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079 – There Are Wins And Losses

Paul grew up in a family where he didn’t look like his parents, his father was Mexican and his mother was Japanese. In his childhood, his mother turned incredibly harsh and abusive, especially toward his sister. Searching for his birth mother, Paul made a misstep when he didn’t follow the advice of his search angel, and it cost him a valued relationship. Luckily he was able to connect with his half-siblings on both sides, but one relationship ended abruptly when a spouse fired his gun at Paul! All told, Paul found links to his personal history, and that’s given him the identity he was seeking.


Paul: 00:02 But the one thing that would happen, my aunt told me and one of my older cousins had told me, when I was little, the only person that could get me to stop crying was my dad’s sister. As soon as I was in her arms I would shut up. I would stop and the reason, and here’s, here’s the reason why, this is why I’ve always known that voice. My, my birth mom’s voice is exactly identical to, at least to my ears, as my dad’s sister.

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

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 Paul. He called me from Tucson, Arizona. Paul grew up in a family where he didn’t look like his parents and eventually his mother turned incredibly harsh and abusive. Searching for his birth mother, he made a misstep when he didn’t follow the advice of his search angel and it cost him a valued relationship. Luckily, he was able to connect with his half siblings on both sides. But one relationship ended abruptly when a spouse fired his gun at Paul. All told Paul found links to his personal history and that’s given him the identity he was seeking. This is Paul’s journey. Paul figures, he was with Catholic social services for about three to four months before he was adopted. His father was Mexican and his mother was Japanese. He met her in Japan during the Korean War and they got married in the United States.

Paul: 01:50 So right there, when I was old enough to look in the mirror and everything, I was like, well, you know, one of these things is not like the other. I don’t Look anything like either person and I, you know, I was little so I didn’t know

Damon: 02:04 but either. The two of them don’t look alike. So how do you not look alike?

Paul: 02:11 Well you know, my mom was, you know, she’s Japanese and she was small and she really had extreme Japanese features. So I’m like, I’d look in the mirror and I’m like, well, I don’t have those features. And then, um, my dad, I, you know, I like can’t say I really didn’t, you know, I really couldn’t make the total comparison, but I’m like, something’s not right here. And then as I got older, not much older, but the differences kept getting more pronounced. And I remember one of my earliest memory, Geez, I probably was four, maybe five, I was out in the backyard crying I wanted to go home. And you know, um, my dad comes home from work and sees me out in the backyard and asking me, asked me what’s going on, I’m in the backyard bawling my eyes that I want to go home. And then that’s when I got, this is your home. You know, I was like, no, this can’t be my home. I don’t look like you.

Damon: 03:08 Paul told me that he had recently read the book, The Primal Wound, where he learned that his experience as a child of wanting to go home is not uncommon for adoptees. He had one sibling, a younger sister who was adopted about a year and a half after himself. He said the older he got, the more he picked up on his differences with his parents. He noticed something about his adopted mother. She was always overly excitable about everything. He was young, so he didn’t recognize what was going on, but things were changing.

Paul: 03:40 Somewhere around when I was nine or 10, something clicked in her or something and she just became the most abusive, horrible person you could ever want to meet and more so toward my sister then to me, and then as I get older and learn about Japanese culture, they, they favor the son and so that’s why I kind of figured that a lot of her stuff wasn’t, I avoided a lot of it, but the thing is I had to sit there and witness what was going on with my sister and the thing was with my mom, this is what made the whole younger years really difficult, is the abuse she had rake on her, but also with me, it started to become a point where I was, I could never do anything good enough. And then she always had a focal point of another family that was like best friends with my dad.

Paul: 04:31 And actually the couple were my godparents when I got adopted. They had a son, a natural born son, but my mom all of a sudden started making this kid their son, like the example point. So why can’t I do what he does? Why can’t I do what he does? So as time goes on and she just gets worse and worse, that just happened more and more. And then the other thing that was really weird and then as I got older, I found out, cause I was too young to remember it. Supposedly I was a very sickly, sickly, sickly child practically on my deathbed but the problem was is I never felt sick, never thought I was sick. Um, apparently she was doing the Munchausen’s by proxy thing with other folks so she could garner attention or more attention.

Damon: 05:19 How do you mean? Explain that?

