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066 – I’ve Had A Lot Thrown At Me, But I’m A Happy Human Being

Rick’s birthmother relinquished him into foster care where he was terrorized as a toddler. He was eventually adopted around age 6 but always felt like an outsider. At 16 years old he reunited with his maternal family who informed him his mother was institutionalized for paranoid schizophrenia. Their reunion didn’t go at all how he had hoped. When he found his birth father, the man was incarcerated but welcoming. Eventually, Rick distanced himself from his birth father and when he tried to reconnect, it was too late.


Rick: 00:03 Like this was part of her schizophrenia, you know, so she believes that she had another child. I’m an only child. She believed that she had a girl that was taken away from her too. So this is a lot for a 16 year old boy just to take in, you know, I’ve never been around anybody mentally ill. I’ve never experienced this. And now this was my…. This is my mom.

Voices: 00:35 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I mind?

Damon: 00:47 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 Rick. He called me from Central Illinois. Rick tells the story of being terrorized in foster care as a toddler and challenges in childhood, connecting with his adopted family. Those early issues drove his desire to find his birth mother, but when he did, her mental state wouldn’t allow them to connect. Rick hadn’t focused on finding his birth father at all, but when he did, the man was surprisingly receptive. They had a falling out and Rick tried to reconnect later, but he learned it was too late, but that news wasn’t even the worst news of that day. Rick’s doing just fine now, but he’s been through a lot. This is Rick’s journey… Rick says, adoption was never really talked about in his house growing up, but even before his adoption, he says he spent the first years of his life with his mother and grandmother.

Rick: 01:50 I have kind of a unique experience. I wasn’t adopted as an infant. I was actually with my mother and grandmother for about the first year of my life and then was placed into foster care. And so my earliest memories are not of my adopted family or my biological family, but a foster family. Um, and those weren’t very good memories at all. Um, and so these things fester throughout life and, uh, just kinda came up and got triggered and you know, it was one of those things I needed to talk about but didn’t really feel like I could talk about my adopted parents pretty much, you know, just wanted me to pretend like they were my parents. And always was that way and there was no reason to believe that it ever wasn’t.

Damon: 02:38 I wonder if you could take me back just to your memories of foster care. Do you mind just sharing a little bit about what, what was so traumatic about it?

Rick: 02:47 Uh, sure. My earliest memories that the most traumatic thing for me, I had a bed wetting problem as a kid, which I was in foster care. I would have been too, you know, so, um, so I don’t really think of bedwetting problem at two is really an issue, um, but it, it was to them. So it was, there’s a lot of shaming around that and there were times I was locked in rooms and they were pounding on the door and saying, this is the Boogie man and, you know, just really trying to scare me and put a lot of fear into me. And I just, I never understood why or how somebody could treat a child that way. You know what I mean? The worst experience was, uh, around the bed wedding. They, uh, they pretended like they removed my penis with a toy chainsaw and told me it wasn’t a little boy anymore and that, um, I wouldn’t be able to wet the bed anymore because I didn’t have a penis.

Damon: 03:51 Oh my gosh.

Rick: 03:53 So yeah, this is acceptable and material for your podcast or not. But this is a, this is my life as it is.

Damon: 04:02 No, man. These are real stories we learned. This isn’t about filtering for, you know, people’s feelings. This is the reality of what happens to people throughout their lives. So you say whatever you have to say. This is your, your journey.

Damon: 04:16 Rick said he was in foster care from August 1978 to July of 1980. He has no recollection of the first foster home, but the second one is seared in his memory. They terrorized Rick while he was in their care at about three years old. He buried those memories for a long time until they were randomly triggered one day. Rick did some research into his own bed wetting issues which continued after he left foster care.

Rick: 04:43 I didn’t know. This is actually how I started getting into the adoptee community. I had a hunch one day I’m like, you know what? I got the bedwetting was tied to my adoption somehow. I don’t know why I was thinking about that, but I just, you know, I’m like, I’m going to look into that. So I searched it. I just did a google search, you know, foster kids or adopted kids and bedwetting and it’s a thing. It’s a lot of adopted and foster kids have bedwetting issues. I don’t know why, uh, you know, the psychology of it or whatever. It’s just a thing. And so somebody had written a blog about it or something and I responded to it. And then, uh, and then I started finding these adoptions, communities on facebook and whatever. And so then I started talking about some of these things and finding out wow theres’s, lots of people that have a lot of issues because they were adopted, I guess, you know, I, I had certain issues I guess I didn’t really ever understand that it was actually a pretty, a pretty big deal. And a lot of people are affected by the option.

Damon: 05:45 So you’ve said that you weren’t really allowed or encouraged to talk about adoption in your adopted family. Um, what was life like there in, in your adoptive family? As a child?

