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135 – Something About This Tells Me We’re Family

Isaac, from Hawaii, talks about himself as a boy who was loved, but struggled to connect with his adoptive parents in certain ways. Having left the island, a chance musical gig put him back on Hawaiian soil and in position to launch his adoption reunion search. In reunion he reconnected with both of his parents at the same time, elected to move back to Hawaii to reconnect with the land and his people, and even found that learning more about the island made him closer to his adoptive family too. This is Isaac’s journey.


Isaac (00:00:03): We’ve had some very difficult conversations around trying to sort out how to be real, not just like, Oh, it’s all good. This is super cool. You know, like, no, like I feel like there were some things that were really difficult for me to process. And now that we’re reconnecting, I want to be able to talk about them.

Speaker 2 (00:00:34): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:00:46): This is who am I really cast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is Isaac who called me from Hawaii. And Isaac’s story. You’ll hear about him as a boy who was loved, but struggled to connect with his adoptive parents in certain ways, having left the Island a chance musical gig, put him back on Hawaiian soil and in position to launch his search in reunion. He reconnected with both of his parents at the same time, elected to move back to Hawaii, to reconnect with the land and his people, and even found that learning more about the Island made him closer to his adoptive family to this is Isaac’s journey. Isaac was adopted on the big Island of Hawaii as an infant. He said he was lucky to be adopted into a family who was from Hawaii, even though they’re actually culturally different. Isaac’s adoptive mother is Japanese. His adoptive father is half Filipino, half German, and Isaac is Filipino- Hawaiian, but they all come from Hawaii. He said that blend of family members means he resembles his adoptive family.

Isaac (00:02:20): Okay. I sort of knew for a long time. I remember I was just sitting in the kitchen. I was really young, maybe even like early element for like elementary school or maybe early middle school and just talking with my dad. And I was like, Hey dad, am I adopted? And he’s like, yeah. I was like, okay, cool. I’m just like want to make sure thanks while we’re clear. Yeah, I’ve got it.

Isaac (00:02:45): I don’t think he ever really felt like a big thing until there started to be different things that would come up for me later on like, you know, like around middle school and high school, I started having a lot more trouble at school and acting out in different ways. And yeah. And I think that’s when I started to feel like there was some sort of like something was kinda missing. Some part of myself was being unanswered or unfulfilled. And my parents were really struggling to connect with me and we were having really difficult communication problems. But again, that was kind of like later, you know, like I said, like my young, my younger life is just as far as how it felt as an adoptee, it felt really normal and not really like anything that was all that special or different

Damon (00:03:37): Isaac’s family lived near Honolulu until he was six. Then the family moved to Washington state in 1993. He said he struggled in school while his brother and sister who were older and biological to his parents were doing well in their studies. He said he felt like he wasn’t accomplishing what he was supposed to. So he would retaliate because he wasn’t living up to the standards.

Isaac (00:04:01): I got really into music and, you know, I found a lot of solace in that I would have, you know, friends to go play music with and a lot of groups and bands and orchestras that I would go and play in. So that kinda kept me from going too far off the rails. You know what I mean? Like I didn’t get super lost, but I definitely ended up in some groups of friends that I kind of just like, didn’t really know why I was drinking when I was really young. You know, I started smoking weed when I was like really young and just sort of self destructive in a lot of ways. But yeah, I mean, I think that’s kinda how it manifests and it’s strange. I was talking with someone who worked on my reunification process and she was like, kind of looking at all those behaviors and how I was describing them. And she’s like, you know, that could be like potentially very linked to this whole like adoption process, which I hadn’t, I’m still kind of learning more about and like the residual effects of that sort of biological separation and those kinds of things, you know?

Damon (00:05:05): Yeah. That’s, it’s fascinating. When you think back to the linkage of an individual to their biological family and then try to make the leap to how they perform or underperform or act out or, you know, feel like they don’t fit in can be really fascinating, especially because it seems to come as a residual effect. So far down the line, it doesn’t feel like it’s immediately adjacent, right? Like if you punch me, I get hurt right now. But if you separate me from my biological parents, it might not impact me for a year or 20, you know,

Isaac (00:05:45): So interesting. And that’s exactly. So I, you know, I’m skipping ahead a little bit, but the reunification process has made me look at my past in such a different way, like I re question all of those negative thoughts that I had about myself, because now I might actually have a root cause of where some of those things came from and what was possibly going on with me psychologically and, you know, trying to figure out like, why do I feel different than my siblings as far as like what I can and can’t do? Or why do I have desires to act a certain way? Or my body feels like it wants to do certain things that they’re not into doing. You know, it’s like, why am I having such a hard time communicating and connecting? And I was like learning about, you know, that natural ability to connect and communicate with your birth parents is because you’re so biologically linked and like, especially with the birth mother, right? It’s like, that’s the voice you hear? That’s the food you eat. That’s all the things you consume as a baby in the womb. And then as soon as you’re out is just completely severed. I think that’s like a far more traumatic experience than I ever really have thought about for both people for both parties.

