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012 – I Need This For My Sanity

Tom advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted. He was adopted as an infant and things went so well his parents decided to adopt two older boys when Tom was two years old. Their adoption is where his trouble started. Life became chaotic in their home because the older boys were difficult for his parents to control. Tom was feeling sidelined. Sadly, one of the older boys sexually abused him resulting in issues he’s dealt with most of his life. Searching to repair his past he sought counseling, connected with his biological mother, and tracked down his biological father. But Tom was never quite able to gain the sense of belonging he was searching for.

The post 012 – I Need This For My Sanity appeared first on Who Am I…Really? Podcast.

Tom (00:03):

You know, I knew more and more it was him. Wrote a third letter and basically said, look, I’m not after your money. I’m not looking to disturb your family, but I, I need this for my own sanity. I need to, I need to know and, and I’d like to meet you if I can.

Voices (00:25):

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

Damon (00:36):

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 on the show today, I’m joined by Tom. Tom advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted online. He shared with me that he was adopted as an infant and things went so well that his parents decided to adopt two older boys when he was two, but that’s when the trouble started. He says, life became chaotic in their home because the other boys were difficult for his parents to control leaving Tom feeling sidelined, resulting in issues he dealt with his entire life ever since. Searching to repair his past, he sought counseling, connected with his biological mother and tracked down his biological father, but Tom was never quite able to gain the sense of belonging he was searching for.

Damon (01:29):

Tom, thanks for taking time to talk to me this morning. I appreciate it.

Tom (01:33):

Absolutely.

Damon (01:34):

Now I’ve been seeing some of the thought leaders that are out there and your name continues to come up as somebody who’s advocating for a lot of adoptee rights and you’re a prolific writer about your own feelings and your own story.

Tom (01:48):

Oh, not a problem at all. I do the writing to try to help others and we’ll see how that goes.

Damon (01:54):

Yeah, yeah, it’s helpful for me to read some of your thoughts and some of your experiences. I appreciate the fact that you sort of consistently write about different themes from forgiveness to consideration of the father and a biological family and you know, so many other topics. So thank you for your leadership in this space as well.

Tom (02:13):

I appreciate that.

Damon (02:14):

Sure. So I would love for you to take me back to the beginning. Tell me a little bit about your life as an adoptee. As a young child, what it was like in your family, your community and uh, and how things were growing up for you.

Tom (02:28):

Sure. Well, to start, I think it started out well and was well intended. I was adopted at the age of three months back in 1971. I guess I was my parents pride and joy. Things went well for them. In fact, so well that they decided that they were going to adopt two older boys, uh, when I was two years old. So those boys came in, they were two and four years older than, than me. And immediately the house became chaotic. It wasn’t really clear what was happening with them and their foster home, they were actually in the same foster home. They were not biological brothers, but they came as a package to us.

Damon (03:15):

Interesting. So just for clarity real quick, you were the sole child in your family until these new adoptees came in. So you went from being number one and the, the sole focus to like being number three, you’re now the youngest, is that right?

Tom (03:33):

Exactly. Which was very, very odd. It really kind of turned my world upside down.

Damon (03:40):

I can imagine.

Tom (03:41):

So, you know, life became chaotic. I do remember, as a matter of fact, I think I remember on the first day that uh, my middle brother complaining about the food and you know, wanting to go back to where he was and things were just very, became very uncertain almost overnight. Time went on a little bit and as we got a little older, it became more and more chaotic.

Damon (04:10):

What does that mean for you?

Tom (04:10):

Oh, for me it just means that I never knew when somebody was, when one of the older two was going to blow up at something, cause trouble with my parents.

Damon (04:24):

Tom remembers his middle brother battling with his parents every week, standing away from the family during church services and reigniting feuds with them once they left. He would run away from them when it was time for the family to go somewhere, then reappear inside the house even though their home had been locked. He spread his own garbage on his bedroom floor and he stole stuff from Tom’s room. Finally, Tom’s parents had had enough. They made plans for him to have an alternative living arrangement elsewhere.

