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046 – I Am Adopted, It Is Who I Am

Jennifer is a reunited adoptee from Pittsburgh. She’s a petite, white blonde of European descent whose adoptive parents are a Spanish man and a Mexican woman. Through her search, she found both of her natural parents are deceased, and she had half brothers on both sides, both named Tom. Unbeknownst to Jen, her maternal half-brother attended the same high school she did and bullied her! On her maternal side, she experienced secondary rejection which will never be resolved because her grandmother developed dementia and passed away.


Jennifer (00:04): She literally told me, she goes, you know, you focus too much on being adopted and you ask too many questions and I’m like, but I get them adopted. It is who I am. I had no information about myself for 30 years. And you think I’m not going to ask questions.

Damon (00:25): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is Jennifer. She called me from Wellsburg West Virginia, where she’s a caregiver for the elderly. Jennifer is transracially adopted, but I have to admit not in the way I usually think of that kind of adoption. She stood out in her family and her family stood out in their community. Jen shared that she was completely close to looking for her birth relatives until she got some stark examples of the importance of knowing your family’s medical history. When she found her birth family, one of her gut feelings about her birth mother during her search was confirmed, but she also learned a crazy cruel irony about her high school past. In the end, Jen experienced a secondary rejection from her birth family. After she made a mistake at a huge family function. As you listen, decide for yourself, what you think the factors were in that rejection was that misstep as major as her family made it seem or where the history of guilt about hiding the truth or even the early onset of mental illness also factors. This is Jen’s journey.

Damon (01:52): Jennifer’s adopted father’s relatives are from Spain and he grew up in Pittsburgh. He got a PhD in chemistry, then took a job with a pharmaceutical company working for a while in Mexico city. Her adopted mom was her father’s secretary there. They fell in love and her mother got pregnant immediately giving birth to Jen’s older sister. Then her father took a job back in Pittsburgh. So he moved his young family back to Pennsylvania. Jennifer’s mother wanted a big family, but after several miscarriages and her husband’s health problems, they were starting to settle into the notion that it would just be the three of them,

Jennifer (02:29): Our neighbor, who was a nurse. She, I don’t know the connection here, exact details. And she has since passed away. So I can’t ask her, but she somehow knew the doctor who delivered me, who was my birth mother’s doctor. He worked at Allegheny general hospital in Pittsburgh, and his name was dr. Bell. And he was known for, and I’ll say in the air quotes, helping girls in trouble. So she had mentioned this, my parents, you know, that there’s these babies up for adoption eventually. And would you be interested in my parents thought about it.

Damon (03:04): Jennifer’s parents didn’t hear anything back for a while. Then they received a phone call. They were informed that there were a couple of different babies available for adoption and her parents should go have a look. Jennifer told me the viewing of babies, like their puppies has always been a sore spot with her. When her parents arrived, the recently born babies had families already. So they went home.

Jennifer (03:27): I only know this story because I heard my mom tell it so often. My mom says her and my dad were in the dining room painting. She was up on a ladder and the phone rings and she heard my dad, all of a sudden, he goes, well, you better tell her my mom and our neighbor, who was the nurse, said there was a baby girl born this morning and she’s yours if you want her. And my mom said immediately, yes. And her hands were shaking. And they went and dropped everything and went to the hospital and she was able to hold me that first day.

Damon (04:00): Her mom dressed her at the hospital that very first day, but Jennifer had to stay in the hospital for a week among other issues. Her mother tried to hide her pregnancy, but her methods caused problems for Jennifer’s development in her womb

Jennifer (04:15): because she, she worked hurdle while she was pregnant. My right foot was bent in such a way that my shoulders were touching my shin. So they had to do X rays and put a cast on my foot, that kind of stuff to correct it. So, yeah, my parents brought me home a week later and my sister, their biological daughter is nine years older than me. And you know, so it was like all of a sudden they had to prepare for a baby. As far as I know, everybody in the neighborhood knew I was adopted and I am of European descent. I am born, as pale as you get. Obviously I’m not Latino. He was Spanish. And he had black hair and dark skin and Brown eyes. And my mom had Brown hair and Brown eyes.

Damon (05:02): Jen says that there was such an age gap with her and her sister that there was no sibling rivalry. They just weren’t the same age to be in contention with one another. When Jen was starting school, her mother pulled her aside to have a conversation about adoption.