Damon (00:07:03): Yeah, you’re right. As you say it for both parties I think of two books that I think you’ve probably heard of that are incredibly enlightening. One of which is the primal wound, which talks about the very thing you’re speaking of the separation of mother and child at birth is incredibly detrimental, you know, in, in some of the facets that you’ve talked about, that connection that you’ve had, that voice that you’ve heard from inside and all that other stuff. And in the other book that I think of that was incredibly powerful for me in terms of empathizing with any, any mother, honestly, not just birth mothers, but just any mother is the girls who went away. And the fact that, you know, it talks about these women who were oftentimes in situations that felt so out of control. They had no power. They were sent off to far off, far off places by themselves to give birth to a child and asked to never speak of it again, in many instances, like you’ve, you’ve an act created this child, you’ve carried this child for nine months of an entire year, and then you’ve gone through the physical process of bringing this child into the world and then suddenly they’re gone.

Damon (00:08:19): And that’s it. I mean, I don’t, it’s, it’s really almost unfathomable that, that it could go as, as it does in adoption, but that’s often the case. I was curious about Isaac’s relationship with his older siblings, biological children, of his adoptive parents. He said it was a little challenging because he mostly got along with his much older sister with whom he shared an interest in music, but he was frequently contested by his older brother.

Isaac (00:08:48): It’s always funny talking about these things because it’s reflecting on how I felt then and trying to acknowledge that it’s very different, how I feel now. Like especially with like my brother and sister, you know, are connected really well with my sister. She was a musician. She inspired me in a lot of ways. She played a lot of music and I pretty much like followed her around whatever music she liked. I got into snowboarding, I got into skiing and, you know, she was playing in music with musicians all the time. So I kinda just like shadowed her a lot. But then she was older than me by quite a bit. She’s about eight years older than me. So when she left and my brother and I are still living at the house, I mean, I just had a hard time communicating with him. Like I don’t looking back on it. I just remember like we would fight and like, I would do stupid things. Like, I’d forget my keys. Cause I would be more forgetful than other people in the family or less clean and responsible with, with things. So I’d like, forget my keys come home. And it would be like, I’m locked out and he’s inside. And it’s like, well, you’re just gonna stay out there.

Isaac (00:10:03): And it’s like, it feels like, Oh man, that’s me. But at the same time, I also, you know, like, I’m sure I wasn’t always super nice to him either. You know, like I, I was rude to him and I think judgmental of a lot of his behaviors and stuff, cause we just didn’t share a lot of interests. And, and then there was this thing of like my dad and my brother, you know, like they did boy Scouts and Cub Scouts together. My mom was working and my sister was kind of older. So it was also this thing of like, I was a skateboarding like musician who didn’t really like to do his homework and didn’t end up too well after himself. It’s just like the odd one out, you know? Like I didn’t have a lot of shared there. Wasn’t a lot of things that I could share with my family at the time.

Isaac (00:10:51): And I’m not sure if that was just because I was being resistant to it or I just felt alienated like a lot of teenagers do, but you know, my sister and my brother, I think now it’s really interesting. Cause like after I met my birth parents and moved to Hawaii, it changed so much of our relationship. Like my brother calls me on the phone to check in and see how I’m doing. And I just taught his daughter and my niece and ukulele lesson online today. And like he says that he loves me, you know? And like it blows my mind because that’s not how I felt our relationship was when I was growing up. You know, it felt really hard. It felt really distant. It felt very like angry. And we weren’t like physical people. We weren’t fighting like physically, we would just like distance ourselves from each other or like not talk, just not acknowledge each other’s existence.

Isaac (00:11:48): And I think part of it also is that with the adoption thing is that I didn’t really know much about myself. Like I didn’t, I wasn’t from Hawaii the same way that my brother and sister works, they were into their teens. Whereas I was only six when we left. So it’s just the cultural differences growing up in Hawaii also made it hard for us. I think, you know, I just like grew up in Washington and it’s a very different society over there. So some of that ability to communicate with each other I think was, was really tested at times.

Damon (00:12:24): Yeah. Yeah. I can imagine. Yeah. Some of it sounds like classic brotherly battles and then some of it does definitely sound like very incongruent interests and you know, different perspectives partially because he and he and your father were into the same stuff and you were just not, and that’s natural, you know,

Isaac (00:12:47): That’s so real. And it’s really funny now because I have learned so much more about Hawaii and like what it means to be from here and what it means to grow up here and be culturally from here, having lived here now just for like the last couple of years that now I can connect with it. Like now I find stuff where I’m like, Oh, I like this Hawaiian music. And he’s like, I like that Hawaiian music too. And I was like, dude, I never was into it growing up. You know, he was always listening to Hawaiian music and I wasn’t into it, but now I get it. So we actually like, you know, send photos of when we go to concerts and stuff. And it’s really interesting, you know, specifically Tai has been tying my family back together, you know, like every, all these like shredded relationships that I think I have growing up were starting to like mend those wounds through understanding this place.

Damon (00:13:42): Isaac was a sensitive kid, touchy, feely, enjoying, tactile interactions with the world around him. He loved meeting new people and he was an emotional dude. Sometimes shedding tears. His parents on the other hand are different. Isaac said they’re loving in their actions, but not necessarily as much in the way they express themselves.

