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042 – This Little Voice Said, “You Gotta Do Something”

Right before Sharon left for college, her parents sat her down to say she was of age to start looking for her birthparents. She had never contemplated that possibility before, so it took years for her to act on her desire to learn more about herself. In the late 1980s, she went through Catholic Charities to help retrace the path back to her biological family. But her assigned intermediary maintained tight control over the family’s communications, stifling their connection. For five years Sharon and her birth mother communicated laboriously through their intermediary before her mother closed the door. After years of silence in her reunion attempt, Sharon decided to try just one more time to break through her birth mother’s resistance, and she was glad she did. Her birth mother apologized for everything she had put Sharon through.

The post 042 – This Little Voice Said, “You Gotta Do Something” appeared first on Who Am I…Really? Podcast.

Sharon (00:02):

I tried to convey to Colleen, this is important to me. This is this the stuff about me that I’ve always wondered where it came from. And I don’t know that she really understood. I think she had a lot of sorrow because she turned to me one time when we were visiting and said, I am just so sorry for what I put you through.

Damon (00:30):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is Sharon. She spoke with me from Houston, Texas. She was adopted through Catholic charities there in the late 1960s. Sharon was the older of two adoptees in her family. Her younger brother challenging her parents a lot along the way. In her twenties she found her biological relatives, but the decision was made for Sharon that there would be no meeting. When she finally made contact with her birth mother, a Catholic charities, intermediary maintain tight control over the communication stream. Frustrating everyone involved after years of silence in her reunion attempt, Sharon decided to try just one more time. And she was glad she did her birth mother apologized for everything she had put Sharon through. This is Sharon’s journey. Sharon was born in 1967 in Houston. Her parents were unable to conceive children. So they adopted children. They were active in their local community. Her father with the fire department, her mother was a school nurse and they were a part of the church.

Sharon (01:58):

My father, my adoptive father had some chronic illness problems and just wasn’t able to conceive. And, and, um, it was never really discussed, but it was just, you know, the understanding was is they just, they were infertile. So they wanted to adopt, you know, in the Catholic church, you know, the, the emphasis is on family. So if you aren’t able to make a family go find one. So they, they adopted me. And, um, I was raised in Houston. I, uh, we lived in Houston. Then when I got to be a school age, my parents decided they didn’t like the school district they’re in Houston. So they found a community West in the West of Richmond. And we settled there and I started grade school and we were there all the way through high school.

Damon (02:48):

Sharon says she’s always known. She was adopted and was made to feel comfortable in their family. For years after her adoption, her parents adopted a boy unrelated to Sharon. I asked how she got along with her brother.

Sharon (03:04):

Um, you know, as, as, as an older sister, I would look after him, but he pretty early on, he let it be known that he, he didn’t jive with the rest of us. And he had his own ideas about things. And he was a boy and I was a girl and it was just, we tolerated each other.

Damon (03:22):

Yeah. You kind of allowed one another to go. Your separate ways

Sharon (03:25):

we got along. And there were times that, you know, we just really would rather have not have thought about, you know, just, and then when he got to be teenager, he was, I hate using this analogy, but it’s, it was true. Especially after I started reading the primal wound, uh, and the books on adoptees, I was the good adoptee and he was the bad adoptee, so to speak. Um, I was the one that I wasn’t necessarily interested in conforming, but I wasn’t interested in rebelling. I wasn’t interested in rejecting my adoptive parents. I wasn’t interested in rejecting them. And I pretty much followed the rules, whatever rules were laid down, Robert, my brother, he, he, uh, he kept going in with the wrong crowd and ended up fighting with my parents a lot and causing a lot of problems for them.

Damon (04:14):

You know, it sounds like you were on a track with your parents to be very comfortable in your family. Very loved. And it sounds like to me, if, if I were in that family, I can see how I would be constantly reminded of my adoption because of this other child who was, you know, combative or yeah, yeah. An acquired taste in the family. Yeah.

Sharon (04:43):

Yes. Because my brother, he very different. I wanted to go to college. He couldn’t have cared less.

Damon (04:50):

Her brother got jealous of the attention and resources. Sharon was getting, when she went away to college, he joined the military, which seemed like it could lead to his success, but he undermined that success. Like he had done with so many other positive trajectories he had been on. But Sharon says that now that she’s explored her own adoption as an adult, she realizes some of what her brother may have been going through.