Jennifer (05:17): So when I started kindergarten, um, I think my mom was worried that I didn’t know I was adopted, even though it was never a secret. So she kind of, um, like had to, I guess in her way, she was like, reminding me, you know, I have a very vivid memory of this. I was about six years old, five or six. She was like, well, honey, you know that, you know, you’re adopted. And then I must have asked her, what does that mean? And she said, well, I’m not your real mom. You know, your mom couldn’t keep you. And the only information we had all my life was that they were teenagers from the North Hills of Pittsburgh. That’s, that’s all we knew. I had a tantrum like, and I wasn’t one of those kids that would do that, but I can remember kicking and screaming and saying, where’s my mom. Why didn’t she want me? I want my real mom and all this. And I can’t even imagine how painful that must have been for my adoptive mom, you know, to see me going through that. But I did. And it was hard. It was a really emotional time.

Damon (06:27): Bet. I mean, it’s, uh, it’s great that she told you it’s in, you did grow up with the knowledge, but you know, that’s a volatile time there where a child is starting school. They’re already sort of going to be in a place of comparing themselves to other children. And then they get this huge piece of news dropped on them. Jen’s mom was afraid. One of the children in her school was going to spring. The news that she was adopted on her, Jen says her neighborhood was an upper class white collar enclave. So their family was the minority because there were nearly no families of color. And her adoption was well known. She talked about her relationship with her adopted parents.

Jennifer (07:08): My dad, he had a lot of issues. Are you aware of that? The elephant man, you’ve heard that story.

Damon (07:13): Yeah.

Jennifer (07:14): My dad had two of the three elements that he had. One is called acromegaly, which means enlarged extremities and then fibrous dysplasia, which he would get like fibers growths of calcium in different parts of his body. So he was disfigured. He had a very large head, large hands or feet, and he had to go multiple through multiple surgeries. When I was a little kid and stuff like my dad was my hero. He was like, go to, I never really had the bond with my mom most. I mean, my mom and I were like oil and water. My dad and I would have these, fantastic conversations. And you know, he was just, he was my rock

Damon (08:08): when Jen was 14, her sister who was 23, got married and moved away. That left Jen and her parents at home together. She said that as an adoptee in adolescents, she leaned toward being the people, pleasing child, not really acting out,

Jennifer (08:24): but I had this angry anger in me that I didn’t understand. And I was really, really, really angry at my birth mother when I was a kid. I mean really angry. I like from that tantrum that I had, I held onto that all through my adolescents.

Damon (08:42): Yeah. I was going to ask if it had subsided

Jennifer (08:46): as I grew up and I learned about her, I was very angry. And then because of my family being so different from me, I always felt the need to explain it. So like something would come up about Mexicans. Oh yeah. My mom’s Mexican immediately. People look at you, like you’ve got an eye in the middle of your forehead, like, huh, how’d that happen? And so I had this descent mechanism and I would immediately say, because I got tired of the questions people would ask, I would just fire every, it was rapid fire, like my defense mechanism. And I would say, yeah, my parents, my mom’s Mexican, my dad’s Spanish. No I’m adopted. No, I don’t know where my mother is. No, I don’t want to know where she is. I don’t care. She didn’t want me to, why should I care about her? And I, that was like blame and blame. And that way it would be the end of it. People wouldn’t ask any more questions about my adoption and that was it. And that was how I dealt with it for a really long time.

Damon (09:46): So I asked Jennifer what the turning point was for her to change her mind about searching for her biological family. She said, things changed in 1990 when her father passed away, she, her mother and grandmother took care of him for nine months until he lost his battle with cancer immediately after his mother developed leukemia and moved in with Jennifer and her mother until she passed. So Jen’s sister, their biological child had a solid knowledge of her cancer risks, but Jen knew nothing about her medical predispositions. She took me back to her childhood where she explained that her growth was stunted with no family medical history. She had to go see specialists about her development

Jennifer (10:29): because my group was done. I had to go to this growth hormone specialist every six months and get x-rays and have blood drawn. And then they look to see if you’ve got breast buds forming or, you know, look in your underwear to see if she’s got anything else like puberty wise. And they’ve checked you all over. And it’s very violating to tell you the truth. When you’re a little kid, I hated it. I hated it. And I was going to start with when we’re in treatment and in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, there was like this. If she doesn’t grow, you know, an inch and a half over the summer, then we’re going to start her on treatment. And I sprung up to it’s just that medical background thing really, you know, got me started on the path to even being open because I had been so closed off to it

Damon (11:21): in 1994, her sister and fiance were back in town. Jen was at their place watching the Maury Povich show on television. You may remember that talk show did a lot of reunions of family members, but Jen had never seen one of those episodes before, as she watched Maury Povich told the backstory of his guest, then he said,

Jennifer (11:42): well, we have someone here for you, uh, to meet you. And they brought out her natural mother and I’m sitting watching this with tears just streaming down my face, hugging each other. Sorry, I get tripped up about this, watching them hug each other. And I’m sitting there and I’m watching these two women sitting beside each other and I am just analysing everything and they’ve got these similar features in the way they move is similar. I was just like really moved by it. And then the birth mother says to her daughter. She says, I never stopped thinking about you. And that’s why I was like, wow. Maybe my mother’s thinking about me too.