Damon (04:51):

Wow. That must have been really hard.

Tom (04:52):

It was difficult. Yeah, it was very difficult. My older brother, Frank, who I thought was on my side but was also very unpredictable, uh, at the age of 11, started sexually abusing me. I guess I was in a position where I felt like nobody was paying attention to me and he was, and obviously that was his grooming technique. Um, well, luckily at one point John was home visiting and he peeked into the room and saw what was going on and I think that scared Frank away. So luckily it stopped. It stopped. Yeah. So even though it happened on multiple occasions, thankfully it ended up stopping. Um, but, you know, I, I never knew the impact that it had on me until many years later.

Damon (05:44):

How do you mean?

Tom (05:44):

I just went through life. I went through the motions, you know, I think I was, I was depressed, but I, you know, I didn’t know what normal was, so I just thought that was normal. Um, you know, I was not confident about dating and I was, um, you know, I did well in school, which was the plus for me. Um, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I couldn’t wait to graduate high school so I could get out and go to college.

Damon (06:13):

Be away from your home.

Tom (06:14):

And be away. Yeah. And, um, but still I thought everything was normal. Um, I thought, you know, I thought I just thought that was life. And eventually when I ended up getting married, um, I thought it was expected of me to have him as my best man. And that’s what I did. And it was, you know, and then my, and then the turmoil inside I may started getting stronger and I started becoming more upset and confused about life. What was going on? I guess three or so years after that, when he went to get married, you know, he wanted me to be his best man and I just basically did everything I could just to get through that time. And then I lost it and, um, and had to go get help. And I went to get therapy, which was basically something I didn’t want to do. There was a stigma attached to it. I thought there was something wrong with me if I needed to go and do that. But thankfully I did do that because it basically saved me for the lack of a better term.

Damon (07:18):

Yeah. There’s a lot of people who feel like they are broken or that they’re, like you said, there’s a stigma attached to mental health when in fact it really should be your health and I would love to for people to just think, don’t think of it as there’s something wrong with me. Think of it as an investment in your own health. Help isn’t just physical. It’s mental as well. So how did therapy help you, if you don’t mind me asking?

Tom (07:45):

It took a long time. 16 years or so in therapy. You know, I thought that… I had many problems with relationships. I, you know, I got married way too young. You know, it’s, it’s tough to reconcile that internally to say, you know, you were in a much different spot when you decided to do this. And, um, that’s been a struggle for me. The therapy really helped. One of the first orders of business was to face my brother. I basically had to first face my parents. They had no idea what had gone on, you know. So what I did was brought them up to my house, worked with my therapist to put together some language and decide how I was going to handle it and basically sat them down. And you know, they were devastated. And thankfully, thankfully they, um, supported me 100%, believed me, which was huge.

Damon (08:48):

Yeah, that is huge.

Tom (08:49):

And you know, so it was, it was a crazy time.

Damon (08:54):

Ooh. So adoption goes from being positive experience as a young, young guy to an abusive experience and your parents didn’t know that this was going on. So do you recall at all how they comforted you in the light of all of the other turmoil that they could see in being an adoptee and being their son? Do you remember how your parents tried to help you feel comfortable as an adoptee in your family? What kinds of things did they say and do?

Tom (09:25):

On the positive side, they were, they treated me as their son, you know, they had always told me that I was adopted. They never tried to hide that fact, which I think I think is key.

Damon (09:35):

I agree.

Tom (09:36):

On the other hand, things were so chaotic and out of control with really both of my brothers that they didn’t really pay much attention to me. They basically reinforced the positive aspects of me doing well in school, but they didn’t see a lot of the pain I was going through and not really their fault because I sort of hid it, you know? I just basically felt like I was sidelined, not paid much attention to and you know, I think from their standpoint they thought things were going well with me so they didn’t feel like they needed to really pay me a whole lot of attention. The attention needed, the focus needed to be on the other two who were just basically out of control.

Damon (10:18):

Yeah. You seem to be okay at face value.