Isaac (00:14:04): I still struggle to like sometimes get hugs when I, when I really want them. But now, you know what I mean? So I think we just have these communication issues where like I was feeling something, you know, I was having a feeling and I didn’t know how to explain it. I didn’t know how to say like, this is why I’m upset because it wasn’t like a logical thing. It’s just an emotion that’s overwhelming me. So then they wouldn’t know how to talk to me cause they need, they need to know like, that’s the amazing thing about my parents is like, what’s the problem. Let’s fix it. You know, they’re very like, what do you need to fix the problem? Because that’s what we want to do. We want to help you to fix the problem. But I was so emotional and kind of confused. I don’t know what the problem is. I don’t feel good.

Isaac (00:14:52): So we just struggle with that constantly. Like just never able to really find a way for me to express what I was feeling and that I didn’t need something to be done. I needed something to be felt and understood. And I think that caused us to, you know, eventually I just sort of felt like I was kind of raising myself like taking care of myself. I would, you know, go out after school and like skateboard until late into the night and just kind of watch out for myself. But then they were always there to catch me when things would go really bad. Like if I got really hurt, they would take me to the hospital. If I needed to go to rehearsal for music, they would take me to rehearsal. If I needed an instrument, they would provide that for me. You know, like they always provided a lot of like really practical tools and a safe environment with like food on the table and my own room, you know, it was like I think that was the thing is like they provided for me all of the things and all of the structure, but I struggle with like, not being able to communicate and understand my emotional self and, and find ways of really like embracing that with them.

Speaker 2 (00:16:13): In 2014, Isaac remembers asking his parents if they had any adoption paperwork, they had a file with some rudimentary information, but it was the first time he had seen anything about his birth parents. The file told Isaac their ages when he was conceived, had his birth certificate inside and detailed. Some of their interests Isaac’s birth mother was an artist and a musician. His birth father was a radio DJ

Isaac (00:16:39): And it just blew my mind, like how much I reacted to it, you know, it, like, I didn’t expect that I was going to actually like react to it in the way that I did, but it’s just like, I, all of a sudden all these emotions and like these feelings and these overwhelming thoughts about like, Oh my gosh, she was only 22 when she had me. And, and this was the thing. And there, you know, he’s Hawaiian and, and Caucasian and she’s Filipino. And like all these, you know, every little bit of information speaks like so much volumes that I wasn’t expecting. Like just those little tidbits, like really, really ignited a lot of questions. So then in 2015, I was playing full-time as a bass player up in Seattle and I got into a band and they just so happen to be from Maui. And I was like, Oh, that’s cool. You know, I didn’t think too much about it. And then they’re like, Hey, we’re going to be playing a new years gig on Maui. Do you want to come and play and was like, sure. So we, I went over, it was I’d maybe only been back to Hawaii a handful of times. But this time I took that folder of paperwork with me

Damon (00:18:02): While Isaac was on Maui, he looked up adoption agencies in the area, his search brought back the organization, Hawaii international child, Isaac gave them a call where he learned one of their services is adoption reunifications. They asked him to take pictures of the paperwork he was carrying and send it over just weeks after being in Maui for the new year’s Eve gig, Isaac received an important phone call.

Isaac (00:18:28): I was about to go on stage and a gig. And I get this call from Christine, always who’s the head over there. And she’s like, Hey, so we found your dad, do you want to talk to him on the phone? And I was like, Oh, well I gotta go. I gotta go play a gig. Like I’m about to go upstairs. I can’t really talk, but I want, yeah. I want to call him back or could I call him? So we set up a time to talk on the phone and that was awesome. It was our first time talking on the phone and it’s just wild to hear his voice. But yeah. So from the time I thought about it in like 2014, I mean, I, I suppose I maybe have had questions before then, but I don’t, I don’t remember taking any active steps to really learn anything until 2014. So then 2014, 2015, make the call and send out the info in 2016, just like a few weeks later. They find Tommy and my birth father and then in April on my birth, on my 29th birthday of April, 2016, I met Tommy for the first time.

Damon (00:19:50): Wow. That’s really crazy. Take me back to, so you’ve, you’ve got, first of all, it’s awesome that this coincidence of joining this band that is Hawaiian and happens to go back there to the Island.

Damon (00:20:06): If you hadn’t joined them, like you might’ve stretched out this search for years, you have no idea. It’s so cool that they were going back there. But you know, tell me a little bit about one. How did this gig go with your, in the back of your mind? Like you just got the news that your birth father was, could have been on the phone with you before you even went on stage.

Isaac (00:20:28): That’s hilarious. That’s funny, man. Yeah. I went out and I remember it was a, it was like a house show, I think. And I remember just being like, Hey guys. So I think my birth father just called me like, Oh, wow. Cause they’re like, what do you mean your birth father? Like your dad? Is that what you call him? That’s a weird thing to call your dad. No, like, cause you know, I’m like adopted and like there’s this other human being out there and they’re like, Oh my God, wait, you didn’t take the call. I was like, no, what are you supposed to do, man? And it was also really funny because when I talked to Tommy, Tommy has been a radio DJ for a really long time in Hawaii. And you know, he’s MC and he hosts shows. He’s worked with a lot of musicians. So when Christine called him back and was like, Oh, sorry, he’s got a gig. He was actually like, Oh, that’s awesome. That’s great. Like, I can’t believe either he’s a musician. You know, he like, he actually gigs and does music like that’s great. So it was a weird, it was a weird like misconnection that actually ended up bringing us way closer together.

