Andrew lives in Murphy, Oregon, near Grant’s Pass but his is an east coast story. Andrew grew up kinda feeling like an odd man out in his family, not fitting his parents ideas of who he would be. In an amazing coincidence, his pen pal relationship with an elementary school class was key to unlocking his adoption reunion search. The open road took him to meet his birth father who introduced him to his maternal grandmother.She welcomed Andrew at first, but ultimately she was unable to separate him from the memories of what his birthfather did to her daughter years before. This is Andrew’s journey.
She kind of identified me with him as far as having a relationship, being in touch and everything. I've written a number of times, but didn't really get much of a response from her.
Speaker 2 (00:32):
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 Andrew. He called me from Murphy, Oregon near Grant's pass. But his is an East coast story. Andrew grew up kind of feeling like an odd man out in his family, not fitting his parents' ideas of who he would be in an amazing coincidence. His pen pal relationship with an elementary school class was key to unlocking his adoption reunion search. The open road, took him to meet his birth father who introduced him to his maternal grandmother. She welcomed Andrew at first, but ultimately she was unable to separate him from the memories of what his birth father did to her daughter years before this is Andrew's journey. Andrew grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. He doesn't remember any moment when the news was broken to him, that he was adopted. He's always had that knowledge. He was told a typical narrative about his birth mother being young, wanting a better life for him and therefore choosing to relinquish him into adoption. He said he doesn't remember any negativity related to adoption
I grew up in small town, Pennsylvania, and I don't ever remember not knowing I was adopted, never kept a secret, but I don't remember. Like, I don't remember a moment where they broke the news to me. You know, the typical narrative I don't remember any negativity, the troubles I had with it. I just didn't look like him. And I felt, I really feel out of place any time. I didn't quite feel like I belonged about a year and a half. And after that they had a biological son, my brother, and we were very different kind of in our own way. And I could pick up on family resembled since with him and my parents. And then of course, extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins. My brother was never really a problem for me right in my face. From a very early age, I wanted to do a search and find my biological family.
When I asked Andrew about his relationship with his brother, he characterized them as quote, distantly close. They don't see one another much these days, but they used to pal around as young guys. But Andrew also suggested he was a bit of a black sheep that didn't fit his parents' mold, but his brother did and tended to do the right things, seemingly learning from Andrew's mistakes. Andrew said he was just a rebellious teen getting into trouble over stupid stuff. Andrew also said that he and his father butted heads over there conflicting strong personalities.
I think a lot of it actually is my, my own perception of it. You know, it revolves around my parents' disappointment from where I'm at now in life, looking back they always tend to bring up my failures, what I didn't do, or I have a frustrating relationship with them.
Andrew and his brother were into athletics and they both achieved Eagle Scouts. His brother went on to college and got commissioned into the United States air force. Andrew said he attempted college and hoped to focus on army ROTC, but he didn't finish school. And later enlisted in the United States Marine Corps when he was 27 years old, Andrew talked about how he didn't quite fit in with his family and how he and his brother had some differing achievements in their lives. So I wondered if he could recall his parents praising him very often.
My parents really supportive of artists to some extent, it's kind of like a consolation prize. Like, well, you didn't finish college. And you know, I never really felt settled down with a career. I've always kind of bounced around. They just never panned out after a couple of years or whatever the case is not real stable. And I think a lot of that has to do with me, just trying to figure out who I am, know my identity.
I joked with Andrew that there was probably zero time or ability to search for his first family while he was in the Marines. And he agreed, but he said he would have started his search at 10 years old. If his parents would have let him, he expressed his interest in searching way back then, but his parents always sprinkled a measure of caution over him, reminding him to be careful because you never know what you're going to find, but Andrew had his own feelings about his need to know.
I don't care if they're serial killers on death row. I need to know where I'm from. It doesn't matter what, who, what they are. I'll figure I'll get to that when I find them. And I tried articulating that. No, no, no. You know, when you're 18, we'll we'll help you get started.
Andrew's adoptive parents gave him the name of the religious organization that served as his adoption agency in upstate New York. He got his certificate of birth registration, which is not an actual birth certificate. Andrew wrote to the organization about his search and, and they replied saying they could put him on a registry where if his birth family also wanted to meet, they could pair him up with his first family. He made time to get on the sound X reunion registry, which ultimately yielded nothing. But his outreach to the adoption agency returned his non identifying information. Something he didn't even know. He should be asking for. Andrew learned some details of his supposed heritage, age of his birth parents at the time of his birth hair and eye colors of his birth parents and other physical traits. Those were huge details for a guy who didn't look like anyone in the family he grew up in. I asked him what it was like to see details about the people he came from.