Damon (10:22):

I asked Tom at what point he really thought about searching. He said he had always thought about it and he had some of the classic fantasies that a lot of adoptees have about their parents being sports stars or movie actresses, but it wasn’t until he was in his twenties when his parents gave him a piece of paper with his real name on it that his curiosity was truly sparked.

Tom (10:41):

You know, after I was in my sort of, in my mid twenties my parents came to me and they had a piece of paper and I don’t, I don’t know how they obtained that piece of paper. I know they had kept in touch with my foster mother and they had a document that had my given name on it and they shared it with me. Then I thought, wow, this is real and I have information that can lead me to my biological parents. You know, at that point in time, I was interested in, in tracking down my biological mother and not really my biological father at that point. You know, I was under the impression that he just didn’t take responsibility and just let it go. And I wanted to search for my biological mother. So I did. And that was probably around 1997. I was, I was 26 and it was right around the advent of the internet.

Tom (11:38):

So I basically did a very simple search for the last name and I got one household within like 150 mile radius of where I was born. And I said to myself, you know, that’s it. I don’t even need to go further than this. This is it, um, worked up a letter that said very simple things, you know, not looking to disturb you…looking for..I knew her given name was Margaret. That’s all I had. I’m looking for somebody named Margaret that’s part of your family. You know, I was adopted. I was born on May 5th, 1971. And you know, if I have the wrong place, please forgive me. But I ended up getting a letter back. She said her sister was the one who found my letter because the letter was sent to her parents’ house and her mom had, her dad had passed away, but her mom was still at home and they were taking care of her cause she had Alzheimer’s. So the, so the siblings would be caring for the mother and uh, her sister happened to be the one there that day that opened my letter.

Damon (12:44):

I see. So your letter, you’ve written a general letter that just says, I’m looking for this woman named Margaret and you sent it to the one house with this address and it happens to be your biological grandmother’s house.

Tom (12:59):

Yes.

Damon (12:59):

I see. And so the siblings are going in and out, checking the mail, caring for their mother. Biological aunt is the one who discovers your letter intended for your biological mother?

Tom (13:10):

That’s right. And uh, it wasn’t too long after that, I got a letter back, um, saying, yeah, uh, I’m the person. And, um, my sister found the letter and you know, I’d be interested in speaking with you. And, and in fact, she says, you know, my niece is from the Albany area, which was where I was from, I had mentioned. And she’s getting married on Labor Day weekend and maybe we could, um, maybe we could get together. Uh, and so I just, my mind just started going all over the place and then my emotions just sort of ran like a roller coaster.

Damon (13:44):

So Tom decided to call his biological mother’s house, but her husband answered the phone. The call was awkward because he didn’t really understand the etiquette of such an emotional introductory call. Instead of saying that the mother wasn’t home, the husband asked all kinds of questions. Taking the steam out of that first call that it took Tom quite a bit of courage to make.

Tom (14:02):

It felt very strange to me. Like, why am I speaking to this guy? I’m looking for her. That sort of foreshadowed what was to come because this guy, you know, was somebody that just spoke a lot and it was hard to get words and edgewise around him. And all I wanted to do was speak to my biological mother and make a connection. And you know, so she did call back probably later that day or the next day. We did have a decent conversation, you know, but it wasn’t like I thought, you know, I, I thought it was going to be like, Oh, you know, my long lost biological mother and we were going to cry and get emotional. And it just wasn’t like that for some reason.

Damon (14:45):

What was it like?

Tom (14:47):

Um, it was just a roller coaster for me. It was up and down and it was, and it felt awkward and I think the conversation with her husband kind of set the stage for that, which was unfortunate for me.

Damon (14:59):

Are you suggesting that basically he and his verbose means of communicating had probably talked to her quite a bit before that next call and therefore had taken the steam out of your introductory call so to speak?

Tom (15:14):

Yeah, it could be, or just even feeling that when I was on the phone that first time that, you know, why is he asking me all these questions? I, I just want to speak with her, you know, and if she’s not home, just tell me that and I’ll call back.

