, he was one of my meaning.

He’s loaning you my not an actual banker, meaning he’s loaning you money.

No, he’s making me money. Right. So, so one of the things was, I never had to pay interest, but I always paid him back. And so that taught you guys how, you know, you need to pay your debts. And one, one year you wanted to go see the faces. You were like,

Oh, in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore.

Yes. Seven. And you were like, mommy, I wanna go see the faces. Can we go see the faces for, for, for our summer break? And so I saved enough money, $200, and we were gonna go. But at that time, the car that I had needed tires and one tire blew up. And, and, the guy was like, you, you can’t go anywhere on these tires. And it’s definitely not with two kids in the car. So I had to take that money and buy four sets of, you know, a set of tires. And Eric, Eric gave us the money to go on vacation. And at $25 a week, I paid him back. It took me six months to pay him back. But you got to go see the faces. And we got to go camping, which he didn’t like. But Randy likes camping.

I still don’t like camping. I mean that, maybe that’s why I don’t like camping. It was like, you

Don’t like camping.

You like being the freezing to do, you

Like being

Outside you all dirty. Right? but

We went to a lot of parks when you were little. That was the other thing we did. We visited all kinds of parks. They were free. We went to dollar movies. We would, we would go to McDonald’s and Rob your piggy banks. That’s how we would go. I would get the, the change out of my, do you remember pulling the change outta my car and my console?

Uhhuh . And so, and

So that’s what we would do. And we had, we had friends, but the biggest, the biggest friend was one of my other coworkers. Dan Dan’s been in your life since you were born. And you know, he didn’t have a family at the time. And you know, he, he, he spent a lot of time helping me with you guys paying for jackets at Christmas. And, you know, it was the reason you went to kung fu school.