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134 – Destined To Be Unique

Liz, from Michigan, grew up in a neighborhood full of adoptees, so it wasn’t until years later in the Dominican Republic teaching a class with a lot of adoptees in it that her own adoption sunk in. After finding her natural mother through an intermediary they reunited during a sleepover in a hotel room where they stayed up all night. Their bond solidified when Liz’s daughter was born bringing them closer as they marveled at the next generation of their family before them. After more than a decade in reunion, Liz played an emotional farewell to her mother on her viola to say goodbye. This is Liz’s journey.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Liz (00:02): I was devastated. It was, I mean, I immediately just burst into tears and was like, no, I can’t, I can’t lose her. It’s too soon. You know, I ha I haven’t had enough time. So that was the hardest. And I, I still like when anything happens, she’s one of the first people I want to pick up the phone and call and I can’t,

Speaker 2 (00:31): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:42): 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 Liz from Michigan. She grew up in a neighborhood full of adoptees. So it wasn’t until years later in the Dominican Republic, teaching a class with a lot of adoptees in it that her own adoption sunk in. After finding her natural mother through an intermediary, they reunited during a sleepover in a hotel room where they stayed up all night. Their bond solidified when Liz’s daughter was born, bringing them closer as they marveled at the next generation of their family before them, after more than a decade in reunion, Liz played an emotional farewell to her natural mother on her Viola to say goodbye. This is Liz’s journey. Liz was adopted at two months old. She grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her older brother, also adopted when Liz was five years old, her little brother was born a surprise sibling in the family. She said her best friend next door was also adopted in a similar family structure to adoptees and one biological child. Her father’s best friend’s family also had the same two, one split of adoptees to natural children. And there were a bunch of adoptees in the neighborhood she grew up in so much. So that adoption was fairly normalized for Liz to the point that for her, you were a standout. If you weren’t adopted, she didn’t grow up feeling that adoption was strange that she had been rejected or that she was abandoned.

Liz (02:22): But I thought about it a lot. It was always there in my mind. Like it was just something that came up a lot in my thinking, and I don’t necessarily know why it, or remember exactly what I was thinking about, but it was just always part of my, I don’t know, it’s him into my thoughts. Anyway.

Damon (02:40): Can you remember what it felt like when it came into your thoughts? Like what did it, what would your thoughts be there?

Liz (02:46): I think it was just more like, Hmm. I wonder, I wonder what she’s doing. I wonder where she is. And I was thinking of my mother and I didn’t really think about whether I had brothers and sisters and some reason it wasn’t until I was probably 22 that I thought, you know, when I have a father somewhere, I guess it just didn’t even occur to me. I don’t know why. And so I didn’t feel bad. I was just more curious and I wondered where she was and if she lived in grand Rapids, cause that’s where I assumed they were from was grand Rapids. So basically it was that I was just thinking about it now though, the one other thing, I don’t know, my mom would give me little bits of information. Like, Oh, your father was a barber or I can’t remember what some of the other things she said were, but I presumably she had seen that in my adoption papers.

Liz (03:40): The one thing that growing up that really bothered me, so I’ve always struggled with my weight. It’s always been an issue and my mom would say to me, well, you know, your mother was overweight, so I’m sure that’s why you are. Or if something happened that I did, or my brother did, or whatever, well that you probably got that from your biological parents. And it seemed like there was this little negative, like this propensity of hers to put anything negative on my biological family, like our behaviors or our choices or whatever couldn’t possibly have been influenced by them. So that was kind of, that’s always kind of been the one big thing. That’s really bothered me about this. You know, Phil, even today, sometimes she’ll bring things up like that and I’m like, no way. You’re not still saying that. Wow.

Damon (04:32): It’s funny. Cause I can imagine that it’s, it’s twofold for a parent. I would imagine. So I’m thinking I’m trying to play, put myself in her shoes. So I don’t know if you know that I’m an adoptee and an adoptive parent and I have biological, right. So I’ve lived multiple pieces of this. And even with my own biological son, I’ll say to my wife, well, he didn’t get that from me, you know?

Liz (04:59): Yes. We do the same thing, my husband and I do the same thing. He’s blaming everything on his side of the family. Exactly.

Damon (05:05): Right, right. But, but, but for an adoptee, I could see how it is a little bit offensive too. Especially in the instances where it’s only the quote unquote negative things.

