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081 – I’ve Got The World By The Tail

Sandee shared the story of her life with an adopted brother who was coddled by their mother, so much so, that it reinforced her own natural position as a Daddy’s girl. That favoritism forced Sandee’s independence from her mother, but also created a bit of a rift between them. Locating her birth mother happened very quickly once she was offered some search assistance. But when those same volunteers couldn’t find anything about her birth father, Sandee questioned whether her birth mother had been honest about her conception. Luckily, when the truth was finally revealed through DNA, Sandee’s life turned out to be proof of something her paternal half-sister already suspected.


Sandee: 00:02 I had told her that we had made contact and that we talked on the phone and by text. I can remember telling her that and saying, are you going to be okay with that? And she said, well, I don’t have a choice now do I? And I was like, Ooh, I guess I didn’t handle this very well. And she was not good with it. It hurt her, which I hate that it hurt her, but at the same time it really had nothing to do with her.

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 Sandee. She called me from Arkansas. Sandee shared the story of her life with an adopted brother who was coddled by their mother. So much so that it reinforced her own natural position as daddy’s girl. Locating her birth mother happened very quickly once she was offered some search assistance, but when those same volunteers couldn’t find anything about her birth father Sandee questioned whether her birth mother had been honest about her conception. Luckily, when the truth was finally revealed through DNA, Sandee’s life turned out to be proof of something her paternal half sister already suspected. This is Sandee’s journey. First, Fun fact about Sandee, Her world revolves around animals.

Sandee: 01:43 I have seven dogs and four cats, two non releasable raccoons, and right now I’m babysitting my brother’s bird.

Damon: 01:51 You might hear a few of those guys contributing in the background of this episode. Sandee told me she grew up with one brother who was also adopted. She said she could remember the day when she was about seven, her brother was about nine, and their parents called the children into their bedroom for a talk. When they revealed the kids were adopted, she really didn’t understand. They were just their parents’ kids.

Sandee: 02:15 Uh, I find it very annoying when, when the news stories, will talk about whatever celebrity and their adopted child. It’s not their adopted child, it’s just their child.

Damon: 02:24 Yeah that’s right.

Sandee: 02:24 It doesn’t matter if it’s adopted, it’s just their child.

Damon: 02:28 Sandee had a good upbringing with probably the same levels of dysfunction that many families have, no matter how they were formed.

Sandee: 02:36 I was daddy’s girl all the way, which is good because my brother was and, until my mom died, a Mama’s boy. Although it, it did make having a good relationship with my mom difficult.

Damon: 02:49 How so?

Sandee: 02:49 She was always there for him, always. Whatever he needed, whatever he wanted. But that didn’t leave her as available for me, which is why I went closer to my dad. My brother and I, we fought like cats and dogs our entire lives. And I, I can remember, you know, he used to, he used to bully me. He used to terrorize me. Um, cause both my parents worked. So after school, you know, I would find any after school activities so I didn’t have to go home until mom and dad got home from work. I can remember one time my mom saying to me, well, if he hit you, you must’ve been asking for it. And later in life I thought, yeah, that’s what you want to teach your daughter that you’re asking for it, if a guy hits you.

Damon: 03:46 That’s a horrible message.

Sandee: 03:46 Yeah. Yeah. But I don’t think my mom had ever been hit by a guy, so I don’t think she, she thought of it that way. And let’s face it, you know, my brother was the golden child in her eyes.

Damon: 04:01 Did her favoritism for him overshadow your father’s favoritism for you or your, you know what I mean? Like was hers so powerful that it was, you know, cast a shadow over your relationship with your dad at all? Do you know what I mean?

Sandee: 04:20 I know one time my mom asked my dad why he always took my side and he said, well, probably because you always take his side. So I think it, I think it turned out to be a balancing thing. But with my mom always being busy with my brother and always doing for my brother and having basically not a whole lot left for me, and this is not to say that she didn’t love me. She truly did. And I’ve talked about this with a friend of mine who was adopted because her mom had the same relationship with her brother. It’s not that we were stronger and didn’t need you as much, it’s that we didn’t get you as much, so we became stronger.