Sharon (05:13):

And it wasn’t until much later when I started exploring my own adoption, you know, my own, um, being an adoptee that I realized what my brother had been going through. And, and the, the thing that leaves the bitter taste in my mouth is even in an idyllic family where everything is good and everyone seems to be happy. There’s still issues of identity and, uh, feeling like things aren’t quite right. And when I read primal wound and really started looking into the community and realizing some things about being an adoptee, it just kills me to think that if only people who had been more educated, more aware of what the problems and what the issues would be, or what might be going through the adoptees mind,

Damon (06:13):

Sharon says her parents were very smart and really good people who seem to have a solid grasp on how to handle Sharon’s need for support. When the time came for her to want to get questions about herself answered, she says, she wished they knew then what she knows now, because it would have helped them to parent her and understand things more deeply.

Sharon (06:33):

I look back on this stuff and I wish that they’d been able to acquire this information and have the support as adoptive parents, because I wasn’t easy as a child. I had a lot of anger, things that I would get angry about and they’d go, what is your, what is wrong? What are you? So I wouldn’t be able to express it. I wouldn’t be able to put words to it. I wouldn’t be able to describe what I was feeling. Even though I knew I was angry or frustrated, or there was this stuff going on in my chest that I couldn’t get out. That’s why when I read the primal wound, it finally gave labels. I know a lot of other people’s well, I hate labels as this. This is a language that I can use. It may not be the perfect language. It may not be the most concise language, but it’s something that has helped so much in my own journey. Being able to say, this is where it is. It makes me feel more human. At that point, I just felt like I was this freak, this oddball that couldn’t, couldn’t quite get with the rest of humanity. And therefore I’m, I’m damaged goods. So therefore I’m not as human or as, as the capable of, uh, emotional maturity. And it’s been very frustrated. It’s taken me 50 years to reach that point.

Damon (07:56):

When her parents found out from Catholic charities, that an infant was ready to be picked up for their adoption, they were completely unprepared to have a baby.

Sharon (08:04):

After they picked me up, they had to stop by the grocery store to get diapers and, you know, food and things like that. And so my mom left me in the car with my adoptive father. The minute she shut the door, my father told me I started screaming at the top of my lungs and wouldn’t stop. I, you know, and it was funny growing up. But after reading the problem, I was like, Oh no, that’s what that was really. It was a separation thing. It was a, you know, I’m with strangers. I don’t belong to these people. And it had echoes into my own parenting experience. When I had my daughter long story short, she was born a premature baby and had to stay in the neonatal unit for a couple of months. And so finally came the day when we were able to bring her home. And I told my husband, I’m sitting in the back because if she starts crying, I want to be able to comfort her. Never cried a single thing. Not even, I’m not even a hint of a little whimper. She was like looking at me the whole time. But I, that was my fear that she would end up doing the same thing, you know, getting so scared and angry that she would scream all the levels. And it just, it had such resonance for me when I was reading the Prama wound, how all of that, that was my story.

Damon (09:35):

Sharon learned at 15 years old, that searching for her birth parents was something she could actually do. It was an option she had never considered before, but it started to make sense.

Sharon (09:46):

It didn’t even occur to me to go looking. It just, you know, it was just, Oh, I’m adopted. I’m not, didn’t, you know, I came from another family, but it was 15 years old. I was upset about something at school it had to do with theater. And that was when my mom told me, well, you do know, or I forget how she put it. You do know that, um, your birth parents were in the arts and I’m like, no, you didn’t never tell me that. And she goes, yes, we were given non identifying information. And your mother was a music major or was into music. And your father was in theater. And which explained all of the artistic endeavors that I had done all my life. I attempted ballet. I liked to draw. I liked crafts. I liked to sing. I have a pretty good voice. And I was very much interested in becoming a writer. So all these artistic, creative endeavors completely at odds with the way my birth, my adoptive parents were who my dad was an accountant in. Mom was a nurse. And the family came from the teachers and nurses and CPAs and pragmatic, creative child arts and creative volatile type of person. They didn’t know what to do with me.

Damon (11:05):

Sensing Sharon’s teenage angst. Her parents sat her down when she was 18 years old and said you’re of legal age to go searching. But it took Sharon a few years to finally decide to do so when the time came, her parents were very supportive and she got the genuine sense that they truly wanted to help. Her father had always been into history and people’s heritage. So he understood the importance of what Sharon wanted to accomplish. Her mother stood strong and her support to pushing down her own anxiety about the results of the search. We talked for a moment about how important it is for adoptive parents to learn as much as they can about supporting an adoptee’s desire to search, because if they don’t offer their genuine support so that they may be included, then they’ll find themselves left out.