Damon (15:27):

I understand, but instead you were put in an inquisition.

Tom (15:29):

You know, so a few weeks later we did meet for brunch, labor day weekend and she was bringing her husband. So I brought my wife with me and you know, again, he started dominating the conversation at brunch and finally afterwards, you know, I said, can we go and just walk out in the park and maybe the two of us have a conversation and we were able to do that finally. And you know, she had, she had some pictures and you know, showed me a whole bunch of those pictures and we spoke for a while and you know, it ended up being fine, but I think the beginning was just a little strange for me.

Damon (16:07):

Yeah. What did you learn about why you were put into adoption? What were some of the reasons that she gave eventually?

Tom (16:15):

Yeah. And that was the other thing because you know, I thought that she was like 18 when I was born and ended up, she was 24 and she basically said that she couldn’t, she couldn’t handle me at that point in time. And, um, that the father was not in the picture. And you know, when she had reached out to tell him that she was pregnant, he basically just stopped talking with her, I guess. I found out later that he tried to get her to go and, and have an abortion and she didn’t, she didn’t want any part of that. The laws were different then, you couldn’t just have an abortion. I think he was trying to get her to go to Puerto Rico or something where you could and she wasn’t having any of that.

Damon (16:57):

Wow. He was fairly adamant about it then.

Tom (17:00):

Yeah. You know, that was that piece. It was the times, you know, I mean, being pregnant out of wedlock in 1971 was just something that was not acceptable socially. And you know, her parents were no different. I think it had a lot to do with the times and not necessarily the fact that she didn’t think she could handle me. I think it was more the social pressures of the times.

Damon (17:26):

That makes sense. And I think that’s probably true. I’m an adoptee of the 70s as well. And that tends to be part of the story is that the mother just does not feel like she can handle it. And the social pressure is immense. So you’ve connected with her. What happened with your relationship thereafter? Did you have siblings? Did you meet anybody else?

Tom (17:45):

Well that was the strangest thing. I, she never had any other kids and to me that was completely shocking.

Damon (17:52):

Interesting. So what happens next for you guys then? Did you make any attempt to try to find your biological father?

Tom (17:59):

I did after several more years. You know, I was angry for a while. I was angry that he didn’t take responsibility, that he didn’t step up to the plate when it happened, you know, it was, I didn’t want to meet him for a while and life went on. And um, and then I started getting curious again, probably 10, 12 years later she had given me his name. It was hard to search. Uh, it was hard to search for him.

Damon (18:24):

Why? Is it a common name?

Tom (18:26):

It was a common name. Yeah.

Damon (18:28):

Tom did internet searches but never got any valuable information. But one day a Facebook friend sent out a message warning everyone to remove their identifiable information from a certain website. Tom realized that he could do just the opposite, use that same website to search for his biological father.

Tom (18:44):

I said, Oh, here’s my opportunity. I looked him up on there and somebody around what his age would be popped up in Connecticut. I sort of went to a few different sites to try to verify a few things and I knew he went to Pace University. So I went to the Pace alumni site and what you could get was the graduation year and the current state of residence, you know, so I was able to pull him up and verify that this guy lived in Connecticut and he was the only one in Connecticut of that name. And so I said, well I got ’em. Um, I got him now.

Damon (19:21):

And what did you think? Now you’ve chased this down and now you’ve got him. What’d you think of that?

Tom (19:26):

Oh, I started freaking out. I wanted to let my biological mother know and I wanted to ask her a few more questions to verify a few things and I was able to do that. And I said, you know, I think I found him. She was very supportive, you know, um, just be careful, you know, he could be, he could get very angry and all of that. And so I found him, I found his address, I looked up his address on Zillow and low and behold, the guy’s living in a $4 million home in Greenwich, Connecticut. And I’m like, how did I end up in this situation here?

Damon (20:03):

Right, right, right. Well, there’s no guarantee it would have been better. I mean, if he was trying to get your mother to go to great lengths for an abortion.