Liz (05:17): Exactly. There was nothing positive. Like I played the Viola and I played very well. It wasn’t like, Oh, I wonder if your family had musical talent, you know, it was always the negative. And so, yeah, that has always bothered me and my, my older brother had some drug addiction problems when he got into high school and college. And that was always blamed on his parents as well. Even though when I read his adoption papers, it said that they were college students and you know, it was just, they weren’t together anymore. And so that’s why he was given up and I’m thinking, well, they didn’t sound like drug addicts to me, but you know, who knows? So it’s, I don’t know. It’s just one, those things that, that was kind of the biggest thing. But I would say overall, my parents never made me feel different or other than their child. They got frustrated when I didn’t like the same things that they did. I didn’t want to do some of the same things. And I think that was kind of the biggest issue growing up is I have very different ways of thinking and I dunno, interests and whatnot. And they got frustrated with that. And when I met my biological family, then I was like, Oh, okay. That’s where all that came from. So it’s very much a lovely study in nature. Nurture

Damon (06:38): Liz said one notable difference between herself and her parents is their more formal way of planning life activities versus her more free-flowing nature. They’re really social people, but they have social norms that require structure and organization. She didn’t just have a random friend over for dinner on a school night, for example, that kind of spontaneity didn’t sit well with them.

Liz (07:01): Whereas I’m much more spur of the moment and I’m like, yeah, let’s go do it. No, come on over. I have a whole bunch of people living in my house right now and I’m always open to, if somebody needs to stay here or whatnot, that’s fine. It’s no big deal to me. And my parents were never like that. And when I met my biological family, that’s exactly how they are. They are super open. They’re welcoming. They’re not that my parents weren’t welcoming, but there were very specific expectations I guess, is what it was. And I’m so much more rigid in some other ways of living and thinking. Whereas I’m a little bit more relaxed about life. And I have my, obviously my things that I like to do and, and expectations about where things should be in my house, but I’m much more flexible. I guess that’s the word I’m looking for is I’m, I’m a lot more flexible. And my biological family has always been very flexible, very welcoming to people. And even if things are not great, you know, that they still love you and you know, they might have some judgment, but they kind of keep to themselves and say, well, I love you anyway, and let’s move on. Whereas I didn’t always feel that from my adoptive family

Damon (08:13): After college, Liz went to the Dominican Republic for a few years, working in a school when she got back. Eventually her young family made their way back to Michigan when Liz’s daughter was born. But she said that it was in the Dominican Republic where ideas about her biological mother popped into her head. It was there. She met her husband in a small mountain town every night. They would go down by the Riverside, sit and talk about everything. She said, adoption started coming up more and more.

Liz (08:45): Plus the school that I worked for was a school for American kids with behavior issues. And their parents had sent them there as kind of like a bootcamp kind of school. And there were so many adopted kids there and it just started got it, got me thinking, wow, I can’t believe how many adopted kids are here. And my brother had just come out of rehab shortly before that. And so some of those issues relating to adoption and I had heard, you know, kids who were adopted had a greater chance of this and that, you know, maybe drug issues or behavior issues or even suicide. So I think it just started becoming more present in my mind. And I don’t remember the night exactly, but I know there was a night where it popped into my mind, like, wow, I cannot imagine ever having a child and never knowing what happened to her or him and I didn’t have kids or anything, but I just thought this woman must be wondering what happened to her child. You know, I, it just, I kind of figured that must be the case. And I’ve heard other people say that over the year. So it must be, I think you’re right. Mostly women have said it. And maybe it’s when you start getting around childbearing age and such, it just starts to think, wow, I can’t imagine giving a child up and never knowing what happened to him or her. And so when I came home from the Dominican, then it was 91. And I started thinking, I need to find my family

Damon (10:18): At that time. The laws in Michigan allowed adoptees to apply, to receive the names of birth parents and any available information. But if the birth parent had not added their own name to the state adoption registry, granting permission to re identify them, the adoptee would only receive non identifying information. At 23 years old, Liz started to complete the paperwork, but then some big life stuff happened. She was planning her wedding to the man. She dated by the Riverside, in the Dominican Republic. And some family issues arose that required her attention. Initiating the search had to wait in 1995, Liz’s mother read an article about Michigan’s reunion laws changing to allow an intermediary to support the identification of birth parents. If they had not submitted themselves to reunion registries, Liz was in a different place in her life. So she wrote in to child and family services sent the required fee and requested an intermediary to take her case. Her mind began to wander to what a reunion might look like. How would she manage having two families, one adopted and one biological. She said she didn’t have any experience balancing separate family units. Kind of like how a child of divorce might have to navigate their parents separate lives. Since her mom brought the updated information about the Michigan law to Liz, her mom was very open to talking with her about her reunion attempt.

Liz (11:49): So I’ve heard because I’ve heard so many people who have said, I couldn’t tell my adoptive, or I waited until they passed away or whatnot. And so that was a huge difference is that my mom was, even though, you know, she loved to blame the bad things in my biological family. She was all for supporting me, I’m looking for them. So I was very grateful for that.

Damon (12:06): How did that sit with you that she was, there was this juxtaposition between accepting all of the things that she hoped came from her nurturing and then things being relatively negative that she associated with you finding these folks and then like being completely open to you, finding these folks.