Sharon (11:52):

My one wish to see in the future is that any reform will include the adoptive parents. I don’t know what they could go through, but just helping them understand that it’s okay to help them support their search and their issues that they need to be aware of. And it would actually help them if they actually explored it, they would have a better understanding of their child, um, and, and help them out if they’re genuinely interested in helping the child, then that that’s the best way to deal with it.

Damon (12:28):

Yeah. And you know, another piece of that too, is, you know, in, in any classic parent child situation, regardless of how the, the family is set up, you know, the, in an instance where a parent says you can’t do something, the first thing that the child does, no matter what age is, go do it. So this is the kind of thing that you should openly embrace upfront so that you can be a part of it as opposed to being excluded from it, because that can make it even that much more challenging is if you’re not included, then you’re, you are missing out on some really momentous things in your child’s life. And there’s no way to recreate that.

Sharon (13:09):

Yeah. And I was adopted in an era where it was the blank slate era. Oh, you know, the baby doesn’t need anything more than your love, right? A baby is a blank slate. My adopted mother has even said that to me a couple of years ago. And I just looked at her cause I love you, mom. That was the generation she came from. It was a, you know, a blank slate. Baby’s a blank slate. You can do anything. And I proved them wrong. And it just, it sets people up for disappointment thinking that they can exert a particular will over a child, you know, especially the will over nature. Nurturing is one thing. I mean, you, you’ve got to, as a parent exert, some kind of will in order to guide the child. But when it comes to their basic nature, there’s nothing, you, you, you accept them as they are and you learn to appreciate them the way they are and you learn to love them the way they are. And I really think, uh, all of the reforms that need to go on and, and, and adoption will, will, should be towards that.

Damon (14:13):

When Sharon was in college in the 1980s, her parents contacted Catholic charities to launch the search process. It took eight months for the charity to find Sharon’s first relative, but Sharon’s decisions were being made for her. And she didn’t have the support networks online. Like we do today to reach out for advice from others on how she should proceed.

Sharon (14:33):

They contacted me and said, we found your grandmother and she wants to meet you. And I was like, Oh, I didn’t imagine that would happen. I would thought they would try to get ahold of the mother. And they said, well, they didn’t want to do anything until they get a hold of the mother. And that took a little longer, but they got a hold of her well Catholic charities. And my birth mother decided that I would not meet my grandmother. I was told she was ready to fly down to Houston and meet me. They were up in New York,

Damon (15:06):

but Catholic charities and your birth mother made the decision for you.

Sharon (15:11):

Yeah. They made the decision for me. And at the time, this is the late eighties. Now I was 20 years old and 20, 21 years old. And I didn’t realize that I had a choice. I didn’t realize that I could speak up and say, that’s not the way I wanted. I was trying to be as complicit and obedient, polite and accommodating as possible. Cause I wanted to meet her and I didn’t want to scare her off and I didn’t want to be rude and I didn’t want to be mean, and I didn’t, you know, I was doing everything I could think of to make sure that she understood, I didn’t hate her and that I wasn’t gonna frighten her. And I thought going through Catholic charities and letting them control the situation was the best way to do it. I had no clue. This was the eighties. There wasn’t anything like the internet or adoptee groups that I can refer to and say, Hey, there might be a different, um, way of doing this, right. Or how would you do it? Yeah. And I really wish there had been because they decided that I would not meet her. And about two years later, when I was getting married that same week, my grandmother passed away. About two days after I got married. I didn’t find this out until about a year or so later. You never met her. I never met her.

Damon (16:34):

Sharon shared that while she was sleuthing on the internet years later, she found her grandmother’s high school yearbook from 1939. She learned her grandmother had been in a writing group in high school and was a prolific writer as an adult. Since writing was a passion Sharon shared with her grandmother, the discovery left her with very mixed emotions.

Sharon (16:55):

I just felt so cheated and validated at the same time because I had wanted to meet this person. I just imagine if we’d been able to talk. And I had told her, I was wanting to be a writer, just how much we would have connected on that level, being a writer and, and, and understanding that I, I it’s in the blood that I, that I have this urge to write that I have a talent for writing it. It comes on asleep and I, I felt cheated because other people made the decision for me.