Tom (20:13):

I know exactly. And so I’m thinking, geez, this guy, all this guy’s going to think is that I want his money. I thought about it for quite some time. Eventually I said, you know, I’m going to go for it. I’m going to write the letter. I’m basically going to do a very simple letter like, like I did with her. A couple of weeks go by and nothing happens. So I decided, well, I’m going to do it again and I’m going to write another letter. And I’m basically going to say, maybe my first one got lost in the mail, you know, but you know, I’d like to connect. And uh, about a week later I got very terse chicken scratch letter on, you know, like on a yellow pad of paper saying, dear sir, I am not the party you are in search of. And you know, a very angrily written signature on the bottom. And, uh, I said, Oh boy, here we go. And I said to myself, who does that? You know, if you’re, if you really think you’re not the guy, you’re gonna make the phone call and you’re going to, and you’re going to say, you know, Hey, I, I think you’re mistaken and I wish you well in your search.

Tom (21:20):

Yeah, you’re not going to come out and vehemently deny that you’re the guy. And so, um, with each step, I, you know, I knew more and more it was him wrote a third letter and basically said, look, I’m not after your money, I’m not looking to disturb your family, but I, I need this for my own sanity. I need to, I need to know and, and I’d like to meet you if I can. And next thing you know…

Damon (21:44):

Tom got a voicemail from a New York city attorney, the biological father’s cousin, the call seemed threatening, but Tom returned the call. The attorney tried to dissuade him for pursuing the issue. He didn’t think his cousin was the guy.

Tom (21:56):

And I said, well, I do think he’s the guy.

Damon (22:02):

Why were you so sure?

Tom (22:02):

Um, I just, I just knew I had corroborated a lot of the information from various sources. And then, you know, one of the keys was my biological mother told me that he was Jewish. I had recently received my DNA test back, which came back Jewish on my paternal line. And that sort of nailed it for me. All, all those pieces of information together. And you know, I’m like, if he’s not the guy, you know, I’d be happy to go and take a DNA test. He wanted no part of that and eventually I think he just knew that this wasn’t going to just go away. And he basically said, listen, I’m going to recommend that we meet in my office and we sit down and talk.

Damon (22:44):

You were good with that. You were making progress now.

Tom (22:46):

I was good with that. I said, you know, I’m willing to come. I’ll come to Manhattan and we’ll meet. Of course, you know, I was freaking out. I thought, uh, they were going to find me floating in the East river.

Damon (22:58):

it’s funny how your mind plays all kinds of tricks on you about what could happen. At this point, Tom was starting to worry the alleged biological father’s terse response letter and the attorney’s attempt to intimidate him were all playing tricks on Tom’s mind, so he decided he would bring his wife along for comfort. She would wait in the lobby of the law firm until the meeting was over. But the attorney insisted she wait downstairs in the lobby of the building.

Tom (23:20):

Of course, that freaked me out more. Um, because I’m like, what are these guys going to do to me? Um, and they had like a small conference room set up so it’s like very uncomfortable. And I swore to myself, I’m like, I’m not drinking anything they give to me. I’m not doing any of that. As soon as the door is shut and we make our introductions, I hear the receptionist say good night and shut the door.

Damon (23:43):

Oh, this is after hours.

Tom (23:46):

Like, uh h, I’m in big trouble now. Yeah, it was the end of the day and it’s just the three of us in there. And I’m like, freaking out. My heart’s pounding. And then of course I drank the whole bottle of water that was in front of me that could have been poisoned, but, thankfully it wasn’t. And we had it. I would characterize it as a decent conversation, you know, he kept denying it.

Damon (24:09):

What facts did you present to him that made, that would have been hard evidence to refute?

Tom (24:14):

Well, I had my DNA results that said, you know, that I was Jewish on a paternal line. I had that my biological mother had told me it was him. I didn’t have, you know, hard physical evidence, but I said, you know, if you’re, if you don’t think you’re the guy then then why don’t you do this test on family tree DNA so we can just get that done and crossed that off the list.