Rick: 05:59 It was decent for the most part. I had three older sisters that were biological children of have my parents assuming my dad wanted a boy. And that’s why I ended up getting adopted. I found out years later that they had actually had a foster kid before me that was the boy that they ended up not keeping which is kind of weird, you know. So that was like the second try at it, you know,

Damon: 06:26 the second triad, it, those words struck me. And I wondered how Rick found out that he was the second boy in his parents’ home. He explained that when he was 13, his father gave him a letter from the caseworker, from Baby Fold, the adoption agency his parents worked with to adopt him. Keep in mind, Rick has already said they didn’t talk about adoption in his home. So this was a big moment in his life. His father owned a construction company and on this day he asked Rick to meet him at his business afters chool. Rick rode his bike over to his fathers shop,

Rick: 07:02 I went into his office you know, just chatting with me and hands me this letter and this letter gives me non identifying information about my biological family and I just started bawling because this is stuff that I was never able to talk about and you know, just kept in and all these emotions just came pouring out and now they have this letter since they had me, you know, so this was his chosen time to finally reveal this information to me. And so I, I think it would have been more beneficial for all of this stuff has been talked about growing up to never pretend like I didn’t have a history before them to just incorporate me into their family but also account for the fact that I know I was having always been a part of their family.

Damon: 08:00 Rick said that was actually his 13th birthday. When I asked him how that was as a present, he said it was great because finally his father was open to talking for that brief window in time.

Rick: 08:12 There you go. Yeah. Then he asked me, do you have any. Do you have any questions? I said, yeah, who is Jimmy? And this wasn’t in the letter. It’s just something, a question I had that I was never able to ask. Growing up. All my sisters had sleeping bags that were monogrammed on the outside of them and they all have their names on them mindset. Jimmy. I had no idea who jimmy was and they’ve never had the courage to ask Jimmy was. And so at that point, my dad explained to me that they had another foster kid before me and, and uh, had issues is that I guess were worse than my issues and they didn’t feel like they could keep him in their home. So that was kind of odd.

Damon: 09:01 That is so fascinating. You, you lived with the hand me down artifact of another child’s existence in their home for awhile and you just, I would imagine to the trauma of having been through what you went through in the prior home would have prevented you from asking questions too. Like if your wetting, the bed, something that’s seemingly uncontrollable for a child, I would imagine it would be very traumatic to feel empowered to open your mouth and ask a question, you know what I mean? Like … wow

Rick: 09:34 Absolutely, absolutely. And, and they weren’t real encouraging would that the bed wedding continued, you know, and uh, this home as well, the home where I was eventually adopted into. My dad would have me wear my underwear on my head and make me walk through the house a one time you put a dress on me and called me a girl’s name. I don’t know what that has to do with bedwetting way of shaming me for it, you know. And so the opportunity for healing was never really presented to me. And I did talk to my dad about it once, um, you know, my dad and there are points where he’s going to sound like a really bad guy, but you know, there’s also in a lot of ways he was, he was a good father to me, you know, and, and so, you know, we had good moments and bad moments and you know, one time he was trying to reach out to me and have a heart to heart with me and he’s like, why do you think your wetting the bed, you know, what do you think the problem is? And I told him about the experience at the foster home with the toy chainsaw and everything. And his response was, well, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, that’s really terrible, but I don’t know whether I can believe you or not. And that was it. Nothing was ever said about it. No. You know, I didn’t get taken to counseling. I didn’t, you know, it was just, I don’t know whether I can believe you or not. And sorry about it. And it was just left at that.

Damon: 11:11 We’ve talked quite a bit about Rick’s father so far, so I was curious about his description of his mother. He says that she was a good mother, but they never really bonded. Rick felt like he was supposed to be the boy, their family never had

Rick: 11:26 My mom and I never really bonded. She was always nice and kind for the most part, but there was never a real connection there. And again, I think I was adopted more for my dad to have a boy. And so I think a lot of the parenting was left to him. Not that he was around a lot, so she was left to do the parenting, but there was just never, there was just never a real closeness there. I, you know, I, I don’t, I don’t know how to describe it. Uh, I don’t know how to explain it, but it was not, it was not a bad relationship. She was never mean to me or unkind to me, you know, but it just, there was just never really a connection there.

Damon: 12:11 Interesting. This is something that I hear sometimes is that adoptees feel, for lack of better words, like they were a gift to one of the parents, right know we didn’t get x, so we got you and you’re right, it doesn’t. It doesn’t make for a deep connection at all and given their prior experience with another boy and the fact that they already have three biological girls in the house, you come in at a disadvantage. It would seem

Damon: 12:44 Rick never had any non identifying information before his 13th birthday. He recalls a time when he was younger when he asked one of his older sisters if she knew his original last name, she thought it was Elliot, but that was all he had as an original identity for a very long time. When he received the letter, it gave him descriptive information about his birth mother, like her weight, height, hair color, and gave him a vague image of her. There were descriptions of extended family members to giving him a clue back to the family he grew up with in the first year of his life before foster care. The letter also said that Rick had a monthly visitations with his biological family when he was in foster care.