Paul: 05:22 what I’m saying is, she wouldn’t purposely get us sick or anything, but she would say that we were sick or come up with whatever maladies and then she would get garner extra attention from the folks at church thing, you know, how’s your child? Stuff like that. But then she would tell us that we were sick. I actually grew up believing I had all these maladies, which I did not have because I was perfectly healthy, to me anyway, I was a perfectly healthy kid that wanted to do everything perfectly healthy kids wanted to do. I wanted to play baseball. She told me, you’re too sick for that. I have this, that and other problems. And that actually went on so far as when I got to junior high, I wanted to play football and my mom would actually show me, we’d go shopping or something like that, and she, she would point out kids in the wheelchairs and she would tell me, I’m of the age where there was still a lot of kids running around who suffered from polio and they were just there in you know, in like leg braces or whatever.

Paul: 06:15 So, she would point out this kid, this kid played football, that’s why he’s like that. And then it’s just high weirdness came from her all the time.

Damon: 06:27 Paul said his mother actually had plans for him to become a high achieving musician, but he had no interest in the violin. He was always a big tall kid and he was into tackle football, but he had to sneak and play with his friends behind the school because if his mother saw the game, she would come out of the house into the school yard to put an end to it. If the family was out somewhere together and the kids got out of sight in a store, he said his mother was start screaming and wailing for them, causing everyone in the store to stop what they were doing, to see what the commotion was about. When I asked Paul about his mother’s abuse toward his sister, he said that it was a combination of mental and physical abuse.

Paul: 07:08 She would just tell her the most horrible things about not being good enough or she would just, if she didn’t do the slightest chore, absolutely Picture Perfect, she would get, she would get the beat down. And um, yeah, it was crazy. Or, the other one that I remember a lot is like at bathtime we’d take a bath, take a shower, well shampoos leave a smell on your hair. Right? There is just no way you can avoid it. My sister would come out and I wouldn’t get it, but my sister would get the sniff check and if she could still smell shampoo in her hair, she’d go off on her. And it finally got to the point where I, I think I was probably 11 and I was big enough by 11. I was actually way taller than my mom and I was, I probably had almost an inch on my dad.

Paul: 07:59 They were short in stature. That’s the other thing that was really weird. I’m like 6’2. I’m not super tall, but I’m taller than big and by 11 I almost had an inch on my dad. And um, one day I was at the house and this is going on in the back of the house, I just went over there and I jumped on her and got her off my sister and I just said, you know, you touch us like that one more time and I’ll kill you in your sleep. Yeah. It’s just, that, that’s, that’s how crazy it got. So then she would just pick and choose her times, like if I was at school, I wasn’t in the house that craziness would go on with my sister. She, it got to the point where she would time her rotten activities and the thing has, you know, back then we didn’t know what to do.

Damon: 08:41 Yeah.

Paul: 08:41 There wasn’t a lot of info. There wasn’t any support. You didn’t know what to do. You almost thought this was normal activity or normal behavior, especially if you grew up with it from the get go, thing is she never dared told my dad, but my dad had to know about all this and that’s the other thing. It got to the point where I was like asking myself, why doesn’t he just get rid of her? And what I had started noticing, he started getting involved with a lot of after work activities. He was almost never home from the time he went to work, he would come home, change clothes and then leave again. So he was like, just, how should I say, just removing himself from the whole situation. Because even when he was home, my mom would go off on him for hours and hours on end too.

Damon: 09:20 Yeah. That’s uh, he was, it was avoidance. He’s like, I don’t need this crap. Yeah,

Paul: 09:25 exactly. It was avoidance. And the thing is, what also tripped me out about it is my mom and my dad were devout Catholics. They were just heavily involved with the church and that was another thing that always just tripped me out. We go to church and then I just one time and I just remember completely, I think this again and we were probably about eight or nine. We’re in church and my mom’s being all pious and we get in the car and I think my sister and I were sitting in the pew next to some other friends from school and I think my sister giggled for something that her friend had said and my mom heard the giggle. So we were in the car. We wouldn’t think anything of it. But we were in the car and soon as we get in the car and the parking lot kind of clears out a little bit my mom starts wailing on my sister in the back seat for the giggle. So I’m like how can you be so pious and all the premises and the teachings are true, when I’m watching you go from that to this, like an instance.

Damon: 10:26 Yeah. You walked out of the House of the Lord to beating a child in the back seat of your car. In the parking lot that’s, yeah,

Paul: 10:32 in the parking lot. Yeah, so this is one of the things that just totally ruined me with religion.