Damon: 05:08 Oh, that’s really interesting. Let me ask, you know, one of the classic things that I think of, you know, with a mother daughter relationship is when a young lady sort of comes of age, so to speak, there’s certain things that women need to talk about behind a closed door that dads are not going to be very good at. How were those discussions with your mom if you guys weren’t that close?

Sandee: 05:28 I remember we had them, once, but it was not comfortable and I can remember not having a clue what she was talking about when I left. You know when when the conversation was over,

Damon: 05:42 she was so uncomfortable that she didn’t really sort of bring you in and make you understand the content of the conversation?

Sandee: 05:49 Right. I learned it the old fashioned way, from my friends. You know we and that’s okay. That was far comfortable than than it would’ve been with mom.

Damon: 06:00 How was your father’s relationship with your brother?

Sandee: 06:04 Not very good. Not very good.

Damon: 06:06 In what ways?

Sandee: 06:08 I think my dad felt like mom’s priority was my brother over my Dad. Where two parents should have a unified front with their children, but I think she, he felt like mom would always choose Kevin instead of him

Damon: 06:31 in her twenties, Sandee’s father disclosed that when her parents adopted her brother, his wife told him that if he ever laid a hand on her son, she would leave him. Sandee thinks that comment stems from what her mother knew about the abuse her father received from his parents as a child. Her mother was setting the tone right off the bat. Her father also shared with her that when her mom was a teen, she became pregnant. Her mother went and lived with her sister and brother in law in Texas, had the baby and gave it up for adoption. Sandee believes that baby was a boy and her brother was somehow intended to replace the baby she gave up. Her mother never said a word about it, but little bits of information she learned from her mom, who had no idea she knew, seemed to fit. Sandee said her parents had a great marriage. She just thinks that her father gave in a lot to satisfy her mother’s desire to care for her brother, which she basically did until her death in 2015. Sandee and her brother are both adults, so I asked her what she meant when she said her mother cared for her adult brother. Sandee said her mother bought her brother his home, financed his business, bought his groceries, and paid his utility bills.

Sandee: 07:47 She never cut the apron strings.

Damon: 07:50 Wow.

Sandee: 07:52 And I had told her at one point, I was, my biggest fear was that when she was gone, he wouldn’t be able to take care of stuff. And he struggles now.

Damon: 08:05 Oh, he does? Which you predicted was correct.

Sandee: 08:08 Yes. That doesn’t make me happy though, you know? And now he comes to me and I, I don’t have any money to give him, you know, I will help him when I can with what I can, but I just flat out don’t have any money to give him.

Damon: 08:27 I heard you say earlier you used the words we fought like cats and dogs our whole lives and it sounded like you were talking about, you know, beyond your childhood. Is that true?

Sandee: 08:37 Oh yeah. Yes.

Damon: 08:40 In what way? Like what, what do you guys battle over?

Sandee: 08:44 You know, we are just completely, entirely different personalities. He’s not somebody I would be friends with, you know, if I met him somewhere else other than in my mother’s home. And because of his relationship with my mom, it still made things difficult because she still expected me to give into his wants, needs and demands. And I felt like they would team up against me later on in life.

Damon: 09:13 It’s fascinating how sometimes the bully ends up being the person who needs help from their victim. As is the case with Sandee and her brother. Sandee’s father passed away in 2009 I asked her how she felt when their family lost him. She said it was obviously heartbreaking, but his quality of life had been poor in his final years and he wasn’t a happy person. He had issues from his childhood that had never been dealt with and they made him bitter. He was bedridden near the end, but he didn’t do any of the things he needed to do to rehabilitate himself to recovery. He let himself go and it had been his choice,

Sandee: 09:51 so that was devastating. I can remember on the steps of the funeral home mom asking me if I was going to the dinner thing that a group was preparing for the family and I said, I, I don’t know. You know, my husband doesn’t want to go and she said something, well of course I know he doesn’t want to go. He doesn’t want to do anything with the family. I’m asking if you’re going to go, I mean, here we are on the funeral doorsteps and it’s like, whew, boy. Family dynamics sure changed fast. I knew they would change but didn’t have a clue how fast and that kind of put me under. I actually took way too much of my medicine and um, my husband and his sister ended up taking me to the doctor because I didn’t care anymore. I just, I didn’t care.

