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010 – How Can I Meet Her Without Telling Her Who I Am?

Steve was raised in Baltimore, MD in a predominantly Jewish suburban neighborhood. But as he looked around at his friends and other families, he truly questioned his own identity, especially as an adoptee. In an era before electronic record keeping, Steve used his street savvy to buy the information he needed about himself in order to advance his search for his biological family. More crafty thinking led Steve right to his biological mother’s front door. He wanted to meet her, but not necessarily reveal that he was her son. He knocked on her door with a story that should have gotten him sent on his way. Instead she invited him in! Just wait until you hear his crafty approach to introducing himself to his biological mother, and the truth about his European heritage.

The post 010 – How Can I Meet Her Without Telling Her Who I Am? appeared first on Who Am I…Really? Podcast.

Steve (00:04):

My biggest question to my parents who raised me was always, are you sure? Are you 100% sure that I’m Jewish? And I’m looking in the mirror, I’m thinking, I don’t look like anybody in this neighborhood. Yeah, I knew I wasn’t Jewish and I wanted to know what my background was.

Voices (00:27):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:38):

This is Who Am I Really? A podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members? Hey, it’s Damon and today you’re going to hear Steve’s journey. He has family history in Baltimore, Maryland, but his biological roots go back to Chicago, Illinois. Steve says that he was a bit of a juvenile delinquent when he was a teen and quite the opposite of his siblings, one who was a jock, the other who was a scholar, but it turned out those street skills and crafty thinking were just the tools he needed to locate and connect with his biological mother. I can’t wait until you hear just how he did it.

Damon (01:18):

Steve, I’m super glad to be connected to you, man. I appreciate you accepting the invitation to chat a little bit. You’ve got quite an amazing story, but I’d love for you to take me back to your early childhood. Tell me about what it was like in your family as an adoptee, what your structure was like and your family and what your community was like and how you fit into the community as an adoptee.

Steve (01:42):

Perfect. Yeah, I’ll start off was saying, you know, my adoptive parents, I’ll start off with them, uh, to give you a little idea why they even went the adoption routes, but they, they were a Jewish couple. Uh, they were married in the late forties. They decided to start a family probably somewhere around 1950, 51, and they obviously could not conceive. So, um, they decided to go the adoption route. Okay. Then what makes this whole story interesting is that my parents were Jewish and they wanted to adopt a Jewish baby. So I’m thinking to myself, what are the odds on them finding a bunch of Jewish babies out there in this world? How do you even go about that? That’s what they wanted because they wanted to stick with it, you know, their religious tradition and raise a child Jewish and things like that. So I was actually born in Chicago.

Steve (02:36):

My parents were from Baltimore, so that’s where the thing gets kind of weird. Uh, what they did was they got an attorney up in Baltimore who knew of a rabbi who knew of a rabbi in Chicago who knew an attorney over there that had access to people that were Jewish and looking to put babies up for adoption into a Jewish family, if you can follow that. So about six years later, around 1977 they get a phone call, there’s a baby girl available, which is my older sister. Year and a half later, they get a phone call that there was a baby available in Chicago, fly out to Chicago, and there was me coming home three days later.

Damon (03:20):

So the Jewish community gets together and through connections establishes a network by which to presumably Jewish babies can arrive in a Jewish family in Baltimore.

Steve (03:33):

Environment. Correct.

Damon (03:33):

Gotcha. Okay.

Steve (03:34):

Correct. So fast forward a little bit. A couple years later in 1962 my parents were able to have a biological son, which is pretty normal. They say sometimes parents that cannot conceive then all of a sudden they can. But basically in the 60s growing up in the rambles town area of Baltimore County was like, our environment was like the show leave at the Beaver. It was really, it was just, you know, a brand new suburban area. I grew up in a, in a 100% Jewish neighborhood. There must have been 115 homes in my neighborhood and every single one of them was Jewish.

Damon (04:13):

Mhmm an enclave. The community. Yeah.

Steve (04:17):

Well it was pretty much just like any other family in the neighborhood. I quite frankly, I didn’t realize I was adopted until I was the age of six. Um, there’s only a couple of things I can really remember, uh, before the year 1964 and that was John F. Kennedy getting shot and the day my mother told me I was adopted.

Damon (04:40):

Huge moments in your life, huh?