Damon (00:21:52): That’s really awesome. I can imagine how he must have geeked out on that. I’m just imagining the parallels. Like if your dad your birth, father’s like this awesome mechanic and you call right before the Indy 500 and you know, like I can’t take the call,

Isaac (00:22:06): Go hit the road.

Damon (00:22:09): That’s super cool in between the gig and the eventual phone call where Isaac and Tommy finally spoke for the first time. Isaac can’t remember how he felt, things happen so fast. There was no time to think what was probably a week between the gig. And the first call felt like a day when that first call happened. Isaac was with Christine of Hawaii international child.

Isaac (00:22:34): She actually taped our first phone call. Oh, wow. Wow. Yeah. So I have a recording of it. You know what I mean? And it’s like, we filmed the first time that I ever met my birth father. We filmed the first time I meet my birth mom. Like we just, I I’m really grateful because it was happening so fast that I think I have to go back and like listen to those things or remind myself like this actually happened, you know?

Damon (00:23:01): Wow. Yeah. That’s crazy. What an awesome thing to have a recording of that first conversation. That’s just, wow. That’s, that’s a rare, a lot of people record the first meeting, but the first conversation, isn’t something that people typically have the technology or forethought to do. So that’s super cool. Wow. Amazing.

Isaac (00:23:21): It is man. I think about it all the time because yeah. Like if I wanted to, you know, like I try and remind myself like how, what it was really like, I don’t have to think I can just go grab the thing and like I listened to it, you know, I’ve only maybe listened to it once or twice since then, but just knowing it’s there and I’m sure there will come another time where it’ll be like out, maybe I’ll put some music to it or something. Yeah. That would be cool. That’d be real cool.

Damon (00:23:52): Do you remember about that first conversation with him? How did it go?

Isaac (00:23:57): I think the thing that was really fascinating was that it was really casual. Like it was like, as if we’d talked before, you know, some small talk, there was like some things about just like, Oh, so how was your gig? Like, Oh, it was good. What about, what about you? He’s like, Oh, I got, you know, I’m hosting a MC thing. I was like, Oh cool. You know, I think something that came up for us was trying to figure out how to talk about some of the more emotional and difficult things. Because at the time I just was so excited, you know, I was so excited and he was so excited and I’m even realizing like how rare that is to have to find like a birth father who’s willing and excited to reconnect that I just, you know, I was like, this is great.

Isaac (00:25:00): It’s just how it’s supposed to be. And I do remember learning little things about, was he given the option to keep me in things like that. And was it the best thing and the circumstances around him and my birth mom’s relationship and the complications around that. But I don’t think it ever got to a very heavy place, which I, I kind of enjoyed for that first bit. You know, it’s kinda like getting to know somebody new. You actually just ease into it a little bit and just enjoy the fact that you’ve got a chance to talk.

Damon (00:25:36): Tommy and Isaac spoke for the first time in January. Their first meeting was a few months later in April, Isaac set up a GoFundMe to help raise the money necessary to buy the airfare, to go from Washington state home to Hawaii. His community rallied around him helping him to fly home. Luckily he didn’t have any musical gigs scheduled. So it was easy to make the trip. Some of Isaac’s friends who lived in Honolulu, picked him up from the airport and offered to drive him to the meeting, Hawaii international child arranged for an office location for the pair to reconnect. And the timing of everything seemed to be working out perfectly.

Isaac (00:26:17): And then they were like, you know what, if we do it on your birthday, you know, April 27th. And I was like, that would be great. How freaking cool is that? You know what I mean? Like it’s like a reverse birthday, you know, instead of just being born again, you get parents, you know,

Damon (00:26:47): You get parents. That’s really good. Yeah. That’s really cool. Oh man. Did you I saw in the video that you got to play your ukulele for him.

Isaac (00:27:00): Yeah. that was gnarly. I think, you know, it was all the excitement and all like the fun. And then like when we actually met, it was really cool, but there was a very like poignant moment where it really registered to me who this person was, you know, like he’s really fun. And he’s, he’s like a very public person and he’s super extroverted. So we just like, you know, we’re laughing and, and, and having a good time. And then I, like, I like had to take a breath and be like, okay, actually right before I went to Hawaii for the reunification stuff these songs started coming up. I was like sitting in, I’d just be sitting around in my van and I cranked out a couple of songs about family and about, you know, what that feels like. And I was like, man, I wrote this song about family.

Isaac (00:28:04): I think I should play it for him when we first meet, you know? And it’s like, something about this feels like home, something about you. I already know something about, this tells me that we’re family, you know, that’s like the first verse and it was like, it’s going to convey more of how I feel then I’m going to be able to, because otherwise I’m just going to like be cool. You know, I’m going to try and just talk, shop and enjoy it. Whereas like, I really want to try and communicate how this feels. So, yeah. And dude, if you there’s there’s some footage that I’ve got and I’m playing the song for him. And the first verse comes around at the, at the end. So it’s the, I think through the whole song and he’s sitting there, I’m trying not to look at him cause I know I’m gonna crack.

