The strapping man wearing the suit jacket and cowboy hat carried a bouquet of flowers as he stepped into the room and firmly embraced the petite woman in front of him.
The two shed a few happy tears. He noticed the pictures of himself through the years that were displayed around the room. Something about that was surreal.
Her first thought was, “I wish he had trimmed his moustache. I hate moustaches.”
There they stood, mother and son, together for the first time in more than 65 years. Their bond was immediate.
* * *
Jean McLeod was born in a small Saskatchewan town during the First World War to strict Scottish Presbyterian parents. Her mother had died giving birth to Jean, and she was raised by her father, who lived long enough to see her graduate from nursing school. Her brothers had perished in the war.
Jean was engaged to be married when she discovered she was pregnant. Her fiance, whom she later learned had a wife and children at the time they were together, gave her two choices – abort the baby or no wedding.
With strong religious convictions, abortion was not an option for Jean. Single motherhood was not a viable alternative in those days, so that left adoption.
Jean moved away to Calgary, Alta., where she stayed with a friend’s mother until the baby was born.
She gave birth to a boy on Oct. 22, 1947. Common practice at that time, when a unwed woman was relinquishing her child, was for the infant to be immediately whisked away and placed in an orphanage.
Instead, Jean was mistakenly handed her bundled up baby, whom she instantly unwrapped to see if he was OK. Her heart ached as she held him over the next few hours, pushing aside thoughts of keeping him. She had no money, no job and nowhere to go.
When she was given the opportunity to name him, she chose Donald for the boy’s father, Robert for poet Robby Burns, and McLeod for her family name.
No day passed thereafter without Jean crying for her son or praying
for him to have a good and healthy life.
“Is he crying? Is he hungry? Does he have good Christian parents?” Later, her thoughts turned to, “Is he married? Does he have children? What kind of work does he do?”
Jean, whose surname later changed to Green when she was married for a brief time, carried her secret for decades, telling not even her husband or her closest friends. The pain never diminished.
Adoption records were sealed for decades before Canadian laws began to change.
Having moved to Abbotsford, Jean was watching TV one day when she heard Toronto broadcaster Lorna Dueck provide a phone number for anyone trying to trace an adoption.
Later that week, Jean learned that Lorna was the daughter of one of her neighbours and was visiting the next day. The two met and, for the first time – at 95 – Jean shared her secret.
Lorna encouraged her to call the number for the post-adoption registry in Alberta, and the adoption papers were sent. It was then that she learned her son’s name had been changed to David Robert Eggleston.
Later, she was meeting with her friend Alvina Zacharias, when Alvina sensed something was wrong. Jean again revealed the secret she had carried for 65 years, and enlisted Alvina’s computer skills to track down further information.
An online search for the name “David Eggleston” turned up a phone number in Alberta. Alvina left a detailed message on July 19, 2013, and soon received a call back confirming the birthdate and other details. This was Jean’s grandson, who carried the same name as his dad.
At last, Jean had found her son.
* * *
David Eggleston Sr. was visiting a friend when he received a tearful and emotional call from his son.
“Don’t worry, Dad. It’s nothing bad. I just got a call. Your birth mother has been trying to find you for 65 years,” David Jr. said.
“What!? You mean she’s still alive?”
Unlike many adoptees, the elder David had never felt the need to search for his birth parents. He had been raised by a loving mom and dad who farmed for a living, and were now both deceased. He had an older sister, and didn’t feel like there was anything missing in his life.
Still, he always wondered if he had a brother out there somewhere.
David returned Alvina’s call at the same time that Jean was in the room. Alvina placed the call on speaker-phone, and David began with, “Hi. How are you doing?”
Jean began to cry.
“Oh, Robby. I never thought I’d hear your voice again.”
“Well, I imagine it’s changed a little bit since the last time you heard it,” David laughed.
Jean learned that David had taken over the family farm for awhile and later became a long-haul truck driver and then a school bus driver, his current profession. He always wore his dad’s Stetson and loved to ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He had married, but was now divorced, and had a son, a daughter, three granddaughters and a grandson who all lived nearby.
David learned that Jean was a nurse for many years, never had any other children, and never stopped thinking about him through all those decades.
Over the next several months, the pair kept in touch over the phone and exchanged photos that showed striking family resemblances, including identical noses. The pictures David sent filled empty picture frames that Jean had collected.
Their first meeting was arranged for April 19 of this year, and David brought his son along for moral support.
None of them slept well the night before the get-together, but the nervousness vanished when David walked through the door and strode to his mom for that first embrace.
* * *
More phone calls and more visits are planned in the near future. David Jr. hopes to visit his grandmother this summer, along with his wife and three kids, and his dad also hopes to return soon.
Jean still finds it astounding that the tiny newborn baby she held in her arms those many years ago is now a “big husky man.”
She never thought she’d hear the word “Mom,” or find the answers to her questions, but she is finally at peace.
“Everything’s answered, and God answered my prayers.
“I’m no longer afraid of dying … The baggage is off my back. I’m free to go home,” she said.