Steve (04:42):

Yeah. Yeah. And I, and I tell people that my adoptions no big deal. But that moment when my mother told me I must’ve been a big deal cause it’s still in my brain to this day cause I could remember exactly where I was sitting when my mother told me that news.

Damon (04:56):

Do you remember how you felt? What did it, what did it feel like? Or what did she say? What else do you remember?

Steve (05:01):

Yeah, well I remember sitting down on the steps on my 6th birthday. It might’ve been like a day or two before I was to start first grade. So I’m thinking maybe my parents thought we might as well tell him today before he goes to school and finds out in school from somebody else because maybe one of the parents in the neighborhood told some kid who knows. So it was a good time to tell me.

Damon (05:23):

Yeah, the community talks. Yeah.

Steve (05:25):

Exactly. Exactly. So she sat me down and said, I have something to tell you. And I think she said, you know, I love you very much, we love you very much something like that. And I said to myself, oh boy what’s going on here? So she said that I just want to let you know that you and your sister were adopted, uh, to our, uh, mothers in Chicago, uh, who were not able to care for their babies cause they were poor pretty much through that spiel out there at us. And I went okay. And then she explained that how, you know, my mother carried me around for nine months and then gave birth and then she, my parents went up to Chicago and got us and then of course she says to me, um, you have any questions about your adoption or if you have any questions in the future, please feel free to ask. So the only thing, I do remember saying this, cause my mom still says to this day, I said, yeah, I do. I have a question. And she says, what’s that? I said, and I said, too late for me to go down the street, play wiffle ball?

Damon (06:24):

The mind of a six year old!

Steve (06:26):

Exactly. Adoption meant nothing to me. I didn’t even know where babies came from at that age. My dad he came in the front door with my sister and we start talking. She says, Hey, we’re adopted. What that means is, we went around the neighbrhood and told everyone we are adopted!

Damon (06:40):

Haha, good news folks!

Steve (06:44):

Hey, it was all like, you know what’s, you know, what’s the deal here? So it didn’t have that much of an effect on us in a negative way. Yeah, that’s pretty much how it stayed all through the 60s. We were just doing normal family in Baltimore.

Damon (06:57):

Going back to when you’re six years old, you’ve sat on the front porch with your mom, she’s told you that you’re adopted. Has your baby brother been born yet? And do you recall at all thinking like, well what does that mean? Like how are we different then? Do you, did you, do you recall at all a point when you thought to yourself, wait a minute, she’s telling me that we’re different in some way?

Steve (07:19):

Yeah, well he was probably too, okay. Yeah, probably still sitting in a crib. And I do know, I do remember my mom giving birth to my brother, so I knew that he came from my mother. Um, but when my mom told me that I did not, again, like a deer in the headlights kind of a situation. It just really wasn’t a big deal to me. I was just so occupied and to my life and in that neighborhood, I mean this was the, this was the baby boom generation. There were kids everywhere running in the street, you know.

Damon (07:55):

And six and seven year old boys aren’t known for being particularly introspective or contemplative. So I could see how this wouldn’t necessarily hit you with like a ton of bricks.

Steve (08:05):

Exactly. And it really didn’t, it really didn’t really register to me till I got maybe around the age of eight and nine. It was about that age when I realized that, hey, babies stay in a mother’s body for like nine months. And then they have birth and, and it started coming to me, Hey, there’s somebody out there that carried me around for nine months who, you know, then all of a sudden the fantasy started coming around and the dream of, you know, who, who is this person? You know? And, and I had those thoughts, but my sister did not have those thoughts. That’s what’s really bizarre. We grew up in the same house absolute to this day, to this still no interest.

Steve (08:56):

She doesn’t even talk about it. Yeah. And all three of us different personalities. You know, my brother was a extremely smart kid in school. Straight A’s. Yeah. He had his own friends. My sister had her own friends, very good in school. And then there was me, the athlete, the guy that was average student at best and getting in trouble. Maybe it was because I was the middle child, who knows? But I was a little juvenile delinquent and I caused my mother and father so many headaches. You can’t even imagine how bad of a kid I was when I was like 12, 13, 14 and 15. And I’m sure my parents were probably thinking where this kid come from?

Damon (09:36):

Yeah, right, right.