Liz (12:23): Right. I think sometimes her thought process doesn’t really connect that as well. I think she has this, I had this idea that this would be some poor woman who I dunno, just lived a rough life and that would, I don’t, I don’t know what she thought about what our relationship was going to be, but yeah, I, I’m not sure. I don’t really know how to answer that one because it was, I didn’t really think about, I didn’t connect that at the time, but I do know that there have always been things that since meeting my biological mother, I, I don’t share with my mom, you know, I’ve shared a lot of parts with her, but things where I know she would be critical and she was up Nancy, that confirms my thoughts, you know? And so I, I’ve never been able to be totally open and honest with my adopted mom and that’s with anything in my life that not just this, because she’s very judgmental and critical about a lot of things. She can be very loving on one hand, but she has very certain expectations and she’s not flexible.

Damon (13:27): Yeah. I can understand that. That makes a lot of sense. So how did, how did the intermediary, what happened next with him with this person?

Liz (13:34): So that was probably August of 2005. And then I waited and when I went to look, so remember I said, my next door neighbors had adopted kids as well. And the my best friend’s older sister heard that I was looking and she wanted to look as well. So she sent her stuff off as well, right around the same time I did. And then I heard in December that they had found her biological mother. So I was like, Oh, okay, well, I wasn’t sure why it was taking longer for mine, but whatnot. I just kind of went on and one day I was at work and the agency called and said, we have found her and she would like to see you. So, you know, we did the back and forth paperwork and then they said, okay, we’ll have her call you. So I, at that point I was like, Oh, wow, this is really real. You know, this is really happening.

Damon (14:29): Take me to that moment at work. If you don’t mind, you got this call, I’m sure it wasn’t something you were expecting to receive on this particular day. Like, just describe how you how did, how was it you look at the phone, you answer w how, how did it go?

Liz (14:41): Okay. So I ha I, I struggle with remembering details. I always have in my life, so I can’t tell you exactly, but I remember just being so shocked and I worked in this little office with a whole bunch of women, and they all knew that I was looking and I was kind of waiting. We talked about it and such. And so when it happened, I just remember being super like overwhelmed and, Oh my gosh, this is happening. You know, it was just, it was a mixture of excitement and fear, you know, for, for what it would be like. And it was probably about three days later then when she finally called and I was on my way out the door to work when the phone rang. And so I answered, you know, and this is the day, this is in the days before cell phones and whatnot.

Liz (15:33): I didn’t have caller ID or anything like that. So I remember answering, and it was her and she was just like, you know, this is Joan and are you Liz? And I said, yes. And she just bursts into tears and starts crying and says, I’m so sorry. Do you hate me? Do you hate me? And I remember being so shocked because I thought, why would I hate you? I mean, that had never in a million years occurred to me. And it wasn’t until I met more adoptees later in different settings that I understood that people really struggled over the years being adoptees, because, you know, like I said, as I grown up, it was super normal for me. So no, I’m not going to hate her. So I said, no, of course I don’t hate you. And so we had like maybe a 40 minute talk, 45 minutes, something like that.

Liz (16:21): And we decided to meet, she was living in Michigan. I was in Indiana. I was in Bloomington Indiana. So we decided to meet about halfway in Fort Wayne. Even when I hung up though, then I was like, I just remember feeling so overwhelmed. And I went to work. I don’t think I got anything done that day. I called my parents and I said, Hey, I talked to her. And even though my mom was very helpful at that moment, I think it was very hard for her. Like, Oh, this is real. And my dad was super quiet in the end. My mom told me it bothered him a lot more than it bothered her, which I found super interesting. Cause it just being my mother. I don’t know why. I would’ve thought if I said my birth father, then that would have bothered him, but I don’t know. It just seemed to bother him a lot, I guess. And like I said, I hadn’t talked to him really about it much. I mean that he was never really part of that conversation over the years.

Damon (17:17): That’s really interesting. It sounds like then he wasn’t part of it because it was bothering him already.

Liz (17:23): Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t think about it that way, but I think you’re right. He just always, he adopted us, he thought o.f us as his kids treated us as such. And

Damon (17:33): Yeah. And if, if you know, you’ve spoken to your mom and said, this is a thought that you’re having, if she conveyed that to him, then he probably, he it’s possible that he exited right there. You know, that, that pillow talk between them. He may have, may have checked out of the thing. Well, before you even had a chance to be open about it, I dunno. Wow. Liz admits she dragged her feet for about three weeks before their reunion. At the time Liz was kind of broke. So when Joan called to see if Liz had made hotel arrangements, she was racking her brain to try to piece together and fund their reunion. About three weeks later, Liz and Joan got a hotel room together. All of her friends and family thought she was nuts for staying in the same room with a woman. She didn’t even know,

Liz (18:23): But I don’t know really why I was dragging my feet, except that it just, it was scary. You know, it was intimidating to think about actually having the meeting.

Damon (18:31): Yeah. I can imagine. Wow. That must have been surreal to, can you tell me about, do you remember anything about your approach to the hotel, your checking in you’re seeing her for the first time. Can you tell me anything about that? You remember?

