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166 – I Never Knew Nature vs Nurture

Today you’re going to meet Michael who called me from Atlanta, Georgia. Michael grew up with adoptive parents who were functional alcoholics which meant they had a dysfunctional home with a narcissistic mother and a detached father. When DNA testing linked Michael with his maternal family he learned that his siblings knew about him but his birth mother was kept in the dark that her secret had been revealed.

In reunion, Michael’s eyes were opened to the meaning of nature versus nurture when he found shared physical traits and common interests in athletics, music and more. Now Michael helps run an Adoptees Connect group in Atlanta for adopted people to link up and support one another.

This is Michael’s journey.


166 – Michael



[00:00:00] Damon: Hey, it’s Damon here with a quick message of thanks to a new contributor to the who am I really podcast on Brad. When I got the message that he donated to the show. I smiled really big because I knew someone else thinks this platform for adopt these stories, this work to share our truths is valuable.

That’s the signal, your contribution send to anyone you contribute to be it. My show, another podcast, a mobile app. You use a lot on your phone or a charity. You support. I hope you’ll take a moment to find the creators you like and appreciate on Patrion and support their work.

Once again. Thanks very much Brad.

Cold Intro

[00:00:47] Michael: we walked out and we took a couple pictures and she gave me a hug and she started walking across parking lot and she got about halfway to the car and she turned around and came running back[00:01:00] and gave me a great big hug. And it was probably the best hug I’ve ever had in my life.

And I think as I, as I think back on it, I felt probably like, I can say now it was probably, I was worried I was going to be abandoned by someone who I found.

Show Intro

[00:01:20] Damon: I’m Damon Davis, and today you’re going to meet Michael who called me from Atlanta, Georgia. Michael grew up with adoptive parents who were functional alcoholics which meant they had a dysfunctional home with a narcissistic mother and a detached father. When DNA testing linked Michael with his maternal family, he learned that his siblings knew about him but his birth mother was kept in the dark that her secret had been revealed.

In reunion, Michael’s eyes were opened to the meaning of “nature versus nurture” when he found shared physical traits and common interests in athletics, music and more. Now Michael helps run an Adoptees Connect group in Atlanta [00:02:00] for adopted people to link up and support one another.

This is Michael’s journey.


[00:02:07] Damon: michael’s adoptive father was the oldest of 12 siblings from a poor family that lived in Illinois.

The man was a standout all state high school athlete in basketball and football. His adoptive mother was the only child in her family, which had a rich history and the legacy to continue.

The payer got married in college and moved to Glenview, Illinois. They tried to have a baby for more than 10 years with no luck.

[00:02:34] Michael: in 1961, I was adopted and now I say purchased from the cradle society, because they needed legacy.

You know, they didn’t have a baby, to hand down the family history. , And, you know, I sat in the cradle society for two months before they brought me home and I really don’t know why. , and then two years later they [00:03:00] adopted my sister, which we have no relation. , at that point with the pressure off in 1964, my adoptive mom gets pregnant.

You know, you hear this story all the time, once the pressure’s off. So as my adopted sister, and I say the chosen one came along, but my sister and I always knew we were adopted. And in 1965, we moved to Southern California. And of course my grandmother immediately came out because we were the only family she had, you know, at that point.

And she was pretty special. Grandmother was. And she always would tell me stories about my father and history of the family telling me how great her father was. And, you know, as a kid, you just kind of soak that in you don’t, you don’t really care, you know, you don’t, I didn’t think of it at all. You know, and , from 65 to 1981, we had a [00:04:00] great neighborhood.

There must have been 25 kids in the neighborhood. You know, I still know a lot of those friends today. But my mom and dad were basically functional alcoholics. So the family life was a bit chaotic and dysfunctional all on a regular basis, you know, they would, you know, they worked, you know, dad worked six days a week, pretty disconnect.

And mom worked Monday through Friday. And so we were, latchkey kids but , it was a great neighborhood to grow up in. , but of course with the dysfunctional stuff that goes on when I was about 12, my mom had a big falling out with her mother, , my grandmother that we were all close to and she never talked to her again.

She was cut off from all of us with all we got was an occasional phone call with her and, you know, it was, she would always ask [00:05:00] me what, what she did wrong, you know, what do you know it, you know, 14, 15 years old, you don’t know. And, and being the grandmother was so special, , she’s probably, as I look back who I bonded to .

Out of everyone the best, and I didn’t realize that until after, you know, I interacted with the adoption world and, and figured out the whole bonding thing. So give me examples of how you bonded with her. Um, she was, again, you know, she was very wealthy, you know, that’s why it was purchased, but she was an actress and she would read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and she could put all the accents and all the character, that.

, when she read the book, it was like the characters came alive and it was, you know, every time she would come over and visit, , she would read to me out of all these books and I was always just fascinated with that kind of stuff. You know, it just really connected with me.

. So [00:06:00] when she was, you know, when she was gone, , it created more dysfunction, and so of course, typical teenager, I started, you know, drinking and doing drugs probably around 13, 14, you know, brighten early.

Cause mom and dad always had alcohol around, you know, and I remember I was driving because at one point I got in a huge argument with mom and this is the park. It was, it was, you know, I wanted to share with other adoptees, maybe they had this happen, but she came running out of her room and told me that, you know, that get out of my house and through all my adoption paperwork at me and said, go find your real family and live with them.