Steve (09:38):

Yeah. Of course, they would never say that to me, but they were the perfect parents when it comes to raising adopted children, just, they were probably, they had all the right answers to everything, you know? But I never, yeah, I mean, you know, look, I’m sure my sister and I, somewhere when we were younger, probably said, hey, you’re only punishing us today because we’re adopted. You know? I’m sure we threw that at them a couple times.

Damon (10:02):

Yeah. A lot of adoptees do that. I remember doing it to my own mother.

Steve (10:05):

You whip out the adoption card when you’re in trouble.

Damon (10:08):

Yeah. Yeah, you weaponize it and then you don’t realize until a little bit later when you’re older or even after that moment like, Oh boy.

Steve (10:15):

Oh, that’s embarrassing. Yeah, exactly. But you know, our parents are the ones that know what they’re doing, they know that day is coming. They, they know that’s coming and they’re prepared for it. And my mother just steadfast, she says, no, no, Steven and you, you, you’re in trouble today because you threw a lock through the neighbors window yesterday.

Steve (10:40):

This has nothing to do with how you came into this world. Let’s just get this straight. So fast forward a little bit, you’ve, you’ve, you’re now eight years old and it’s kinda hitting you. There’s somebody out there that did the same thing that my mom has done for their son, the baby that she carried in her belly. What, what kinds of things did you think about, about this other person?

Steve (11:01):

I would obviously dream of what and who my mother was, you know, I would fantasize. Uh, well she’s Marilyn Monroe orJane Mansfield.

Damon (11:12):

Right? You put the most positive spin your mind can handle on it.

Steve (11:15):

Oh of course, that’d be a good looking woman. Come on, look at me. So I would sit back and think who is this person or what is she doing right now? What is, there’s a whole other world out there that I don’t know about and I tell you, a very special day for me, and I hear from a lot of adoptees that their birthday is not a special day for them because it reminds them of their adoption. But for me, my birthday, I couldn’t wait for my birthday to come around cause that was the day that I knew for sure that my birth mother was thinking of me on that day. So I knew that we had something in common that we could grab onto. And I would, at nighttime, I would look out my window on my birthday night, stare at the brightest star in the sky, the North star, and just like bring me messages back and forth to my, uh, my mother thinking maybe she’s looking at that same star thinking of me. And I would tell her what I’m doing this past year in school and my friends and things like that, if we would have like a 45 minute conversation

Damon (12:26):

What kinds of things would she say back to you?

Steve (12:28):

Uh, I don’t know where you are. I hope you’re fine. Um, I love you, you know, anything that I’ve wanted to say, anything I wanted to hear is what I heard. Okay. So I’m just a kid, you know?

Damon (12:44):

In your imagination.

Steve (12:44):

Sure. And that’s kind of what got me okay with the whole adoption thing. Knowing I had something I could hold onto. And that was that birthday connection. And that stayed with me pretty much up to maybe I was like 13 or 14 and I kinda stopped doing that out the window thing. And, and then when I was like 14, 15, I became a selfish kid. And I was really out doing destructive things. So it really wasn’t until after those days were over there that got back into, uh, the thought process of knowing who my birth mother was, at the age of 18.

Damon (13:24):

So you had sort of matured out of your delinquency a little bit.

Steve (13:28):

Oh yeah. 18. Oh yeah. As soon as I became you know, legal at 18, that’s when I…

Damon (13:35):

Your actions had this ramification for your police record.

Steve (13:39):

You got that correct. So everything sweet between them. And I started my search for my biological mother, I’m gonna say around 26. That’s when I really started putting the pen to the paper, so to speak.

Damon (13:58):

What was happening for you at that age? Why, why was that the time?

Steve (14:02):

I was settling down and I had a little time to actually do a search without jumping through hoops. And then I got married in my late twenties and moved to Atlanta. That’s when it really jumped in high gear because I did spend eight years looking for my biological roots and I came up empty because you know, the state of Illinois was one of the biggest closed adoption States you can possibly imagine, like Fort Knox getting your information out of that place. So I mean all I knew was the day I was born and the time that I came out at 2:56 AM in the morning on September 6th. I didn’t even know the name of the hospital. And then my biggest thing, my biggest questions to my parents raised me was always, are you sure? Are you 100% sure that I’m Jewish? And they would say, Oh yeah, that’s what we were told. And I’m looking in the mirror, I’m thinking, I don’t look like anybody in this neighborhood.