Damon (17:34):

I asked Sharon how things went with Catholic charities. If they were making decisions without her informed consent, she detailed how they assigned her a social worker who controlled all of the communications between Sharon’s birth mother, Colleen and herself. They set up a situation where

Sharon (17:50):

if I wanted to write a letter, I would write the letter. I wouldn’t put any identifying information. I couldn’t put my last name. I couldn’t put my address. I couldn’t talk about anything about the place where I was at that would help her locate, where I was that would have to be excised from the letter. And, um, it all had to be very, very positive. I couldn’t talk about things that were troubling me or things that I was upset about, or, um, you know, any, any issues like that. I had to be always positive and that letter would get sent. I would send it to Catholic charities. The social worker would read it. And if she approved it would send it on to Colleen. And she did the same thing. It would be the same with Coleen. And apparently she had sent a few letters, but they got sent back because they were either angry or inappropriate, or they had the information that the social worker deemed not appropriate for my knowledge. So there was a lot of time that passed in between letters. And again, I was really trying to be nonthreatening and trying to be nice and consider it. And so I really didn’t try to push for too much in my letters. So it was very, very controlled. Wow. And apparently she got very frustrated with that too, because she had a lot to say, and she couldn’t say it

Damon (19:14):

for nearly five years, Sharon and Colleen engaged in the laborious exchange of filtered communications through their Catholic charity social worker. But during that time she did learn.

Sharon (19:25):

She had another child after me with another man, a man that she married. She said, her husband knew about me, but not her son and her son’s about 11 years younger than me. And never knew, never said anything to her son about me and wasn’t. And she told me from the get go, I wasn’t going to either. Cause I don’t want him to think less of me. And I didn’t argue with that too much. I didn’t feel like I had much of an Avenue to do so at the time,

Damon (19:55):

it’s not clear what happened, but suddenly the lines of communication were opened. Sharon thinks Colleen had had enough and asked to exchange contact information with Sharon. She was anticipating more fluid, more frequent communications. Things will be easier because they could finally call each other, but things didn’t go at all. How Sharon thought they would.

Sharon (20:16):

So we agreed to do that. And I was excited. I thought, Oh boy. And I wrote a letter. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I was excited. I was real happy about it. And I didn’t hear from her. Didn’t hear from her, didn’t hear from her. Finally, I got a family newsletter and I think this was about a year after I got married. And this was about the same, about a year after her mother died. And her only explanation was I’m just so worn out from my mother dying, but I just, I couldn’t bring myself to write a letter. Okay. Alright. That made sense. I could accept that. And then I wrote her back and I even sent her a card for mother’s day. And I was so excited though. Okay. Maybe we’ll, you know, still didn’t hear from her. Didn’t no response from the mother’s day card, nothing and til almost a full year later after that, right at Christmas, I get this very thick envelope and of course I’m like, Oh boy, I get a letter from Colleen I’m I’m it begins.

Sharon (21:18):

We’re finally going to talk with each other. Right. And it was one of the most vehement, bitter, angry, frustrating sorrowful letters I have ever read in my life. And it decimated me, you know, I was numb for the next several days because there was so much to absorb. And the one thing that really stuck out with me is that she had said, if it had been legal at the time, she would have aborted me. Oh gosh, which really pissed me off. I was angry about that. So angry about that. You waited all this time, just telling me this.

Damon (22:04):

Sharon was 24 years old. When that package arrived. She had only been married two years when her birth mother dumped a load of history that shed light on her. Mother’s sad past Coleen’s father had been sexually and physically abusive to her younger siblings. Colleen told Sharon,

Sharon (22:21):

you know, I didn’t want to bring you into that situation. And that, that made sense. That part wasn’t the part that upset me. The part was I would have killed you if you would, if it had been legal. Wow. Horrible thing to say in a letter, especially after a year of basically no correspondence, it was just boom, out of the, out of the blue. And I was so angry because of my own, not just because of my own views about abortion, but just kind of do it. If you really think that way, come and take it. I was angry. I was very, very angry about it.

Damon (23:01):

At the time Sharon was back in school trying to earn a teaching certificate to become a science teacher. She laughed when she told me that the package of information with its terrible content came the day before her microbiology final exam. Impressively, She passed her exam with a good grade. Sharon says the letter concluded in an odd way. Colleen basically said, if you’re absolutely feel like you want to reach out to me after all of this, here’s my phone number, Sharon admitted.

Sharon (23:32):

I hate that it’s a murder. It’s a murderdom type thing that I just do not respond well.

Damon (23:42):

I see it in a slightly different way. I mean, it almost sounds like, it sounds like in her heart of hearts at the moment, whether she could have articulated it or not the same way that you probably couldn’t articulate, you know, how angry you were as an adoptee. I mean, there’s something to the fact that she said, if we have to talk, here’s my number, right? There’s something in her heart that said, uh, I guess I should talk to this child. Right. You know?