Isaac (00:29:01): But then I get to the very last lines and it’s a repetition of the first line. And he sings along with me, he sings like the last couple lines, like in harmony with me and it just like, you know, Rex man, it just like blew my mind, absolutely burst into tears. I couldn’t, you know, and I’ve watched it now and it’s still gets me where it’s like, he just, I’ve never played that song for anyone before, or maybe I’d play it for close friends, but like, it’s not like he’d heard it before. And yet at the very end he picks up on it and he’s, he knows me that these things align just like right in the perfect spot with me. And that’s it, man, that’s it.

Damon (00:29:57): That’s incredible. Cause it’s a signal to, to your connection. This is a DJ, a music guy, public figure you know, someone who connects with people and he knew exactly where you were going and y’all lock stepped through the rest of your song. And that’s an, if he wasn’t a music person that might not have happened. And so it therefore speaks to a deeper connection that the two of you have that is undeniable and it’s really amazing.

Isaac (00:30:25): Wow. That’s absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

Damon (00:30:29): After the formal introduction to each other, a friend of Isaac’s was playing a gig as part of a jazz trio there in Honolulu. Tommy agreed to check out the show with Isaac that same night the fellows went home, chilled a bit and changed clothes for the night. Then met back up to roll out to the show together, along the way, they had a little fun when they got lost, trying to find the event, but they made it to the show,

Isaac (00:30:54): My friend Alika, who was the bass player. He was like, or he’s playing guitar. He was like, Hey man, if you want to jump on and sit in on a song or something with us, you can, I was like, sure, that’d be great. So like I, I hop in, I’m sitting in and playing and I’m like, this is tripping. I’m playing a live gig at a bar. Then my birth father is here to see me play. You know what I mean? That’s unreal. But then it was so unreal. And then like, it was really strange. And I don’t know if I’ve ever told him this part of it and it connects to what happens the next day. So I totally understand. But then something really interesting happened. He got up when I was playing and he went outside and he was on the phone. Right.

Isaac (00:31:46): And I was like, Oh man, it’s like the first time he’s ever seen me play. And he just like leaves, you know? And I felt it, it was weird. It was like this strange, like hurt of feeling like this is such an incredibly special thing, but it’s also maybe not as special to him or something, you know, it’s like, and like this is just brain like running with it. So just to be totally honest, I like kinda had a rough time after that. Like that night I probably ended up drinking more than I was intending to at the time, you know? And it became a very different kind of experience. It was like so casual that it almost well not meaningless, but you know what I mean? It just had a different quality to it. And then like, I’d love to explain like what happens the next day, because it totally shifted my entire perspective on that

Isaac (00:32:55): Basically Christine called me the next morning and I’m just like not feeling super great. And she’s like, Hey, can you come back to the office? We want to shoot a video of you playing that song and recording that song. I was like, yeah, sure. I can do that. You know? So I come back to the office and they have this camera set up and like, all right, cool. So singing, playing the song, you know, it was great. And I was like, thanks. She’s like, well, you should sit down because we have something that we need to talk to you about. And I was like, okay. So she’s like, well, what, what would, what would you is something like, what would you like me to say? Or what would make this trip even more meaningful or something like that, you know? And I just like felt it. I could feel it in. And like I see it click in my mind when I watched the video back. It’s like, I knew that they had found my birth mom, you know? And she was just like, your birth mom is here, she’s in the building. We didn’t want to tell you, I called Tommy last night. Which was the phone call. He’s like, I called Tommy last night to tell him that she’s here. And we discussed that we would surprise you. I was like, Oh, of course I’m such an . Like of course I gotta like assume the worst and look at it. Some horrible.

Isaac (00:34:33): They’re just like trying to coordinate some, you know, this really funny thing. But dude, here’s the crazy part. All right. And I, I tried to still tell this story because like, I, I still like, it still blows my mind. Okay. So what happened was on the day that I met Tommy ,Hawaii international child had asked King five news. They told a news day that we were going to be reuniting. So they brought this guy, Chris Tanaka and the news crew over to film us reuniting, right, as a news, like a short news story that they wanted to air that afternoon. And so they interviewed us a little bit, they shot the thing and they were super nice and really cool. And you know, Tommy and I are both used to being in like public places. So we were okay. Being filmed, doing such a like kind of like emotional thing and to like a bar later that night and we saw it on the news. Right. And they played it on the news that afternoon. And on Kauai my birth grandmother was watching the news and it says, you know, adopted son reunites with birth father or something. She’s like, Oh, that sounds interesting. And then I think either she saw me or she heard my name and she knew my name Isaac, and she’d recognize Tommy. So my birth grandmother gets on the phone and she calls my birth mom was like, I think your son’s on TV.