Rick: 13:26 The strange part for me is I remember the foster home. Why don’t I remember a monthly visit with my mom or my grandma or my grandpa, you know, and so and so. My mind is just scrambling and trying to find something and hold onto something and all I have is are these vague descriptions of people in this non-identifying letters

Damon: 13:49 desperately trying to remember these people who visited him, fueled an overwhelming desire to try to find them. Again, it was a departure from Rick’s prior goals for finding other people in his past

Rick: 14:01 You know, early on. I remember as a child, my only desire was to find my foster family later in life and make sure something really bad happened to them. I was going to have vigilante justice for what happened to me. And you know, throughout life I’ve grown a lot and matured a lot and I’ve learned how to accept a lot of what happened to me as just what happened to me and to release a lot of the emotion with it and to be able to forgive people that have hurt me in the past. I don’t know why they would treat me like that. I don’t know who in their right mind would treat a child like that, but it’s not my problem anymore. I get to let go of that. It’s not something I have to carry with me. This is my life. I can do what I want, I can feel how I want. And it doesn’t matter how those people treated me.

Damon: 14:53 Rick said he never went to therapy, but he wishes he had resources like that. At one point his mother suggested counseling, but his father said it was a bunch of psychological bullcrap. So whenever Rick analyzed his own issues as possibly stemming from his adoption, that same refrain replayed in his head. It’s got to be psychological bull. In highschool. Rick thought about his adoption incessantly. He didn’t feel a deep connection to his family and his relationship with his father, whom he was supposed to be the most connected to. It wasn’t that great.

Rick: 15:27 I always wanted to know what the circumstances were. What else is out there and the other part of the letter that I received at 13 was that shortly after I was born, my mom started having mental issues, but then there’s the guilt of that, like did I trigger, did I caused my mom to become mentally unstable and you know, that’s why she couldn’t care for me, is it my fault? And so not being able to see these people talk to these people or are, you know, have any of this information, you know, it was just tearing me up inside.

Damon: 16:04 That’s one element of adoptee guilt. In the absence of full information, we sometimes make things up in our minds grasping for answers and we wonder if our presence led to other bad circumstances. In our original family, when he described his search, he said he was a pretty smart kid, but suddenly in high school he just stopped working hard. His parents and his teachers noticed him slipping. Rick was called to the school counselor’s office who inquired about why Rick was so distracted, so he told them he revealed his adoption, admitted that he was thinking about finding his biological family and explained that finding his mother was foremost on his mind. What Rick didn’t know was the counselor had adopted children himself, so when he called Rick’s parents, he helped them understand this was something Rick had to explore. There happened to be a monthly meeting at Rick’s highschool for everyone across the adoption triad. When he started attending with his parents, Rick loved it. He was starting to feel like he was part of something, but his parents were reluctant to attend feeling like everyone was simply sharing sob stories. So after a few sessions they stopped going. Then out of the blue…

Rick: 17:17 one day I’m with my dad. We’re uh We were just running some errands in town. I don’t remember what we were doing, but we’d come back home, get out of the truck. We walk inside. My mom goes, oh, here he is, and she hands me the phone and she says, your grandma like, okay. I’m like, Hey, grandma. And The lady on the other end, the phone goes, Ricky, and she’s in tears. She was, I thought I would never hear your voice again. She was like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is you. And I’m just blown away, like, don’t understand what’s happening. And I look at my mom, you know, and I’m just totally confused. I’m assuming when she handed me the phone, this was my mom’s mother, my adopted mom’s mother, my grandma that I lived my whole life. And now all of a sudden my biological grandmother is on the phone with me in tears. And so, you know, quickly registers what’s going on and, but I’m not prepared for this at all. I don’t know what to ask. I don’t know what to say. Now here’s my grandma’s glad to be talking to me, but I don’t, I don’t know grandma, you know? And, and I mean it’s, it’s great and it’s neat that this is a biological family member, but my aching, my urge, my concern was always for my mother. So I’m just trying to guide the conversation that way. I’m like, well, what about my mom? You know, can you tell me about my mom? And she was very hesitant to say anything about my mom and so I’m kind of starting to wonder if she’s even still alive. And then finally she was like, well, your, your mom’s in the hospital. She has some mental issues, but you know, we can try to get you to talk to her sometime, but we want to meet you. We want to talk to you. I know you, you have aunts and uncles that have missed you and we’ve missed you and um, you, you know, so she’s just trying to schedule a time for me to meet them and I just want to beat my mom.

Damon: 19:14 What Rick didn’t know was that his mother, a nurse had written to the hospital to access his information probably under the guise of a need for medical information. She obtained Rick’s grandparents names and contact information at the home where his mother lived years ago when she was 17 and pregnant with Rick.