Damon (12:42): At the end of the show, they listed all my reunion registries for people to enter their personal information. Jen jumped on her sister’s computer and stayed there for hours.

Jennifer (12:52): I was so fascinated by how many people were out there looking.

Damon (12:58): She kept going back to her sister’s place, staying for hours at a time, hunting online for different reunion, registries entering her own information in each one and searching for info that other people had entered that could have matched with her. In 1999. After five years of searching, Jen had a bad feeling about her search.

Jennifer (13:18): I don’t know if it was gut feeling or what, but I started saying, if she’s not out there looking for me, she must be dead. And that was just the feeling I had.

Damon (13:28): So Jen has shared how she had a tantrum as a child when she learned she was adopted and that she had deep seated anger. As a teenager, she shares a little bit about how her adopted mom felt about her search.

Jennifer (13:40): My adoptive mom was not crazy about me searching at the beginning. I had asked her to get my adoption records a few times and she was real hesitant about it until I made a point. I need these, you know? They’re mine I want to know, what’s in them and you know, can you please get them and she would say, Oh, I forgot this one day. I flipped out on her because she wasn’t, I couldn’t get through to her how important this was to me. And I said, look, you’re still my mom. You have always been my mom. You know, at this point I was like maybe 27. I’m like, you’ve been my mom for 28 years. Even if I find them, it’s not going to change that. And that’s when she finally was like, okay, the next day she had them for me,

Damon (14:32): of course, the contents of the documents were fairly innocuous, but they were still tangible artifacts of Jen’s adoption. She saw her adoption decree. Papers signed by the lawyers and her amended birth certificate. In 2001, Jen was part of a Yahoo listserv organized by a birth mother who was working hard to families. She was well versed on what a person needed to do to search in Pittsburgh, suggesting a specific intermediary. Jen should request in the orphan’s court who was sensitive to the needs of adoptees, trying to gain access to their information. Jen mailed her intermediary requests in April, 2001. The intermediary also offered to help locate Jen’s birth family. After she received her information,

Jennifer (15:14): June 18th was a phone call that changed my life. And it was a Monday and I was babysitting my niece and thankfully she was napping. She called me and she said, I found them. And I was like, really? And she’s like, your grandparents have never moved. They still live in the same house when she told me no. And I’m like, and I asked her and I said, what, what, what was my mother’s name? And she said your mother’s name is Debra. And I swear to God when she said it. If I had known it, wow. Since I was in utero, I forgotten it.

Jennifer (16:16): I knew that. I felt like I knew it. She proceeded to tell me, she goes, unfortunately she has passed away. And I recently drew a picture trying to illustrate that moment. I’ve been listening to all these podcasts lately and it’s brought a lot of stuff to the surface and I’m like, I have to figure, I have to express it in a way other than words. And I drew a picture of it and it is basically me standing with the phone in my ear, in the middle and on the other side is me jumping in the air for joy. Because all of a sudden, after 30 years, I’m getting this information about myself that I never knew. That’s amazing. But then to find out that she was dead and on the right there is an illustration of the crumpled on the ground, in the fetal position with all these notes written. So we’re taught, I had a really hard time dealing with that. Like I put that aside. I shelved it, the fact that she was gone and I kind of brushed it off and my phone call. And I said, well, to be honest, I had a feeling that she was because of what I had been thinking previously. She had talked to my grandmother by that point in time. That’s how she knew she was deceased. And she goes, your grandmother’s waiting for you to call her. So I hung up the phone with her and I called my grandmother and heard her fish for the first time.

Damon (17:54): At the time of that call, Jen pushed aside, dealing with the knowledge that her birth mother was gone, but she admits, she ended up having a hard time dealing with the news. When she faced things later, I asked Jen about that first conversation with her grandmother. But wait, until you hear about the memories, her grandmother triggered for Jen,

Jennifer (18:13): it was in that conversation with my grandmother, that I got bad enough that your mother’s deceased. We’re talking about this, that, and she goes, look, I told her, I said, I went to Fox chapel and she pauses. And she goes, I think your brother went there for high school. I was like, wait, wait. She wasn’t even done with high school. When she was pregnant with him, he was three years later. He had gotten expelled from his high school and his other grandparents were raising him and they paid, they wanted him to get his diploma. They paid tuition for him to go to my high school so that he could get his diploma. The crazy thing is she told me his name. I was like 98% sure. I knew exactly. He’s a couple years younger than me, but I had to like really think about it. And I was like, Oh my gosh, he was the same age as my best friend. When I got off of the phone with my grandmother, I called my best friend. Cause she was in his grade. And I’m like, do you remember a guy named Tom from your class? And she’s like, yeah, I think so. I said, what do you remember about him? And she goes, he was an asshole. He singled me out and bullied me.