Isaac (00:36:21): Meanwhile, Christine, the lady at HIC has actually managed to find Shaundra my birth mom via like Facebook or some backward thing where she ended up getting her work phone number. So she’s on the phone with her, right at the exact same moment being like your your son, Isaac is on Oahu. He’s here. If he’s open to meeting you, if you want to meet him. And so she, my half sister Shayna and my birth grandmother all get on a plane and they fly to Oahu the next day,

Damon (00:36:58): Shut up. So you’re telling me the news crew shows up films. You meet in your birth father and your biological, your maternal, biological grandmother sees it and calls her daughter at the same time that Christine is on the phone with her. Get out of here. Are you serious? That is unbelievable.

Isaac (00:37:24): I’m sure somebody in my family is going to be like, you know, like there’s some elements of this story that are still crazy. Cause it’s like, she calls and she’s like, I haven’t slept TV. And it’s like why would he be on TV?

Damon (00:37:44): So where did they fly in from?

Isaac (00:37:47): They flew over from Kauai over to Oahu. Okay. Got you. It’s like a, yeah. It’s like a 45 minute flight. Wow.

Damon (00:37:55): That so you’re, so you’re sitting there, they’ve told you, they’ve asked you to sit down, I assume, from the way you described your night, you had a bit of a hangover. So you end up sitting there and, and they’ve told you your birth mothers’ in the building and it hits you. You can see it on film. What happens next for you guys?

Isaac (00:38:24): Oh man. Like, so she goes to, Christina goes to get her, she comes in and like that one was different, you know, was, it was really different. Like hug each other and just instantly so much crying, crying, and so much this unexpressed feelings for like 29 years of unexpressed feelings that all this started coming to the surface and really just hemorrhaging to the point where we couldn’t say anything. So luckily I had also written a song about mothers and so I was like able to say like, okay, well this is great because I have a song that I can play for you. And so I was able to just go into it and after the song was over, it made everything just breathe a little bit, you know, it’s like music can help massage and a moment to where it can relax things and it kind of eases the tensions.

Isaac (00:39:43): So I think it helps for me to express something to her. It helped for her to receive something from me and that kind of mutual given take helps to bring people closer together, you know? Cause it’s not like I’m coming in and just being like, tell me what you did or, you know, tell me something, answer my questions in some cases, like what I’ve heard, you know, a lot of people feel like, and I understand it’s like, it’s your right to feel that way if that’s how you’re feeling. But I think I needed to do something where I wanted her to know that I wasn’t resentful. Like I wasn’t angry. I was confused and maybe some resentment and anger might surface later, but at that exact time, I didn’t feel that way.

Damon (00:40:35): That’s amazing. I mean, yeah, it’s a great gift. Music does get us through some really emotional times in our lives. And for you to have music that you have written for these moments for both parents believable, that’s incredible. In essence, those songs are really for them. And they will never, ever, ever forget that moment. And that’s really incredible. Wow. Immediately after the reunion, Isaac’s natural birth mother Shaundra his birth father, Tommy, and he sat down together for the first time in 29 years since relinquishing Isaac, his birth parents were face-to-face. Christine sat down with the family to guide their conversation, helping them talk about the range of issues they might feel they need to discuss,

Isaac (00:41:35): Which was great. And I thought it was really cool. And then seeing them have interaction and being able to like talk after all the time and then kind of being there just to facilitate some of these, these reconnections was also really cool for me, you know, like it felt like it brought a lot of people together, even though it was just, you know, for me it felt like the residual connections that were made, you know, like these people reconnected, some other people reconnected, the parts of themselves seen us. And the way that we reconnect inspired them in certain ways, I talked to a lot of some other people that were there that day. And they were just like, we need to remind ourselves of like the humility that it takes to go through this process. And if you do it with humility and with love and care and patience, how well it can go, you know, cause sometimes it goes wrong. It can go bad. And for a lot of people that’s unfortunately the experience they have. And like, I don’t think I even knew that much about reunification. So I wasn’t thinking too much about how negatively it could go. I didn’t really think about like, Hey, maybe it’s a super terrible idea to have a news crew film you when you meet your birth parents.

Isaac (00:42:58): Like what if this is horribly awful? You know? I didn’t think about it too much. And I think also I went in with the intention of having an openness to whatever was gonna happen. You know, I didn’t have a lot of expectations. And I think a part of that too, was how fast it happened. You know, I didn’t have two years to build up a bunch of thoughts and expectations and worry. It was like, I asked the question and then three months, four months later, the answer is there.

Damon (00:43:37): Yeah, you’re right. There’s a, there’s something to be said for the immediacy of some of these reunifications because it prevents you in many ways from getting too deep inside your head as you’ve alluded to. And and it also takes advantage of that immediate moment of everyone’s receptivity. Right? There you go out too far in the timeline and you don’t reunite, as we’ve said, people get inside their own heads and you have maybe one too many conversations where something sensitive comes out. Someone says something that wasn’t intended the way it was received, whatever the thing is. And it, in some way can tarnish what was potentially beautiful at the outset. It may be that that was going to come out anyway. But if it comes out before initial then initial sort of the only thing I can think of is like the bow being pulled off of the gifts, right. If know that something ugly is inside yeah. Then it’s, it’s damaging. And so I can appreciate what you’re saying, that you didn’t have a chance to step back over examine or anything you just dove in and just went for it. And that’s how I that’s how well it went. Shaundra was 22 when she and Tommy conceived Isaac, they weren’t in a stable relationship at the time. They both had some things they were dealing with in their respective families. So at the time adoption just seems like the best choice for Isaac given their circumstances