Liz (18:45): Yes. For sure. That I definitely remember that is not gone from my mind ever. So I, I was really, really anxious and I don’t tend to be somebody who gets super worried and anxious about things and physically affected by that. But I was sick like the whole two days before that just, you know, yeah. It was, it was tough. And I just remember feeling really like awful. My stomach was in knots and whatnot. And even though I wanted this to happen, I was so nervous. And so I got to the hotel first and I can’t remember how long I was there, but it wasn’t super long. And then she showed up and she knocked on the door and we hugged, immediately looked at each other for like two seconds. And then she’s like, and she’s like, Oh my gosh, you’re beautiful. And then she says, I got to go out and get my stuff.

Liz (19:42): And then she kind of like ran out to go get her things. And I think it was kind of her way of dealing with that moment as well. And I just remember standing there in the room and kind of taking a breath and thinking, okay, wow, this is really happening. And she came back in and then, and things seemed a little bit calmer at that point. And we had both brought lots of pictures. I brought my baby book, but my mom had done, my mom worked really hard on a baby book for me. So I majorly appreciate that now, you know, years and years later, it’s been amazing to have. And so we immediately just sat down and started talking

Damon (20:24): In jones’ artifacts. Liz saw pictures of her sister two years younger and two brothers five and 10 years younger, respectively, Liz shared pictures of herself growing up. And the women were able to truly break the ice, staying up all night, talking and looking at pictures. It had been 28 years since Liz’s birth. So they tried their best to share bits and pieces of their decades apart. I inquired about that moment. Many of us have in the face-to-face meeting, wondering if Liz remembers staring at Joan looking for pieces of herself.

Liz (21:00): Oh, for sure. Yes. And so, okay. I, I forgot to tell you that. So growing up, that was the one big thing. And I’ve heard this from other people as well. I thought it was only me, but since it’s been confirmed, I’m like, okay, that’s super common. I didn’t look like anybody in my family. And I really, really wanted to look like her. And then I saw her and I was like, yeah, I don’t look like her. We, we are built exactly alike. So I knew that she was my mother because we had the same legs. And we had the same hair and different things like that, but I didn’t really feel like her face looked like mine. My siblings are half Puerto Rican, so they really don’t look like me. They all have dark hair and I’m blonde and very pale. And I was like, just start it all these times. You know, all these years I’ve been waiting to look like somebody and I still don’t look

Damon (21:54): The one box I wanted to check.

Liz (21:58): Yes, exactly. So yes I did. I did look at that for sure.

Damon (22:02): Yeah. I can imagine. So you stayed up probably all night, huh?

Liz (22:07): Yeah. Probably till three or four in the morning.

Damon (22:09): Oh my gosh. That’s unbelievable. How was it the next day when you woke up and there she is.

Liz (22:15): So it was good. It was. So there were two things that she said that evening that, and I don’t know if I said anything, like she never has said anything since, like, I can’t believe you said that, but there were two things that she said the night before that were kind of awkward. The first was, and I don’t remember what the context was or why she said it, but just talking about having to leave me, I guess I think it was, Oh, I know, because remember I said I was adopted after two months, she had been trying to find a way to keep me her parents would not let her bring me home. She was 21 years old when I was born. And that surprised me a lot because I assumed all people who gave up kids were 16, 17, something like that.

Liz (23:01): And I was like 21, but you know, back in 1967, they didn’t have the social services available like they do now. And so she was talking about how she was trying to move in with some, well, one, she had called my birth father and asked if she was going to ask if he would marry her. But he had already married the mother of my half sister who’s nine months older than I am. And so then she was trying to find some friends with him she could live and that didn’t work out. And so finally, two months later she had to sign the papers and it was devastating. And she said, if I could have had an abortion, it would have been so much easier. I remember looking at her thinking, Oh, okay. Thanks. And I just, it just really kind of surprised me that she said that. And so the next morning she said, I’m so sorry. I said that I should not have said that. That was really blunt, but I mean, as I, as the years have passed, I understand why she said that. Just because it was so incredibly hard for her, you know, I didn’t, I, it wasn’t until even years and years later, like maybe eight, nine years ago that I really understood her trauma that she went through. It was kind of all about me at that point. So yeah.

Damon (24:18): Yeah. I could see how a comment like that might fly. And it doesn’t sound like she was saying it from a space of emotion, as much as tactic, like execution, right. Level of effort. I spent two months trying to work this deal almost to, you know, bring you home. And if I was to work this thing a different way, like I could have cut right to the chase, it sounds like it was very, very

Liz (24:48): Well because she wanted to keep me so bad. And it was so painful over all those years. And that just, again, I didn’t really Dawn on me until I read the girls who went away and all of a sudden it slapped me in the face. And that was in 2011. I think when I read that or 2010, something like that. And I went, Oh my gosh, I cannot believe all these years. I’ve been so self centered in my thoughts in terms of the adoption. And I didn’t really, even though I had that thought years ago, like, I can’t imagine what it would be like the minute I met her, then all of a sudden it was just kind of all about me. I don’t know why. Yeah. So I guess just maturity, you just learn and grow and go, Oh wow. That must’ve been really horrible for her. Yeah.