Damon (19:51): Are you serious? You were bullied in high school by your own biological brother that you didn’t know was your brother.

Jennifer (19:58): Yep.

Damon (19:59): Holy crap.

Jennifer (20:01): I mean, I was so focused on that. I wasn’t even thinking about my mother being dead at that point. I was just like, this is crazy. Only me. We didn’t even have any classes together. There was this large area called a commentary and he was hanging out in there with his buddy, and like I would walk past him and I got bullied a lot in school so I will hold my head and say leave me alone. I just wanted to get without getting harassed and call me names and pick on me and knock my book bag off my shoulder and all that crap that they do. That’s my brother. Here’s the other weird thing. Okay. That year I had a new friend a real nice Italian girl and we had a class together and study hall and had started talking and she didn’t really know me all that well yet. And she goes, I just saw your brother and I am like what do you mean, I don’t have a brother and she goes oh isn’t Tommy your brother? I mean this thought, this memory flash into my head after I had this conversation with my grandmother. Because when somebody mentions that to you, you never know he was my brother back then because of our similarity. Oh my God, same height, same stature. She could tell, she was like really? He looks just like you. And I am like ew, really? I hate him. Are you seeing that’s crazy. She saw him in you, she had the part impartiality to look at you both. And she immediately thought, wow, that’s crazy. That is so crazy to me that, that you were bullied by your own biological brother. And y’all didn’t know you were connected. That’s bananas to me.

Damon (22:11): So I was still interested to learn more about the rest of the conversation with her grandmother. Jen admitted. She was an emotional mess during that conversation. And the news that her own brother had been her high school nemesis completely inhibited her ability to comprehend much else her grandmother said. So she doesn’t have many details from that conversation. It was the things her grandmother said in later, conversations that really stuck with her. One was that her grandmother had to tell Jen’s uncle her birth mother’s brother that she existed. Her grandmother told the story of taking Jen’s mother to her own gynecologist, dr. Bell, who completely laid out the plan for how to conceal the pregnancy. She would go to school with a doctor’s note that released her from participating in gym class. They would tell everyone, including her uncle, that her mother had a fibroid tumor, then he would take care of the rest.

Jennifer (23:03): Yeah. So I was a fibroid tumor and she had surgery to remove the tumor over spring break. And it was back to life as normal. And nobody knew the wiser, her best friend knew. She tells me that she’s got to tell my uncle first. I’m like, okay. She’s like, I’ll call him tonight. And then we made a plan to meet on Wednesday. Here’s the crazy thing. When my parents bought the house where they bought it, because we were able to walk to all the schools and then I had to get bused to junior high, two years while I was getting bused junior high. I was rolling right past the cemetery where my mother is and all the maternal family. Oh my wow.

Damon (23:46): How did that hit you when you figured that out?

Jennifer (23:52): Just another one of the mind blowing aspects of it. One of the things where I’m like, Oh my God i look past her every day. For two years, she died in 1982. So she was actually had recently been injured there. I was 11 when she died.

Damon (24:13): Jen found out from the family, how her mother died. Her uncle was having a hard time dealing with everything. She said, he used to call her while he was drunk and mumble through stories of the past. Jen calls his intoxicated storytelling, drunk and ease. She pieced together from her uncle that Jen’s mother struggled with her own problems, possibly stemming from having to give Jen up. She got married and had Jen’s brother Jen’s future nemesis, but she struggled to raise him. His paternal grandparents took him into their home for his welfare. Then something tragic happened to end Jen’s mother’s life.

Jennifer (24:52): What happened was she and the man she was dating at the time, went on a camping trip and they took my brother on this camping trip. When they came back, they dropped my brother off at his grandparents and they had gone to a bar um the last of them was that they had been in an argument at the bar and then the last, and then the version of what I got from my grandmother was so she didn’t make it home alive. The drunk and ease conversations I got from my uncle was that he had been quote, unquote, smacking her around. She had confided in her brother and told him this. He feels pretty sure that this guy pushed her out of the truck while it was rolling down the road. And she hit her head on the pavement and died is what the bottom line is. So my uncle has a lot of guilt. I think he feels like if he had done something about it, when my mother told him that this guy was hitting her, that she might still be alive. And I think he lives with a lot of guilt because of that.

Damon (26:00): I can only imagine. And then it must’ve been really hard for him when you came back then, because whatever sort of healing, overcoming time healing, the wound thing had happened, basically your presence probably brought back a lot of those memories, right?