Damon: 11:01 You were ready to give up?

Sandee: 11:03 Yeah.

Damon: 11:04 Did you intentionally overdose?

Sandee: 11:07 Yeah. Yeah. I just, I didn’t want to feel anything. I didn’t want to feel angry. I didn’t want to feel hurt. I didn’t want to feel rejected because that’s what I felt from my mother and my brother. So yeah, I did. Fortunately, I did get the medical help I needed and that was the last major depressive episode I’ve ever had.

Damon: 11:37 Wow. Congrats. That’s really good.

Sandee: 11:40 Yeah. I have struggled with depression my entire life. Um, I think part of it is, like I said, that level of dysfunction that we had in our home, but I think the other part of it is it’s been hormonal. I’ve had hormone issues in the past and you know, I’d, I’d go to one doctor and, and we think we’d have it figured out, but then, you know, a few years later he didn’t test the one hormone that would have actually allowed me to be able to have children. Um, so I was never able to have children because it was too late by the time we found out that one hormone. But it also has such a huge progesterone has such a huge effect on the mind. So once I finally got that in line, I’ve done really well.

Damon: 12:35 Sandee said that at the time of her father’s death, she was a little bit off kilter in probably more volatile because her hormone therapy hadn’t been adjusted correctly yet. Her mother and brother just added fuel to her uncontrolled fire with her father, her main advocate in life gone, She felt attacked in a two against one. I asked Sandee about when she decided to search for her biological family. In 2011, the State of Illinois, where Sandee was born, opened their original birth certificates for adoptees to access. She sent her application immediately and told her mother about it because she wanted to be transparent. Her mother seemed okay with Sandee search and said she would be interested to know more about her daughter’s past. Sandee admitted she didn’t even know what she might do with the information when she got access to it and she told her mother that. When she received the records she got her birth mother’s name but couldn’t find any information about her on search engines or on ancestry and 2012 Sandee traveled to Illinois to stay with her girlfriend, also an adoptee.

Sandee: 13:41 So we decided, okay, we’re going to go downtown Chicago. We’re going to see what we can find out.

Damon: 13:47 They went into Chicago to try to locate the adoption agency, which she knew was closed but had a currently listed phone number. She had left endless messages to try to gain access to her information, but no one ever responded. Sandee and her girlfriend had three addresses for the agency. At the first, there was no building at the second address she learned there was only a voicemail box for the agency. The third was a brownstone building where she decided to leave a note

Sandee: 14:15 and my girlfriend was like, okay, which, which mailbox you’re going to put it in. I can remember one time I was on a registry site or something like that and I had gotten an email from somebody with the name Valentina in it and it basically said, you know things in the past should be left in the past and one of the names in that Brownstone was Valentine. That’s the mail slot that I stuck my note through.

Damon: 14:54 They went on about their day, had lunch, went to the aquarium and when the day was over they were driving back to the burbs. When Sandee’s phone rang and it was the person with the last name Valentine, the woman said she worked at the adoption agency which was also a maternity home when she was much younger. Sandee asked her questions about her early life like where she could have been between her birth and her parents adopting her, but she didn’t get any good answers. Sandee finally made it clear to the woman that she wanted her non identifying information, which they sent to her

Sandee: 15:28 and they sent me the non identifying information, which was actually less information than what my parents had received with my adoption. And there were only two pieces of information that I didn’t know. With the adoption paperwork, It, it gave like my birth parents nationalities, height, weight, hair color, complexion, eyes. I didn’t get any of that with the non ID and info.