Isaac (00:45:14): Also really interesting because she was given some options of families to choose. And then considering the family that she did end up choosing and that my adoptive family wanting to wanting to adopt a boy or a child from Hawaii, like they wanted to adopt a local Navy. I think it just cemented some of the decision and at least that’s how it’s kind of been conveyed to me that it felt good to know that I was going to a local family. You know, I wasn’t like immediately getting like shipped really far away to some other foreign place or anything like that. And I do, I do recall that there has been some conversations around whether or not my birth father would have decided to have kept me if it was up to him, but my birth mother decided against it. And I think we’ve all sort of come to understand that there was the right decision to make, despite it being very difficult for everyone involved.

Isaac (00:46:23): And that was, that’s a big part of what ended up happening, you know, after that initial meeting kind of like what you were saying about, you know, it can be really damaging, like when the truth starts to come out or when all those painful feelings and those resentments and the issues in their own relationships start coming out, it can be really hurtful. But luckily we have that initial sort of joyous occasion of getting together and really seeing the good side of everything so that when we have to face some of those more complicated issues, we knew that we were coming from a loving place and trying to do it, honestly, it wasn’t about hurting. Anyone’s feeling not about being mean it’s about getting to the root of what was really going on.

Damon (00:47:14): Yeah. Because that route is the one from which you have grown up and it’s important for you to know that stuff. And it’s good that you had a solid foundation upon which to explore all of that. So that’s

Isaac (00:47:27): Really fascinating. And I definitely, I credit my adopted parents for also being so supportive. You know, they were so supportive of this entire process that I never felt like, okay, now that I’ve like unlocked this door with my birth family, I’ve turned my back on my adopted family. And, and now I have to make a choice. You know, it wasn’t like that. I think I wanted, it felt like, okay, we’re all in this together. You know, my adopted parents were really present. So when I was having difficulties or not feeling safe, they reminded me like, well, you know, we’re here. And so do what you gotta do, you know, make sure that you do what you gotta do, but we’re not abandoning you and you’re not abandoning us. And we know that, and that was really cool. Cause it made for such a stable place to work through hard feelings.

Isaac (00:48:26): And there was some hard feelings. Like I definitely had some arguments with my birth parents. We’ve had some very difficult conversations around trying to sort out how to be real, not just like, Oh, it’s all good. This is super cool. You know, like, no, like I feel like there were some things that were really difficult for me to process. And now that we’re reconnecting, I want to be able to talk about them and kind of like what I was talking about earlier about the emotional support and that ability to be emotionally present. That’s something that I feel it’s, it’s kind of happening a lot, you know, like Tommy and Shondra, both, I think have a very emotional component to them. So lots of crying, lots of hugging. My mom tells this story that like whenever she sees something, if she ever watches like a birthing scene on a movie or TV shows, they used to make her cry because she would think about me.

Damon (00:49:39): Can you imagine how many movies have that joyous occasion as it’s portrayed in the movies? I mean, she would be bawling all the time.

Isaac (00:49:49): Yeah. That, that thing too, like being able to share certain things like when I was working at a recording studio and Tommy actually came up from Washington with his wife, Carolyn to visit up there and he came to the recording studio and he was like looking at the soundboard and like checking out the gear. I was like, no one from my family has ever come to like the recording studio with me. I don’t, I mean, I probably should think about whether or not I ever actually invited them. But I think just that, the other thing of like, Oh, you’re actually here, you actually know what’s going on. And we can actually talk about like the ins and outs of something that I’ve spent my lifetime trying to understand. And so view that’s crazy.

Damon (00:50:42): In his adoptive family, Isaac has an older brother and sister in his maternal family. He has one sister on his paternal side, he has another older brother and sister who have families of their own. Isaac tells the story of his relationship with his siblings and a mind blowing connection between his families.

Isaac (00:51:03): It was crazy. I, I, I’m probably going to tell the story slightly wrong, but Maya tells me that I was wondering when they knew about me or if they knew about me, you know, she tells me that they knew about me because there was some adoption paperwork that ended up, I think, in one of Tommy’s Bibles or something. And they took it to church and the paperwork fell out and she was like, what’s this? It’s like, Oh, that’s, that’s your brother. I mean, I hope my, have you ever hear this? I’m so sorry if I’m telling you that story, but you wrong. Cause I think you only told it to me one time around the time when we first met, but I just remember it being one of those things where they’ve known about me for a very long time, they’ve always known about me and I didn’t know any, I had no idea, you know, and I’m, I’m so glad to know them now. And then Shayna on my mom’s side, it’s really crazy cause we lived together. So like, that’s the other thing I live on Hawaii now. And I live with my birth mom and my sister Shayna.