[00:06:42] Damon: Oh my God, what a horrible thing to do?

[00:06:45] Michael: I didn’t know what to do with it. You know? I mean, it just, it happened.

[00:06:49] Damon: So the man will you have just blasted through so much stuff. It’s really unbelievable.

Um, and I just want to pause you for a quick second. Was your sense that your [00:07:00] adopted mother was intoxicated at the moment of this particular

[00:07:03] Michael: outburst? No, she was not. It was during the day. I remember distinctly, she was mad at me, you know? It was kind of a constant chaos of yelling and screaming.

At the house, and that was usually in the evening. So remember they, they, they went to work, they did their nine to five, you know, and, you know, they provided, but in the evening, , the alcohol came out and that’s when the chaos happened, ? And I mean, at 16 I could leave the house.

Nobody even, you know, they didn’t care, you know? So

[00:07:34] Damon: What were some other elements of functional alcoholism in your home, you say chaos, but, , can you clarify kind of what that means,

[00:07:44] Michael: uh, that there was a lot of arguing and yelling and screaming in the evenings after the drinking started between mom and dad and maybe the kids?

Well, between my adopted sister and I, you know, like now that we’re [00:08:00] all grown up, the three of us can agree that the chosen one, she didn’t get much trouble. She was okay. Yeah, but it was just, you know, I mean that, that typical stuff, and dad was since he was a sports star , in high school, I mean, his whole world was just washing, you know, back in those days too bad, there wasn’t ESPN.

But, you know, he was either listening to am radio or watching whatever, you know, sports was on TV. And so it was not, you know, it wasn’t the comfy cozy, , leave it to beaver. Yeah.


[00:08:33] Damon: doesn’t sound like it at

[00:08:34] Michael: all.

[00:08:35] Damon: Discussing his relationships with his siblings. He says everyone gets along now, but it’s commonly understood among them that their mother was a bit narcissistic. But Michael reminded me that she was a very wealthy, only child growing up. So some of her behavior was ingrained. He said. His bonds came from his many friends in the neighborhood.

One of Michael’s friend’s mothers was a stay at home. Mom. Who’s a wonderful [00:09:00] person. He’s still in touch with today. Speaking on his relationship with his younger adoptive sister, he said they weren’t very close back then. And it’s a missing bond underscored by what he sees in his own children today.

Sometimes he’ll call one of them on the phone.

Ask what they’re up to and his kids are at one another’s houses, just hanging out. Not something Michael and his sister usually do. When I asked whether he had anything in common with his parents, Michael said he probably could have been any kind of athlete he wanted, but his chosen sport was swimming. For his midwestern all state multi-sport athlete father swimming wasn’t his thing

[00:09:41] Michael: swimming was wasn’t considered a sport to him. You know, it was either football, basketball, or baseball, , that was his world. Right. Actually in high school I swam and he came to one, he, it was state finals. He came to one meet. He would, he didn’t come to edit. You know, and I’m sure my [00:10:00] mom made him come, you know?

I mean, otherwise he wouldn’t. Yeah. He was very disconnected from the family. He, he worked six days a week and we joked, you know, now we joke, he took Fridays off because Fridays was when no one was around, you know, you know, he worked out and Sunday, he didn’t want to be around anybody. And how about with your mom? Did you have anything in common with her prior to that outburst?

Oh no, no, no. it was just, she was mom, you know, and that was about it. She was just out of here. Yeah. She was just there. . So

[00:10:35] Damon: you got into some substance abuse in your teenage years and sorry, tell me again where you grew up.

[00:10:43] Michael: Los Angeles. I was adopted in Illinois and at five years old, we moved to Los Angeles. Gotcha.

[00:10:50] Damon: You moved to LA at five, and then you got into substance abuse and then of course got a job in the entertainment industry. What was that like?[00:11:00]

[00:11:00] Michael: , it was, it was a great job. Uh, you know, it, I worked there for almost 15, 16 years.

Um, and I was the first of three employees that ended up being 250. It was a great opportunity. I, you know, it really was a wonderful place to work in the end. I met my wife the same year that I started working and we, , we got married and had, , my daughter and then my son. And then in 91, at that point I was making way too much money because of the entertainment industry.

And I had a race car, you know, a very fast race car and I crashed it one night and that was in 91 and I quit drinking and doing drugs and smoking. That’s a longer story all that night. That was it. You know, I basically saw God, you know, I really did you almost

[00:11:52] Damon: die in that accident?

[00:11:53] Michael: . Um, no, but I could have, I was very fortunate, very fortunate.

so in [00:12:00] 94, you know, we, we had, that was a rough spot, obviously in our marriage, but we had our second son and we had two names picked out for him and it was either James or Daniel. Right. And his name, his name’s Daniel. So, you know, that’s, so we have our three kids, they’re all grown up.

[00:12:18] Damon: In 1995, Michael’s family moved to Atlanta, Georgia for his company, which had a contract for the 1996 Olympic games. The family fell in love with the city and the food. Michael’s weight rose to 275 pounds requiring him to take blood pressure and cholesterol medications. He started working out, running mountain biking and adventure racing.

Michael got in such great shape. He’s competed in five iron man triathlons. For context. Uh, sprint triathlon is roughly a half mile swim. 12 miles of cycling and a three mile run. And iron man triathlon is nearly [00:13:00] two and a half miles of swimming. 112 miles of cycling and a 26.2 mile run. A full marathon.

