Published by Victor Barr on

Family. Family, the longest one word sentence I know. I have been blessed by my good fortune when it comes to family. I was not born into wealth; I was born into turmoil that was calmed in a storm of emotions that I cannot fully comprehend.   I will never really know the feelings that went through my birth parents when they let me go Fifty years ago. Fifty years ago the world was a very different place. Adoption was a much more utilized option back then; abortion was illegal in Alberta until 1969. I was born in 1970 and as such am fortunate that my mother choose to go through with the pregnancy. I am also fortunate to have been adopted by the Barrs.

I have two families. One I have only recently found, the other was there through scraped knees and tears. I always knew I was different, I always knew I was adopted. At times I thought that it was terrible that these people that were raising me were mean and unfair. I wish I knew then that they just loved me that much. They wanted the best for me and held me back from hurting myself. I rebelled at twelve and it took my Mom dying to bring my Dad and I back together. I am hyper-aware now about my fourteen year-old girl. I fear her rebelling. I want to learn from my parents mistakes. Instead, I make my own.

I met my biological family at the age of thirty-six. I wasn’t looking to find them, they found me. My Dad asked me once if I wanted to meet my biological parents. I told him I already had parents and I was just fine the way I was. Dad must have known something. The Alberta government opened the records on adoption from when I was born and that was how my mother found me. I found something I didn’t know I was looking for when the strange call came that afternoon.

I had only recently found out that Joanne was pregnant with my daughter when I got a call on that fateful afternoon. That call is one of my life events I will never forget. I have a few events like that in my life.   Most of them are happy moments; some are tragic ones as well. This moment is one that was a very happy one. The caller was a friend of Louise N’ha ruby. She asked me if I wanted to talk to a special lady. I asked who she was referring to? “ Your mother,” she said. I think I almost dropped the phone. Once I retrieved my voice from the pit of my stomach, I responded, “sure”.   I was riding my motorcycle to Kelowna the next day. After a conversation that I don’t remember but will never forget; I suggested that I ride my bike to her house to meet on my way to Kelowna.

Yahk is a six hour ride from Calgary and I reveled in the corners and the freedom of the road. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Louise’s home, I just knew that she was married to a lady by the name of Tre. Excitement, fear and trepidation all coursed through my being as I rode into their yard. I didn’t know that I was about to ad a new chapter to my life and new connections that I cherish to this day.

We connected right away and found ourselves enjoying the time. I liked it so much that I pitched my tent and stayed the night. Morning broke on their peaceful little mobile by the river. We found ourselves striving to fill the lifetime we had to share. I packed my bike up and was ready to go.

I learned that I had three other siblings from my biological parents. My parents had stayed together after having me and had three more children. They all lived in the Nelson area at the time. Nelson was on my way to Kelowna so it seemed like a great idea to stop and meet them for lunch.  I was about to leave, I looked at Louise and suggested she come with me.

Half an hour later my gear was rearranged and my excited mother was on the back of the bike. She held on tight and we cruised down the road. The road from Creston to the Kootenay Bay Ferry has always been one of my favourite rides. The corners give a joy that is hard to replicate. My Honda ST1300 is made to handle the road and it cornered like a dream as we followed the stunning terrain along Kootenay Lake. When we arrived at the ferry Louise got off the back of the bike and was beaming with the glory of the moment. The connection and comfort we felt with each other was surprising and amazing. It was nothing I ever expected.

When we parked in front of the restaurant patio on Baker Street in Nelson I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was going to meet my entire biological family all at the same time. It was exciting and intimidating all at once. They were so welcoming of their long lost brother I felt a fulfillment and a connection I never knew I was missing. In the joy of the moment they invited me to stay the night at my sisters place and sit by a campfire.

We drove to Jennifer’s house overlooking the beautiful Kootenay Lake. The stunning vista brought me back to times when I was growing up. We used to drive past this view every year on our way to Schroeder Creek resort, a thirty minute drive north. Lucas, Sara and Jen welcomed me with open arms. I felt a connection that was deeper than any I had felt before. We had a nice evening by the fire.

Until I got sick.

It was sudden and it was bad. I was so sick it was coming out both ends. Louise had stayed with us and she had the dubious opportunity to look after me that night. It was like a lifetime of sickness in the next twenty-four hours.

I was so sick and weak that there was no way I could remount my bike and continue my journey to Kelowna. Joanne was not impressed. I was going to be days late getting there. With nothing to do but rest I was forced to stay and get to know my new family even better. There is something about being sick in front of someone that reveals the vulnerability of a person. I was never more vulnerable and my sister and mother took care of me. I am very glad to have had that time, even though it was a low time. We learn from each other when we are vulnerable. I can’t help but think that compares to our current societal illness we are suffering right now.

I have been to their weddings and watched their kids grow up. I have learned from them. The Warthe clan was raised in the Kootenays, they made the most of what they had. They grew up a world away from the one I grew up in. Yet we have similarities and nuances, characteristics that can only be explained by genetics. I love my sister Gail, who I grew up with will always be my sister. Our relationship is much different than that of my relationship with my biological siblings. In some way, I know them better. In other ways, we are worlds apart. I am grateful to have found them and hope to build that connection to last a lifetime.

I never shared the childhood hardships with them like I did with Gail. I never experienced what they went through. Their childhood was much tougher in some ways than mine. I never experienced my parents divorcing, drug addiction, or my mother embracing her sexuality.  I did have my own trials and fears, my own loss. What doesn’t kill us has made us who we are. Stronger? Perhaps. Wiser? Hopefully.    

When my wife and I were married at Big White in 2014, Don Warthe stated he never expected to meet me. Then he went on to say how happy he was to actually be at our wedding. Having my Dad there that raised me, loved me and looked out for was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. We knew this was his last moments with us. Having my father there as well made the day that much more special. Not very many people have a second chance at a family. I am one of the lucky ones.


Categories: My Story


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