Damon (25:32): Yeah. And I mean, oftentimes it takes something it’s, it’s not always easy to empathize with someone’s position right off the bat. Right. And especially something as traumatic as adoption and relinquishment where you know, a person has given away another person that they’ve created in this world. Like, that’s a really hard thing to empathize with someone else over. Especially as you don’t know, if you don’t know the layers of what they went through or whatever the family discussion was, whatever the environment was, as you’ve said in the sixties, you know, there’s all of these other components to it that you just can’t even calculate. So it’s hard to make it about them when you’re the only one that has lived your piece also, you know what I’m saying? It’s yeah. It’s very challenging to, to break out and, and empathize. But I’m looking at the book, the girls who went away right here on my shelf, I will hold that forever because of you’re right. It was so eye opening to,

Liz (26:29): Yeah, it has changed my life. Oh my gosh. I knew she’d been sent away to a home, but I just thought, Oh, okay, well that’s too bad. You know, I didn’t really understand that whole process and the results of what happened. All those women, Joan

Damon (26:45): Told Liz the story of her conception. She said, she grew up next door to Liz’s birth father, but their parents didn’t get along at all so much so that when Joan got pregnant, she refused to divulge the father’s identity because their families despised one another so much. Anyway, the young man had grown up with Joan, moved away, then came back one year where they reconnected at a new year’s Eve party. They started dating. Then Joan found out she was pregnant in March of 1967. Unfortunately, Joan also found out that the young man had gone back to dating the young lady he was seeing before they reconnected a woman who was also pregnant with his child a half sister, nine months older than Liz.

Liz (27:34): And so she never told him that she was pregnant. She, he did not know anything about me. But when she found out that he had gotten married, that was, she’s like, Oh, okay. I can’t, I can’t do this alone. But my, my maternal grandfather was also quite a bad alcoholic. It sounds like. And did, I don’t know, just wouldn’t was not supportive of her at all, bringing me home. And her mother went along with that. So there was just really no choice there.

Damon (28:08): Going back to the visit in the hotel room, you said there were two awkward things that she said,

Liz (28:15): Oh, right. Yeah, it was, it had to do with just how I was conceived. Like she, she just made some comment about my birth father and how she’d always loved him. And so she’s like, it’s not like you were a one night stand or anything. And then the next morning she was like, I don’t know why I even told you about that. I mean, it wasn’t anything bad. I mean, it was, it was just her trying to say, you know, I, you were not just some fling, you know they, they ended up not lasting, but it was for her, it was, I think, more meaningful than for him. He was obviously a bit of a player. So I don’t know. It just was one of those things that just sort of came out and then she apologized for it the next day. And I’m like, well, that’s okay. You know? I’m not super sensitive. Typically the, the abortion one, I think surprised me more than that. I, I was like, okay, whatever. But those were the two things the next day where we woke up and she was like, I don’t know why I said those things to you, but it wasn’t anything that put a damper on the visit or that I was upset about nothing like that.

Damon (29:23): The next day the women got up and had breakfast together. Coincidentally, it was Liz’s brother’s birthday. So they talked about him a lot, Liz and Joan parted ways around noon, Liz driving back to Indianapolis to share her experience with a few friends and sharing pictures. Joan had given her of her birth father. Unfortunately Liz’s birth father died when she was about 18 years old. She admitted, she had a hard time seeing a resemblance to the man in the picture she was given in one photo. He’s so small, he’s barely identifiable. The other is a classic high school graduation picture that doesn’t reveal any discernible resemblance. I asked about the aftermath of their reunion. Liz said, she’s a sharer. So she had told everyone from family members to friends and colleagues that she was going to meet Joan after the reunion. She told everyone how things had gone. Here’s what she said about the relationship with Joan.

Liz (30:23): Like I said, we were living in different States. And so we had phone conversations. It was very, very hard on the phone. And I’m not sure why we had a lot of, you know, awkward silences. It just seemed hard to kind of make that natural conversation. And so it’s not that anything was bad, but it was just tough. And so I didn’t feel that desire to call her every few days or every week or anything like that. But we talked fairly frequently, maybe every few weeks and just would talk for a few minutes and then I’d kind of make an excuse that I had to go or something like that. And again, it wasn’t bad. It was just not natural. Like if I talked to my mother or my sister-in-law or something like that so it wasn’t until we didn’t really see.

