As part of CFAM Student Reporter Oscar Graham's work experience with PembinaValleyOnline News and CFAM Radio 950, he will be writing and publishing stories to the CFAM Blog page in the coming weeks. This is his first assignment and story. It's the personal story of his mother Heather's search for her birth mother, and the amazing surprises that have come out of it. We hope you enjoy!
“We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child”.
James L. Gritter
Nobody would expect a blizzard at the end of September 1974, but that’s exactly what Gordon and Diana Breckon faced when they were going to pick up their newly adopted daughter, Heather. They knew they were going to face challenges with Heather as the doctors said there was a possibility she would never walk, but in true Forest Gump style she broke out of that hip brace, and never looked back.
Heather grew up on a farm just outside of Emerson which was an excellent way to spend a childhood. “I cant imagine being adopted into any other place other than the farm in southern Manitoba, and into the most fitting and perfect family a child could ever hope for,” explained Graham when interviewed for this story.
She grew up with two brothers who were also adopted (Patrick and Shawn) and numerous animals she loved very dearly including cows, chickens, horses, sheep, goats, dogs. Heather was especially fond of her cats. She would take the clothes off her dolls, and put them on her cats and push them around the farm yard in her baby carriage. They were her best friends.
She learned a lot growing up on the farm. She learned how to kill chickens, and drive a front-end loader. In her spare time, she took singing and piano lessons, and performed in concerts at the local Marais Hall. Growing up, she participated in baseball and curling, as her family was also very involved in these sports.
After attending elementary school in Emerson, Heather was off to attend the high school in Dominion City. Here she would participate in as many extra circular activities as she could. She had big parts in the school’s drama productions, was a member of the choir, she was student council president and was a key contributor to her varsity curling team. She spent her weekends working at Barnay’s restaurant and spending time with her friends. She was popular as her fellow graduates voted for her to be the valedictorian at their grad ceremony.
With big ambitions Heather moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba to study education. She soon realized that living in the city was a lot different than living on the farm. The overwhelming pace of the city, and the struggles of navigating her way around, led her right back to the farm where she got a job working at The Duty Free at the Emerson border crossing. Heather worked at The Duty Free for ten years, and this was where she met the love of her life, Barry Graham. Heather and Barry fell in love, and had an adventurous wedding in the beautiful country of Cuba. Heather and Barry raised two children in a lovely home in Emerson, Oscar and Shelby. After Heather put in her time at The Duty Free, she got a job at Emerson School where she became a speech and language educational assistant where she still works today.
Although Heather was adopted, she never had an urge to find out about her birth roots, because she had such a wonderful life and was so close to her family. However, when Heather turned 40 her thoughts changed when she found out she had a hereditary eye condition. She started to wonder, maybe finding out about her background would help her with a better understanding of her condition, and give her more knowledge of any other medical issues that might come up in the future. She began the process of obtaining her birth record. It was a very long process for Heather, and when she came across her birth record, she felt very guilty when she found out her birth mother had been wanting to meet her since 1992. She had a name but no address, so she knew she was going to be faced with an extremely difficult task.
After loads of detective work where she went through census records, addresses, voter registrations and obituaries, she was able to track down a woman in Toronto. After messaging her on Facebook, it was confirmed this woman was her biological mother. The mother was incredibly excited, and flew to Winnipeg where her and Heather would finally meet. After meeting her mother Heather said, “It was incredible to see some of the similarities. We both hate driving, we both love classic rock and we both dance and flip our hair the same way.” The mother wasn’t able help Heather figure out her medical issues, so that half of the mystery was still left unsolved.
Since her curiosity was now peaked, Heather decided she wanted to find out about the rest of her heritage, so she decided to try out Ancestry.ca where she got a DNA kit done. The DNA kit told her some things about her European background, but still gave her very few answers. Heather concluded she would never find out about the paternal side of her family.... that was until earlier this year.
In March 2019 Heather received some very unexpected news. She received a message on Ancestry.ca from a University professor in Toronto. He also had a DNA kit recently done, and found out he had a niece he didn’t know about when he thought he knew his entire family. Heather told him she wouldn’t be much help, but she gave him her surname and year of birth, and with that information he went to discuss this with his siblings. One of his brothers recalled a brief liaison with a woman matching the surname that year. He was extremely shocked a pregnancy had resulted. After exchanging emails, the birth father and Heather got to know each other by sharing numerous pictures and information about each other’s lives. Although they haven’t met yet, they both are hoping to soon. Heather is extremely excited about the prospect of having a whole other family to love.
“I can’t believe I never had the urge to locate my biological family,” reflected Heather. “I guess growing up with such a great life was the reason, but now the missing pieces have been filled in, I feel whole and complete.”
For Heather she’s had the best of both worlds. From having a loving family growing up, the family of her own with her two adoring kids and loving husband, Heather can now appreciate her new family, and all the new excitement that is yet to come in her life.