And just so you know, Race rules allow 17 hours to complete the entire race. I think I would need about a week. Anyway. Back in 2005, Michael completed an ancestry DNA test to learn more about his heritage. He admitted, he had the classic. Who am I curiosity that many adoptees face. It revealed he is 45% Russian Finnish, an interesting fact, but he didn’t do anything with the information. Years later michael decided to take a 23 and me dna test to get more data for his health nutrition and athleticism

[00:13:45] Michael: so 23 comes back and sure enough on 45% finish, you know, they both are pretty accurate. so fast forward to 2019. I get, you know, how, I don’t know if people [00:14:00] know 23 and me, you constantly get updates about new DNA checks, you know, what they’re checking for? And I check the family thing and whatnot.

And lo and behold, here’s Chuck at 29%. My nephew, Allie, a first cousin, Megan, a first cousin, and Ben a first cousin um, thing. . So I, so I create a letter and, you know, not knowing and I just said, Hey, I don’t know anything about it. Maybe we’re closely related and you want to chat.

I’m open. And week later I get a phone call from Florida and I blow it off and I get a text message. And then it’s like, oh, it’s Chuck. You know, who’s calling me. And so I have a workout room in my basement. So I go down there because I need some quiet place to take the phone call. Cause he says, he’ll give me a call and I call him up.

And I said, so Chuck, apparently we might be related. And he goes, well, are you sitting [00:15:00] down? And I go, well, matter of fact, I am. And he goes, well, I’m your brother.

Yeah. And I can honestly say at that point we talked for 45 minutes and I really don’t remember what we talked about. You know, I just, you know, I was completely lost. And the one thing he did say is that I had a half sister in Florida too. And my birth mother wants to know if I had a good life .

And how did that lay out when he asked you that

boy did that land hard?

you know, cause I have, your workout room, I have mirrors. So I stand up and I look at myself and you’re sitting there looking at yourself, going, okay, I’m 58 years old. Have I had a good life? I mean, it’s so hard, you know, when people say something like that it’s oh yeah.

Okay. But when your birth mother asks you that, you know, and [00:16:00] after I do remember what I told him, it took me a little while to figure it out is that, you know, I spend a lot of time riding my bike, you know, because iron man , and I’ve talked to all three of my kids , and I always say to them, I go, look, if I get hit on my bike today and I die.

I go, I want you guys to all know I had a really good life, no regrets, you know, I don’t want my kids to think, you know, oh, Dad had more years, and so that’s how I conveyed it to them. You know, if I’m telling my kids that, you know, why can’t I tell my birth mother that ? So yeah, I don’t.

Yeah, that’s really, really wild. So Chuck calls, you gets you on the phone, but did you say when you saw him online, you thought he was a cousin?

Yeah. Oh, 23 and me had it wrong. Really? Didn’t have it. Yeah.

well, as it turns out, [00:17:00] my half sister in Florida, , my, my birth mother was divorced. Right. And when my half sister got pregnant with her first child, 28 years ago now, , he told her, and we don’t to this day. We don’t know why, because he passed away. He told her that, , you know, you have a half-brother out there somewhere.

Cause she had before she got married, not to my, not to my biological father, but to her husband before they got married, she felt it was right. That he knew that she had given a kid up for adoption. So she told him, and she told my half sister and she in turn told my half brother, but he made him promise to never tell my mom, my biological mom, that they knew

[00:17:49] Damon: .

So, let me make sure I understand. So your biological mother gives you up for adoption. She later goes on to marry a man that is not your [00:18:00] biological father, but before marrying him, she tells this second guy, because she felt like he needed to, I have a child out there and then that man, your, I don’t know how to call him your stepfather, but yeah.

So, so this guy, her husband now has her secret and he elects to tell their children, but makes the children promise not to tell your biological mother that they know. Is that correct?

[00:18:33] Michael: That’s right. That’s right.

[00:18:36] Damon: Wow.

[00:18:36] Michael: So I’m a secret. .

[00:18:38] Damon: So you’re, you’re a secret but. Everybody knew the kids were told by their father, but their mother, your mother didn’t know that they knew that is


[00:18:53] Michael: Right. That’s right. Right. Yeah. And, and actually when my brother had to [00:19:00] contact her and say, Hey mom, there’s this guy who was like, maybe my uncle on 23 and me, she actually said, we need to sit down and have a conversation. And that’s when I have brothers said, that’s okay, mom. We know.

[00:19:17] Damon: Wow.

Oh yeah. She was probably setting up too, like probably getting herself, geared up to lower the boom and drop his secret and, and it was already out there.

That’s crazy.

[00:19:28] Michael: Yeah. So I get off the phone with my brother now, my first and only brother, you know, cause I had two sisters growing up, and I don’t know why Damon, but the very first thing, who’s the very first phone call I want to make to my adopted sister.

[00:19:43] Damon: Really?

[00:19:45] Michael: Yeah. I don’t know why just because probably because she would understand, you know, maybe, I don’t know,

[00:19:53] Damon: were you guys close by this point closer as adults than you were as, as you had been in?

[00:19:58] Michael: Yeah. Yeah. I [00:20:00] would say we were closer, we’re good with each other, you know? I mean we talk somewhat regularly, and immediately the first thing she says. I’m doing 23 and me tonight.

[00:20:13] Damon: Wow.