Damon (15:01):

Interesting. Yeah.

Steve (15:02):

Yeah. I knew I wasn’t Jewish. There’s just no way. And I looked at my sister come on, we were like, yeah, we look like a Italians or Germans. And that really, really had me itching to find out cause I wanted to know what my background was.

Damon (15:17):

So what did you do? I mean, you’ve already said Illinois is Fort Knox in terms of trying to get information out. So what did you do?

Steve (15:23):

Well, no, I’m going to be honest with you. I got up, I did and I figured look, if they’re going to keep this information from me, I’m just gonna do what I need to do to get that information. I don’t care if I break the wall at this point.

Damon (15:34):

Mmhmm.

Steve (15:36):

So I found out what hospital I was born at just by asking for some non identifying information from the courts. And I’m not gonna name the hospital cause I’m, I’m like am I in trouble? I drove up to Chicago with a bunch of money in my pocket and I went into the hospital and I got somebody in the records department that pulled this person off to the side. I said Hey, I got, I got a request. I told her exactly what I was doing. And I said I need somebody in the records department and I would like a list of every single mother that came into this hospital on September 6th 1958 that had a baby. I would like the times that they had the baby and you know, whatever other information. And she looked at me and I put five $100 bills in her hands and I got the information the next day.

Damon (16:27):

I bet you did. Now. Wow. Oh geez. The liquid mind shines through and in a moment of investigation, yeah. May I ask you, did you tell her why? Did you express to her sort of the emotional component of what you were trying to accomplish?

Steve (16:45):

I did. I did. I think she was more interested in the $500.

Damon (16:49):

Really? She didn’t care that you were an adoptee, you flash cash and that was cashless was king.

Steve (16:54):

So she gave me a list of everybody that had a baby that day and I picked it up when she got her money and I walked out, I got in my car and I looked at the list and there was about.. I was surprised there were 16 women that had babies that day but only had it at 2:56 AM.

Damon (17:13):

Wow.

Steve (17:13):

So that was my mother. That’s how I got her name.

Damon (17:17):

And what did you think when you saw that?

Steve (17:19):

I stared at it. I just stared at it. I mean, you know, I just stared at that name. It was just wow. I’m looking at the name of my mother, thirty five years later, look at that name. To me that was so unbelievable. It was just absolutely incredible. So I said, okay. And it happened to be fairly common names. So I thought, eh, Chicago, 7 million people in this town and I got a common name. You gotta be kidding.

Steve (17:52):

So I took that name and I went down to Cook County, uh, downtown down in some, another scan up but anyway I pulled up some voters registration information out. Somehow or another, found this person, Carol’s, voter registration information. And, and then I found some more information and finally got a social security number for her, okay, and once you get someone’s social security number, you know, lights out.

Damon (18:20):

Right.

Steve (18:21):

You can find a person in three minutes. So I had a friend of mine that was in the siding business, aluminum siding business. I had him run that social security number, like she was a customer buying stuff for like a credit check or something and he got, he got the address for me. So there I am in Chicago with my mother’s address in my hand and what do I do? You know?

Damon (18:47):

Yeah. I mean, you could literally drive up and knock on the door, but, but could you? So what did you do?

Steve (18:54):

Exactly. But could I? That’s, that’s the question. Could I? So I, my theory was I always wanted to just send my mother a certified letter, let her make the decision if she wants contact and go from there. But keep this in mind coming through my mind, I kept thinking, well, you know, once you send the letter, you’re opening up, you can’t, you’re opening up Pandora’s box. There’s no return. Once she knows who you are, whether you like it or not, this is your life and you gotta be careful. I don’t know what’s going on with her, who she is, you know, who knows what I’m getting into here.

Damon (19:32):

Hmm.

Steve (19:32):

You know? So then I thought like the little creative person I am, how can I see her, sort of meet her and don’t tell her I am, kind of scope the situation. Then go back to Atlanta and fire the letter off.

Damon (19:53):

Yeah. We wanted to craft a meeting that would allow you to investigate her without her knowing she was being investigated.