Damon: 15:57 And your mom handed you these documents that were given to her when your journey?

Sandee: 16:02 no, no. Many, many years ago, I was kind of a snoop when I was a kid and in my late teens I stole the file out of my parents box that they kept in the back of their closet and I had hung onto it. Now when I,

Damon: 16:21 You kept it? You never replaced it?

Sandee: 16:22 No, I kept it. And then when I did get my original birth certificate and was able to tell my mom my birth mother’s name, um, she said, well, you know, we, we had a whole bunch of information, um, I’ll have to look for it. Oh, that’d be great, Mom. Daddy gave me a bunch of stuff, you know, years ago. Which she was not real happy about.

Damon: 16:50 When you in fact stole it.

Sandee: 16:52 Yes. Yeah. Didn’t get caught. And quite honestly my paperwork, it’s about me. They had no use for it.

Damon: 17:02 Her Mother didn’t even know Sandee had her records for more than 20 years. In those documents, She only learned that she was born in Chicago. But when Illinois provided her original birth certificate, Sandee learned the name of the hospital where she was born and its address. Before they left the city that day,

Sandee: 17:21 we went to that building, which was no longer a hospital, but I could still walk in and I could still touch the railing, which I’m positive was there when my birth mother went in there to give birth to me. And I can remember just sitting in there thinking, this is the closest I’ve ever been to my birth mother, even though it was, you know, 40 some years apart. I knew that she had been in that place at one time. It was a little, little overwhelming. A little bit. Cool. And then you sit and you imagine, you know, a young unmarried woman coming in, she’s had to leave her home to go live somewhere else to carry a child that she’s not going to be able to keep.

Damon: 18:10 what did that do for you as you stand there? What did that feel like?

Sandee: 18:14 You just wonder, you know, was it easy for her? Was she grateful that this was about over and she could go on with her life? Was it bittersweet? Was it just the most horrible thing ever because she was having to give up her child? So many different scenarios go through your head and you don’t know which one’s true.

Damon: 18:37 That’s the challenge. You end up creating scenarios in your head because as an adoptee you have no facts. So Sandee has now walked the halls of what used to be the hospital where she was born, a place her birth mother had definitely been. They also went to the hospital that held the transferred records for the old hospital where she was born. She applied for access to her records for herself, baby girl Douglas and for her birth mother. A few weeks later, Sandee received a letter stating that because she had been adopted, they were not able to provide her any information. She figured she would never be able to get any family medical history, so she went on with life. In 2014 Sandee found an adoption related page on Facebook. She posted some of her personal information, but she never heard from anyone. In late 2014 November or December, during that emotional holiday season, the administrator of the page instant messaged Sandee directly and referred her to search squad, a free search service for adoptees, birth parents and family genealogy information. New members to the search squad are screened before being accepted. So Sandee took time to submit herself for acceptance to the group. When she learned that she had been accepted, she took time at lunch to create a personal post and appeal for help from the squad.

Sandee: 19:57 I had a break from work so I, I filled out. I made my post saying, okay, this is who I am and this is where I’m from and this is the information I’m looking for. I think it was around 2:30 and by 5:30 they had found her.

Damon: 20:17 Wow. Really?

Sandee: 20:19 Yeah. They had name, address, phone number, um, divorce records, marriage records. The only other child she had had died nine or 10 months before that.

Damon: 20:39 Oh No.

Sandee: 20:41 Yeah, but it was her name being listed in the obituary and that gave me information that you know that, okay, so I don’t have this sister and there’s no other siblings listed, but she had three children, so I have a niece and two nephews.