Sharon (24:13):

Well, the other theme that I picked up on in her letter was that she kept talking about how out of control. She always felt, she felt like she’d been completely out of control. And she was out of control when she was pregnant with me, the decision was made for her and she had no choice. And the guy that she had been seeing was a, um, I later learned was just kind of a onetime thing. She hadn’t had a real serious relationship with him. Um, but she knew something about him. Um, and being from a very strict Catholic family, Irish, Catholic, and European Catholic, you know, her father was adamantly against bringing me into the family and told her that, you know, you either get rid of her or you’re exiled from the family. We won’t help you. And so she was kind of forced into the situation of giving me up.

Sharon (25:10):

And so I was put through Catholic charities. Then when the Catholic charities got ahold of her, they, they controlled the whole thing again. And she presented that extremely. And she just talked about how out of control she felt. So when I decided to craft my own response, I decided, well, if she feels so out of control, I should put the ball back in her court, let her decide what she wants to do. That’s smart. And I knew what the potential was. And I just wrote back in, I said, I’m really sorry. I’m really sorry about all of this. I didn’t even touch the subject about abortion. I didn’t even, I didn’t even include that. I just, I basically said, I’m sorry you feel this way. I had really hoped that we would get to know each other and I still do. And I’m really sorry that you feel like you’re out of control. This is my phone number. And I would love to hear from you. And that’s how I ended it.

Damon (26:12):

Sharon ended her letter the same way Colleen had offering her phone number. If her birth mother decided she wanted to call, that was 1993, Sharon hoped she had left Colleen feeling like she was finally in control of the next step. Sharon didn’t hear anything from Colleen. Again, shortly thereafter, Sharon got pregnant and her baby was born prematurely. She left her attempts at reunion behind her and life just got in the way. But Sharon reminded herself that she had done all she could trying to reunite with Colleen. She initiated the contact. She tried to leave herself open for more conversations, but more than anything else, she didn’t want to push her birth mother any further. Then many years later in her forties, Sharon felt the urge to try again.

Sharon (27:00):

It was about in my forties that I, um, we lost some family members and it wasn’t so much losing family members that triggered it. But I think it was hormones too going into pre-menopause. And I thought it, I thought there was this little voice in the back of my mind telling me, you really, really need to try again. You really need, you need to do something. Just give it one more shot. It’s been several years, you have a child, you have an appreciation for motherhood. Now, um, you have a family it’s not as if you just rolled over and died, it’s you, you have a real life. And if nothing else, she needs to know that you’re still around. You exist and you’re not going to give up and you’re not going to quit. So that’s the long story short. I ended up writing another letter and I said in the letter, I would really hate to find out something happened to you or that something happened to me. And neither one of us had the chance to try again or you know, something to that effect. And I, she never talked about that letter. She never directly responded to it, but she, she called me and we talked on the phone and her attitude was completely different. It was, it was very warm, very accepting. I, and I’m guessing because she’d had a lot of time to think and feel bad. I guess she felt like she chased me off. And so she was feeling really bad about the situation.

Damon (28:39):

How long after you sent the letter, was it that she made the call

Sharon (28:43):

a week a week? I mean, it took several, but it took a few days to get for the letter to get there. And I guess for her to read it. And then, I mean, within the week

Damon (28:53):

in an odd coincidence, Sharon reconnected with Colleen shortly after Coleen’s father passed away, Sharon felt her birth mother didn’t want her own father to know that she was in contact with the child. Now a woman, he had basically steered into adoption because of his own behavior. After he passed away, Colleen seemed wide open to Sharon except for the subject of her parents. When Sharon asked about them, Colleen wouldn’t share anything, but ultimately Sharon was glad she reached out again because their relationship was about to end,

Sharon (29:27):

refused to talk about them. Just refused. I would ask about her mother, I would say, I found your mother’s yearbook online and saw that she was a writer. And that was just so wonderful to me because I had always wondered if that was something that was part of the family. And to know that it comes, it comes as part of the package that it’s in my DNA. And again, just, she would just clam up whenever it came to her parents. And I’m not entirely sure why I’m not so sure if it was because she was so bent on paying them back for making them, making her give me up. Or if she just couldn’t get to those emotions without falling apart. She wouldn’t budge. Well, I think that little whisper, this is according to my own particular religious beliefs. I believe I have a guardian angel and I think my guardian angel had been whispering to me rather, or maybe yelling in my year rather strongly to do this because two years after we reconnected, um, I got a phone call from her brother and her brother had to be the one to tell me that she’d been killed in a car accident.

Damon (30:45):

Oh gosh.