Rick: 19:33 She wrote them a letter at that address. They happen to still live at that address and they called. And that’s what I walked into at that moment. I’m not even knowing that my mom had ever even done this.

Damon: 19:45 My Gosh, that’s both really cool and super unfair. You know what I mean?

Rick: 19:53 Yeah, absolutely. And that’s, that’s kind of the way my mom and I, she had great intentions, you know, but she presented a lot of information to me in a, in a very wrong way. I don’t, I don’t know, that’s just how she is. But the fact that she even did that was amazing because I know she wasn’t comfortable with it. I know that, I know my dad wasn’t comfortable with it, um, but they cared enough to go ahead and do it anyway. So that was amazing.

Damon: 20:25 Yeah. They went outside of themselves and their own feelings for your benefit. You were struggling in school, you were totally distracted. This was really on your mind. And even though they didn’t give you an opportunity to prepare for it, there’s something to be said for the fact that they said, you know what, he needs this.

Damon: 20:41 Rick is about 16 years old at this time. He and his parents drove to meet his biological relatives halfway between his home in central Illinois and their home in Danville on the border with Indiana. They met at a mall and there’s a huge contingent of people there. His grandma and Grandpa, aunt two uncles and cousins. One of Rick’s uncles and a cousin were his age, so they went to the arcade to play video games while the adults talked, the adults agreed it would be good for Rick to stay with the biological family for a short while. That summer, later that season, he visited his grandmother’s house, which was really awkward. They remembered him as a baby named Ricky, but he was a young man who called himself Rick.

Rick: 21:25 They just had this affection for me and everything that I’m trying to reciprocate and I do feel affection towards them. I just don’t know them as people. I’m having a hard time even remembering their names, you know, and so it feels really weird.

Damon: 21:41 Rick kind of bonded with his cousin who was around his age, so he went to stay with him at his aunt’s house. He said it was more like spending the night at a friend’s house during that trip, the family took Rick to the care facility where his birth mother lived.

Rick: 21:56 My mom is paranoid schizophrenia and pretty severe case, so she can’t really be on her own. So she’s lived in a home pretty much since I was placed for adoption and then in and out of different hospitals and whatever, but you know, just pretty much just living in assisted living facilities since she was probably 20 years old. So we go to see her. Um, and she just refused to believe it was me, you know, which was really awkward for me because that’s all I’ve wanted is to reunite with my mom, you know, and just to have this connection with my mom and I’m not getting that. She’s just know this isn’t him, this isn’t Ricky. And I’m like, wow, you know, uh, no, it’s me. And she, she insisted that I was my cousin Jason. And so she lifted my shirt out and looked at my chest because my cousin Jason had had heart surgery, but she was looking for a scar and when she didn’t see the scar, because when she accepted that it was me and she just kind of sunk into herself. It’s kind of hard to describe and kind of retracted. And she said, no, this isn’t possible. They told me I’d never be able to see my little boy again. And that, that moment it was just terrible. It was, you know, to, to see the emotional side from her because here I’ve carried all this emotion and now to hear that come out of her mouth, you know, they told me I’d never be able to see my little boy again. I’ve always assumed this was just something she wanted. She just, you know, couldn’t take care of me and willingly gave me up for. But now I’m getting this other side, you know, I’m getting this other sense that this isn’t necessarily what she wanted, you know, and that maybe there were some other things at play here that, you know, prevent some coersion for her to give me up for adoption.

Damon: 24:05 Before Rick and his family left the home, his mother had a bit of a verbal outburst that required some explaining.

Rick: 24:11 She looked at my aunt and she said, well, we got Ricky back, but we’ll never be able to get cindy back and I’m looking at my Aunt I’m like, you know, who’s cindy? So she explained to me later, my aunt explained to me later that my mom in her mind had another child and had that child taken away like this was part of her schizophrenia, you know. So she believes that she had another child. I’m an only child. She believes that she had a girl that was taken away from her too. And so there’s was a lot for a 16 year old boy just to take in, you know, I’ve never been around anybody mentally ill. I’ve never experienced this. And now this is my, this is my mom. I didn’t visit my mom a lot after that just because it was just so bizarre until weird, you know, I remember that night I tried to go to bed and I couldn’t sleep. I’m just thinking and I just started bawling and I woke my aunt up and I’m just like, what happened to her? Why is she, like this you know, what you know, and did I make this happen. You know, when she liked us before I was born, you know, what in the world’s going on here and you know, she just kinda calmed me down and said, you know, it’s not my fault and just mentally ill and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

Damon: 25:33 He kept in touch with his extended family. Occasionally they would go to visit his mother in the home and sometimes they would invite her over when he was visiting. He figures he only saw his mother a small handful of times from 16 to 35 years old. It was just too hard to see his mother in that condition. I can’t even imagine how challenging it must have been to meet his birth mother in his adolescence when he’s been trying to discover himself and attempting to bond with her only to learn that she wasn’t in a mental state that would allow a connection. He agreed. It was really tough for him since the quest to meet his mother was such a rocky road. I couldn’t help wondering how he made the transition in his mind to finding his birth father. The non identifying information Rick received early on had no info about his father, so he assumed the man never cared, which made him question why he should care. But he was curious.