Damon: 21:03 Sandee was excited. They had found her birth mother Lisa so quickly, but she wanted to be absolutely sure it was the same woman. So she asked her girlfriend to go to the courthouse in Chicago to see if she could get a copy of the marriage license for her birth mother. If the signature on the marriage license matched her birth certificate, Sandee would feel confident. They had found the woman, the marriage license didn’t have any signatures. Sandee decided she had to trust what the search squad had found. She said it took her three days to craft a letter to Lisa. She would write a bit and then step away, write a little more than go away again. She edited and changed things around. Then it took her three weeks to mail it. She sent her letter restricted so that it could only be signed for by Lisa. It was a way to prevent herself from outing her birth mother through an accidental discovery via the mail.

Sandee: 21:56 I mailed it on a Monday, um, was working Saturday morning and my phone rang and it was a Florida phone number, which is where my birth mother lives. And I picked up the phone and she said, is this Sandra? And I said, yes, it is. And she says, well, you are my baby girl.

Damon: 22:22 Oh my God. That’s awesome.

Sandee: 22:26 And we’ve, we’ve built a great friendship. We’ve built a great relationship.

Damon: 22:32 What else did she tell you in that first call?

Sandee: 22:35 She told me about my sister dying, um, which I already knew. She told me that she was married and that they had been married for a very long time. The fact is though that, and I, I asked her about this later on, she and her husband had divorced at one point and then they got remarried later on. Um, so I asked her about that.

Damon: 23:03 What were you asking her?

Sandee: 23:05 She asked me, you know, what questions I had and I said to her, I said, well, you know, the research I’ve done shows that you and your husband got divorced. And this was after she told me that they had been married for a very long time. So I’m trying to try to gauge is this person going to be honest with me and truthful. So when I said that she’s like, yeah, we, we did get divorced for awhile but then we ended up getting remarried.

Damon: 23:36 And that was validating for you that she was, she had come clean about that?

Sandee: 23:40 Yeah, there’ve been several things that I’ve questioned in my head. A lot of them, I let them slide, but there’s, there’s been a few things here and there. I don’t even remember what, but I do ask questions and I try to do it in a and non confrontational way. I don’t want to be, hey, you know, are you lying to me? You told me this, but now you’re saying this. What’s the truth? I don’t want to be that way. I would rather work it into conversation, try to get a better idea and not even let her know that I might’ve had a doubt.

Damon: 24:18 I asked Sandee about meeting her birth mother. She said that part of her work with animals is doing animal rescue transports nationwide and she’s been to 41 of the 50 states for work. As soon as she spoke with her birth mother by phone, she told her rescue mentor that she needed a trip to Florida. Her mentor happened to have purchased a vehicle in Florida for Sandee to use for animal transportation, so her mentor flew her down to pick it up. It turns out the van was only 15 miles from Lisa’s home. In June, 2015 Sandee flew to Florida. Lisa brought some of her friends to meet Sandee at the airport. Then they went back to her birth mother’s house,

Sandee: 25:01 spent the whole night talking. I think we finally went to bed at like four o’clock in the morning and I had only planned on making this a short and sweet trip. You know, I didn’t have a lot of time. I had to get back home. I have work and I think that was really a good way to go. You, you get to spend the time with each other. I get to see that my hands and feet looked like hers, that our eyes are the same and get to know each other, go through pictures. She had tons and tons of pictures. But before you can have time to get worn out by each other or offended by each other or disappointed in each other, get the heck out of there.

Damon: 25:44 Right. Let the fantasy be what it is in that first meeting.

Sandee: 25:48 Right, right. Don’t give it time to go bad. Just enjoy it. Um, so by 2:30 that afternoon, I was headed up to Georgia to pick up a dog to bring back to Arkansas.

Damon: 26:05 Wow. That’s unbelievable. So what was it like when you left?

Sandee: 26:10 It was okay. You know, I, I didn’t feel like I was leaving her forever. I felt like I’ve met the person that gave birth to me and I’m really grateful and she’s a super lady. I just, I knew that it was the beginning still the beginning of a relationship there. There was no negativity. There was no, nothing like that.

Damon: 26:38 That’s amazing. How was it for you to drive for hours and hours and hours after this, you know, huge moment in your life? Like what was it like to reminisce on that meeting alone in the car for hours?