Damon: 10:38 He said he’s tried to find religion again from time to time, but he can never fully reinvest because these memories of his childhood come flooding back. Paul said when the trouble started with his mother, he was also trying to find an identity. He grew up in a pretty heavily Hispanic area and when he started hanging out with his friends and their older brothers who weren’t exactly model citizens, Paul was at risk for getting into trouble. He didn’t actually know what his heritage was. His parents never said so. He figured he must be Latino too.

Paul: 11:10 I started hanging out with the kids in the neighborhood and I wasn’t so much getting in trouble, but they were seeing me hanging out with the kids they, quote unquote, knew were bad kids in the neighborhood. So then I got pulled in again for the full adoption lecture, or not lecture but explanation. And they told me, you’re not Mexican. That’s not your heritage, what you are. They told me according to my adoption paperwork and I’m German and I’m Spanish. And I’m like, okay, well what does Spanish mean? Again I’m 10, what do you know?

Damon: 11:37 Right. Yeah.

Paul: 11:40 So I’m like, okay, I’m not Mexican. What sucked about that is, so when I go back to hang out with my friends, I tell them the story that my adoption story, well some of them told their big and their big brothers like three years older than me, four years older than me. I wind up getting my butt kicked because I’m a white boy. I had that happen like four times. Cause I told them I was a white boy.

Damon: 12:03 Those buck kicks happened more than once. Paul said as a young guy, he was an easy target for older boys, so basically their family was a Mexican father, a Japanese mother and two white children. Paul and his sister are pretty fair skin he said. I asked Paul about what made him finally want to search for his birth family. He said his fire was kindled in high school. At that time, He was actively working on the opposite of his mother’s idealistic vision of a son, like her friend’s son, Paul admits that was kind of a poor choice. He was generally making poor choices in high school in the early 1980s and he felt lost and wanted to figure things out, but he had no idea how to even begin. The only thing that he really could think to do was make friends with people he thought he kind of resembled in the hopes of randomly finding a relative.

Damon: 12:54 Around 1992, Paul found out he could petition Catholic social services for information. He wrote a letter introducing himself, sharing who his parents are with a general request for information. They wrote back with his non identifying information, which basically had the same narrative his parents gave him, except the locations his biological mother and father were from were a little different from what he learned. It says his birth father is of German descent, so he starts theorizing about local communities of German people and began making up possible stories about who his father might’ve been. The search process was also cost-prohibitive back then, so Paul was unwilling to spend thousands of dollars without a guaranteed outcome. Paul moved to Tennessee in 1997. His daughter was born and he was away from his parents and all of the cues and triggers that made him want to search. His father died of cancer in 2004, then he moved back to Tucson in 2012 because his mother and father in law needed care. His mother died that year and that’s when his fervor to search was recharged.

Paul: 13:59 My adopted mother passed away. We can go fast forward about a year or two, I’m just in a funk because now I’m like orphaned, but weird part of it is I’m not sad that my adopted family parents and passed away. I really wasn’t.

Damon: 14:13 You just felt alone.

Paul: 14:13 That’s something I, I just felt, yeah, just alone. And um, my adopted cousins, I was never close with any of them except for one. And that Kinda stems from back when we were kids we’re out in my aunt’s backyard having an orange fight, she had lots of citrus trees in the backyard and back then, you know, kids in this area anyway, we used to have what we called orange fights. We’d pick fights and start throwing oranges at eachother.

Damon: 14:41 yeah, like a snowball fight with citrus.

Paul: 14:44 Yeah. But with citrus. Yes. And I dunno, something went wrong when, during that fight, one of my cousins just got all ticked off at me and goes, you know, it’s not like you’re even family in the first place. And that kind of just set the tone with my cousins from that point forward, I think we’re probably, yeah, I never got over that. I was like, okay, that’s great. Fine. Don’t need you, don’t want you.

Damon: 15:09 After his mother died, Paul’s sister decided to try to help bring him back from a really challenging time.

Paul: 15:15 Christmas of 2015, my, my sister, my adopted sister, she gives me an ancestry kit for Christmas. And uh, she didn’t tell me this. We kinda after my mom passed, we kind of had a little falling out cause I didn’t think she was giving me enough emotional support when my mom was, was dying. My mom and my sister, of course they had, they hadn’t spoken in almost 25 years. When my sister was out the house they never, there was no connection. And I get that. That’s fine. I didn’t want her to, that wasn’t what I was looking for from her, but I was having like a real hard time, just everything. Cause the other problem I had during the whole time that my mother was dying, I had a cousin that was murdered, I had a good friend of mine in Tennessee commit suicide, I had another one have an embolism and die on his front porch.