[00:20:14] Michael: Well, Karen, I’m already, you know, I’m already spinning and I’m going, uh, Karen, you better think long and hard.

Yeah, for sure. Whatever. So as I’m talking, I hang up with her and I call my daughter and my daughter, who is, she’s a nurse practitioner. And she kind of knew, I had told her that, you know, I had to hit, you know, the 23% she knew it was half brother, you know, because of the, you know, she understands the DNA more than I do.

And she was all excited that she knew. And as I’m talking to her I get a couple of text messages and this is when time stops for me because I looked down and I go, Jessica, I got to call you back. And here are the pictures [00:21:00] of my birth mother and my birth father with their names. Wow. From college, they were, they were college affair, they were a one night stand kind of thing.

And all of a sudden, for the first time ever, I got to see, you know, pictures of my biological mom and dad, you


[00:21:20] Damon: what did you think when you saw them? Did they, did you look like them? What did you what’d you see?

[00:21:25] Michael: Oh yeah, my biological father. Yeah. Yeah, no question there about that.

[00:21:32] Damon: Michael spent that entire night on the internet searching for more information about both birth parents. He barely slept for two nights as he traversed the depths of the internet. Michael’s daughter was searching to. They found some people, they thought were his siblings on social media and Michael spent hours examining what he thought might be his sister.

He wasn’t positive. He was really looking at his sister though, because he couldn’t remember the names his brother had shared on [00:22:00] the phone. Michael had been in such shock over their telephone reunion but he did remember one thing his brother said before they hung up his sister would want to talk to him too but it would probably

be a few days

[00:22:13] Michael: And so like the next day I get a text message and says, are you ready for a phone call?

And I said, absolutely. this is where I really learned. I never knew nature versus nurture didn’t care. Right. This girl calls me she’s 10 years younger. We were born only 10 days apart from each other. We are, we were both problem kids in high school. We both swam in high school probably could have been collegiate swimmers, but no, we were having too much fun.

we both paddleboard. We both surf. We both mountain bike and we both compete in triathlon series.

[00:22:54] Damon: That’s crazy.

[00:22:55] Michael: Yeah. And this is where it gets really fun is she [00:23:00] was a diehard Def Leppard fan. She would go across the country to their concerts. Right. A real groupie. Right. If my wife calls me the ring tone for my wife is a Def Leppard song

[00:23:13] Damon: that’s hilarious.

Are you kidding? That’s crazy. .

[00:23:19] Michael: And I must have, at one point told her about my cause I have my adoption paperwork. Right. All of it from the state of Illinois and cradle society, you know, my non identifying and all of that stuff. Right. And I probably talked to her about it.

We talked for almost two and a half hours, And that’s when she told me about , her dad telling her about, me and what was really amazing is that she actually purchased books on tape back then when she found out she had a half-brother , uh, books on tape on how to search for a relative.

She was actually searching for me. Oh,

wow. That’s really cool.

Yeah. And she said the same thing I [00:24:00] did is it when you’re sitting in the airport, you’re always looking around and wondering, is that my relative?

[00:24:05] Damon: Wow. That is unbelievable.

[00:24:08] Michael: then she, said, well, I’m going to friend you on Facebook.

And by the way, she said, he actually said that our mom that’s how she said it. Our mom wants you to friend her on Facebook.

[00:24:19] Damon: Oh, wow. Oh,

that must have been kind of cool. Huh? That’s like a warm feeling immediately shared what could have been her mom with you.

[00:24:28] Michael: Right. Instead of being her mom, so sure enough, I friended her and within a couple of minutes, you know, she said she did a little wave and she goes, I, she goes, would you like to have a phone call?

And I said, well, yeah. And for the first time, you know, called , my mom. you know, for the very first time, and of course I didn’t sleep that night, trying to think about what I was going to say. And there was one thing I wanted to say to her is that I think my kid would just like most [00:25:00] parents, all, you know, they all think their kids are very special.

And I just wanted to add, you know, say to her, thanks for the choice you made, you know, back in 61 or 1960. , because if you didn’t make that choice, my children wouldn’t be here, you know, and that’s how I started it out? She’s quite the woman, you know, I mean, she’s, she’s lived a full life, you know, as far as you know, her whole life, but we talked for about two hours and sure enough, the race car I drive, she had almost the identical car

[00:25:33] Damon: Shut up are you serious?.

[00:25:35] Michael: Yeah. Yeah. It’s very rare

what kind of car is it?

I had a Sunbeam tiger. And she had a Sunbeam Alpine, which you would know, but you can look them up there. They’re very rare. And a Sunbeam tiger was considered a Corvette killer in the 1960s because it was faster than a Corvette.

She had the Sunbeam Alpine, which was the six cylinder. Wow. Instead of [00:26:00] Daytona,

you and your birth mother drove the same little sports

car. Yep. Yup.

[00:26:07] Damon: That’s so funny. I’ve heard some interesting things that people share. Wow. I mean,

but she’s, she is a very down to earth, you know, speaks her truth, you know, no problem.

[00:26:21] Michael: And , I did ask her, about, the non-identifying paperwork. And she said, yeah, it was all very accurate. And then my big question for her, which he was didn’t have any problem was, and believe it or not, I didn’t know this until this all went down, you know, until I found everyone is I didn’t even know that abortion was illegal back in the 1960s.