Sharon (30:48):

Yeah. And that was excruciating because we had been talking practically once or twice a month and she would call me, she called me. Wow. And that felt so good. Because again, up to that point, I’d been the one doing all the pursuing. So when she called me and called me up and sought me out, it felt so good. It felt, it felt really good. So all of a sudden that wasn’t there anymore. And then the other excruciating part was, is I couldn’t go to her Memorial. They decided to cremate her, but I couldn’t go to her Memorial. I couldn’t even get on the obituary website and say something because nobody else knew about me.

Damon (31:35):

Oh no.

Sharon (31:36):

Yeah. It was, it was, it was really rough. So you had to suffer in silence. Yeah, I pretty much did. Yeah. Oh gosh. That was hard.

Damon (31:46):

Sharon was finally able to get information about the family from her uncle Colleen’s brother. She learned he was a writer and moved to California and had written movie scripts. That information excited Sharon a lot because she could never get across to Colleen how vital it was for her to feel a connection to the family.

Sharon (32:04):

I tried to convey to Colleen, this is important to me. This is, this the stuff about me that I’ve always wondered where it came from. And I don’t know that she really understood. I think she had a lot of sorrow because she turned to me one time when we were visiting and said, I am just so sorry for what I put you through. Um, I’m just really, really sorry. Really. And you know, I don’t remember what I responded in that regard, but I think I tried to tell her it was okay. You know, it all worked out.

Damon (32:40):

You must’ve been thinking in your head and in your heart, like, Oh my gosh, thank you for saying so. Yes, exactly. Yeah. That’s exactly what went through my mind. Thank you for saying so. Yeah. Cause when someone says something out loud to you apologetically, that really means something.

Sharon (32:57):

Yeah. So I know that she was feeling stuff and I know that she was, um, really regretful, but I, at the same time, I couldn’t get her to understand that I needed this information that I needed this connection. It was, she had a lot of walls, a lot of walls.

Damon (33:16):

It sounds like she was trying to sprint in the other direction, away from everything from that time in her life. Right. Right. Did you say you met her? Yes. Yes, really? I was that,

Sharon (33:28):

after I reconnected with her and we talked on the phone, she said, me and my husband are gonna fly down and meet you. So I met her here in Houston. They flew down and stayed for a week and I played the tour guide. I took her all of my favorite places in Houston. We even drove all the way to San Antonio. My adoptive parents both came from Seguin. So we went to San Antonio, went to the river walk and they met my adoptive parents. And that was like being split into yeah, man, that was, that was a whole new territory of emotions that I couldn’t even begin to describe. Right.

Damon (34:07):

Sharon said she practically had a panic attack, the whole situation, having her birth mother in the same room with her adoptive parents was so surreal. She said the whole thing was like an out of body experience, but I couldn’t help wondering how the meeting could have been different if their initial introduction had gone differently.

Sharon (34:27):

Everybody got along, everybody was, you know, everybody was, uh, it all worked out, but it was just the weirdest, weirdest experience of my life.

Damon (34:35):

Do you think, uh, um, I’m trying to put myself in your shoes and imagine would that meeting would have been like if my biological mother had not blasted me a decade in something ago, like I can’t, I just can’t help, but wonder like if she had said, Oh my gosh, I’m so glad that you finally finally found me versus

Sharon (34:59):

it’s been a lot nicer. It would have been a lot more positive. I would probably have not panicked as much. I mean, I tried to keep the panic to myself as much as possible because they had gone through all the effort of flying down to Texas and then gone on this trip with me. They put a lot of faith in me, so I would, whatever panic attack I had, I really tried to keep to myself. But, um, yeah, I think it brought, it probably would have been a little, I don’t know about easier, but it would have been different

Damon (35:30):

vastly different. Did you feel that panic? Did you feel that panic at all when, just in general with her to your town? I mean again, yeah. I would imagine it was probably always there during the whole trip. Cause I could just imagine myself. I would have been so nervous for someone who has, I’ve never met before and has written me this horrible letter and you’ve recognized like, yeah. And now, I mean, it sounds like you reconciled, but still that pain would be in the back of my mind. Like you would have your own little wall up saying, you know, if you do that again, I’m, I’m going to defend myself. And now we’re face to face