Liz (31:14): Oh, I know. So then now when I would go home to Michigan to see my adoptive family maybe for Thanksgiving or something or Christmas, this is where I had mentioned before I hadn’t grown up in a family or divorce or anything, but it almost felt like that because my birth mom would say, Hey, can you come spend Thanksgiving with us? And I’m like, Oh could I stop by, on the way to Ann Arbor and we’ll celebrate a little early or something. And cause I have to have Thanksgiving with them. And I felt that kind of pull from both places. Like she really wanted me to be part of the family and part of the celebrations and whatnot. But I still had my adoptive parents who had very solid expectations that I would be celebrating with them because they are the first priority. And so I felt a little bit pulled in two directions there.

Liz (32:07): And I felt, and I guess I just equated it to, this is how it must feel. If you have two families that you have to kind of meet obligations too. And so I felt a lot of pressure on my point on my part for having to navigate those, both of those relationships and make everybody happy and I tend to be a people pleaser anyway. And so that was where the majority of my stress came from regarding that was, I felt like I had to make everybody happy and I still feel like that even with kids and things like that, but that was the hardest part. And I really struggled and I’m super thankful. My husband was always there to kind of help me think through things and what was the right thing to say and what not because I didn’t want to offend anybody.

Liz (32:50): Yeah. And so it was a few operative, those 96. So it was about two years that that was the situation. And then in the end of 98 I ended up moving back here and my daughter was born right before I moved back here. That was probably the best thing that could have happened to our relationship, my birth mom’s and mine. She came, my husband was working in Michigan already, and I was still in Indiana with my daughter. And she came down and stayed with me for a week. And it, she, Isabella, my daughter totally changed that dynamic because we then had something else kind of to focus on. But while we were focusing on her, we would have little conversations on the side and it just became so much more natural. And when I moved back here, I ended up being an hour and a half from her. And so I could go for the day and there wasn’t this big pressure of, Oh, I’ve got to spend a holiday or we’ve got to figure out how this was gonna work. It was just like, you know, I’m going to go for a few hours. We had fun. We, you know, she held the baby whatever, and we had conversations and our relationship really grew after that time. So I’ve been super grateful for that happening.

Damon (34:00): That’s amazing. It’s funny how a grandchild can change the dynamic in almost every situation. Right. That’s really amazing. And, and, and, you know, there, obviously it’s not always peaches and cream. There are instances where grandchildren can be challenging because of the circumstances through which they came into the world or whatever. But on the whole, a lot of times this baby can be the great equalizer and especially for an adoptee and their biological parents, because you then are looking at lineage. It’s not just you and me and the tension that exists between us from some historical transaction that happened. Now, there’s this, here’s what the future looks like. And there’s a lineage that will follow that child over there. That is all part of us. And you get to look over there and sort of hopefully feel a little bit of hope, you know, to get over everything as you’ve, as you’ve said, there’s something else to focus on, but it’s still a part of you.

Damon (35:03): You’re not totally, it’s not like you’re focusing on the baseball game. You’re focusing on yourselves, but through, through this child, as a proxy for your own lineage, it’s really amazing. Baby. Isabella was also the catalyst for Liz’s adoptive parents to meet Joan when Liz held Isabella’s baby dedication ceremony, Joan Liz, his younger sister, and the sister son, his nephew also attended. That was the first time of many times. Over the years that her adoptive parents met her biological mother, Liz admitted, she was unsure. Their first meeting would go, but her parents were very welcoming, gracious and interested in jones’ life. Switching to Liz’s biological father, Joan had revealed the man’s name and she knew where he had lived. So it should be easy to track down the family, but she also had some rough things to say about Liz’s paternal side Joan’s best friend had married Liz’s birth father’s brother, since jones’ buddy was in the family. Joan heard everything that was happening on that side of Liz’s tree from incarceration to addiction and more.

Liz (36:12): And so when she told me about that, she told me that he had two daughters I just really had no desire to even look for them. One. It was enough trying to get to know her and her family and add them into my life. And two, I just was like, wow, I wonder, I don’t know. It’s just kind of skeptical about how these women might be living. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring that into my life. Liz,

Damon (36:43): I met Joan in 1996. She said she didn’t even think about looking for her paternal sisters until 2011. Liz had met her paternal uncle at a wedding and one other chance meeting, but they only had fleeting conversations. So in spring of 2011, Joan was visiting Liz. When the paternal side of the family came up in conversation. Liz asked Joan to remind her what the paternal sisters names were because by then Facebook had become a resource immediately. She found her paternal sisters, Christina and Tracy, and one of them had an open Facebook page. They seemed like typical women with regular lives. So Liz decided to reach out Liz drafted a Facebook message for the sister with the open page. She didn’t get a response for a day or so.

