No matter how awesome your Family Day was, Colleen Preston of Gibsons probably topped it.
At the age of 50, Preston spent the Family Day long weekend meeting her father and half-brother for the first time and catching up on decades lost due to a tightly held secret.
While growing up, Preston always felt that something wasn’t right in her family.
“Nothing was ever said, it was just a feeling I had,” Preston told Coast Reporter this week.
As she grew so did tensions in the family and at the age of 16 she had a falling out with her mother.
Preston said that when she told her mom, “You hate me so much, why don’t you just kill me right now?” her mother replied, “I should have done that 16 years ago.”
That was enough to push Preston out the door and her mother, sister and the man she thought was her birth father pulled away.
“My mom and my dad and my sister have all stopped talking to everybody [else in the family] since I was a kid,” Preston said.
“I haven’t talked to my mom in 34 years.”
Extended family always wondered what the issue was, but days turned into years and years into decades and eventually everyone gave up trying to figure it out.
Everyone except Preston, who decided at the age of 50 she’d hire a private investigator to look into why her mother essentially disowned her as a teen.
She also wanted to know more about her heritage, as the man who raised her was Polish but that heritage didn’t sit right with Preston.
Before going to the effort and expense of hiring a private investigator, Preston went online to AncestryDNA to probe her heritage with a $130 DNA test.
The test showed that she was actually French, not Polish, and that there was another person named “GD” in the database that was related to her in some way.
After connecting with “GD” (Greg) on Facebook, it became apparent he was her half-brother.
Soon he would approach his father with the news and a paternity test would prove that Preston’s birth father was the same as Greg’s – Danny Bereza.
Danny had been a bush pilot in the ’60s and had no idea Preston’s mother had become pregnant with his child. At the age of 80, he was overjoyed to get the news he had a daughter.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, Greg, Danny and his wife Gaynor were on the Coast to meet Preston and her two grown children, Stephanie and Greg, for the first time.
“It was so neat to find out they have the same name,” Preston said of her new-found brother and her 20-year-old son.
There are other similarities between the two families as well.
“I play squash and my brother plays squash and we all love to golf. Also, my dad’s an author and so am I,” Preston said.
They all seem to share the same sense of humour, too. Preston and her brother Greg decided to play up the meeting between her and Danny by getting some “it’s a girl” baby balloons and cigars for the men.
“So he could celebrate having a new, 50-year-old daughter,” Preston giggled.
“Everyone loved it. My dad was taking pictures and everybody was sharing the camera and the boys did the cigar thing and we just had probably the most magical weekend we could have ever dreamt up.”
Her new-found family stayed on the Coast for three days before they had to head back to Slave Lake and Courtenay, and each day was filled with love and laughter, Preston said.
“It has been an absolutely life-changing experience for me.”
She plans to go to see her dad in Courtenay in a couple of weeks with her kids.
“We’re basically going to spend every chance we can hanging out together,” she said.
Preston hasn’t confronted her mother with the secret she accidentally revealed through AncestryDNA, and she doesn’t plan to.
“I don’t even want to look at the past. I just want to go on from here and keep living this beautiful love story,” she said.