Sandee: 26:54 I think, you know, your, your mind kind of plays tricks and you only see what’s good and what the child in you wants to see. And then there’s also the worry about your adoptive mom.

Damon: 27:13 Yeah. How was that?

Sandee: 27:16 I never told her that. I, that I met my birth mom.

Damon: 27:20 Did you leave her thinking that you were still searching or that you had maybe found info and just didn’t do anything?

Sandee: 27:27 I had told her that we had made contact and that we talked on the phone and by text. I can remember telling her that and saying, are you going to be okay with that? And she said, well, I don’t have a choice now do I? And I was like, Ooh, I guess I didn’t handle this very well. And she was not good with it. It hurt her, which I hate that it hurt her, but at the same time it really had nothing to do with her. Wasn’t about her. And at one point I had to say to her, look, if you have questions or if there’s something you want to know, by all means, ask me. But I won’t bring it up. And I think I only brought it up one time after that we were, we were having lunch with some of her friends and one of her friends made a comment about her stepson finding his real mom.

Sandee: 28:26 And I made the comment, well, you know, I’m adopted but this lady sitting right here, that’s my real mom. She’s the one that raised me. She’s the one that loves me. She’s the one that disciplined me. She’s the one that educated me. That’s what a real mom does. I’ve always made a distinction between biological and real.

Damon: 28:48 Yeah, I like that

Sandee: 28:50 and I also told my mom then in there that, yeah, I talked to Lisa on the phone. I said, but I don’t call her mom because it seems disloyal to you, and she did say that, that she appreciated that because she thought that would really hurt her.

Damon: 29:11 May I ask why? You said that you got the impression that you handled your situation and telling her wrong. Why did you feel like you handled it wrong when it was she who said basically, well, that’s up to me to be good with it, or whatever. Her words were like, it sounded like it was really on her. But it sounds like you owned her negative disposition on your search. Do you know what I mean?

Sandee: 29:38 Maybe I should have given her more information before, before I flat out. Oh Hey, by the way, I found her. Are you okay with that? Maybe it should have been, mom, I’m going to search for her and what can we do to make you more comfortable with this? Right. The reality is though, I don’t think anything would have made her more comfortable with it.

Damon: 30:03 Sandee went on to say that her adoptive mom, who very much favored her brother actually may have been a better parent to her because she forced some independence into her versus the overbearing nurturing that spoiled her brother. I asked Sandee how she and Lisa are doing now. She said that in 2017 she bought a house in Arkansas near her own that she’s renovating for Lisa to move into. Lisa’s only other child has passed away. Her grandchildren have moved away and everyone is doing their own thing, but she’s relatively alone in Florida.

Sandee: 30:37 I mean, she has friends, really good friends, people that love her, people that she loves, but she’ll say it’s, it’s just not the same as family and she’s still sad for all the years that she missed with me. And you know, I don’t have my mom and dad anymore, so I don’t have any, I don’t have any guilt bringing her up here. I don’t have to juggle loyalties and feelings. We can just have this part of our journey now.

Damon: 31:15 That’s amazing that she’s willing to uproot herself to come be near you having lost so much time. Did she, did she tell you about her thoughts about you over the years at all?

Sandee: 31:30 Oh, she said she would think about me, you know, around my birthday, which is just a week and a half before Christmas. So that was a difficult time for her and then it became more difficult because my sister died just a week before Christmas. Um, so it’s, we both feel like it was definitely a god thing that, that I found her when we did that, you know, my mom had cancer and was going to die, you know, that’s just how it was. Um, she didn’t have to be as sad right before Christmas because she lost her daughter because her daughter who was lost was now found.

Damon: 32:22 Thinking back on Sandee struggles with depression, I realized that this is a huge moment in her life. She’s in a place where she can be at her very best while building a deeper bond with Lisa right there in her own town. I told Sandee how cool I thought that was.