Liz (37:33): And then my my sister Christina responded and she said we just got your message. And we’re really shocked by this. You know what, and she asked me a few questions. She said, when did you say you were born? I said, 1967. She said, yeah. So was I I’m like, yeah, I know. And so we kind of chit chatted a little bit and she said, okay, well let’s have a conversation at some point. Well, it, it turned out she and her sister were actually visiting each other. It was Easter week and they had been one had been at the other’s house and I kept waiting and waiting and they, they wouldn’t call. There was always some reason they couldn’t and they just kept putting it off. And I was kind of disappointed and a little frustrated, but like I said, I tend to be a little bit more, okay, let’s just go for it.

Liz (38:27): You know, whereas they were a little more cautious about this, I think, and their mom was there and their mom said, I don’t know anything about this, which I’m not sure, you know, if she had heard of me over the years or not, I was very surprised that they didn’t know anything about me knowing that I had met my uncle and his wife, I would have thought somebody would have said something about me. And so I was just really shocked by that. We finally had a phone call. They were like, wow, you don’t really look like us at all. And there was a lot of doubt on their end as to whether or not I truly was his daughter. And so they, they had wanted to do DNA testing, but I don’t know, I’m sure ancestry was in existence then, but we weren’t really, I don’t know.

Liz (39:17): I didn’t connect with it at all. So it was going to be very expensive to do some sibling DNA matches, I guess. And I didn’t have the money for it and they didn’t need her. So we just kind of let it go. And they just said, okay, we’ll just kind of take this at face value. I said, you know, this is the story that Joan has always told me. She has never wavered from anything. I’m not really sure why she would make it up. Especially with the fact that her parents didn’t even like this family, why would she pick somebody that they don’t like? Right, right. So I didn’t tell them that. Of course. So they were like, Oh, okay. And then it wasn’t until maybe, I don’t know. I was probably two or three years ago. I finally did ancestry. And my, their first cousin, our first cousin popped up as one of my close relatives.

Liz (40:01): And I was like, all right, guys, you’re stuck with me. And they’re like, Oh, yay. Grant. That’s great. We always knew blah, blah, blah. And okay. So yeah, so that’s how that came about. And we, I met my one sister. She lives in Michigan. I met her that summer. We had kind of an awkward lunch because, so my, my biological father died of drugs of an overdose. And there was a lot of anger on my sister’s parts toward him and toward the circumstances he left them when they were very little. And there was just a lot of history there that was very, very difficult. And so me coming into the picture, dredged up all of those feelings and Tracy especially was, she just had a hard time with it. So it was slow. And even to this day, I mean, we chit chat. We text, you know, we comment on Facebook posts and such, and we see each other when it’s convenient, but we don’t really go out of our way to get together necessarily. I’m much closer with my sister from my birth mom, but but, but I would say overall, we, when we’re together, we have a great time and I just, I’m super blessed to have had so many positive relationships come up this reunion. I can’t, you know, I feel so fortunate when I, especially when I hear so many struggles.

Speaker 4 (41:30): Yeah, for sure. And I’m sorry for

Damon (41:34): How your sister lost her dad. I mean, that, must’ve been really difficult to have someone suffer an overdose.

Liz (41:41): To me, it’s just a story, you know, in my like unknown history, but to her, it was very, she lived real and present and personal.

Damon (41:50): Yeah. Right. Yeah. And then for you guys to be born, was it the same year or a year apart?

Liz (41:56): Same year.

Damon (41:58):Yeah. That would dredge up every bit of it. Wow. That’s really crazy. But it’s good that you guys are connected. I mean, I, I like hearing that you, when you do get together, things are good Gary. Cause it sounds like,

Liz (42:11): Is there a mom has been amazing. She has been so welcoming to me and very loving. And so she reminds me a lot of my birth mom. So I don’t know if he had a type, but she’s just a very wonderful person. And I really appreciate that because it could have been something really, really negative for her.

Damon (42:31): Wow. Unbelievable. That’s good. I’m glad you, you feel this blessing of having connected with folks that you, you know, didn’t know before, but feel, you know, sort of welcomed by cause not everybody gets that and that’s, that’s super powerful. It fills voids. You didn’t even know were there. And I think that that is so healing, you know?

Liz (42:53): Yeah. I had always wanted sisters and now I have three.

Damon (42:57): That’s cool. Very cool. Well, Liz, thank you so much for sharing your story. I think this is really amazing and I’m so happy for you that you’ve gotten some healing out of all of this. This is really cool.

Liz (43:11): Yeah. Yeah. I, when when I sent my, my information off to, I was kinda like, I hear so many, people’s really tough stories or just amazing twists or whatever. I’m like, I don’t know. My story is kinda not, not very exciting, but I’m like, Oh, well, whatever, it’s

Damon (43:29): Hang on. It’s real. This is the thing. Like if you, it might not sound fantastic as compared with some of the other just unbelievable or egregious or whatever stories that you hear and adopt these of circles. But that’s just because it’s compared to other adoptees stories. If you compare this with anybody else’s life story, like they have to pause back at the beginning where they’re like, wait, adoption means you were transferred from one parent to another. Like they would start to fathom your story from that moment. And everything else is going to be comparatively unbelievable because most people do grow up with their biologicals around them. And it’s almost unfathomable to think, wait, you do what you had to search for your mom that’s bananas. Right. So I’m glad you shared because you’ve also expressed some things about your expectations for search. You’ve expressed some things about your mom’s approach to parenting and, and some of the, you know, the things that, that will resonate with other people. So, you know, your story is your story and it doesn’t have to be sensational to be impactful for somebody else. You know what I mean?