Paul: 16:05 Um, and just, I had decided, I like the hits just kept on coming and they weren’t, you know, they weren’t settled and people were dying left and right that year. So it just really kind of messed me up and just trying to deal with all that. So anyway, Christmas of 2015, I get this being a kit, I think my sister just realized that maybe this will be the key to get me to come out of the funk. Cause she knew, I always wanted to know. So that’s what she told me. She goes, once she gives it to me, she goes, Hey, I found my biological mom and I found my family and the funny thing there I was like, really? You didn’t even tell me you were doing this. So she gives me the kit for Christmas and I put it on the shelf Cause the problem I have is I’m super privacy conscious person and the ramifications of putting my DNA out into the world, that just wasn’t sitting good with me. And a couple of months passed, so we’re into February, So I finally said, you know what, the need to know outweighs my weird. Actually, I don’t think it’s weird.

Damon: 17:09 Your concerns.

Paul: 17:11 My need to know outweighs my concern for privacy. So I went and did it.

Damon: 17:15 He set up his ancestry account while he waited for his results. As a paid member, he had access to all of the tools, so he started toying with building his adopted father’s family tree, but he lost interest when it hit him that those ancestors weren’t his blood relatives. Paul turned his energy to learning how to search for people through a registry called adoption database. He started interacting with people in the community and within a week, the moderator of the group asked him if he was interested in a confidential intermediary who would charge a reasonable flat fee. So he agreed.

Paul: 17:48 I gave her all my information, and Lo and behold, it took her probably about a month to figure things out. And she calls me and she goes, I got your records and I got everything. I got your mom part figured out. I go, well, what about my dad? And she goes, there’s no names in here for your dad. I’m like, okay. She goes, now I’ve got to go through the process of making contact with your mother. And she goes, I don’t know how long that’s going to take, but at least I’ve got a name and we can go forward from there. And I’m like, wow, okay, that’s huge progress, right? And she goes, well, now I got to tell you something serious and this is where I’m gonna put a cautionary tale out to everybody who’s a searcher. She told me, while I’m in the process of contact, trying to figure out getting in contact with your mother. I don’t want you, Cause I told her I was on ancestry searching and she goes, I don’t want you searching for your mother on ancestry while I’m doing this. And I’m like, okay, but I’m the kind of person you tell me no that just means yes.

Damon: 18:51 Right, it’s basically a challenge.

Paul: 18:53 Yeah. Yeah. You’ve challenged me now. So Lo and behold, I should have took her advice.

Damon: 18:58 Paul continues his search on ancestry and his DNA results are soon returned to him. He learned he was half Spanish and native American with some Irish and African-American sprinkled in there. That was really interesting for Paul because he’s always been enamored with history, but without knowing his heritage, it was impossible to associate historical facts with himself. It’s just history. With his DNA online, the relational hits start rolling in. He starts going down the list of matches, waiting for someone to contact him and reply, one woman who managed several cousin match accounts reaches back and suggests Paul get on Facebook to seek out DNA detectives. His Search Angel Lisa teaches Paul the ropes of how to make a mirror tree and use other tools. The confidential intermediary provides some information about his birth mother and he learns his mother is from mammoth outside of Tucson. Paul is reverse engineering all kinds of information in parallel with the intermediary, Paul and Lisa arrived at the same family, but he had identified the wrong woman as his mother. Lisa called to say she found his mother who had agreed to meet him.

Paul: 20:07 The stuff I’m doing on ancestry, I’m like, I had the same family, wrong person.

Damon: 20:11 Oh. Really?

Paul: 20:13 yeah. Cause she came from a family of uh, eight and so it was just, which one? I just had the wrong person in the wrong town. But what I had done in the interim, this is where the mistake comes in, I was contacting the wrong person, whether I’m their grandchild and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I was just trying to get some information. I said I don’t know much but here’s the deal and I didn’t say much about it and then it just went by the wayside. They dropped me like a hot rock and I was like, okay, fine, whatever. So I didn’t think anything of it.

Damon: 20:46 Paul signs the papers be in contact with his birth mother and the search angel offers to make first contact. He decided he wanted to be the one to make the first call. But Paul admits he probably should have let the search angel initiate the relationship.