Damon (24:36):

Right. Squash it immediately.

Tom (24:37):

But then he’s going through like, well I’m not the guy, but you know, you might want to look out for colon cancer or heart disease.

Damon (24:44):

Interesting. Some of his own inherited conditions he’s pointing out. That’s fascinating.

Tom (24:51):

Yeah. And so he’s, you know, so I think his conscience was sort of getting to him in that way and basically saying, well, I’m going to tell this guy some of the health stuff just in case, but I don’t think I’m the guy. Obviously he knew he was the guy all along, but then he tried to say, well, I was in the military and I wasn’t around during that time. And obviously he was just trying to poke holes in the story.

Damon (25:14):

Which you seem to have quickly plugged with facts that you knew.

Tom (25:19):

Yeah, I did, but in any case, we left it at that, you know, it wasn’t any more than half hour, 45 minutes and we were done. But I viewed it as a success. Um, because I knew I broke a little ground there, you know, I said, look, let’s give it a little time.

Damon (25:34):

You got some confirmation from his denials, but the admission of some clinical things that you needed to consider, did he agree to do the DNA test?

Tom (25:41):

No, no. He wasn’t into that. So then time went by and meanwhile I had done searches and I had found that I had three half siblings and I was like dying to meet them. I’m like, I can’t let this go. I want to meet them. And I had found out all sorts of things about them and, but I was trying to be respectful and not reach out. Then I came across some, some interesting news that probably about three or four months before I originally reached out to him, his wife had passed away and I found her death notice. You know, so I was shocked and concerned that not knowingly, but I had reached out at probably a very difficult time. You know, she was the mother of my three half siblings. Um, she was also someone who I guess he became engaged to even before that he found out that my biological mother was pregnant. So there was a sort of difficult situation there.

Damon (26:41):

Oh, there was an overlap around relationships, you think?

Tom (26:44):

There’s a little bit of an overlap there. Yeah. Where he was, he was still seeing her well and then got engaged and you know, I think that made things very awkward for him. A little more time went on. After a while I reached out to the cousin again and I said, look, I need to close the loop on this. You know, you were going to chew on it and get back to me and you never have, I paid the lawyer, his cousin, one more visit while I was down in the city for work. I basically showed him the DNA results and I said, look, you can’t deny this. And he said I’m going to recommend we sit down one more time. So we ended up sitting down one more time. At that point in time, I put it on the table. I said, look, I want to meet my half siblings.

Tom (27:23):

And he was, no, that’s not a good idea. And they find out it’s going to cause pain and you know, he was no longer really denying that he was the guy, but he wasn’t admitting it either. You know, I said, look, I’ll give you time. I don’t mind giving you time, but I don’t want to just be stalled, you know, cause I want to do this the right way. You know? He ended up saying, you know, I’m not interested in pursuing a relationship and Paul, I said, that’s fine if you don’t want to pursue a relationship, I still want to reach out to my half siblings. I said, but I’ll give you time. Think about how you want to do it, get back to me. And he just never did. About a year later, I called the cousin again and I said, I just want to touch base. And he never called me back and I said, well, now it’s time for me to just reach out.

Damon (28:08):

You had been as respectful as you possibly could.

Tom (28:10):

That’s what I thought I was doing. Yeah. And I, and I reached out to all three at once and unfortunately I got a, an angry reply from one and basically no reply from the other two. Yeah. I basically replied to that and said, look, I’m not looking for anything. I just, you know, I just want you to know that I’m here and I’m open to, you know, and would love to just get together. Like, let’s just go get a beer, you know, let’s chat. I like to get to know you a little bit. Basically the answer was no, but the second response back was a lot less angry. One of the things that he had said was, you know, I can’t, I don’t get it. My best friend is, has a, has a kid who was adopted and he was looking for his biological parents and why would they do that? They feel like it’s a slap in the face. It’s really not that at all. And I think each party to the, I guess transaction has their own sets of feelings about it and you know, they’re very emotional and they’re very sensitive feelings and I think everyone tries to be respectful but can’t deny that those feelings are there, you know, they need to be addressed. Yyou said for your own sanity, you wanted to meet your biological half siblings. What were you looking for out of, out of a connection to them?