Isaac (00:52:20): Yeah. So I went back to Washington and I was kind of going about my business, but I just felt drawn. You know something that came up was that Tommy is native Hawaiian mixed with some other things, but he’s about 60%. And so that means I’m native Hawaiian. And, and I didn’t, I think I might’ve sort of knew that, but I didn’t know what it really meant. And then coming to Hawaii and realizing that there’s like an indigenous culture of people here that actually belong to this land. And I’m a part of that lineage is something that just kind of, I’ve only been really understand or trying to understand in the last couple of years, I think it’s well, a big driving force for me to decide that I wanted to move to Hawaii, but it’s, you know, it’s Hawaii. I’ve never been here.

Isaac (00:53:21): You know, it’s, it’s expensive. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it. So then when an opportunity opened up, my birth mom said that there was a room for me if I wanted it and Tommy’s been open to having me come stay. And I had a ton of family from my adoptive family side on Oahu and Kauai as well. So I was like, you know what, I’ll just do it, just move and get to know my birth mom, get to know my siblings, get to know my birth father. And you know, that’s the thing I, sorry, I didn’t mention about my relationship with my brother and my sister on my adoptive family and like strengthened my relationships with my adopted family. Like by getting to know Hawaii and getting to know what it was like for all of them to live here and grow up here.

Isaac (00:54:09): I’ve, it’s like strengthened my relationship with them so much. You know, now I like when they used to talk about going to Waimea Canyon or going out to and like, I didn’t know what they were talking about and now I actually do. So I kind of bring it all back to, you know, the land and a place like Hawaii and how it really, because it’s an Island, you know, it’s like community is everything. Dude. I’ll tell you this one crazy story. My, my birth parents and my adoptive parents all came together to meet. We all got together to meet on a wahoo. I think it was 2018. And so all four of them are there. They come in and just start talking and sharing stories, you know, about living on a Ouaho and who knows who. And then I don’t even know how it comes up. But Tommy starts talking about his biological family. Cause he was also what we call hanai. He was adopted by a family that was connected to his biological family. So he was denied into this other family, but his biological family lived on a Ouaho in a place called red Hill and he’s talking about his siblings and he says Oh, the coal burns and it’s the last name? And then my adopted dad, Phillip, he goes, Oh Marcus, you know? And then he’s like,

Isaac (00:55:39): Yeah, he’s like, no Marcus Colburn. That’s your, that’s your family. And then he’s like, yeah, like on red Hill, my dad, my doctor, dad, Phil, his family, they live next door to Tommy’s biological family.

Damon (00:55:58): Are you serious?

Isaac (00:56:00): My aunts, my dad’s sisters. They hung out with Tommy’s biological, his brother and sisters. Like there’s a photo of them all playing on a little hand card that my dad built

Damon (00:56:11): Shut up then. Yeah.

Isaac (00:56:17): It’s like, you grew up next door to the grandfather of the son that you’re going to adapt.

Damon (00:56:25): Oh my gosh. That is really trippy. Wow. Yeah. So that kind of stuff, man, it happens in Hawaii. Like there’s connections, everybody’s connected. So it’s been really fascinating and like, you know, like, like, okay, wow, there’s an actual photo of that because otherwise I would have a hard time believing it’s real, you know, God, that’s unbelievable. That’s unreal. Wow. It’s like, this is incredible. I love, you know, I hear the joy in your voice as you describe your story and it sounds so happy and wonderful. I think it would be a mistake not to acknowledge some of the challenging times. You’ve had some hard conversations. You’ve had some with your adopted parents as well as your biological parents. But I mean, it sounds like, as you’ve said, you’ve done it all with compassion. You sound like a sensitive dude who approached this as fast as it was coming. Um you know, with some measure of sort of taking it all into your heart as it came and not trying to judge it too much ahead of time. So I think that’s really fantastic. And I think you’re super lucky for how this unfolded and what amazing coincidence is that, That’s so cool. Wow. Yeah. Wow.

Damon (00:57:52): Now you live with your biological mother and you would get to experience that wonderful Island. Yeah. Congrats man. Thanks so much for the call, man. I appreciate it. It was really good talking to you, Isaac.

Isaac (00:58:05): Yeah, man. I really appreciate what you’re doing, man. I I’ve just, I’ve been looking for more resources that help adopting people and I really really appreciate the work that you’re doing.

Damon (00:58:15): Yeah. Thanks so much. And please feel free to share it with Christine and everybody at a Hawaii international child and anybody else out there. Yeah. If you’re, you know, involved with an adoption agency of some kind and someone who is in support of, you know, adoption reunions, definitely share the show, take care, Isaac, all the best buddy.

Damon (00:58:39): Hey, it’s me. The Island of Hawaii is such a central part of Isaac’s life and his adoption and reunion journey. He’s the product of Hawaiian natives and was born there and was adopted there by Hawaiian people and made his way back for his reunion and now lives there. I like what he said about the connection to Hawaii healing, old wounds. And of course, it’s just incredible to hear that he’s moved back and is living with his birth mother and sister. I heard notes of nature versus nurture in Isaac’s story when he spoke of his love for music. So of course, I’m going to leave you with a few of Isaac’s own musical notes from the song he played for Tommy I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Isaac’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? I think you already know the rest of what I would normally say. So I’ll just let the song play. Here’s Isaac

Isaac (00:59:48): Dad, will you please tell me how to be a better man? Dad, will you forgive me? Because I’m doing the best that I can

Who Am I Really?

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