Steve (20:00):

Bingo. And I feel, don’t get me wrong, I feel guilty about it, but it all turned out fine. So I pull up to her condominium and I thought, okay, I’ll just get a view of her coming and going. So I’m sitting out there for like two hours, there’s nobody coming or going out of that condo. So I thought, okay, let me come up with another, another scam, so to speak. So I thought, well maybe I can go up and knock on her door and say hi, I’m here to look at your condominium that’s for sale. And then she’ll know it’s not for sale, but at least it will get me to see fear face. And she would tell me, I’m sorry my condo is not for sale. And then I would say, Oh well, I’m sorry, I’ve got the wrong place and leave.

Damon (20:49):

Okay, that’s creative if nothing else.

Steve (20:53):

So I’ve got a clipboard out, wrote some things on there and I tell ya, dang man, I was so nervous. My heart was beating a thousand miles. It’s just unbelievable. So I got the courage, I got the nerve and courage to go up to her unit, knocking on the door and about 10 seconds later I hear some scuffling. So my head towards the door and she screams out before she opens the door, I remember that Chicago accent she had. “I’m coming, hold your horses!”

Damon (21:31):

So your first listen to her voice is this comedic, quintessential Chicago accent shouting at you.

Steve (21:38):

Exactly 35 years later. So she opens up the door. Okay. And she opened up the screen door. I’m looking at my biological mother for the first time since she probably held me in her arms in the hospital 35 years ago. And she looks, she looks just like me right in the face, the nose, the eyes, the mouth. She’s looking at me, and she has no idea and she says, what can I do for you? And I said, I’m, I’m sorry ma’am, but a real estate agent sent me over here looking at at your condo that’s for sale. That was my spiel, and she said, just like I thought she would say, my place is not for sale. You’re at the wrong place. I go, Oh, I’m sorry ma’am, I must be at the wrong place. But my wife and the real estate agent were supposed to meet me over here to look at this unit, so it might be another unit somewhere. Thank you, good bye. She says, hold on, now she opens up the door. She says, are you telling me that the real estate lady and your wife are coming over here? I go “well they’re coming somewhere. I don’t know if it’s here, but I’m thinking it’s in the complex.” She says, I am the building president and if there’s any units for sale in this whole complex, I would know about it and the real are no condos sale around here. So I’m having like, I’m trying to get out of there. I don’t want to have a conversation here. So she grabs my clipboard, she grabs the clipboard out of my hands. Very Chicago woman. I got to tell you, I’m thinking, if she looks at that clipboard, she’s gonna see her name on there, cause I had a lot of adoption stuff on there. So I grabbed the clipboard back from her. I told her, I’m sorry, ma’am I got a lot of personal information there about my life, and she looks at me like, what is this guy doing here? And I go, well I’m sorry. I think I’m going to leave now and maybe find my wife somewhere and she says, why don’t you come in to my condo and wait for your wife and real estate agent inside my condo?

Damon (24:02):

Shut up. She invites you in.

Steve (24:09):

Yes! So now, I’m thinking she’s crazy. She doesn’t know me from Adam. And she’s inviting me in here. What is she, nuts? But she must’ve picked up something nice about me. I don’t know. So she says, I’m making a pot of coffee. I go, okay. So I’m standing in her kitchen, I’m standing in her kitchen and she’s standing next to me. We’re both sipping coffee, chatting about Chicago. Now I’m trying to jog her memory. I’m trying to throwing everything at her but the kitchen sink to see if something rings a bell. That she might say, Hey, this could be my son, but I’m not ringing any bells. I told her I’m from Baltimore, I didn’t say I was from Chicago. I said I’m from Baltimore. Raised in a Jewish family, but I was throwing everything at her and she just wasn’t, she wasn’t biting. So here’s what really is absolutely mind blowing. So we’re coming up to the end of the 40 minutes. Obviously my wife’s not coming and there is no real estate agent coming. So I told her, Hey, they must be on another side of town. I’ve got to get out of here and make some phone calls. So right before I left, in her kitchen, she had a calendar on a wall and it was, this was like August 20th, 1993 so just for, you know, just for curiosity’s sake, I flipped the calendar up to September. She had September the 6th, my birthday, and it said my son’s 35th birthday.

Damon (25:59):

Oh my God.

Steve (26:02):

I got tighted, my knees buckled, I was in shock. I mean, I don’t even know how I made it out of that place.

Damon (26:12):

I’m sitting here with my mind blown. I can’t even imagine.

Steve (26:16):

Yup. Yup. I just, I’m in shock. I’m thinking, I mean, what do I say? I can’t say anything cause she, she would be, it wouldn’t be right. She would like fall to the ground.