Liz (44:39): I did want to mention my mom. I don’t know if had said it. My mom, my birth mom died in 2012. So she’s been gone about eight year. I can’t believe it’s been eight years now. And so I do, I miss her a lot, but I’m very thankful for the 16 years we had and I’m, you know, glad I still have a good relationship with my sister and such, so yeah,

Damon (44:58): Sure. Can you just tell me, we don’t have to go quite yet? Just tell me what was it like, how did you find out that she had passed? Did you know she was sick? Tell me about, give me the scenario and how, how did you feel afterwards?

Liz (45:11): My mom has all, has she smoked for many, many, many years and she had very bad diabetes. And so she was not the healthiest person. And I had known that for awhile, she had a heart attack and really struggled to recover from that. That was, I can’t remember what year that was now maybe 2004 or five. And so I knew that she wasn’t well, and I knew that she wouldn’t live too many more years, but it was very much a shock when it happened. I she had called Valentine’s day of 2012. She had called my husband said, Oh, John called. And I thought, he meant like, you know, he answered the phone and said, she’s not home right now. And so or I called her back the next day on my way home from work, it was probably like five 30.

Liz (46:03): And she, I called her back and they said, Oh, she’s in the bathroom. I’ll have her call you. And like 45 minutes later, my brother-in-law called and said, Joan collapsed. And she, we were pretty sure she’s gone. And the paramedics were working on her. So she just died of a massive heart attack at that point. And I was devastated. It was, I mean, I immediately just burst into tears and I was like, no, I can’t, I can’t lose her. It’s too soon. You know, I ha I haven’t had enough time. So that was the hardest. And I still, like, when anything happens, she’s one of the first people I want to pick up the phone and call and I can’t. So I call my sister, which is, you know, a great, a great substitute, but I still would love to be able to share things with her.

Damon (46:49): Yeah. Did you go to her funeral and stuff?

Liz (46:52): Yes, for sure. And my, and it was my sister really, she said, I don’t think I can get up because she was too emotional, so she couldn’t speak. And so I ended up giving like a, I don’t know what you call that. I talked at her service and I played my Viola. I played amazing grace, so it was tough. I was crying through all of it, but I was and my parents came, my mom and dad came. And so, yeah.

Damon (47:21): Wow. That must’ve been really fulfilling. I mean, it sounds incredibly emotional, but to be able to play something that you’ve been practicing your whole life, it’s such a meaningful moment. That must have been unreasonable. Right?

Liz (47:36): Yeah. So it, yeah, I w I know there’s a video on it, but I haven’t seen it. That’s like, I don’t know if I can watch it at this point.

Damon (47:44): No, I know it’s hard. Yeah. One day. Well, Liz, thank you so much for sharing everything. This is, this is really fascinating and I appreciate you taking time and I wish you all the best. Okay.

Liz (47:55): And thanks for talking with me. I love your show and I, I just appreciate how much I’ve learned and grown from it as well.

Damon (48:02): Oh man. Huge smile. Thank you so much. Liz, take care. Have a great weekend. Bye-Bye bye-bye

Damon (48:11): Hey, it’s me. Liz grew up surrounded by adoption. So it wasn’t until she got to the Dominican Republic, teaching lots of adopted children that she realized some of what adoption can do to a child. I liked hearing that her mom was the one to flag the change in Michigan law that allowed Liz to find her natural mother, her all in, just go for it. Mentality, worked out well for her and Joan to dive into reunion in that hotel room together, people may have thought that approach was a bad idea, but the bonding that started overnight probably couldn’t have been achieved any other way. I could feel the sorrow of the moment when Liz learned of Joan’s passing, when an adoptee has been apart from their natural parent, they reunite, then that parent passes on it can feel exactly like Liz said, it’s just too soon. Like you didn’t get enough time.

Damon (49:06): And every day you wish you could share more of your life with them. I can certainly empathize because I was at that point in 2014, when my natural mother and passed away, suddenly I miss her every day, just like Liz, mrs. Joan I’m, Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Liz’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 the show is meaningful to you, you can support me with a contribution to keep it going on patrion.com/waireally, please subscribe to who am I really on Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. It would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to leave a five star rating there, those ratings can help others to find the podcast, too. And if you’re interested, you can check out the story of my adoption journey. Who am I really and adopt the memoir on amazon.com on Kindle or as an audio book on audible. I hope you’ll add my story to your reading list.

Who Am I Really?

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