Jennifer (26:19): Exactly. It ripped it right up and again. And I was hoping to meet my mother and now I can’t change history. What are you going to do? it sucks, I have accepted it, I struggle with it. And it’s crazy because of how angry I was at her. But I understand it because I was a kid and kids don’t really understand everything. You know, they have such a small world in reality, larger things are difficult to grasp. A lot of times we just deal with them. And in this case it was anger for me. But then as I learned that my mother did not really have a say in it um you know the doctor planned the whole thing out it is what it is.

Damon (27:13): I asked Jen how the meeting with her biological family was. She said she was a mess, but luckily her adopted mother was supportive. Her birth family lived less than 20 miles away. What happened when they met was a priceless moment. They all shared,

Jennifer (27:29): I was freaking terrified, I was a nervous wreck. And my adoptive mom had finally come around and was very supportive. Mmm. She actually drove me. She went with me.

Damon (27:50): Oh, that’s nice.

Jennifer (27:53): Yeah. I am glad she was driving because I would have turned around 18 times. I was dying in the car the whole way there. She’s driving and is all calm and collected and I am like oh my God, oh my God, oh my God and I am like I can’t do this and she goes yes you can and you will and I am like I don’t know and I mean I was really a wreck, I was wrecked. Then we get there and my grandmother comes out and I’m looking at her and I’m like, Oh Christ, that is going to be me when I am 70 my God. And she hugged me, and we hugged and then her and my mom hugged and they both thanked each other. Yes. My mom said thank you so much. And then my grandmother thank you so much for taking care of her for us. I will never forget that you know. Those two were peas in a pod. They got along really, really well. Wow. Well, but they did. They like, it was amazing. I walked into the kitchen and there’s my uncle and he hugged me so hard it is like he could break my back.

Damon (29:19): Jen also met her grandfather, an elderly man who laughed about the amazing moments that were unfolding before him, as she looked around her family, she noticed they all have the same hands. And her grandmother had a lazy eye. Just like her uncle. It was the same lazy eye she inherited and had surgery on when she was a child. Jen said the night before the reunion, she went to her adopted mother’s house to pull pictures from her childhood to show to her grandmother.

Jennifer (29:49): Well sitting around the dining room table. My grandmother is at the head of the table, my mom is next to her. I’m on the side, closest to the kitchen doorway. And my uncle’s just standing there leaning against the wall, staring at me. It was kind of creepy, but not because I couldn’t looking at him either and he was just staring at me. It was really hard to be present because there was just so much, Oh my God, this is the house she was in when she was pregnant with me. And then I asked if I could use the bathroom at some point and I was like oh my God, she was probably puking in this toilet when she had morning sickness with me. It was just really a lot because I just learned about them. Two days earlier, and now I am meeting them

Damon (30:51): Jen said it was a lot to handle physically, emotionally and psychologically. Her grandmother showed her pictures of her mother, but there was so much to process, so much incoming. It was hard to retain very much from those moments. But as her grandmother was talking about Jen’s mother, she overheard some facts that tripped her out because her grandmother was holding up the mirror of nature versus nurture.

Jennifer (31:15): But it was so crazy because she and my mom were looking at these pictures, my uncle and I had this thing where we were just staring at each other and I have this bag of pictures and my grandmother is here with my mom behind me. And she goes, Oh, here’s a picture of Deborah with her rabbit. And here’s a picture of Deborah with her Guinea pigs. And I’m like, wait a minute, wait a minute. Hold, I am an animal lover and my mother was too. Oh, here is a picture of me with my rabbit and here is a picture of with my guinea pigs. Here’s a picture of me with my hamsters. I love horses. It was crazy to find out. My mother had a horse up until she got married. I’m in my support group, we have a lot of conversations about nature versus nurture and it is insane how powerful that nature end of it is. I mean, it really is, it is so strong

Damon (32:18): at the end of the reunion, Jen and her uncle had a moment in the kitchen where they had a big hug and he expressed his disbelief that she existed because he hadn’t known about her. Her grandfather had some wisdom for Jen too.

Jennifer (32:32): My own grandfather warned me about my brother. I told him my experience with him in school. And he said, listen, he goes, when you meet him, don’t trust him. He said, keep him at arms length and just don’t trust him. Don’t let him in. Completely.