Sandee: 32:37 It is amazing. I feel like an entirely different person these last several years and even more so since, I’m sad to say since my mom died, but I don’t have to try to be who anybody else wants me to be, who anybody thinks I’m supposed to be. I can just be who I am and I’ve got this really great life. I have a job that I love. I do what I love. I have this great husband who is not the animal addict that I am, but tolerates my house full and not only tolerate some, but doesn’t have a problem with me running off to do this rescue, that rescue the other rescue. He stays home and takes care of them while I’m gone sometimes up to a week. I’ve got great friends that are so much more than friends, their family. I’ve got the world by the tail. Yeah, I can be sad about something, but it doesn’t put me into a tailspin anymore.

Damon: 33:34 Wow, that’s fantastic. I love hearing that. Sandee learned from Lisa that her birth father’s name was Chip. Lisa and Chip had a six year relationship. Sandee searched far and wide for information about Chip and even a search squad couldn’t find this guy. Sandee thought perhaps Lisa may have been dishonest about who her birth father was. She submitted an ancestry DNA test and learned she was part Polish, but loading her raw DNA into my heritage brought back a drastically different result. So she returned to ancestry. The whole thing was confusing. So she recruited the assistance of DNA detectives to help sort things out. They decided to focus on her closest DNA match with 1,800 centimorgans in common after eliminating the possibilities that the person could be a grandmother, aunt or niece.

Sandee: 34:26 Turns out this person is my half sister on my father’s side and as it turns out, her father was not the man that my birth mother said was my father.

Damon: 34:41 Oh. So you find this match, you learn that it’s a half sister and you’re expecting her father’s name to be one name. And in fact it’s a totally different dude.

Sandee: 34:51 That’s right.

Damon: 34:53 Whoo. Hmm. I know that story that happened to me too. Go ahead.

Sandee: 34:59 I made a post on Facebook. I just said, wow. Oh my gosh, this is amazing. And I let it go. So my birth mom calls me what she’s like, what? Tell me what. And I told her, I said, well, you know, I found a half sister, but Chip is not her father. She said, it’s not well, who’s her father? And I’m like, well, do you remember Curtis? And she remembered Curtis and she remembered having a one night stand with him about nine months before the end of her relationship with Chip because she thought I belonged to Chip, Chip wanted me to be aborted. She said, no. It turns out the whole time Curtis was my dad. And the thing is Curtis, he was married at the time of this one nightstand and he stayed married to his wife until his death in 2007. So I was very hesitant about contacting this half sister.

Sandee: 36:03 I didn’t know her relationship with her dad. I didn’t know what her dad was like. I didn’t want to send her a message saying, Hey, guess what? We’re half siblings and that means that your dad messed around on your mom. So I made the decision not to reach out. And about three weeks later I got a message from my half sister. Saying, okay, you’re my top match. I can’t figure out where you fit in. This is my mom’s information. This is my dad’s information. Do you have any thoughts? So I sent her back a message and I said, yeah, I figured this out a few weeks ago, but was hesitant to contact you. I didn’t know if I’d be rocking your world, but you’re my half sister. My biological father is blah, blah, blah. So we’ve been emailing back and forth since then. She’s been fabulous. There’s also a half brother.

Sandee: 37:06 So I’ve only done one email with him. Um, we were actually going to meet, I was going to be up in Illinois a couple of weeks ago and we were going to meet, but the weather was gonna be really, really bad. So, so we didn’t get to meet, but I’m like, you know what, we’ve got time. Spring will be here when it gets here and I know I’ll be making more trips to Illinois.

Damon: 37:30 Wow. Well I wish you luck. I mean, I’m glad. Huh. So how did she take the news that you were the product of an affair of her father’s?

Sandee: 37:40 She said that she had suspected that dad had not been completely faithful like 25 or 30 years ago. She said her mom also had a dream like a year before her mom died and woke up crying and said that in her dream, her, her husband, Curtis had cheated on her and she denied then that he had ever cheated on her. But sometime between then and her death, she did admit that he had cheated on her during their marriage. So my sister was, she was surprised, surprised and shocked. But, but not

Damon: 38:20 surprised that what she already knew was real, you know?