Damon (26:28):

Oh yeah. You scammed your way into her place. You can’t, you can’t tap this on her. Yeah,

Steve (26:34):

Exactly. It would look so bad, but my knees buckled and that gave me a hundred percent proof, its her.

Damon (26:41):

Yeah. If there was a doubt before that moment you had your proof

Steve (26:45):

Well, I laughed. I said, would you please write your phone number down this piece of paper and sign your name? And she wrote a phone number down and signed her name.

Damon (26:55):

Are you kidding me?

Steve (26:57):

Yeah. And I matched her signature up to some adoption papers I had. So I go back to my hotel and I get, I my call my wife, she, she says, go back and tell her who you are! I said I’m not doing that I’m coming back to Atlanta and I’m going to sit down and come up with a perfect letter and fire it off and that’s, that’s what I, that’s what I did.

Damon (27:20):

Now what do you say? You’ve now scammed your way into a person’s home and you are about to deliver to them the news that you’re looking for her. How do you even craft that letter? What do you say in a letter like that?

Steve (27:37):

I happen to have the letter here in front of me. Okay. I wrote this letter for her on September the 6th 1993 it just so happened it was my birthday. Here’s how the letter went. I am writing this letter to you today because today is a very special day. This letter was written for a Carol who would know the meaning of the date, September 6th, 1958. If you are this person, please read on. Today, September 6th, 1993 is my 35th birthday. By now I am assuming you have realized I am the son you gave birth to 35 years ago. I am well aware there is a possibility that you might not want contact from me and if that is the case, I sincerely apologize and will leave you this brief message. Thank you for giving me life. I am alive and well. I had a tremendous upbringing as a child and I thank you for making a very unselfish decision back in 1958 under conditions I’m assuming were very difficult. If for any reason you would like to know more about me though, I am completely open for that as I too would love to know more about you and your life. You are now probably wondering what I look like. Guess what? I’m afraid you already know for I was the one that stopped over at your condo last week posing as a prospective buyer of your condo that was obviously not for sale. My guess is you are now lying on the floor in shock.

Damon (29:37):

That’s a fairly safe assumption. Oh my gosh, man.

Steve (29:40):

Yeah, and then I go on. I did not have the courage to tell you who I was at the time and quite frankly, I also felt it might not be fair because you would have needed quite some time to handle such a piece of information and after spending 45 minutes talking with you last week I came away with the feeling you are a very warm and outgoing person. It almost felt like we knew each other for years.

Damon (30:11):

Wow. What a letter. So what happens? You send it off presumably?

Steve (30:20):

Yes, she, I sent that and listen, I send it all certified and I always tell about those that are looking for their biological mothers or fathers, whatever. Always do a certified letter this way, you know they’ve got to sign for it and they got it. So I had gone back to Atlanta and I’d sent the letter off. So I told my wife if a letter comes from Carol, don’t open it. I want to do this myself here. My wife calls me up and says you got a letter from Carol and it’s, it’s pretty thick. So I’m thinking oh its thick, thick is good, but she pretty much the first couple of lines in the leather went like this. My dreams and prayers have been answered. Yo have finally found me. I had been waiting 35 years for this day. Of course I want contact with you, I want to know everything there is to know about you and yes, you were right when you wrote in your letter that I might be lying on the floor in shock after hearing you say that you were here last week in my condo, I went down.I was laying on the ground crying for hours.

Damon (31:25):

Oh good. Oh my gosh.

Steve (31:30):

So I read her letter and I digested all that and then I made the call. We got, I called her that night and we spoke on the phone for four hours and that was pretty much the beginning of our relationship.

Damon (31:44):

Well, one of the questions that you had was about your Jewish heritage. What did you confirm about your lineage?

Steve (31:50):

Yeah, I how about this for some irony. German.

Speaker 3 (31:54):

Is that right? Oh no.

Steve (31:55):

My poor parents. Haha

Damon (31:59):

Oh gosh. How did that news go over with your parents?

Steve (32:03):

Well, you know what, I, that’s, that’s, that’s another situation I did not tell my parents that I was actively searching. Okay. So, and I sort of regret that cause I didn’t tell them, I didn’t want them to take it the wrong way. I mean, I love my parents so much. I didn’t want them to think that I was missing anything as a kid or they did anything wrong because they didn’t, I was just a curious kid.