Sharon (36:10):

the sense that I kept thinking was there was, she still had a lot of walls because I would, again, I would ask certain questions and she would either, you know, clam up or shut down or just change the subject or don’t want to talk about it. So when they came to Houston, she was like, well, I want to go visit my old home. And you would think any other adoptee would go, Oh, I want to go with you too. And my thought was, she needs to go down there by herself and, and, and confront that person that she was. But I don’t know what it was. It was bizarre thinking. And I really wish I hadn’t done it. You know, now that she’s gone. But at the time I was thinking, I need my space. I need a chance to catch my breath. I need a chance to sit back and think and absorb everything that had been going on so far. And I don’t, I just, I didn’t want to be visiting the place where she had all these memories because I felt like I had gone through all this effort of searching myself and thinking about what I wanted and thinking about how I felt about things. It was just such a weird thing that was going on in my brain

Damon (37:27):

yeah, but I don’t think it was weird. I’ll be honest with you. As I sit here, listening to you, describing everything that was happening for you mentally at the time, it can be a lot, even with the family that, you know, for years and loved the most when they come to town and you are with them every minute, there just has to be a break. And so for this to be such a, uh, potentially sort of challenging situation, you, I think your gut was right, is what I’m getting at. Like, if you felt like you needed a break. Yeah. If you felt like you needed a break, you were right at that moment. And I can understand how you could maybe want to go back another time with her. But if you were already feeling that high pressure, there’s no way you would have just been really, really hard. So I think you made the right decision.

Sharon (38:13):

Oh, thank you. Thank you. That makes me feel better.

Damon (38:16):

We talked for a moment about how reunion can leave and adopt the really tenuous situations that precede a reunion like Colleen’s awful letter to Sharon might leave an adoptee walking on eggshells, biting their tongue and trying not to raise the sensitive topic and how it made them feel. Sharon recalls the challenges of getting any information at all from Colleen about her birth father before Coleen’s tragic death. Sharon tried to forewarn Colleen that she wanted to ask some questions to get more information on the man. Colleen only gave Sharon minuscule details about her birth father revealing that they had met through friends when he was working at a community theater details about his true identity were very sketchy. And even though Sharon alerted Colleen to the line of questions that were coming, Colleen got irritated with Sharon’s curiosity.

Sharon (39:06):

I do recall one evening when I was talking to Cy, I have some questions I want to find where he is. I want to find out his name. I want to find out something about him and I really need your help with this. And so we’ll, you know, I’ll tell you and she said, she said to me, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. Okay. Uh, well, um, I’m just letting you know, the I’m asking since I may be asking some very personal particular questions that may make you uncomfortable. Are you okay with that says, yeah, that’s fine. And so I proceeded to ask or us to, do you remember where he lived? No. Are you in touch with any of the friends that, you know, I don’t know any of them anymore. Um, you know, it was always, you know, yes, no, yes, no.

Sharon (39:53):

And you know, the more detailed I got, the more, more I pressed for information, she finally got frustrated me, why are you doing this? I want to find out where he is. I want to find out his name. Since you said that his, you weren’t sure about his name. And I just want to know something about his side of the family medical information, cultural information is supposed to be Russian. I would like to know something about that. You know, what do you want, the why you doing this? And I just, I sat there a moment. I thought I want peace.

Sharon (40:30):

I told her that. I said, I want peace. And not just for myself for you.

Damon (40:36):

Hm.

Sharon (40:36):

You know, this, this is, um,

Damon (40:38):

what did you mean by that? For her?

Sharon (40:42):

And in my mind, it wasn’t that I thought, Oh, I’m going to reconnect them. And they’re going to be friends. You know, that wasn’t, that wasn’t, that wasn’t anywhere near on the radar. It was more of, I knew the struggles that she had been through and I knew the sorrow that she’d felt. And I didn’t want her to think that I was doing this to hurt, her, or to live out a fantasy. I wanted her to be at peace with the knowledge that I was okay. And that I didn’t hate her. And then I didn’t want to punish anybody for what had happened.

Damon (41:21):

Right. And not to mention it. She may have had a challenging time thinking through this, but you know, she’s not the only person that ever was a contributor to your presence on this earth.

Sharon (41:32):

Yeah, yeah,

Damon (41:34):

yeah. It’s a hard thing. Yeah. There’s a hard, it’s a hard thing for a non adoptee to sort of really focus in on the fact that there were two people that brought you into this world. And just because I found you doesn’t make it enough, there are still a whole other set of answers.

Sharon (41:52):

Yes. Yeah. Yes. There’s a whole other set of answers

Damon (41:56):

after receiving a picture of sharing. Colleen remarked so much like her father. So it’s astonishing to me that she would question why Sharon wanted to find her birth father stating that they had a resemblance would be more fuel on Sharon’s fire for wanting to locate him still, whatever the situation was between Colleen and her father was never revealed by Colleen. Sharon did learn from her that she had relatives in Slovakia. Sharon was fascinated to finally have a link back to her personal history and culture from Colleen.