Rick: 26:32 And again, I think part of it is, you know, my adopted dad, even though we had a really bad relationship in my teen years and there’s a lot of things even early on that I don’t agree with how he raised me in a lot of ways. We did connect. We did bond and I did have a father where I didn’t have that connection with my mother. And so I think my father role was kind of filled and. But my mother will wasn’t, so I was still searching for my mother and probably the fact that I bonded with my mom the first two years of my life, even though I don’t remember it, you know, played a role in that as well. But yeah, there was a curiosity, you know, of course, about my biological father,

Damon: 27:12 Rick admits. He asked his birth mother about his father’s identity. But when you’re speaking with a paranoid schizophrenia as severely afflicted as she is, it’s impossible to tell which details are real and which only seem real to her in her alternate reality. There were a few possibilities for whom his father could be. And one was already deceased. Of course, that’s who his birth mother wanted his father to be.

Rick: 27:37 Uh, but then my aunt telling me about this lady that would come into the laundromat she worked at, she was friends with and her son’s father claimed to be my father and he was sure of it and whatever. And I just kind of dismissed it and I’m like, you know, I don’t know, that sounds like a leap to me. You know, the lady you know, ya know… his Dad that you know, I don’t know, know, just, you know, whatever, and I don’t know, that was really in a place to even explore that, you know, so I just kind of left it alone for a while,

Damon: 28:12 but Rick aren’t kept raising the possibility that she knew who his father was.

Rick: 28:17 She just kept mentioning this and she’s like, “I saw Faith the other day and her son looks so much like you, you know, and you know, I really think that this guy, Kurt could be your dad”,

Damon: 28:31 but thinking back, Rick feels like he didn’t want to hurt his adopted father. He figured he’d leave well enough alone and he did for several years, never tracking down any leads on the man named Kurt. But then Rick second wife revealed that she never met her own biological father because he passed away before she had the chance to do so. She urged Rick to try to meet this guy who might be his father because she regretted not needing her own father. When Rick Finds Kurt, he’s incarcerated. Rick writes him an introductory letter that basically says,

Rick: 29:05 I don’t know, you don’t want anything from you, you know, I just heard that there’s a possibility you can be my father and that, that supposedly came from you, you know, so, um, if you could verify that or confirm with deny that, you know, please do, if you’re, if you are my father and you’re interested in exploring a relationship further, you know, we, we can do that or whatever. Just let me know where you’re at with this. And he wrote me back like the most heartfelt thing. He goes, I’ve always known you, my son and you know, um, I, I feel bad that I didn’t step up at the beginning. Aparrently My grandpa went and intimidated him. I don’t think my grandpa knew who my father was, but he knew where my mom hung out. This was the seventies. There was a lot of drug use and stuff going on. So he, you know, he knew that group of people. He went over to where they all hung out and said, whoever knocked up my daughter obviously kick your ass by. Dad didn’t bother staying together, that was me and just left it at that. So He’s, I, I regret that he goes, I used to drive by or your mom’s house and just to look at you, you know, through my car window. So here’s this person that has always wanted a relationship with me and wants to be my dad and uh, and I wasn’t hoping for this, are expecting this at all. I’m expecting rejection. I had no expectation of some happy little reunion with the biological father.

Damon: 30:41 The men wrote back and forth a few times. Rick learned he had a sister and four brothers, one of which had passed away. Of course he wasn’t sure Kurt was his father, but when he pulled up a picture of him, a mug shot, he definitely saw a resemblance. Rick was in his mid twenties when he visited Kurt in prison.

Rick: 31:00 We did, we didn’t hug, w were really just feeling each other out, you know, he had never seen me before. I’ve only seen his mugshot, you know, and really didn’t know how any of this was going to go, you know. So it was just, it was a very slow pace to the conversation, you know, I’m sitting across from him and just his mannerisms, his speech patterns his likes, dislikes, philosophy on life, everything. I, I’ve never met somebody so much like me in my life, you know, just to the core like me. Now I’m not a drug dealer in prison, but that’s, that’s superficial. So that’s circumstantial things that happened in life.

Damon: 31:49 Maybe a bad choice in this environment. Yes.

New Speaker: 31:52 Yeah. Yeah. But at the core, you know, this guy was just so much like me that it was unreal, but the more we talked, you know, is just, we just instantly hit it off. I don’t recall whether we have, you know, I think I tried to do a handshake and he pulled me in for a hug at the end of the conversation.