Right. And her father was a doctor. And when she told her mom and dad, you know, dad said, look, it’s either an abortion or, or adoption, you know, it’s either. Or, and she just didn’t feel like it was right to [00:27:00] do an abortion, you know? And it would’ve been real easy with him being a doctor, so yeah, yeah, yeah.

And, , of course, , the fun part, remember when my son, , who’s Daniel w we had two names picked out, she said to me, she goes, you know, I heard that you were named baby boy, Ponzer on your paperwork. And I said, yeah, she goes, well, I named you.

And I really wasn’t ready for that. You know, I couldn’t, everything else was okay to talk about. I go, I never thought about her giving me a name. And she goes, I named you after my best friend. And I said, yeah, she goes, you want to know when a course? And she goes, I named you Daniel.

So you were given the name at birth that you ultimately gave to one of your


I gave my son and remember we had two names, pictures. And guess who my birth father’s name was… james. That was the other name we had Daniel and [00:28:00] James picked out for my third son and my birth father’s name is James

my gosh.

[00:28:05] Damon: That is crazy.

[00:28:08] Michael: I know. I know. So, and then there’s, you know, and then more of this nature versus nurture. I said, my daughter was a nurse practitioner, right? Well, nobody in my family is in the medical field at all. And my daughter always wanted to be a nurse. Well, of course what’s my biological mom.

She was a nurse.

[00:28:28] Damon: Michael said after that first introduction, he just kind of went numb for about two weeks. He didn’t know how to feel. They traded text messages back and forth exchanging photos. And Michael started seeing the mirroring that was absent from his life before reunion.

He told me he and his sister looked so much alike. They could be twins. Trying to navigate everything. Michael went to a therapist to talk things through, but he admitted the person wasn’t an adoption competent therapist. So when [00:29:00] Michael finished sharing what he had been through, the woman simply said, wow, what an amazing story.

Not even close to what he needed to start navigating reunion. Michael began feeling the need to actually meet his new found family in person. So he asked whether everyone was going to be around one weekend because he wanted to drive out to meet them. The family packed their camper and drove out friday morning

[00:29:24] Michael: you know, I, of course I didn’t sleep Thursday night and I’m meeting my sister on Friday morning for breakfast.

So she’s headed out of town and I texted her and I go, you know, I feel like I’m about to go on a date with a girl, but you, my first date with a girl, but 10 times worse. I’m glad you said that because that’s what it feels like for me, it’s so


And we got to the restaurant and I sat down across from her and I looked into her eyes and I said, oh, it’s real.

And she goes, yes, it is [00:30:00] real, you know, the whole phone calls and what not. It just, it, it wasn’t, wasn’t real until I, until I sat there looking at her, you know, and one of the things that I think adoptees would understand is that. We sat there for two hours and you know, of course, neither one of us eight.

My wife and her husband ate, you know, they were having a conversation and we walked out and we took a couple pictures and she gave me a hug and she started walking across the parking lot and she got about halfway to the car and she turned around and came running back and gave me a great big hug. And it was probably the best hug I’ve ever had in my life.

And I think as I, as I think back on it, I felt probably like, I can say now it was probably, I was worried I was going to be abandoned by someone who I found. Yeah. And by her coming back and hugging me, made me feel [00:31:00] so, you know, welcomed or, you know, Walter, you know, it’s great.

Yeah. It was an amazing, yeah, so

[00:31:11] Damon: that, that return hug, I could imagine also made it real. There’s the, there’s the coming face to face looking each other in the eye and being like, wow, this is way more than a phone conversation. Like you’re real real person. And here we are face to face. And then I could see how at the end of a meal and a chat and a get to know you, you go to the parking lot and you just kind of part ways you get in your car and you split.

But for her to return with sort of an, I love you kind of hug is really special. That’s really awesome.

[00:31:42] Michael: Yeah, it was, it was, you know, and so, but so that afternoon, you know, I walked up to the front porch, you know, we’re walking up to an, uh, a condo and there’s a lady watering plants. I go, is that Mary Ellen?

And she goes, well, [00:32:00] yes it is. I gave her, you know, I gave her a hug and we went in and he, of course, you know, you could talk just like probably most adoptees. You don’t really remember you just talk and talk and talk, you know, you got, you know, 58 years to catch up on. Right. And we, we yapped and then it was time for, you know, and then she said, well, let’s go to dinner.

And she left and, you know, got freshened up and she came out and this was the part you were, you know, one of those things that you were kind of worried about, because I’ve heard a couple of adoption stories, not a lot, but she just, as she’s walking and she goes, do you know how I feel about all of this?

And this is my birth mother, you know, after two hours and whatnot, and I’m, I’m waiting for the, well, it’s nice to know you, but you know, I’m glad we did this, but I really, and she goes, I now feel complete.


Yeah. [00:33:00] Yeah. And I was really worried that it would be, now that we’ve met, you know, I’ve given you all the info and you’re done.

[00:33:06] Damon: Yeah. Take

care. What is it, how does that feel to you to make, to know that your return completed someone else?

[00:33:15] Michael: Um, it took me a long time, , to understand that I have to say that you actually you’re responsible for something that I I’m finding very soothing is, , I, I forget her name. , she’s doing the, , birth mother’s real talk

[00:33:29] Damon: D. Yvonne Rivers

[00:33:30] Michael: yeah. Yeah. Yvonne rivers. Yes. And those are great stories and it, it seems like, you know, I don’t, I’m sure not all birth mothers, but a lot of them feel that way. You know, they, they want to, they do want to reconnect, you know, , but I didn’t know that, you know, so I find all the adoption podcasts, very enlightening and helping , guide me through this whole path that I’ve gone through.