Paul: 20:59 Well I’m calling her and I’m just shaking, shaking, shaking, shaking. I call her in. It’s probably not the most ideal circumstances for the phone call. Cause you know, I’m at work, I’m in an airport, it’s noisy, jets are taken off. Anyway. I call her and I freak her out completely. And actually the first phone call went horrible. She goes, I can’t talk to you. And she was very curt and she says I can’t talk to you, it’s not a good time. And I was like, wow, that didn’t go well. So I said, well let’s make an appointment for me to call you at another time. So she agreed to that, so I was like, okay, all hope is not lost. Right? So I, I make the call again at the agreed upon time. It went a little bit better. But it’s a whole lot of silence. It just, it struck me as odd. But again, I hadn’t read, I hadn’t read Ann Fessler book, you know,

Damon: 21:52 The Girls Who Went Away.

Paul: 21:53 Exactly. So, I had no idea. I’m just trying to go off of what compassion I had, but I had no idea the struggles. Right? And what I learned later. A typical story, she went to, you know, she went to a home here in town and gave her parent a false, or the rest of her family, a false narrative. Only her parents knew. So she fell into that whole, You know, she fell in that whole narrative right there is everything like the, what the book describes is basically she went through.

Damon: 22:22 but she didn’t reveal that in the first call?

Paul: 22:26 No no no no,.

Damon: 22:26 You know, just know you guys are there and it’s pretty quiet and it sounds like it’s mostly you talking.

Paul: 22:32 yeah it was. That was the thing I noticed right away is I’m teasing the conversation out. I’m actually having to work to get her to. Yeah, I’m trying. I’m trying to force her to contribute. There’s just way too much idle, idle condensate or idleness. It just, I just felt like I’m, I’m having to pull every word out of her.

Damon: 22:50 He does his best. Paul explains that he wasn’t looking for anything from anyone, trying to set the tone for their relationship. The second phone call went a little better. His birth mother asked how he had been and they made small talk, but Paul said he left that conversation feeling a bit empty. They agreed to have another call and each call gets better than the last. She was still very reserved, but she started to open up. After enough calls between them, they agreed to meet in person. She actually lived right there in his town and Paul admits that while he learned her name, he snooped through her Facebook examining every picture of her. He found a high school yearbook photo of her at 18 years old and they looked a lot alike at that age. But the thing that freaked Paul out was his birth mother really looks a lot like his own daughter.

Paul: 23:40 We meet at this restaurant and I’m just a nervous wreck. I can’t there fast enough, I dunno, just giant ball of stress. I’m freaking out. I don’t know what to do. I stop and get her like a big bouquet of flowers. So I’m, sitting in the restaurant and I position myself in such a way that I can look at the front door and we’re just waiting. And I can’t just sit here and wait. So went out front on the front patio that the restaurant to wait for her to come in. So she finally pulls in and as soon as I see her turn off the street, I know it’s her, cause I seen her pictures. So I’m now, I’m like, I’m about to throw up, I’m literally about to get sick. So I see her, I let her get out of her car. I don’t run toward her. I didn’t, I didn’t know. I don’t know how to act. I didn’t want to scare her and I don’t want, you know, I didn’t want to, I dunno. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to seem overly jubilant and then I didn’t want to seem, I didn’t want to seem uncaring, you know, you just don’t know what to do. It’s kind of like going on a blind date. It really is. You really don’t know what to expect and you don’t exactly know what to do

Damon: 24:52 and you asked for it and now it’s here.

Paul: 24:54 That’s the other thing. I’m like, holy crap, it’s all real now. She was real sweet. She gave me a hug but it wasn’t, I was probably squeezing the guts out of her. It was a, it was a nice hug, but it just, it, that seemed reserved, everything about her I’m watching and noticing she’s keeping a barrier. So we hug, we sit down and we start, we do the introduction with my wife and all and we had the nice generalities. What, I didn’t want to do that first meet is I didn’t want to turn it into the Spanish inquisition. So, you know, I had a million questions to ask, but I just, you know, I didn’t want to sit there and, and turn it into an interrogation. I didn’t feel that was right. But you know, I have some basic questions but we kept it very general. What I took away from it was she was just, one, in absolute shock that I figured this out. Cause I apparently I was never supposed to figure this out.

Damon: 25:51 Okay. I need to go back for a sec to share something Paul told me earlier about his childhood. He shared that when he was a kid, there was an intense hatred from his adopted mother towards his father’s sister that Paul could never understand for himself. Meeting his birth mother helped explain everything.