Damon: 32:14 Shortly after their meeting, Kurt was paroled. They made plans for Rick to meet his siblings. He said it just felt so weird to have been raised as the youngest in a family of three older sisters. But in reunion he was suddenly the oldest of three younger brothers and a baby sister. It was a bizarre reversal of the order of his life. They had a cookout threw the football and just kinda hung out helping everyone to get comfortable, including Rick’s brother, who moved from being the oldest to being the second oldest. Rick said that for some unknown reason, he was really excited to have a baby sister and even though she was only 12 years old, he got very attached to her,

Rick: 32:54 so that was pretty cool to have a 12 year old sister that could look up to me and that was kind of neat.

Damon: 33:02 His paternal side of the family also lived in Danville, so when the holidays came around, Rick had to split his time a little visiting his mother’s and father’s sides of the family. One time Kurt even went to stay with Rick at his home for a week, helping take care of Rick’s newborn daughter. Kurt played guitar and sang and sang too. So they had a great time bonding. Later that year, Rick was exiting the relationship with his second wife. Keep in mind, she was the one who encouraged Rick to meet Kirk and she had corresponded with Kurt while he was in prison. When he found out they were breaking up, Kurt tried to encourage Rick to stay with his wife.

Rick: 33:41 Well, I’m not one to take parental advice from a guy that just came into my life a year ago that has been in and out of prison, you know, and has kids with three different women himself. It just didn’t sit well with me. Like, now all of a sudden you’re going to tell me how I’m supposed to live my life and you know, you don’t know anything about my marriage.

Damon: 34:03 So Rick put some distance between himself and he met another woman who he’s been married to for 11 years now and he moved further away. When Rick went to Danville to see his maternal side, he tried to go see Kurt only to find he was back in prison. He subsequently lost touch with his paternal siblings. Later when his maternal grandfather passed away, Rick took his own son with him to go pay his respects. He also went to the grave of his paternal baby brother who died as an infant. Since his reunion with Kurt. Rick has always thought to himself that had he been around, not adopted by another family, he would have been old enough to have memories of that little brother’s passing, unsure of where Kurt was in his life, whether he was using drugs or not. At the moment, Rick dropped off his own son at his grandmother’s house. Then went to try to find Kurt.

Rick: 34:56 This lady comes out, she was like, can I help you. I said ” Is Kurt around” and she kind of looked at me funny. Or is he still in prison? He’s locked up for life. I said, what? Over what ? And she goes, Kurt senior or Kurt junior? And I said Kurt senior, Kurt junior is my brother. And I said senior, and she goes, “Honey, that bitch is dead.”

Damon: 35:29 Oh no

Rick: 35:31 I dropped to my knees. I just, it took my breath away. It was just, it was just terrible, you know, so I just, I just buried my grandpa, my mom’s side and she goes, why? Who are you? I said, I’m his oldest son. She was two of my brothers, mom. So she was living in the house now. I had never met her before. I met my brothers but hadn’t met hurt. She goes, honey, I am so sorry she was like come inside, you know, let me explain. And she explained to me that a few weeks prior to my visit, my oldest younger brother had killed my dad.

Damon: 36:15 Wow. What happened?

Rick: 36:19 So apparently when my dad got out of prison, he decided to move to California. My brother had already moved to California and dad had talked about that, you know, he wanted me to like stow away with him on a train and go all the way out to California and whatever. I’m like, yeah, I have kids that I’m taking care of I can’t do that . It sounds awesome, you know, that that’s the kind of guy he was. It was just like the free spirit, you know, let’s just do this and, you know, hop a train and sounds weird. But it was just, just to kind of guy. He was, you know. So when he got out of prison, again, he moved to California and um, I guess he was supposed to be watching my brother’s kids and he got kind of drunk and it was getting kind of loud and my brother told him to knock it off. My brother was there, he was just watching the kids so my brother could have some time with his fiance or, or whatever. And they got into it and my brother choked him until he stopped breathing.

Damon: 37:23 Aw Man.

Rick: 37:26 And he died. And this just happened. So two weeks prior to my visit, they had buried my dad’s ashes at my brother’s grave site. So where I was just standing and hour before this, I was standing on my dad’s ashes.

Damon: 37:45 He had a hard time describing how he felt at that time. Rick was shocked, stunned Rick found out that his sister then 18 years old, had been trying to get back in touch with him to share the bad news. They met up that night and reconnected. Rick then returns his son to his ex wife because the next day Rick had to deliver some bad news to his birth mother, but it was something she said that turned out to be terrible news of her own, what you’re about to hear may be disturbing to some listeners,

Rick: 38:15 but I still have to go see my biological mom because she doesn’t know that her dad, her family didn’t have her come to the funeral. I’m just, because of her mental condition, when she had come to her grandma’s funeral, she was just kind of disruptive and, and whatever, and people didn’t want that at, at Grandpa’s funeral. So I decided it was my responsibility to go talk to her and let her know that her dad had passed and I hadn’t seen her in a few years. So I went to visit her and you explained that her dad had died and now have to tell her that Kurt had died. She didn’t fully get it, but she got. I could just tell from her emotional posture, you know, she got it, you know. But again, in her mental state, it’s, you know, it’s hard to tell how much is really being comprehended that I get through that. I take her out to lunch and uh, so we’re getting ready to leave and she goes, Ricky, the guys here, like to have sex with my butt, but I don’t think I should let them anymore do you?