[00:33:57] Damon: So yeah, there’s

something [00:34:00] very, uh, powerful about hearing a similar story to your own, even if it’s different in many ways, but there’s a kinship that comes with being adopted people and, you know, I’ve likened it before to maybe being an organ transplant recipient. Like there’s only so many people who know the intensity of what you’ve been through, you know, or, or someone who , , has, you know, recovered from addiction or something along those lines.

Right. Not everybody has that experience. And so you only, you can speak to someone else who has had that experience and have them relate to it.. But having that relation and hearing someone else’s story and being able to nod your head and say, yup, that was me or no, I didn’t happen to me, but, um, you know, I can empathize with you because that absolutely could have happened to me.

You know, it, there’s just something really powerful in hearing the stories of other people and [00:35:00] sort of letting them resonate with you in the ways that they do either to appreciate your own or to empathize with theirs. So I know exactly what you’re saying. It’s there there’s a lot packed into the adoption experience and hearing the stories of others can be really soothing and therapeutic and cathartic to tell, you know, as I’m sure yours is.

Michael and Mary Ellen have spoken three or four times a week for the last two years and counting. It’s a strong connection that Michael cherishes deeply. The next day after meeting his birth mother, michael met his brother for the first time. The guy brought his kids to meet their new uncle and the fellows sat around chatting all day long

[00:35:45] Michael: And it turns out my sister, my new half sister was texting him all day and he wasn’t replying.

And finally, , she texted one of the, one of my, my nephew or my niece, one of the, two of them that was sitting there the whole time listening. And she goes, I don’t know [00:36:00] what’s going on, but I’d never heard my dad talk so much in his life..

I know. So that’s how

[00:36:11] Damon: the kids,

[00:36:13] Michael: that’s interesting. Yeah. I guess, you know, they don’t ever hear their dad talk that much, so, so, you know, a couple of months later, you have to remember, there was like four different people that were connected to me on 23 and me, one of them was my brother’s son.

Right? Hmm. Okay. And his percentage was only 9%, right. On 23 and me and both on ancestry and 23 and me, there was a gentleman named Jeff at 4% and I’m saying, well, if my, my real life nephew is, you know, 9%, what about this guy at 4%? So I sent him a note via 23 and me, and he goes, oh, you should try to contact, you know, [00:37:00] Sue on ancestry.

She’s been looking, you know, she’s been trying to build a family. And this is how much I really wasn’t searching that hard for. And I completely forgotten. I went back on my ancestry account and like five years ago, this lady sent me a message going, who are you? You’re closely related to me. And I said, I don’t know, you know, I’m adopted.

And she goes, oh, well, I’ll ask and got a note back. You know, don’t know anything about you. so as I’m logging back on to ancestry a couple hours later, Sue sent me a message. Remember, five years ago, I got a message from her life from an hour ago. Have you been talking to Jeff now?

Who are you? And I go well, and it turns out that it was my biological father’s sister.

[00:37:55] Damon: Wow.

[00:37:57] Michael: Oh, that’s great. [00:38:00] Yeah. So as it turns out, you know, we had made contact, you know, five years ago. And if I wanted to really dig, I could’ve figured something out, you know? So he, James, my biological father, he actually passed away about 10 years ago.

Sorry. But his wife is alive and he had, he and his wife had of course four sons and a daughter. There’s four more half-brothers

[00:38:32] Damon: oh my gosh. That is crazy,

[00:38:37] Michael: Yeah. So. I ended up talking to my oldest half-brother we’re only, uh, 10 months apart from each other, because the way it happened was, you know, they had a quick fling. My biological mother and biological father. He was a senior, she was a sophomore in college and he actually went home and met back up [00:39:00] with his high school sweetheart, who had, he had had forever.

She went to a different college, they got engaged and six months later got married and, you know, a couple of months later she was pregnant. So as my birth, mother’s going off to the unwed mothers home, he’s getting married, , and the million dollar question is still did, did he ever know, you know, at this point, no, we don’t know..

But it was important to the whole family on his side that, you know, at least it wasn’t a thing where he was cheating on her or anything, you know, they were, they weren’t engaged. They were, you know, they were in college having a good time so on that side, definitely, you know, nobody knew anything about me, so it was a big shock as far as that’s concerned, but everybody was really nice.

You know? I mean, I, I got phone calls from almost everyone, even my biological father has seven living brothers and sisters, and I’ve heard from all but tool, you know, they called [00:40:00] me up, you know, blah, you know, gave me the whole rundown of the family and everything. So it was really nice,

[00:40:04] Damon: Michael’s birth father passed away 10 years ago. So the payer never met. The man’s brother Michael’s paternal uncle said it was too bad. They never got to meet each other. Michael learns that his paternal side of the family is full of athletes. And he’s part of a family of very tall people. Some folks are six foot five. Coincidentally both michael’s adoptive and birth fathers were huge chicago bears football and chicago cubs baseball fans

[00:40:33] Michael: so I went, I flew up to Chicago and my, of course might have my brothers or, you know, two of them up there and the sister, a huge bears fan, and we tailgated and went to a Chicago bears game. And I went to soldier field for the very first time and paid tribute to both fathers.