Damon (32:48): Jen went back to her grandmother’s house that Saturday to meet her brother. She said it was bizarre to see confirmation that the bully she thought was her brother was really him. Jen said it was so weird because she also wanted a younger brother. And, and he said he wanted an older sister. We had only talked about Jen’s maternal connection up to that point. So we switched over to what she learned about her biological father. She let me know that in the era of her birth in Pennsylvania, there was no requirement to include a birth father’s name on a birth certificate. So her birth mother put a different man’s name on the birth certificate. At that point, the intermediary hadn’t been in touch with the man. So she could only share his first name. Robert, when Jen shared that name, her grandmother thought she might know who the alleged father was. Next she shared who she thought her father was with her brother. And he knows the man. They go to the same bar every Thursday night for karaoke night. So they hatch a plan for Jennifer to meet him face to face. When it came time to execute the plan

Jennifer (33:49): I could. Cause I went there with the intention of talking to this man. He comes to the door and my brother goes I look, and he’s like putting over his head at this guy. That’s walking in and I’m like, I start shaking like a leaf. And I’m like, I can’t do this. And I went into the back room and I called my friend that runs that adoption group. She’s a birth mother. he just walked in. I’m like, I can’t do this. I can’t. She’s like, yes, you can. And you will. She goes, that’s what you’re here to do. She gave me the pep talk, you know? Right. Okay. Okay, fine. So he’s sitting at the bar talking to some other guy and I’m like, this is so awkward. I’m like, imagine you’re in a bar and somebody comes up and tells you this.

Jennifer (34:38): I know you don’t know me, but can I talk to you for a couple minutes? Told them who I am. And I just said, Deborah Bauer was my birth mother. And he’s just looking at me now he’s looking at me. And I said, well, Deborah, you wrote you down on my birth certificate as my dad. And he was like, what year were you born. I said in 71? He goes, I’m really sorry to tell you this. He goes, but I’m not your dad. He goes, I’m not saying I was never with your mom. He goes, but it was well after 1971, he says, but I do know who your dad is

Damon (35:21): really.

Jennifer (35:23): You do. And he goes, yeah, he did. And I’m really sorry to tell you guys, but he’s dead too. Holy crap. Yeah. It, my dad and he says, well, your dad’s name was Tom. I said, wow. And I’m like, why did she lie on the birth certificate? He is. I don’t really know. He goes, but as far as I can tell, he goes, I don’t think your grandmother liked him very much. She said she couldn’t stay away from him. It was like one of these often like side comments that was kind of like muttered, but I caught it. And he said, even after she was married,

Damon (36:02): Tom had a brother named Tony. Robert offered to reach out, to try to connect with Tony’s ex wife, whom he was still friends with Robert called Jen back a short time later with contact information for the woman named Darlene. Darlene was able to put Jennifer in touch with her paternal grandmother who was living with her uncle Tony in Florida. At the time her grandmother began to tell Jen a bit about her birth father who used to be a mechanic. Her grandmother said she hosted a bluegrass festival in her trailer park every year. And Jen’s dad was the drummer. Jen found that ironic because her partner is also a mechanic and a musician. Her grandmother also told Jen that she had a paternal half-brother 10 years younger than herself. And she shared more of her dad’s history.

Jennifer (36:49): So I got in contact with my grandmother. She was ecstatic to learn of my existence. She didn’t know anything about me. She’s the one. And then she told me about the history of my dad and told me that my dad was having a lot of health problems. He had been in a really, they lived in Emporium, PA at a point. And he had been in a really bad car accident where he got thrown from the car and he had road rash over a huge part of his body. Like he was, he was messed up plus he was an alcoholic and he was a diabetic. Um, so he really wasn’t taking care of himself. You know, with diabetes, you can’t Frank. They had moved down to Florida. I don’t know what all problems he was having or why he was in the hospital to begin with. But he had been in the hospital for 104 days was starting to take a turn for the better and doing much better. And then he had a massive heart attack and died at 35.

Damon (37:44): Her father had been remarried, then divorced leaving his then four year old son with his mother. So her brother wouldn’t have any good memories of his father only fighting and drug use. So Jen was curious about her paternal brother named Tom as an aside, that’s two brothers named Tom and both of their dads were named Tom. So they’re actually both Tom juniors. Anyway, Jen only knew her brother’s first name and age. So that began her hunt for him online. She said she found him in the most obscure way. She found an online art gallery where he left a comment on a piece of art and his email address. Jen emailed him explaining. She was looking for a specific Tom Eisman outlining that this person’s father had that same name. And she listed other relatives too. When he confirmed, he was the same man she was looking for, she opened the flood Gates, detailing her journey and explaining they were siblings.

Jennifer (38:42): He emails me back and he’s like, cool.

Damon (38:50): So the siblings are now in touch online. He lives in North Dakota where he works as an archeologist. Of course, Jen wanted to talk about her brother with her birth mother’s family, but she can’t because they’re not speaking to her anymore.

