Wendy Sheedy has learned that love is a precious thing

February 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Wendy Sheedy is a mother, a grandmother, wife and secretary for Westminster United Church. Her life at this point, happily engaged in that office, has been full – of joy, theatre, the church and family – with a twist.

Born in Toronto and raised in the Bloor West Village, she began her tale, “I was a child of the the 60’s, when the Village was known as Swansea. We had a community centre in the village where I spent 80 percent of my free time. The programs were free, paid for by the city. I would go there after school and go back after dinner. It was an amazing thing they offered in the city. I learned piano, drama, tap, ballet, archery, cooking, sewing. An after school program, we learned the arts. That’s where my love of art came from.”

Some years later, having  married and moved to Orangeville, she was sitting, for the first time, in the Opera House, watching a Theatre Orangeville fund raising performance of the play, Dad’s and, “I was sitting there, watching the play and I  knew I had to work there. The lady I was with was a friend and a neighbour and I said to her, ‘I have to work here.’

 “I went in and I fell to my knees in the office and I begged for the job of Box Office attendant. I didn’t care  – I just wanted to work there so badly. And, when I met David [Nairn], I was awe struck.”

Straight out, she said, “I don’t think there’s a person in my life that has been a greater influence on my life than David.’

She didn’t get the box office job by begging for that but, “Cathy Reid said ‘We thought you’d be better as our marketing person’ It was a temporary job that lasted for ten years.”

 “David taught me the value of relationships; he has the ability to connect with everybody,” said she of Theatre Orangeville’s Artistic Director. “I’m always reminding my husband that the time you have with your parents, to enjoy how you can enjoy spending time while they’re here. He [David]  taught me that and I’m able to share that with other people.”

Part of Ms. Sheedy’s life has been about writing. So, “Life with the theatre, it was just such a tie in to my childhood. Everything that I loved from year one to those days. The theatre was the hub for the arts at that time.”

“Who knows how to create play,” she reflected, “It was a great run. every production was like writing a book. You see it from the very rudimentary elements – the workshops and re-writes, to choosing the cast, to the truncated rehearsals, in my opinion, to the production.

“Something evolves the way a play does, is fantastic. To meet Norm Foster and Dan Needles. It’s really the writers for me. I don’t know how they do it, keep it fresh.”

She admitted, “I’m just so honoured to know them. We went to Jonas and Barry [in a theatre up north] and, after the play, had dinner with David and Norm. I’m just like an idiot when he’s [Norm Foster] around. I can’t say my words properly. To write humour to me is something I can only dream of.”

Her story went on, “After ten years, after I ran out of ideas of how to market the theatre, I saw an ad in the paper for a secretary at Westminster Church. They were doing major renovations at the church. It was going to be used for concerts. [Minister] Sandra Abuja and I were friends. Our kids played together when they were young. So, I called her and said I’d like the job but not if it affects our friendship in any way and she said no, come ahead. 

“Since then, I’ve been having a blast. There are 120 events, meetings, music lessons, concerts a week here. I get to organize it all which is really good. They keep coming to ask me if I’m happy. At this point in my life, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

What was a surprise for me was this church is all about outreach. We have 120 families that rely on our emergency food stock and we run a milk and formula program for mothers who have to work. Last week we had 12.” 

The plight of homeless men in Orangeville is news to many people. 

Mrs. Sheedy laid out the truth: “There is no place for men to lay their heads. They’re sleeping in ditches, where ever they can find somewhere warm but we can give them coffee, something to eat, although we can’t give them a place to stay.  Going from one place to another, to Owen Sound, we’re on the way. They have friends or family there maybe.  A lot of times, they’re sleeping in the laundromat or Tim Hortons.  

“My eyes are really opened and the surprise is the level of compassion that I feel,” has been her revelation. “It makes me feel blest that I have so much in my life. It must be my mother. It’s really given me purpose beyond the job, to feel really good about dealing with a lot of the social out reach. It has been a growing time for me.”

Then, one day, she was struck by emotional and psychological lightning: “I was 53 when it came out that I was adopted. It was earth shattering at the time because you’re somebody and, then, there you are. You think your story is one way and then you find out that your story is not what you thought.”

Her father [who had told her] was very surprised at her reaction .

However, as she put it, “People think when they know something all their lives and then you tell them something else – it was a shock . I have to say even now, I wake up and I think no – but it is.  It was very interesting. Adoptive parents feel you either want to know or you don’t want to. Tell them the truth as soon as you can,” she advised, “Tell them, ‘We chose you.’”

Yet, she rationalized her parents’ keeping the truth from her. “You have to go back in time. 1963 [the year of her birth] was a different time and children’s aid was telling adoptive parents ‘they’re yours and there’s no need to tell them or treat them any them and differently’ but, in my case, everybody knew; it was just not talked about.”

Once she knew, Wendy Sheedy was determined to find her biological family. “I was able to connect to my biological family, my birth mother was in California. She died the year after I met her. 

“I went from two brothers to five and one sister. It just means my family got bigger. You don’t necessarily have a shared story but if you can connect as people, then, that’s fantastic.

“There’s lots of very sad stories of adoption but mine was not” she reported. “I kept Dad involved in the story and told him everything and he said, ‘I think that’s amazing.’ My parents were so loving. I could not have survived it without them. I can honestly say, with all my heart, I love my parents that were so selfless. 

“They were 43 and 45 years old. I just thought I was born late.  I think I kept them younger – they lived into their 90’s.  I am in awe at their generosity. I was born at 30 weeks, had some issues. They dealt with it all. 

“I have a [half] brother in Toronto; we grew up 5 minutes apart; went to neighbouring schools. He’s a wonderful person and we’re good friends. Because we grew up in the same neighbourhood, around the same time, we know some of the same people. His family originated in Grand Valley and my adopted mom’s family lived in Grand Valley. So, it turns out they’re related.”

Pausing to consider it all, “I guessed I’ve learned what it is to be loved. That doesn’t have to be biological. Love is precious; make sure you love the people in your life. Love is important. And I’m a very lucky person – very blessed.”

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