Sandee: 38:24 yeah. And she even asked me at one point, she says, well, have you, you know, uploaded your DNA to any of the other sites? She’s like, you know, I’m under the impression, you know, that wasn’t dads only in discretion so there could be other siblings out there.

Damon: 38:41 Sandee said her DNA is on Jed match and FTDNA, but no one other than a cousin has matched with her. She said her half sister has been great, totally welcoming and they’ve exchanged pictures and her DNA journey has been clarifying because neither she nor Lisa knew what their heritage really was. The adoption paperwork said she was German, Scottish and English, but all of that was alien to Lisa who is also an adoptee. Sandee learned that she is Lithuanian, among other things,

Sandee: 39:14 DNA. It, it verified that that Lisa is my birth mother. Not that we needed verification. Um, but it verified that and it also, um, it gave me a clue of where we’re from, which is huge. You know, you grow up in, kids are saying, well, what nationality are you? So I’d always say I’m German because I grew up in a family with a very German last name.

Damon: 39:43 That’s fantastic. You got some of those, some of that closure and some of those answers. That’s really unbelievable.

Sandee: 39:48 Yeah. The medical part of it’s been amazing because my birth mother has had bladder cancer. My birth father had bladder cancer. To the point he had to have his bladder removed and come to find out the number one cause of it is smoking and I’m a smoker trying to quit now because now I know.

Damon: 40:09 Yeah. Now you know what to target, how to change your own behavior in order to make things right.

Sandee: 40:13 right. I have tremors, my hands and my head shake and I thought it was because of a chemical that I used to have to use in the vet industry. It was either that or drug abuse from my twenties well, come to find out it’s a genetic condition and it can be treated. I mean, the first visit I had with my birth mom that next day I sat down and my head’s bobbing around in the morning and she says, well, I’ve got to tell you, you have tremors and this is what it is and this is how you treat it.

Damon: 40:50 There you go. Now you know, unreal.

Sandee: 40:53 Exactly.

Damon: 40:54 Very cool. Sandee, thank you so much for sharing your story. I love hearing that you were able to connect with her and that she called you and said you are my baby girl. That’s just, those are the kinds of things that you want to hear and and I’m really glad that you guys made it a meaningful connection that’s going to lead to you guys moving in near each other. That’s awesome.

Sandee: 41:12 Like I said, I am the most blessed girl on the planet because so many people don’t get this and my heart aches for them. It’s, it almost makes you feel guilty because I’ve got it so good with my birth family and so many people don’t.

Damon: 41:26 That’s right. Good for you, Sandee. I’m so happy for you. I’m glad that things have turned out the way that they did and you’re on a healthy track. That’s really awesome.

Sandee: 41:36 Yeah, yeah. Lik I said got the world by the tail.

Damon: 41:38 I love it, all the best. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Take care. Okay?

Sandee: 41:43 thank you, Damon. You have a great day.

Damon: 41:45 You do the same. All right. Bye. Bye.

Sandee: 41:47 Bye. Bye.

Damon: 41:52 Hey, it’s me. It’s always fascinating to me to hear a guest say they feel their adoption or in this case, Sandee’s brother’s adoption was intended to help fill a gap or heal a wound in an adoptive parents life. It has to be a hard set of emotions for an adoptive parent to wade through in order to adopt a child for the right reasons, but that’s important work that has to be done by an adoptive parent before trying to replace a child or heal from a trauma by adopting. I thought it was amazing that Lisa was willing to uproot herself from Florida to move to Arkansas to be near Sandee. It’s going to be really special for them to start their own story together going forward. It was also pretty lucky that Sandee’s paternal half sister reacted as positively as she did to Sandee’s emergence. Sometimes siblings just are not interested in knowing an adoptee who self identifies to their first family, but Sandee was fortunate and I’m really happy for her for that.

Damon: 42:51 I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Sandee’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.

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