Damon: 39:16 Oh no…

Rick: 39:21 so, I’m dealing with my dad dying. I just buried my Grandpa, found out my dad died and now I get this dropped on me from my mom. And um, I look at, there’s the social services director in the room with us and her jaw drops and her eyes are huge and she’s like, well, let me talk to you, let me talk to you. And she pulls me out in the hall and then it takes me outside. And she was like, look, just like your mom is considered her own legal guardian. She’s not a ward of the state. She is her own person. Um, your, your grandpa didn’t have guardianship, you know, she’s, you know, she gets to make her own decisions. So she wants to have consensual sex with somebody. We have to let that happen. We just make sure that she doesn’t physically get hurt. And she just, she said, you know, she doesn’t get a lot of money. She gets her social security, which pays for her stay here, and then like 10 or $20 or $30, whatever it goes on her books every month, which she uses device cigarettes and snacks and whatever. That runs out really fast because she smokes a lot. So she has sex with other residents here and they give her potato chips and you know… {nervous laughter} and I was just like what are you talking about, you know, this can’t be legal, but you know, and uh, so, uh, I’m just, I’m at a loss, you know, I’m just. My whole world in a matter of 24 hours just got flipped upside down.

Damon: 41:03 When Rick went back to work the next day, he was a mess. He couldn’t even clock in at work because his hands were shaking from the trauma of the last two days. Rick decided to get legal guardianship of his birth mother for her protection. He moved her to a facility in his hometown where he can make decisions on her behalf.

Rick: 41:22 Since she’s been here, she’s quit smoking because she had severe pneumonia and congestive heart failure and all kinds of things. When I first moved here, I bought her cigarettes every week, you know, just out of kindness and then once you started having problems, I took that away and I was just buying your candy and stuff and then her diabetes got out of control, so I quit doing that and you know, to me if somebody’s in that state, you know, they get very, they get very little out of life and so you know, if you can have a cigarette or have a piece of candy and that makes you happy, so be it. But when it starts becoming a health concern, that’s where me as a responsible party has to say, okay, we can’t, we can’t do this. At 41 years old I’m the legal guardian at world for the last five years. Even the legal guardian of my mom and my biological mom, that relinquished me to… Regret not keeping that relationship with my dad everyday I regret that

Damon: 42:24 I can imagine, but it’s so hard to. First of all, I’m really sorry to hear about what happened to your mother in institutional care. That’s just, that’s unacceptable. And the fact I get it that the law says that she’s her own person and if she may make certain choices, but I mean there’s just a, a piece of caring for another person that just says, you know, there are certain rules of this facility that will not be accepted. And I just,

Rick: 42:54 I agree and that’s why I got her out of that facility immediately

Damon: 42:55  Yeah. But I, I, I can imagine it must have been really hard to think back on your relationship with your father because that’s one of those challenges that we go through is when you reunite with somebody who technically is a, is a birth parent to you, um, but you meet them as an adult, like you no longer need parenting and if they feel like they want to swoop in and sort of start to provide that parental guidance, it’s, it’s really challenging and you have to push them back a little bit. So I, I totally understand why you said, you know what, I can’t deal with this right now. Um, but that’s just really a shame that somebody took his life before you had a chance to sort of reconnect with them. I’m really sorry Rick’s been through a lot, but he says he’s doing okay. Making it through life in spite of it all. He’s thankful to have found the adoption community and is thankful for the support of others because he always felt like he was an outsider.