Jennifer (39:04): My grandmother had, I think he had a really hard time, kinda like put a spotlight on the fact that she lied to everybody for 30 years. Okay. You’re adopted global. Let’s move on from here. I think is what she wanted. When you don’t have your history, you have a lot of questions. But my whole mentality about is like, assume like now I’m going to be part of your family, you know? And I’m going to be here for everything. I didn’t always try to inject myself into that. And I definitely didn’t want to come across as like wanting something from you guys, you know, I’m here because I want to know where I come from. That is all I am after. That’s fantastic. But that was my initial thing. And my grandmother said things to me that were really hard. Like I think she didn’t want to really answer my questions. Like I asked her, I’m like, why was I given up? And she said, well, I didn’t want to raise another baby. Meanwhile, she was a housewife. She could have, but she didn’t want to. And then the other end of it was the shame aspect. You know, what will the neighbors think? I would answer questions. Sometimes they were really like the one time she told me, you know, she wanted to meet me. She wanted to know if I looked like Deborah and she was disappointed because I don’t, again, I think that points back to her, not liking my dad. Cause I think I look more like him.

Damon (40:45): Jen said there was a lot of comments and conversations like that with her grandmother, Jen ended up experiencing secondary rejection. After she made a misstep at her grandfather’s funeral, she talks about what happened and what went wrong.

Jennifer (41:00): Grandfather passed away suddenly in 2004, it was the day after father’s day, which was really a kicker. I didn’t go that father’s day to see him. I was like, I’ll go the next day. Cause they didn’t try to, you know, I didn’t try to be there on holidays. My uncle called to tell me that he had passed. I was included in his obituary, which was huge for me. That was a really huge thing for me.

Jennifer (41:32): So I was trying to be as supportive as I could. I went there and my uncle had to go take care of things. And he was afraid of his mom being by herself because she was a wreck. So I went and stayed with her for like the whole day, while he was doing funeral arrangements and stuff. And then I was there for the viewing. I was there with the family. I mean, I wasn’t aside. It’s like I was there. I was part of the family. It was my grandmother, my uncle, me and my brother. Why the casket? And it was really something to be included. But I made a really horrible mistake that day.

Jennifer (42:14): You know, the guests, what they have for funerals. I don’t remember if he ever do things in my name. I wrote my birth name. It was baby girl Bauer. I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know why I did that. And my grandmother was upset and I was the first person to sign the book. I’ll tear it out. It doesn’t have to be in there. Nobody else had signed yet. And she said, no, no, just leave it. So on Friday was the funeral on Saturday, I got a phone call from my brother. It says, Grams says she wants you to stay away for a while. So she was really uncomfortable with the whole thing. And I couldn’t accept him calling me and saying that. So I had to call her. She literally told me, she goes, you know, you focus too much on being adopted. And you ask you any questions. And I am like I am adopted. It is who I am I had no information about myself for 30 years. And you think I’m not going to ask questions.

Damon (43:31): That was in 2004 when her grandmother broke off contact. So did her uncle. Jen suspect he didn’t want to be in the middle. And she lost touch with her brother too. She said the whole thing was really painful. In 2010, she was pregnant. So she wanted to try to reconnect with the family.

Jennifer (43:51): When I was pregnant with my son, I’m thinking, this is your great grand son, great grand nephew. And you guys have missed out on me. Don’t miss out on him. It was very afraid of my grandmother intercepting. So I sent my uncles letter. I sent them with no return address. And I sent his a few days before her so that she wouldn’t get hers and recognize his, you know what I mean, I sent a picture of ansonogram in there and told them what was going on and how I was so sorry about that mistake I made and listen, no response, nothing. Apparently my grandmother had developed dementia. And so there was no resolution with her

Damon (44:43): a few years ago, friends of Jen’s got married near her uncle’s house. So she dropped in on him.

Jennifer (44:48): He was sitting and I sat opposite the table from him. He just looked at me. He goes, well, there you are. I said, here I am. I said, where have you been? And he told me to dealing with mom. And he told me all these stories about how he didn’t realize about her dementia until she totaled the car in the front yard. It was unloading groceries, like nothing happened. And he’s like, mom, what happened to the car? She was like what do you mean? And she had to get put, he had to put her in a fear in a, in a nursing home because he couldn’t take care of her and work and everything, you know, and he’s telling me how he had to deal with this on his own. I would have helped. And he didn’t really have much to say about that. He didn’t cuss me out. He wasn’t mad at me for coming. In fact, on the contrary, he went up to his house, you know we went and got bacon and eggs together and went up to his house and made breakfast and he got to meet Derek. Derek was a year and a half at the point. It was really great and you know I thought things would maybe turn around and be better, but he has not contacted me again. Ever since I call I text, nothing