Paul: 26:10 One of the biggest things when I first met her when she first spoke to me face to face is her voice. It hit me like a brick. It’s a voice I’ve always known, and this goes back to now the schism with my aunt and my mom. When my parents brought me back from wherever they picked me up at. When they brought me home, apparently I would never stop crying. I actually went three months nonstop, maybe longer, never stopped crying. But the one thing that, would happen, my aunt told me and one of my older cousins had told me when I was little, the only person that could get me to stop crying was my dad’s sister. Soon as I was in her arms, I would shut up. I would stop. And the reason, and here’s, here’s the reason why, this is why I’ve always known that voice. My, my birth mom’s voice is exactly identical to, at least to my ears, as my dad’s sister.

Damon: 27:09 Wow. So the voice you had heard in the womb was one that was replicated in your father’s sister. So her voice brought you comfort. That’s really unbelievable.

Paul: 27:22 There’s really no other explanation for it. And it, I didn’t realize this until I had met my birth mom, but apparently that’s the reason for the schism between my adopted mom and my dad’s sister is she just hated the fact that she couldn’t get me to stop, but my aunt, the moment I was placed in her arms, I would stop. So anyway, fast forward, back to the meeting my mom, um, that voice is, this is the voice I’ve always known as the voice I always wanted to hear. So when we get to the first meeting, um, get the lunch and we say our goodbyes, and then that’s when she actually gave me a real hug. That one, that one was a hug that felt right to me.

Damon: 28:10 From there, they met for lunch every other week and things were getting better. At the third lunch, Paul decided to ask about his birth father.

Paul: 28:18 Oh boy. Was that not the right thing to ask. But I had to know. No information. The first thing she tells me, well he’s passed away and I guess she figured that would be enough of it. So then I go, well here’s the deal, I want to know the origin story. And to me it seemed like she’s been rehearsing it cause she was so matter of fact about it. She told me it was, it was a date rape and she was very adamant about it and just, but not overly animated it just, it just seemed too clean and too natural. And I’m like, okay, well, you know, I didn’t walk in your shoes, I don’t know anything about your life. And I’m definitely not judging you. Okay. These things, these things do indeed do happen. So, you know, I don’t know what to believe at this point. I know you don’t know the person. Yeah.

Damon: 29:04 Yeah and then far be it for you to judge a situation you weren’t there for.

Paul: 29:07 Right. And so I, you know, I have no judgment on if that’s the case, I’m sorry that happened. But the way it came out just seems so cold and devoid of emotion. I don’t know if I was relaying something bad that happened to me and I think I’d have a little more emotion into it. So it just kind of stuck with me. I did. I said, okay. I went with that.

Damon: 29:25 Paul didn’t press her. All she told him was the man passed away in 2004. Everything was going okay between them until early 2017 when Paul was traveling for business.

Paul: 29:36 Then she sends me this, not even a phone call, she sends me a text because up to that point we were meeting for lunch and I was texting her, calling her everyday, you know, just idle Chit Chat. But at least it was something but.

Damon: 29:47 connecting. Yeah.

Paul: 29:49 Trying to, and what it seemed like to me though, it was like, you know, when you’re trying to date somebody and you just keep at it, but you’re not getting the, you’re not getting the cues that you think you want to move forward. It just seems like you’re still trying to hard.

Damon: 30:03 Right, right.

Paul: 30:04 So I’m going on, but at least she’s responding. And certainly in January of 17 I was on a business trip. I get this text from her and she said, how dare you talk to other people about the situation. And I, she was like, she basically just told me that, you know, go sit in my corner and go away.

Paul: 30:25 And it was a very angry text and I’m like, do I answer it? Do I not answer it? And I answered, I go, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. So I, that’s all I answered. And until she answered me back. But she was at a funeral and one of the persons at the funeral brought up the wake was the person I had talked to several months ago when I was trying to figure things out. She was at the, she was at the funeral and I guess at the wake she’s like, hey, does anybody know anything about a missing cousin? That’s all she said. But my mom picked up on that and then totally just put two and two together and just went off the deep end on it. So my advice to anybody who’s doing searching, if the, if you’re, if you’re using a confidential intermediary, do what she says don’t search when she tells you not to search.

Damon: 31:15 follow their advice.