You know, I, there I am. Yeah. That’s cool. Awesome. Yeah, it was nice. It was nice to meet them. They were very [00:41:00] welcoming and everything. It’s been harder for them because they didn’t know about me, you know, on the maternal side, everybody knew about me, so it was no big shock, you know, so yeah. But, yeah. And then, , my half brother, the oldest one, he was, moving out of this house and he was kind enough out of the blue.

I get a box in the mail and he sent me one of, one of my biological father’s basketball trophies from high school. Oh, that’s pretty good. Yeah. Pretty cool.

[00:41:31] Damon: Nice thing to have of his that’s really neat.

[00:41:34] Michael: Yeah, it was. And then, , the, the other half which was kind of funny is that, of course my adoptive sister, , she did 23 and me and immediately found her whole maternal side of the family.

Oh, wow. Yeah. And her half brother that she found, he was at the bears game. So I went over, shook his hand and took a picture of him with him [00:42:00] and sent it to my sister. She has a picture of her half-brother that she’s never met, you know, and her adopted brother together, , shaking hands.

So it was, uh, it was, it was a fun morning. It was a fun morning

[00:42:15] Damon: adoptive brother. Is there sort of paying homage to both his biological and his adoptive father?

[00:42:23] Michael: Yeah, that was me, you know? Oh yeah. Yeah. So it was, it was, uh, it was a great morning, you know, we had a lot of fun and, , I mean the whole thing has been, you know, I I’ve heard stories where they been, you know, so little harder than others, but mine had mine has been very nice, you know, everybody has been super welcoming as far as that’s concerned.

So yeah, that’s really great, but you know, but I have to say, you know, I mean, so for the last two years, I have to say, you know, before this happened, I didn’t care about adoption, you know, I’m part of every adoption [00:43:00] Facebook group now. And I have to say, when I look in the mirror, you know what I say, who am I?

And that’s not a joke. I say that because, I mean, I don’t, you know, I look, I have, you know, now I have a, a father, I mean, a biological father that I look like, you know, when I look in the mirror, I see somebody that is a picture. So

[00:43:25] Damon: yeah. Yeah. It’s funny. The show was named that for a reason, right?

There’s there’s the question that you might ask yourself as an adoptee seeking reunion. And that might be the question you ask is, you know, who am I, and how do I sort of go about figuring this out? And then there’s the person that you not become, but discover. When you go through reunion, you realize that you’re the product of this type of person and the product of that type of person.

And now your relationship with your, you know, adoptive parents have [00:44:00] changed in the following ways. And, and the question comes up again, like I’m now part of an in between, two families. And so you could still ask yourself sort of who am I, as it relates to both families. It’s yeah. It’s when I was driving along and I thought of the name of the show, I was like, oh yeah, that absolutely

[00:44:19] Michael: fits.

It’s perfect. Yeah. So, but, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of things that, you know, you start to become self-aware about, which is, I think is a good thing. Like my wife always thought that I was, you know, a really nice guy because I lost touch with old friends and coworkers, you know, I always call them and keep in touch.

And now I realize it is more of a separation anxiety kind of thing. You know, I don’t want to lose connection. You know, with fam, you know, and I, I call that an adoption thing, I mean, it’s, as far as that’s concerned, so yeah, but it’s been, you know, it’s been really nice. I mean, like [00:45:00] I said, I’m talking to mom all the time and then last summer I, in 2020, we actually made it down to Vero beach, my whole family, my, my boys, and, you know, the whole family got down there and I rented a room for my biological mother and she got to come over and meet the whole family, you know, which was really nice, you know, that was, it was important for me to her, for her to see what, you know, what she created.

So, yeah. Yeah. That’s right. And then at the root of that family tree, right. That’s right. Yep. And then this year I turned 60 in January and my sister turned 50. And we actually got a beach house in St. Augustine, and we all went down together, you know, with, with half brother and mom and we had a kind of, uh, you know, everyone got just you, my wife and I, you know, and we spent our birthday together, which was, you know, that’s new. Yeah. Yeah. Those are

[00:45:59] Damon: even though [00:46:00] you’ve lost years of experiences, once the reunion starts and , is going reasonably well and you can make these kinds of new memories it’s really fulfilling, right?

[00:46:13] Michael: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But the most recent, the fun thing that happened in the last few months when I last six months was that I found my vaccination book, you know, when I was a baby and it turns out, which is really weird, turns out that my, my adoptive mom and dad.

We only lived when they brought me home, Glenview, Illinois. We only lived a mile away from my, from my birth father and

[00:46:46] Damon: his family really,

[00:46:49] Michael: and dug a little deeper. We all had the same pediatrician right now. This is small town Chicago. Right? [00:47:00] And so my maternal grandfather, my my birth mother’s father was a doctor.

So here in a small town outside of Chicago, What’s the chances that the doctor and the pediatrician know something. Yeah.

[00:47:16] Damon: That’s

[00:47:17] Michael: very interesting. And nobody’s alive to confirm this, but then what makes it even worse? Is that both? Well, of course my mom and dad, you know, my adopted mom and dad


[00:47:27] Michael: and my maternal, grandfather, grandfather, and grandmother, Dave, loved to drink.

Matter of fact, my maternal grandmother died of alcoholism. Right. And guess you owned the local Glen view in which was not an end. It was a bar and Tavern was my paternal grandfather

[00:47:54] Damon: got overlapping stories all over the place, man,

[00:47:57] Michael: the problem is, is we don’t know if [00:48:00] anybody knew each other.