Rick: 43:55 I’m good….You know, mental illness has always been a concern of mine because since I’ve known about my mother, you know, and so I’m always worried that maybe I could become mentally unstable or my children are going to be mentally unstable, you know. And so that was always a concern of mine. But honestly I think I’m one of the most well rounded adaptable people you know, that, that I know I can take a lot. You know, I have moments, you know, where things get to me, but you know, who doesn’t you know and with everything I’ve been put through. I think I’m entitled to get a pass. So the company locations for me right now, or you know, now that I’ve kind of reached out to the adoptee community, that’s a little bit of struggle in my marriage with that. Um, and I hear that’s kind of common. Um, you know, she doesn’t really understand why I need that. Um, and to me, you know, I’ve always felt different. I’ve always felt like an outsider and when you find a community of adoptees, they all have the history and his stories like I had. They’re not know I have the same circumstances, but you know, like you’ve dealt with mental illness with one of your parents, you know, um, and not that you have to be adopted to have a mentally ill parent, but there’s this common threads throughout the adoptee community where whether it’s an issue with reunion or secondary rejection or you know, whatever it is, somebody has kind of been there and you So you start to feel kind of normal again because I say you, I should be saying, you know, I, I started to feel normal again, you know, because throughout life I’ve always just kind of felt like an outsider. I felt like an outsider in my adopted family obviously felt like an outsider and the foster home, um, and then even reuniting you kind of feel like an outsider in that family because all these people remember you and you know, the uncle that’s my age, Ricky, you remember riding big wheels with me in the driveway and you know, and no Todd. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t remember that. The reason he does it because he grew up to those pictures and, and grandma and grandpa telling those stories. You know what I mean? I did it. I didn’t have those. I think, you know, my, my baby pictures when I was four, you know, until, until now.

Rick: 46:30 And so that’s another weird piece of the story is, you know, once you’re in reunion and you start getting, you know, like I said, I’ve got my original birth certificate. I got my original social security card. I’ve got fishers of me as a baby. This was stuff I didn’t grow up with. This, the stuff that’s being given to me at 16, at 30 or 40 just got my baby book at 40. You know,

Damon: 46:52 You just got your baby book book at 40 years old?

Rick: 46:57 Yeah. Just never knew it existed. Yeah. So that’s another piece that’s like, okay. I was with a family that cared about me. You know, I, I was in a family that was taking care of me. That was my family, you know, was just another piece. It just makes it that much more bizarre. But to answer your question, I think I’m fine. I think, you know, I think I’m in a good place and really where I’m at is it seems like in the adoptee community there’s a lot of people that, that these kinds of issues and traumas that they’ve had to deal with are really just wrecking their life on a daily basis.

Rick: 47:37 I want to try to reach out to these people some way. I haven’t figured that out yet, but at some point I had to go. I’m, I’m a happy human being that does not want to harm anyone or we’re all human. We all want love. We all want to be valued.

Damon: 47:55 I wanted to circle back to one thing Rick said about his wife struggling with his connection to the adoption community that can be common when adoptees suddenly realize we’re not alone and we can all relate to one another’s experiences. So we turn to each other, not our significant others for support. I asked Rick about how their discussions are going in his house

Rick: 48:17 I don’t think its clicked with her and to her That’s just something that is taking away from, from her, you know, uh, you know, and I’ve tried to explain the trauma and, and, and all that to her. And she was like, well, you know, everybody goes through trauma and you know. Yeah I gues. You know, she, yeah, she just doesn’t get it, you know, and I don’t know that she ever will, but this was one of those things where I’ve just kind of said, well, I’m doing this and I’m sorry if that is an issue, but I’m going to keep doing this. You know, it’s good for me. I need this and you know, I still love you and I’m going to be here for the family and for you, but I need to do this for me.

Damon: 49:03 Absolutely, totally agree. Well, Rick, thank you so much for taking time to share this unbelievable journey. I mean, I’m really glad that you sound like you’re in a good place, but it sounds like you have been through a lot,

Rick: 49:18 Yeah, I’ve had a lot thrown at me, but I can’t. I can’t let that determine me and determine what I’m going to do with my life.

Damon: 49:26 I totally agree. Thanks for taking time to share your story, man. I appreciate it.

Rick: 49:30 Yeah thank you so much.

Rick: 49:31 Take care of all the best to you.

Damon: 49:32 All right, you too. Bye.

Rick: 49:33 Bye.

Damon: 49:37 Hey, it’s me. Rick’s had a rough road since very early in his life, the trauma of foster care, harassers missing the full connection to his adopted family, the disappointment of finding his birth mother, but being unable to connect with her and the sadness of distancing himself from Kurt only to learn he’d been killed when Rick was ready to reconnect is a lot for a person to endure, but I was glad to hear that Rick decided to become the legal guardian of his birth mother. I’m sure it means a lot to him to be her caregiver after so many years apart. Rick says he called his brother and left him a message to say he forgave him for killing their father. He told me his approach to life is to try to let things go and let other people’s problems be their problems. Still, he has to cope with the pain of not having an to reconnect with his father.

Damon: 50:30 Rick says he chooses to value the relationships around him now and fill them with love and happiness. I think we all could benefit from taking a similar approach in our own lives. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you will find something Rick’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 adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit who am I really You can choose to share your whole story, maintain some privacy about parts of your journey, or share completely anonymously. You can find the show at, or follow me on twitter @WAIReally and please, if you like the show, you can support me at you can subscribe to who am I really on apple podcasts, Google play or wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there it would mean so much to me. If you would take a moment to share a rating or leave a comment, those ratings can help others to find the podcast too.

Who Am I Really?

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