Damon (46:02): Jen said she lost touch with Darlene. So she just tried to stay in touch with how her birth mother’s family was doing as best she could from a distance cast out from the family. She learned of her maternal grandmother’s funeral. Her uncle had not bothered to reach out, to let her know. And this time she wasn’t included in the obituary, she said, she felt like she had a lot of unresolved issues and she felt like she could benefit from therapy. We closed on that note. I was just going to say, it’s crazy how these things can unfold in such a positive light and turn so dark and unnecessarily too. You know, we, as adoptees, we didn’t ask for this. This was not a decision of our own. This was something that we were normally, I would say thrust into, but quite literally thrust out of. And you know, you sometimes come back with your hat in your hand, like, hi, it’s me, I’m back. And you’re hopeful for the acceptance. And then when you’re rejected, it’s like, I didn’t, I didn’t ask for any of this. And it must be so horrible. I’m sorry.

Jennifer (47:09): I think no matter how hard it is, everybody should search because it’s really important to get that that history is personal history and you’re entitled to it. Like you said, we didn’t ask for this, you know, but we have to live it every single day because almost every interaction, you know, like you always want to be accepted. You’re always struggles dealing with not being included in things. Yeah. Like feeling I was rejected.

Damon (47:52): I think you’re right. I think, you know, you unfortunately do have some unresolved things that you’re, you’re left alone to work through and a therapist would be a great way to get back to a solid space.

Jennifer (48:07): Right? It’s really hard to find a therapist though that understands that adoption therapist and talking to her, like, I wish there was more adoptees out there that would become therapists because I would bring up this adoption stuff. And she would just, she didn’t understand. I have a very supportive and understanding partner. He is not adopted, but he listens and he understands and he gets angry about it. And he’s just, you know, we’ve been together. Actually. I met him three months after my reunion. So he’s been with me through all of it. I had to deal with all the aftermath baggage.

Damon (48:58): Well, that’s a strong measure of a good guy. Then he’s able to endure it. You know what you’re like, if you can experience what he’s going to be like, and some of the most challenging situations you’re going to go through, you’ve got a measure of who you’ve, who you’re dealing with. So that’s really cool. I’m sorry for all of the secondary rejection. I mean, it sounded like it was going to be so cool, but unfortunately, you know, things took a turn. I’m glad you were there for the funeral though. Even though that seems to have been the event that, that changed things. That’s an, that’s a, that’s an important thing to have ever been included in and to be able to stand in the line and be in the obituary is really important for your own closure. Thank you for sharing your story. This has been really unbelievable. You, I was in tears with you at many different points and I feel, you know where you’re coming from. So thank you for your bravery and sharing your story.

Jennifer (49:51): Yeah. You know, I’m glad you’re out there doing this and you know, hopefully you and Hailey for adoptees are motivated to get mine off the ground more, you know, because our stories you need to be out there. I don’t think people realize how much adoption actually affects the adoptees. Thank you for doing this. It’s good to talk about it. Thank you. And I’ll keep listening.

Damon (50:23): We’re here and we’re going to be listening to yours too. So get yourself on the mic and ready to go.

Jennifer (50:27): I will.

Speaker 3 (50:29): All right. Bye bye. All right, bye.

Damon (50:37): Hey, it’s me. When Jen said she was a petite blonde raised in a Latino family, her story presented me with an interracial mix of adoption that I hadn’t experienced before. And I was fascinated. She talked about her mother pointing out to her that she was born to another woman, her tantrum in the moment and subsequent teenaged, anger that were demonstrative of the effects that adoption can have on a person in high school. We’ve all had experiences with bullying whether you were bullied yourself, took part in the aggression or simply witnessed it from afar. But can you even imagine what it would be like to learn? Your tormentor was a biological brother of yours. Most people are so excited to escape that torture, but now she knows she’s related to him for life. I loved hearing that her maternal family included her in her grandfather’s funeral, but it was sad to hear that what I thought was an easily corrected mistake was used against Jen to shut her out of the family.

Damon (51:33): We all make mistakes act out of impulse and wish we could take something back, adopt these walk on eggshells for a long time, trying to figure out when it’s the right time to ask a burning question and trying to avoid constantly missteps. I wish Jen had been granted forgiveness, but now with her grandmother’s passing that door is closed. If you’d like to hear more from Jen, you can check out her podcast conversations about adoption. Another show that has been an inspiration to us, both is Haley red keys adoptees on I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Jennifer’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really, if you would like to share your story of locating and connecting to your biological family visit, who am I really You can also find the show at, or follow me on Twitter at WaiReally. And please, if you like to show, you can subscribe to who am I really on Apple podcast, Google play tune in radio or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, take a moment to share a rating or leave a comment. Those ratings can help others find the podcast too.

Jennifer (53:25): In the words of a friend of mine that I worked with, he said the Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Even if it doesn’t know where the tree is.

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