Damon (32:27):

Yeah. You felt like you were protecting them and didn’t want to accidentally hurt them.

Steve (32:32):

Exactly. Even though they would have said, Oh, we were fine with it, but, but so many people knew about it. I was afraid. I better tell them just like they told me I was adopted. They told me, you know, your father and I figured you were the kind of person that might go out and search for your biological family. They thought that about me. They said it’s in my personality that for me to do something like that, I didn’t tell him that, about the little, you know, journey.

Damon (33:02):

I see. So you broke it down in small bits for them. That was sensitive.

Steve (33:08):

Yeah. And they didn’t ask a lot of questions. My mother asked a little bit every couple months. Do you still talk to this person? Yeah, I don’t get in all the details and things. You know, this was a textbook perfect adoption, my story. And I consider myself a very lucky person.

Damon (33:25):

Mhmm yeah, that sounds so.

Steve (33:26):

So go back up to Chicago about a month after my conversation, my four hour conversation with my mother and we have , you know, I get the flowers, I do the whole routine, go back up to that same condominium and I knocked on her door and we gave a big hug and we spent the whole weekend together and she, and I tell you what was really amazing. My grandfather was still alive and he lived..

Damon (33:51):

Is that right?

Steve (33:51):

Yeah, my mom’s father, probably like 81 years old, lived downstairs and my mom’s sent me down there to talk to him and I talked to him for like two hours. Fascinating person. He died a year later, so I was so happy to talk him. Yeah, we stayed, we stayed really tight till he passed away. So then a year later my mom got a surprise party for me. I flew up to Chicago and she takes me to some restaurants and I walk in and there’s like 125 people in that restaurant with name tags on all biological relevance.

Damon (34:33):

Are you kidding me? Oh my God. The live family tree.

Damon (34:39):

Yup. Aunts, uncles, cousins. It was unreal.

Damon (34:42):

So let me ask you, Steve, what did she tell you about the circumstances for your adoption and did you ask about your biological father?

Steve (34:50):

Yeah, definitely did. Cause that’s one of the first questions I asked my mother. So what the hell is going on here? What happened in 1958 and she says, well, she says that back in 1956 when she was just a teenager, uh, she got a little wild spirit in her, she was an only child. And I’m going to tell you right now, my mom was very, very good looking woman when she was a teenager in her twenties. She was a hot babe, but upstairs she might’ve been a little ah, vulnerable. I should say.

Damon (35:19):

So your hot babe fantasy from when you were six years old? Eight years.

Steve (35:25):

I know! I was right, I was right. Yeah. So anyway, she’s at a dance hall and she’s sitting in a bar. Some guy walks in and my mother tells me that she looked at him and pretty much fell in love with a guy before he even came into the place. She just loved the guy just at a glance over the bar. And of course he noticed her and they started a romance and he basically swept her off her feet. But here’s where it gets a little shady. Six or seven months into the relationship, he makes an announcement and the announcement is, by the way, Carol, I’m married with three kids. That’s what he says. Now this guy’s like a wise guy up in Chicago and he’s got this mistress, my mother, you know, on the side and he’s got a family that he goes to at nighttime with three kids just like something you see in like the movie Goodfellas.

Damon (36:17):

I was just thinking, we were literally in the car earlier today talking about the movie Goodfellas. I was thinking that as you were describing his story. That’s unbelievable.

Steve (36:25):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So my mother hits him over the head with her high heel shoes about 20 times, kicking him and does all the stuff that women getting that kind of news is going to do. But when the dust cleared, she stayed with him and she was his mistress while he was married. Fast forward, my mom gets pregnant somewhere in the early part of the 1958 now she’s still living at home. So three months into her pregnancy, her mother looks at my mother and says, you’re pregnant.

Damon (37:01):

She didn’t even ask her. She just asserted what she knew.

Steve (37:05):

Exactly. And this is 1958 that’s like a big taboo, you know, people, you know, that was a family hush hush, throw it under the rug situation. So my grandfather wants to put a contract out on my biological father, he wants to kill him. My biological father, goes into hiding for a little while. And so of course my mother gets sent off the relatives on the other side of Chicago and where she had the baby. And then of course that’s when my parents from Baltimore, slip out there and get me off of them. My mother gets shipped off to California for like a novelty just to get out of here. What happened to Carol? So my father, my biological father Don, picks up my mother, flies her back to Chicago where they continued the relationship for another fifteen years.