Tom (29:25):

Geez, I, I think when you really look at it, I was looking to have some real siblings that didn’t crap all over me, like my other two did, the adopted ones. And you know, I think that was a big part of it. I just wanted a connection. I probably was lying to myself saying that I just wanted to go have a beer. You know, I probably did want more than that. And um, you know, even today my son asks me, you know, like, why can’t I know my cousins, you know, I said, well, they don’t want to know us. I mean, you know, they just don’t, you know, cause I’ve, I’ve found pictures of them and everything and they’d look alike. He was just confused about it.

Damon (30:05):

Do you resemble them?

Tom (30:05):

They do. Yeah, I think so. And it’s just sad to me because I watched, you know, one and a half siblings just over social media, you know, fell in love and got married and you know, and that I thought about, well geez, it would have been nice to be at that wedding and I know that it’s not in the cards.

Damon (30:22):

Tom talked about a challenging childhood and adoption and unfortunately awkward reintroduction to his biological mother and the rejection face to face from his biological father. He’s also stopped going to therapy. So I wanted to know how things are for him now

Tom (30:37):

I’m at a decent place with my life, you know, I mean, I’m trying to foster positive relationships in my life that I have. I’ve sort of come to grips with the fact that I’m not going to establish a relationship with my biological father or half siblings even though you know, in the back of my mind I would love it if that happened. The interesting thing is that I felt, I almost felt like I had more of a connection when I was sitting in the room with talking with my biological father than I did with my biological mother. And I think a lot of that did have to do with her husband just needing to be the focal point so much. Our relationship is really just keeping in touch via social media. I probably haven’t spoken to her over the phone in a couple of years. She did, um, more than four years ago come up and um, you know, visit with my kids. So she did get to meet them, but she’s basically the full time caretaker for her husband now. He’s just not independent at all and she can’t really travel so she doesn’t and I don’t really have a whole lot of time to go down there and try and make a go of it there. She’ll, you know, she’ll send the kids some gift cards for Christmas and stuff like that, which is very nice.

Damon (31:51):

And is that enough for you? Are you content with knowing that you’re connected, that she’s out there? That it’s not quite the negative reception that you got on the other side. Are you good with that?

Tom (32:02):

It’s good. I’m good with it. I, you know, I mean I guess at times I wish for a little more like, you know, it’d be nice to be invited to like some kind of a family reunion or something like that where I could meet some cousins or some aunts and uncles on that side. But that was never really offered. It was never really on the table. You know, I did early on meet her mother who was basically, um, really at the last stages of Alzheimer’s. Um, my biological mother worked at the nursing home where her mother was being cared for and I was able to go there and just meet her, but she couldn’t really speak or anything like that. That was a little strange too. Cause then there was this big picture on the wall with all the grandkids, which there were a ton of. And obviously I wasn’t in it. And so, you know, it was a little, that was emotional for me too.

Damon (32:50):

Yeah, I can imagine. But I mean, you got to see her face to face. Even though I’ve, I’ve got experience with mental illness in my family too, and the person that I knew is no longer there. There’s a completely different person in her place, in my adopted mom. And so I could see how at least coming face to face with your biological grandmother would have been both amazing and incredibly challenging because you can’t ask intelligent questions about your mother’s life and the situation from her perspective at that time. So it must’ve been really hard to be standing in front of a person whom you can’t truly connect with in that way.

Tom (33:33):

You know, one of the things was, another story I forgot to tell is that, um, you know, I used to work for the legislature for New York state and um, for the assembly and you know, we have counterparts in the Senate who did the same type of work. And I found out that my Senate counterpart was my biological cousin. And so I would be going into meetings and seeing her in there and, and I would be speaking with her on the phone and she would have no clue who I was. It was really, really kind of mind boggling.