Paul: 31:18 Although to be honest with you, in retrospect, I don’t think that would’ve made a difference. I think she was just looking for an out, I was biting my tongue cause I really, I got really, I got really ticked off at it and really hurt and I was like, I normally have a very sharp tongue, extremely sharp tongue and I don’t mind using it, but in this circumstance, you know, I don’t want to use it because I’m trying to again, create a relationship. But my first thought immediately was, you know, lady, it was just a matter of time was a ticking time bomb. I was already in the neighborhood. This is a short period of time. I was already on your block this is a short period of time before I got to your door. And so anyway, I basically got rejected by a text and I just left it alone at that.

Damon: 32:04 But of course the Facebook snooping continued. While he was still in contact with his birth mother, He learned that he had a half sister, but his mother asked him not to be in touch with her daughter because she is unstable and she would never forgive her own mother for this secret she bore about Paul her whole life, but after the rejection by his mother Paul’s there looking at his sister and they can’t know each other, they live in a small town and it turns out Paul and his sister have mutual friends. We’ll come back to that. So Paul starts getting some pretty close DNA matches on his paternal side and one of them has established a tree with people’s photos who resembled Paul. He feels emboldened to start asking questions. Through a series of messages, Paul connected with several family members, explained his quest to find his birth father who purportedly had been in the army and was a butcher. No one had any solid answers. However, one very kind aunt did tell Paul,

Paul: 33:01 It ain’t right that you’re out in the woods. Let’s see if we can do something.

Damon: 33:04 The woman’s grandfather had 12 siblings, so she starts asking their relatives who were still alive if they knew anything. A few months later, the aunt had located another relative whose son had been in the army and was a butcher. Paul’s having a hard time finding information on an exhaustive daily search through ancestor DNA and until he finally uncovered the man’s obituary and in it, a list of the man’s sons. Paul’s on a business trip in Tennessee when he locates his father’s sister’s child, his cousin, and the guy looks just like Paul.

Paul: 33:41 I’m looking at this guy’s picture and I go, holy crap. He looks just like me. I go sit. He must have, and he, he grew up here in town. He must be the doppelganger that everybody used to tell me that there was, you know, I go places, be the, hey, you were just, you were just here.

Damon: 33:55 Oh really? That’s really interesting.

Paul: 33:58 Uh, I go places and people say, Hey, you were just here. I’m like, no, I don’t even live on this side of town. And I know. And so I’m looking at him and I’m like, see there’s too much, there’s too much of resemblance. So I messaged him on Facebook and he comes back to me, quite curt, and he goes, I don’t even know who my dad is. And I’m like, what’s going on here? And he was very curt and didn’t want nothing to do with me. And I’m like, all right, but the resemblance is here and you are my birth dad’s sister’s kid.

Damon: 34:34 While the man doesn’t want to have anything to do with Paul, he knows he’s close in making a discovery. He continues trying to locate his brothers and he finally made contact.

Paul: 34:44 What was really unique about it is they had just taken DNA tests on, on Lark.

Damon: 34:50 Oh really? They didn’t do it for any, they were just like, Nah, let’s try it.

Paul: 34:54 Yeah, just on Lark. And the thing is they hadn’t got the results just yet. And uh, so you know, million questions go back and forth. Then the results come and they both pop up as half-brothers.

Damon: 35:07 Wow that’s lucky.

Paul: 35:07 It’s insane. It’s insane. So I’m going back to my half sister, I finally made contact with her. I just, I had enough. I said, I talked to some friends that are mutual friends and I asked about her demeanor in nature and they, they’re like, it was nothing like my mother told me. And so I went ahead and made contact and oh at first it was the coolest thing ever until the very next day after I met her, we met and like had lunch for a couple of hours. The very next day I met her and her husband for pizza and stuff and then we went back to their house.

Paul: 35:43 I didn’t realize that she was married to a psychopath. The guy actually shot at us.

Damon: 35:48 Really?

New Speaker: 35:49 Yeah. Well what it was is he was an abuser and her. These are all things she didn’t tell me about, but he had literally, and then I kind of noticed something weird on Facebook that all of a sudden my mom disappeared from her profile. It looks like there was some kind of disconnect there and I didn’t realize what it was. Well she wound up marrying this guy and this guy basically had done an extremely super job of separating her from her family and then I pop up

Damon: 36:12 Oh, broken through the wall.

Paul: 36:15 Yeah. And apparently I had to go cause I was a huge threat. I mean, but within three hours of me meeting him, he’s got a gun out and shooting at us, trying to bust us up.