Sharon (42:29):

Hey, I have a degree in anthropology. You know, cultures are really, really fascinating to me and I like hearing about different cultures and that’s the way my adopted father was too. He loved, you know, talking about history and about the people that came to America. I just, I loved it. And that’s really, you know, that was a lot of what I wanted. I want to know this, I have this, this is part of me. Yeah. Everybody else has this. Everybody gets to talk about, well, you know, so it’s so your great, great, great, great grandfather was related to so, and so I never get to say that. So can I say that about, I don’t, I can’t say that about my adopted family. I know, I know a lot about the origins of the family and when they came to the States, but I don’t, I’m not connected to them.

Damon (43:14):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s an adopted heritage. It’s not the true heritage that you were born from. Yeah.

Sharon (43:20):

I think she had a hard time understanding that and she just got really, really upset with me. And she, she even said I was being obsessed. I was like, well, I wouldn’t be an obsession. If people would just answer the questions she accused, I got really obsessed or crying on the phone. And I, I was, that was the first real dissonance that we’d had since we reconnected was, was her getting upset with me with all these questions, even though I had warned her, I’m going to be asking questions and then accusing me of being obsessed. That was really, really upsetting.

Damon (43:56):

Sharon and Colleen saw one another more than once. On one occasion, Sharon had been on a trip to England with a dear friend of hers and their return flight landed in Newark, New Jersey. She split off from her travel companion to travel to Colleen’s home. And it was during that visit that Sharon was finally introduced to her half-brother Coleen’s son.

Sharon (44:17):

And of my friend went on home to Kentucky. I went home with them to their home. They lived about two hours away from Newark. So I went and stayed with them for a couple of nights. And that’s when I finally met my half brother. He, by that time, she decided to confess to him. And he was about in his early thirties. And, um, you know, because of the stunted relationship I had with my adopted brother, I didn’t quite know how to approach this young man, especially since I wasn’t quite sure what Colleen had told him about and how she presented that information, except that she said he was really glad to know that he had a sister. He was an only child. So he felt, he, he felt glad that he had a sibling now, but you know, I, um, didn’t quite know how to approach him. I’d had such a stunted relationship with my adopted brother was really, and on top of that, I had a really bad cold.

Damon (45:19):

I’m really glad that you were open to sharing your story. I’m you know, I was, I w I felt badly for how the thing started off with your mom, but I was so heartened to hear that she made a 180. So

Sharon (45:31):

I had this little voice saying you got to do something, you got to do something. And it turns out it was right. I mean, just imagine if I had just ignored it for the next couple of years and then found out she’d been killed. I wouldn’t, that would have really hurt. Yeah.

Damon (45:48):

Well, listen, Sharon, I’m so thankful to you for sharing your story. Thanks so much. Take care all the best. Bye bye. Bye bye. Hey, it’s me at the time of our conversation, Sharon had just located her birth father via DNA testing. So I asked her for an update on her journey, Sharon reunited with her birth father in January, 2017 and talked weekly with him. However, the relationship didn’t go very well. She said he seemed to focus only on himself. And those times when he did ask questions about my life, he used what I revealed about myself as opportunities to become very negative and even toxic about who I was and the kind of person I’d become. She struggled with what to do seeking input from friends and family, and ultimately deciding after 10 months of reunion to let the relationship taper off. But a month after ending things with her birth father 23 and me DNA testing revealed she had a half sister despite Sharon’s best efforts to find out from her birth father.

Damon (46:54):

If she had any siblings, he intentionally concealed that he had been married and had a daughter in the early 1970s. Sharon and her sister are taking it very slowly, getting to know one another and planning a meeting sometime in the future. Sharon says that in spite of all the difficulties she had with her search and reunion, she would do it all over again. She knows she would probably ask better questions and be more proactive in getting a more solid sense of herself along the way, regardless of how things ended with her birth parents, she feels like she accomplished a mission. She achieved what she set out to do and feels a sense of affirmation about the sources where her talents came from getting a better picture of what makes her who she is. The final point she made was this. I look forward to answering my grandchildren’s questions someday.

Damon (47:44):

This is something, an adoptee who has been kept in the dark and in secret never gets to experience I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Sharon’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, who am I really podcast.com/share? You can also find the show at facebook.com/waireally, or follow me on Twitter at waireally. And please, if you like the show, take a moment to rate who am I really on Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts or leave a comment about an episode@whoamireallypodcast.com. Those ratings can help others find the podcast too.

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