Damon (34:07):

How did you discover that?

Tom (34:07):

Well, the strange thing was this was the niece that had gotten married up in Saratoga. Um, so she had said what her name was, you know, and the name, the name was fairly simple, a simple last name, but her married name became very complicated. So everyone still kept calling her by her, by her old name or maiden name. I’m like, well that’s weird. You know, like, so I said, so I said, I was on the train one time when a couple of colleagues, I’m like, who is that? And my colleagues as well, she’s your Senate counterpart. And I just, I just like took it in and absorbed it. I’m like, this is very strange.

Damon (34:41):

Wow. It’s a small world, huh?

Tom (34:46):

Yeah. So I took it from there. I know. And so I went on and you know, it, it went on for quite some time before I finally said, uh, hey, can we go to lunch? Which I got something to talk to you about. So we went to lunch and I unloaded it and she’s like, Oh my God. Cause you know, it was hidden. So you know, this, this woman who I’m having this conversation with, never knew her aunt, had any kids. She’s thought she was her aunt who, you know, never had kids. And that’s unbelievable.

Damon (35:16):

How did she take the news?

Tom (35:16):

She pretty much took it in stride. Um, yeah, she took it in stride.

Damon (35:25):

Fairly positively, better than some of the other folks?

Tom (35:25):

Took it in stride, but she didn’t really try to foster any kind of connection to the other family members either, which just kind of bothered me.

Damon (35:35):

Well, I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t, it sounds like your whole journey you’ve been looking for just love, acceptance and inclusion and almost at every turn and there has been something either overt or hidden that has prevented that from happening, but it sounds like you’re trying to find some real positivity in some of your existing relationships and nurturing them into things that can be fulfilling for you.

Tom (35:56):

Yeah, I’m trying to.

Damon (36:00):

Yeah. I told Tom that I had been listening to his story very intently because I too had been trying to get some closure with my own biological father. That jogged one more thing that he wanted to say. He got a little bit of closure of his own.

Tom (36:12):

This is even, this is very interesting too. I’m on, I’m on, you know I used family tree DNA, so I go on once in a while and, and I actually was, was on there a couple of months ago showing my son, here’s how I found my matches and blah, blah blah. And I pull it up and I have a new match and the new match is the cousin who was the intermediary for my conversation with my biological father. So he went out and did the test and he became my closest match. So that proved it once and for all for me. And I’m sure itoproved it for him.

Damon (36:45):

That’s right. That signals to you that they had a conversation that said, but if there’s a match, you two will be a match to his DNA. That’s very interesting. Well you’ve gotten the affirmation you were seeking. It’s good that they actually did that.

Tom (36:58):

Yeah.

Damon (36:59):

Well, thank you Tom for sharing your story and thank you so much for all of your work in adoption, advocacy, being open with the elements of your journey. I think that you’ve got so many components here that are helpful to other people to hear out loud and hear how you’ve coped, hear how therapy can be a real outlet for some of your internalized feelings, but also a means by which for you to heal. So it was very brave of you to tell your story today. I appreciate it so much.

Tom (37:25):

Absolutely. Thanks very much.

Damon (37:27):

Of course, Tom. Take care man. All the best.

Tom (37:29):

o666Thank you.

Damon (37:33):

Hey, it’s me. I think you’ll agree that Tom has been through a lot in his life. It was heartbreaking to hear that he had been sexually abused as a child and I was relieved to hear that the cycle was broken, but I was really glad to hear that he sought counseling for some of the events that transpired in his youth and the lasting effects they had on his adult life. I really believe we need to change the conversation about mental health from one that has stigma attached to a person to embracing their needs, to invest in their mental well-being the same way that we invest in our physical health through diet and exercise. While Tom was successful in locating and connecting with his biological mother and father, I found it sad that neither experience was filled with the openness and warmth that adoptees long for when reaching back into our past. I hope you’ll find something in Tom’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 to your biological family visit, whoamireallypodcast.com/share.

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