Damon: 36:27 Paul figured out who his biological father was and he learned that his paternal roots are deep in the history of the West. He’s learned that his grandparents were fur traders in the west. Other family members were into Spanish battalion in New Orleans during the civil war. He actually had Spanish relatives who fought on both sides of the civil war fighting for the north and the south, unsure which way the war would go. Even on his maternal side, He was amazed to learn that his great, great grandfather was a buffalo soldier, a nickname given by native Americans to the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States army, which was an all black unit.

Paul: 37:05 That part was like super cool. I was like, wow. Not only was I, not only was he in the calvary, but he was a buffalo soldier. If you live out west, that’s, that’s a huge thing. I have all this history. So yeah, granted there was a disconnect with my mom and this rejection there, but I’ve picked up a whole constellation of cousins that I’m super close with, and then I’ve, I have all this history, so there’s wins. There’s literally absolutely wins with this situation.

Damon: 37:36 yeah. wow. That’s incredible, man. It must be really cool too, as a history buff, as you’ve said, to now have a connection back to every piece of, you know, American history, let alone your own personal history. That’s super cool.

Paul: 37:50 Yeah it is. That’s, that’s the part that, that’s the part that’s super satisfying for me. Yeah. So again, yeah, I’ve lost out on that part of it, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it in the first part with my mom. I still hold out, I still hold out hope. I’m here, I’ll pick up the phone anytime. That is not. I have, I have the rest of it and I’m actually, I got an identity now, which I didn’t have a real identity.

Damon: 38:18 That’s right. I’m glad for that, man. That’s really cool. Thank you so much, man, for taking time to share your story. This has been really fascinating and I love the fact, like I said, that you identified yourself as a history buff and then you were able to pull all of this interesting rich history and associated with yourself. That’s really fascinating.

Paul: 38:41 That’s the part that is just so fulfilling. It’s neat. I couldn’t ask for a better gift.

Damon: 38:46 That’s awesome. Thanks man. Take care. I appreciate the call. All right.

Paul: 38:49 Thank you very much, sir.

Damon: 38:50 Yeah, Paul, take care. All the best to you, man.

Paul: 38:52 All right, have a great day.

Damon: 38:53 You too. Bye. Bye.

Damon: 38:58 Hey, it’s me. Paul’s fascination with his history mixed with a disconnect with his personal heritage is a common feeling for adoptees. I remember when I discovered some of the DNA heritage on my African side and how it made me feel to finally understand my deeper connection to the story of African Americans in the history of this country and dating back to the slave trade. There’s just something about knowing more about who you are that makes you feel whole in a way that you could never have predicted. And the same is true for Paul. I was sorry to hear that his relationship with his mother deteriorated the way that it did, and I hope those who are searching out there will heed his words and stick with the advice of those who you’ve trusted to guide you on your search. They’ve done it before, they’ve seen a lot and have invaluable experience, and they want to see your reunion be successful in whatever form that takes.

Damon: 39:52 I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Paul’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 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 at 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.

Paul: 41:28 Damon I’ve got one question for you real quick.

New Speaker: 41:30 Sure.

New Speaker: 41:31 I know that you take support through patreon. Do you take support any other way than patreon? I just don’t want to sign up for another platform.

Damon: 41:38 I would take a paypal. I mean, if you’re interested, I’m whatever you want to do is fine with me.

Paul: 41:44 I believe I’m a big believer in value for value. Your show is just, if it’s ultra valuable, definitely passion for it. You’ve got such passion for it. And um, I think for this community it does a great service and I wouldn’t mind just contributing from time to time.

Damon: 42:00 Nah, I appreciate that man. That’s, that’s really kind of you. Uh, why don’t I shoot you a link to paypal and whenever you feel like it, you knock yourself out. That’s really kind of you.

Paul: 42:10 Well there’s another guy who runs a podcast and I think it’s a pretty cool model. A buck a show. That’s all I ask.

Damon: 42:16 That’s cool. That’s really great. Yeah, I love that.

Paul: 42:19 But what I’m saying, I believe if I get value from it, you should get some value from it.

Damon: 42:24 I’m, I’m of the same ilk. You know, I’ve got, I’ve got apps on my phone and you know, you can use them for free, but you know, I figured this person has put the time forth and the energy into creating this thing and I’m using it and I find value in it and I will, I will most often go back and contribute. So I’m, I’m glad to hear that you feel the same way.

Paul: 42:44 That’s exactly how I roll, so I appreciate that.

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