Damon (38:08):

Are you serious?

Steve (38:10):

Yes. As the mistress.

Speaker 3 (38:13):

Wow. That’s unbelievable. So did you get the opportunity to meet him?

Steve (38:19):

Oh yes. Well, like I said, the 15 year relationship with my father ended in the early seventies and they broke up and then my mother married a Chicago cop. Okay. And that Chicago cop was so jealous of my father, my biological father that he stalked and chased him all over Chicago for years trying to get him and put him in jail, catching him for doing stuff. Yeah. It was so bad that my father, biological father had to leave Chicago and move to Florida.

Damon (38:57):

Wow. Chased him out of the city.

Damon (38:58):

She’s the out of the city. So that’s where my father was when I met him. He was a down in South Florida near Pompano Beach, hiding in a warehouse upstairs somewhere, you know, like a mystery cabin.

Damon (39:15):

Had he left his family?

Steve (39:17):

Well, at that point, his kids were getting older too. His kids were already like 20 probably by the time he headed out to Florida, he had three kids. That would be my half brothers and sisters by the way, which I met. I met all of them except for one that was was killed. But yeah, I did meet him down in Florida. Um, and you know, I quite frankly, I really wasn’t interested in knowing my biological father I really didn’t care and I was looking for, I was looking for the person that carried me around for nine months. That’s all.

Damon (39:49):

No, no real deep connection. Your, your focus had been on your mother.

Steve (39:52):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. Good story. I’m an advocate of a good adoption. I know what adoptions can work and don’t get me wrong, I know some of them, some of them fail. And that breaks my heart because if they all had, they all had my parents, 100% of them be satisfied.

Damon (40:10):

Yeah, or mine. Yeah, I’m with you. I’ve interviewed some folks for the show who have said, as a matter of fact, in my most recent episode with Laura, she says, she basically tells me, you know, I feel 100% that if I had been with my biological parents I would have had a much better childhood regardless of what the situation was. So let me ask you, would you change any piece of how you approached this? What would you do differently? Looking back on how this whole thing unfolded?

Steve (40:36):

No. Sometimes I think, well, should I have found my biological mother before the age of 35 and she told me that had I found her anytime before that it wouldn’t have worked out that well because she was tied up in a bad marriage and the guy that she was with probably would not have accepted me and then it just wouldn’t have worked out. So I can say doing this earlier wouldn’t have worked out, so I have no complaints there. The only thing I wish I could take back is, is when I was growing up, not giving my poor parents such a grief as a juvenile delinquent. If I could do anything, that’s what I would change.

Damon (41:14):

Yeah, yeah, I can understand that. And hopefully they’ll have the opportunity to hear this and appreciate that you’ve said that most directly so well. She can look back and laugh cause what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and she survived and you survived and you’ve become a productive part of society versus the other track that you could’ve taken. So well Steve, thank you so much for taking time to talk with me and tell your story. It’s a fascinating one. I’m so glad that it worked out that you were able to locate your mother and in whats gotta be one of the most crafty scams I’ve heard. It’s just an entertaining story, but I’m also really glad that it worked out well cause it could have gone in different directions. Thanks for your time and take care. All the best.

Steve (41:58):

Thank you Damon, thank you very much. Bye bye.

Damon (42:06):

Hey, it’s me. Can you imagine that you’ve paid the hospital records keeper off to give you a short list of women that could be your mother. You’ve taken that identifiable information and located her address and then when you get to her, you tell her that you’re there to buy her home and she invites you inside where you verify your own birthday on her kitchen calendar. But what about the story in his adoptive family? You heard him say he was unsure of his heritage as he looked around the community and compared himself to other Jewish kids. Then after confirming that he was not Jewish, he had to return to his adopted family with the news that he is in fact descendant from Germany. That had to be very tough news to bring home given the history between Jews and Germans. I got the sense that they all found a healthy way to accept Steve for who he is, their son, and have found a pathway forward together as a family. I hope you’ll find something in Steve’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn. Who am I really? If you would like to share your story of locating and connecting with your biological family visit, whoamireallypodcast.com/share. You can also follow me on Twitter at waireally.

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