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Confronting your past: The CBC's Russell Bowers on the mystery surrounding his birth

This November, Canada Writes is asking Canadians to share with us remarkable stories from their family bloodline. 

Today we share a story we received from the CBC's Russell Bowers in which a letter from out of the blue brings up some questions about where he came from.

"The Timing Of Your Birth" by Russell Bowers

Tuesday mornings don’t have the reluctant start of a Monday. Nor the drudgery of a Wednesday, the anticipation of a Thursday, the restlessness of a Friday. By Tuesday, the week is all possibility.

On this particular Tuesday, at 9 a.m. Newfoundland Standard Time, my desk at CBC was as cluttered as I'd left it Monday. I tabled paper sorting for later and attended emails. The phone mewled its electronic signal. A call from Craig. An editor friend of mine who now worked at a magazine for which I used to contribute. 

He asked, “Is your personal email secure?”

“It’s Hotmail. I think I'm the only one who checks it.” 

“I'm sending you something. It came to us as a Letter to the Editor, but I'm not printing it.”

The email was from Willard, corresponding from Ontario. He had been looking for Russell Bowers—me, it would seem—for over 10 years and hoped he might reach me through the magazine. I was his brother by birth and the people who raised me were not my real parents. He thought I should know this.

I printed the email and brought it down the hall for my boss, Glen, to read. “What do you think of this?”

“No idea who this is?” Glen asked.

“Well, I know a Willard, but he’s my 70 year old uncle.”

Heading back to my office, it was 9:30 and my desk was no closer to becoming tidy. Instead of plunging into whatever my work for the week was meant to be, I re-read the email, trying to convince myself it was from someone who heard me on the radio and took it into his mind I was now his relative.

If I'm honest, the possibility that I didn't belong to Steadman and Daisy had crossed my mind. I never felt like I was fit in my childhood home, but who does, I thought.

For a horoscope project I once worked on, I inquired of my mother, “When was I born? What time of day?”

“Oh my,” my mother hesitated, “how do you expect me to remember that?”

I've never taken it upon myself to have a family or be involved in the pregnancy of another, however from what I've gleaned on the subject, the exact point at which her child is born is something indelibly stamped upon the memory of a mother.

It was getting close to 10:30, Newfoundland Standard Time, when Glen poked his head into my office.

“You might want to get to a TV.”

I rambled down over the stairway, scenarios whirling in my head about what could be on TV. I saw reporters aghast, looking at every television set available. Some watched while they made phone calls, and others just tried to grasp the images.

“Well, I guess World War III just started,” Jon said. A dark laugh, only a Newfoundlander could muster, rose from his mouth as he sat down to start making his own calls to the city and airport.

A second plane had just crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York.
The email would have to wait.

Russell Bowers is the host of CBC Radio's Daybreak Alberta. He's been a broadcaster for over 25 years, working all over Canada in places as far apart as Prince Rupert to St. John's. In 2014, he will publish his second book, The Ballad of Harry Hibbs, a biography of the influential Canadian folk musician.


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