[00:48:00] Damon: Michael said his reunion has been a really positive experience on both sides. When I asked about how sharing his reunion went with his adoptive parents, Michael shared that his adoptive father has been deceased for three decades. With his mom,

he decided to first reveal that he had found his paternal family because he wasn’t sure how she might react to the news that he had found his maternal family to.

[00:48:26] Michael: I went down the road and I said, well, maybe they know, they might know who the maternal side is and I’ll let you know.

And I just couldn’t leave it be I had to let her know, you know, that I had found everyone and she was kind of okay with it. But she’s 91. Now she’s not a hundred percent. She does kind of with it, but you know, not a hundred percent with it. I don’t know how she feels about it, to be honest with you.

She did make the comment where you don’t. When I told her that I had found my maternal mother, because, well, you don’t call her mom, do you? And I go, [00:49:00] no, I don’t. I hate to say it, David, but I do call her mom. Yeah, yeah,


Yeah. Every once in a while, you know, I’ll go, Hey mom, how’s it going?

And you know, she, and the first time I did it, she paused for a second and she goes, yep. I own it. So cute.

Yeah. So yeah, it’s been, you know, we’re going to go see him in December and you know, between Christmas and new year, we’ll go down camp and see him again. And actually the neat thing about it is that my wife and her they really, really get along. And my adopted mom never, actually never, ever talked to my wife. She doesn’t, you know, that’s just not part of her DNA. So that’s really, yeah,

[00:49:49] Damon: it’s a funny thing with the, with the biological moms and, and the wives. I had a similar situation with my own adoptive and biological [00:50:00] mothers and my wife wherein my wife and my adoptive mother didn’t get along.

And unfortunately my mother suffered mental illness. So I suspect that that was a large portion of it. But then I get this second opportunity when I found my biological mother. And I was like, well, maybe they’ll get along. And they did, you know, they were sweet and yeah, it was really nice to offer my wife a second opportunity at a mother-in-law that she could get along with.

But also my mother, my biological mother, an opportunity to be a mother-in-law. You know what I mean? So it’s kind of fascinating. I hear where you’re coming from in terms of that second relationship happening.

[00:50:41] Michael: Yeah. It’s been, it’s been great. I mean, a matter of fact, my wife’s sister and brother-in-law lives down in Florida, you down in the Tampa area.

And my, my wife flew down there. She spent the night with my biological mother. That’s cool. Yeah. Yeah. They really, you know, I mean, they hit it off . [00:51:00] You know, it’s, you know, , it’s perfect. You know, so yeah, it’s been, it’s been an adventure, but it’s also, you know, it’s always, it’s nice to hear other stories.

I mean, we started adoptees connect here in Atlanta. There’s only two of us, but we know we’ve started. And so that’s yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So Tiffany and I had like three zoom calls and we’re going to dinner next week or her husband and my wife and I were going to go meet for the first time.

So that’s really

[00:51:31] Damon: cool. All right. Well, if anybody wants to reach out to me and try to connect with you to join adoptees connect in Atlanta, I’ll be sure to make sure they link up with you.

[00:51:41] Michael: There you go. That’s awesome.

[00:51:43] Damon: Very good. Very good. Mike, this has been amazing, man. I’m really glad to hear that you have this. Positive reunion experience, especially one that has so much nature infused within it. So in terms of all of the connections, I mean, it’s just incredible to [00:52:00] hear all of the ways that you are similar to your sister, to your biological mother, , height of your, your biological father and stuff is just really fascinating.

Good for you. And I’m glad that the relationships are going well, too. Yeah.

Well, I agree. I appreciate your time and, and what you do, you know, for the community and giving me a chance to tell my story, even though I’m long-winded about it. No, no,

no. It’s, those are the interesting details, right? When you’re short winded about it, you leave out some stuff that’s really interesting.

And it’s the nitty gritty stuff. . How you feel, how the search went, how, you know, others felt and how they treated you, you know, that the point you made about your sister coming back for a huge hug, that’s important to you and that kind of thing. Resonates with other people. And it’s important for them to hear your perspective in its entirety.

And I’m glad you took time to share it. So thanks for being here, Mike.

[00:52:51] Michael: Yep. My pleasure. Thank you for your talk. Yeah,

[00:52:53] Damon: man. Take care all the best. Have a great evening. Okay.

[00:52:55] Michael: Okay. Bye-bye bye.

[00:52:57] Damon: [00:53:00] Hey, it’s me. Michael started off in a family with some dysfunction that led him down a path of substance abuse and seemingly self destructive behavior. But he turned his life around from living with excess weight, to a focus on physical health that transforms him into a triathlete. I’m always amazed to hear adopt these sheer, that in reunion, they found a special bond with their biological family.

And Michael’s connection to his sister as a fellow triathlete and Def Leppard fan did not disappoint. What a surprise. It must have been for his birth mother to learn that her son had found the family and that his existence. Which she thought was a secret wasn’t that at all? I love that he got the chance to tell her thanks for the choice she made back in 1960.

And that he got to pay homage to his adoptive and birth fathers with a trip to the Chicago bears game.

Michael’s story is infused with [00:54:00] many themes of nature versus nurture. I hope you find positive similarities between yourself and your birth family to. I’m Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Michael’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



Who Am I Really?

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