My arduous 25 year quest to find my father is over at last. I am a Ferguson. I have four sisters, plus 12 or 13 nieces and nephews. I am elated, reeling from these recent developments and working hard to assimilate the news. It proves my theory that the truth always surfaces, like a law of nature and no matter how long it may take.
In 1992 my mother Corona blurted out on her death bed, “Danny is not your father.” I dismissed it as she was suffering from dementia, weaving in and out of lucidity. Most unnerving, but her declaration slowly sunk in and began to make sense, explain many things, like a certain tension between my mother and Danny’s family and people often asking if I was adopted. I do not resemble my mother nor my two younger sisters and certainly not my alleged father. I believe that’s the legal term. These days it’s called paternity fraud. Those questions, that scrutiny must have panicked my mother, that is, if she knowingly lied. I have a feeling, knowing capable-of-delusion Corona that she’d convinced herself Danny-the man she married, the man who raised me-was my father, though I can only speculate. I suspect she had every intention of taking the secret to her grave.
My biological father is 87. We don’t have much opportunity for a relationship at this late date but with no name or leads I had given up hope of ever finding him and certainly didn’t expect him to be alive. It would be lovely if I’ve inherited his longevity genes along with his red hair.
It’s all so bittersweet and I wince every time I hear what a great guy he is. Danny was a decent fellow but cold, remote and often surly. He did instil in me an affinity with nature. I think the only time he was happy was when he was in his element, in the woods with us hunting, fishing, hiking. Danny was a feminist, didn’t condescend or expect us to be ladies. He worked us hard-mowing lawns, chopping and stacking wood-while encouraging my sisters and I to be strong and competent. We had to be.
I asked Danny to take a DNA test. He consented and the results ruled him out as my biological father. He was shocked and said, “I never would have married her if I’d known,” which rather stung but I understood his feelings. Corona betrayed both of us. All of us.
Over the ensuing years I made several trips to Matapedia to interview Mom’s remaining relatives. No one could recall who she may have been dating way back when. I found no answers, not even one tiny clue.
I gave birth to my son in 1994 and though focused on child rearing was determined for his sake as well as mine to uncover our genetic makeup though I had no idea how. Eventually I registered my DNA through Family Tree DNA, which provided more distractions than answers. I didn’t have the time or finesse to pursue resulting genealogical matches. Then about a year ago I signed up for a new program called Family Finder and discovered Amy, a cousin, who happens to be a professional genealogist. She put my profile up at GedMatch which identified Valerie as my first cousin. Then we found another first cousin, Kathy. Valerie had been adopted but knew the name of her father who turned out to be my uncle. One of my father’s daughters kindly took a DNA test which after an excruciating wait revealed her to be my half-sister. Hallelujah!
It occurs to me that dear old Ma effectively deprived us of the Beliveaus and Haleys as well. I might have been bilingual but she became entirely assimilated after moving west. Growing up, my sisters and I were isolated. Dad had one brother who lived on Vancouver Island hence there were no cousins around, aside from an occasional visit. We moved nearly every year or two, in and around Winnipeg until I was ten, then spent time in the Kooteneys because the Plymouth station wagon broke down at the top of Rogers Pass and Dad had to get a job in order to pay the motel room bill and wound up working on the Duncan dam as a welder. We finally settled in the Fraser Valley when I was twelve.
My parents were miserable together. I will spare you the gory details but our home life was harrowing, rife with neglect and abuse. My parents did not belong together, could not provide their children with stability or security.
There is much discussion around Corona’s motivations. Perhaps she wanted to leave small town Quebec, the past. I know she’d endured a terrible upbringing. And being Catholic, no doubt there was enormous pressure not to bear a child out of wedlock, though her mother first suggested an abortion. I wrote a poem about it, Where Sins Are More Sinful. “Sins are more sinful when the whole town knows.” In any case, surely Corona had her reasons but there’s not much point dwelling on that along with what might have been.
I was appalled when someone once asked, “Why do you care?” “Likely the same reason you do.” Of course I want to know. No one asks to be born, we are entitled to our heritage. Close proximity to our roots facilitates establishing one’s identity which surely anchors us through life’s tempests. I never had that sense for it turns out I was a changeling. Foisted.
My son and I are flying out to Toronto in January to meet the clan. The Fergusons have only been kind, warm and welcoming, another huge relief.
I find it poignant and fitting that a bee rests atop a thistle in the Ferguson family crest, that we are, “Sweeter After Difficulties.”