A Williams Lake man who found his birth sister after 73 years said the experience has been nothing but positive.
“It’s been really great and so awesome for this to happen,” Clayton Myers said as he sat beside his sister Donna Smith and held her hand.
Last week Donna made her first trip to Williams Lake, travelling with her daughter and son-in-law.
The two siblings said they first met through letters, then a conference call at the prompting of an adoption agency in Saskatchewan.
After that, Clayton, and his wife Karen travelled to Abbotsford to meet Donna and her husband at their home.
To this day Karen still thinks it was amazing how welcoming Donna was right away.
“She didn’t know anything about us and yet she invited us into her home,” Karen said.
Donna said she believes God brought them together.
“We’ve been able to have a few visits in person and we talk on the phone and text,” she said. “We’ve learned so much about our family.”
It was curiosity about their medical histories that first inspired Clayton and Donna to inquire about their backgrounds.
“Being adopted you don’t know what kind of health problems you may have in the future,” Clayton said.
Initially he received a 45-page package from the adoption agency, but said there was no medical information included.
Around the same time, Donna was also making inquiries because her children wanted to know about her medical background.
Clayton was born in Regina in 1934 and Donna was born in Saskatoon in1936. They shared the same birth mother and father.
Once Clayton and Donna were put in touch with their birth family, they discovered their parents were married in 1937 and went on to have five more children — two boys and three girls.
Their birth mother died at age 93 in 2007 and their birth father died on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Growing up, the five other siblings knew nothing about Clayton and Donna and were totally shocked to learn about them, Donna said.
“I think there was skepticism about whether we belonged in the family or not, but you cannot blame them, after all these years,” Clayton said. “I think after they saw how much Donna was like their mother, it put the icing on the cake.”
Clayton first learned he was adopted from his older sister when he was about 15 or 16 years old.
“My sister was living in Saskatoon at the time and I went in to visit her and she told me. I cried over it, because looking back at all the years I didn’t even know that. Then she tried to deny it, but I said, ‘no, you’ve told me and it’s got to be true.’ It was OK. I accepted it, but it was a shock.”
When he talked to his adoptive parents about it, he never learned why they had kept it a secret.
“I think it’s the way those things went in the early years. I knew another boy at school who was adopted and some of the kids found out and they made his life pretty terrible. They teased him. It was pretty tough for him.”
Donna was five years old when a neighbour girl got angry at her and told her she was adopted.
“I’d never heard the term before so I went home crying to mom so she sat me down and told me babies came from two different ways,” she said. “‘God gives them to mommies and daddies or you write a letter,’ she said. ‘We got you as a letter baby so we chose you.’ So I said to my brother, ‘they had to take you, but they chose me.’”
Her adoptive mother told her her background, but Donna said at the time she wasn’t interested.
“I told them ‘I love you, you’re my mom and dad and I don’t care about anything else.’ I was young, I wasn’t thinking ahead.”
Donna was born at the Salvation Army unwed mother home in Saskatoon.
“When I was two weeks old I came up on the train to my parents with a welfare worker to Melfort, Sask.,” Donna said.
Her adoptive mom had been in a car accident and was told she would never have children so they put in for adoption.
“Eighteen months after I was adopted she had my brother and then 14 and 17 years later had two more girls after I was 16. I was so excited. Mom cried because she thought I’d be so embarrassed.”
Donna said the beauty of her life is that with her adoption she was never treated any differently than her siblings growing up.
“They were blonde and blue-eyed so I said I was the black sheep of the family. But my dad had dark hair and when they wrote to the welfare department for adoption a letter came back with four babies described. Dad chose the baby with dark hair and blue eyes. By the time I got to them two weeks later my eyes had turned brown, but they kept me anyway.”
Clayton’s older sister was adopted as well, but she was quite a bit older than him so he did not have a lot of time with her, he said.
Donna has four children, 21 grandchildren and an 18th great grandchild due in August.
Her husband died last year after they had been married for 63 years.
Clay has three children and three grandchildren.
“Being apart the way we are, with our age and our health, it’s difficult and I would just love Clay to meet all of my family,” Donna said.
Smiling Karen said she had enjoyed watching the two siblings making oatmeal together in the kitchen.
“It has just been such a miracle that they even met,” she said.