It was monumental. I, you know, it's hard to really explain why, I guess it was just because I never knew you know, the family I grew up with, which, you know, I consider them my family. But they can trace their family back three or four generations, five generations, maybe they knew that they were originated from Germany. My grandfather was my adopted mother's father was an off the boat immigrant from Hamburg, Germany. Obviously they knew their family background pretty well. It was always just frustrated, not knowing where my heritage, you know, where my lineage comes from. It was always frustrating. Finally, having least a little piece of it was huge. I mean, I must've read that letter a hundred times
That letter with new information was a vehicle to open discussions with a lot of people about his personal history. He said he was pretty bold about sharing the information in the letter with a lot of people because it had some good Intel about his birth parents. And it outlined to the situation around his conception.
It was a pretty unique situation where, you know, people would have remembered that cause she was very young. She was barely a teenager. And my father was in his mid twenties. I, you know, in the early seventies that was not a good situation. And you know how he didn't get in trouble, you know, didn't get arrested. I think it was because my birth mother's family didn't want to press charges. They were afraid of him. He was probably not the nicest guy. And a lot of that comes from his own upbringing. Pretty rough,
A detail that stood out for Andrew in the information he had was that his paternal grandfather was a jewelry store owner in that area of New York state, Andrew accumulated a list of jewelry stores and jotted down their phone numbers. He said later, after finding some biological relatives, he realized that the second jewelry store on his list was the family store. But what was more important in his journey was a coincidence that happened out on the open road as a long haul truck driver in 1997, Andrew became pen pals with an elementary school class in upstate New York. He would write to them to share where he had been around the country. And what kinds of things he had been hauling by corresponding with the class. Andrew also got to know the teacher
Teacher turned out. She had grown up in and around my home, this is a long shot, but I was adopted blah, blah, blah. Here's my non identifying information sound familiar. And initially she wrote back and she didn't know what she said. She would ask some of her friends when she went back home to visit and I kind of stopped. I kind of went through a period of depression for a few months. And then I stopped writing as a kid, you know, just kind of bummed about life and XYZ for whatever reason might've broke up with a girlfriend or something. Not sure, but I ended up in Florida. It was the first time I had been to Florida ever. And I'm just having one of those weird nights thinking about stuff. And then all of a sudden the hair in the back of my neck and I'm like, cause I had gotten a letter from the teacher that I had never opened.
Anyway. I realized like what letter? And then suddenly I just, every, every cell in my body just went on like overriding. I'm like, get the letter, open it up right now. And then I'm digging through my paperwork and found the letter and I started shaking and it was so bizarre. I opened it up and one of her friends knew exactly what the letter referred to the people that was referring to. Specifically my birth father's family turns out and she goes, you know, she or my friend gave me a name. They wanted to leave their name out of it cause they just want to get involved. But they also felt that I had a right to know and she goes, well, I looked around and checked the phone book and I'm pretty sure this is your biological uncle. And this is his phone number. I looked it up from when I was visiting
A few weeks later, Andrew was in Pennsylvania at a friend's house where he had decided to call the number that teacher had given him. When Andrew called, he asked for his uncle George, they talked a bit and Andrew delicately asked some questions to try working his way up to the main reason for his call. He was also trying to keep his own emotions in check,
Trying to contain my excitement and everything, everything lined up. I think initially he thought that I might be thinking he was my birth mother, but no, no. I was in the army. I was over in Germany at the time, but yeah, everything else matched and it turns out it was his brother, Tom, who was my birth father and he goes, I'm going to go get a hold of him. And I got confirmation. And then I kind of sat on it for a little bit
Over the course of that month. Andrew spoke with his paternal uncle George, his aunt whom Andrew said was very inclusive in terms of bringing him into the family and his birth father. It was the week of Thanksgiving, 1997. Andrew had a couple of days off and he was back in Pennsylvania. He parked his big truck, then made the trip up to New York where his paternal family were gathering.
It was weird. I was actually surprised at how emotional I was not. I was almost kind of numb and it was more at the time it was more about, you know, finding my birth mother cause that's where I felt the most connection and the most loss. But it was still interesting. And it was still very important.
What was the setup? Where did you meet him
And how were, how were those
I took my girlfriend at the time. Fortunately, I didn't realize how awesome that was at the time. And I've since kind of reconciled broke up. Certainly after that we're friends to this day, she drove us over to my father's house and I was really shocked because I really don't see a whole lot of resemblance. I look a lot of later on. I found out that I looked a lot, like two of his other brothers passed away, really shocked. It was very bizarre. I don't think it was all that sentimental for him. It's just, I don't think he grasped how important this was for me. I think he kind of stopped maturing emotional level in his teen years, he was just kind of stuck and it's not really a criticism. It's just how he grew up, what he went through and who he is. He's just stuck. But at the same time, I don't know, it was still really good to make that connection and I've hoped for more at the time, but we drifted apart, fairly wrapped, ended up
The meeting was more of a novelty, sort of a check the box. Let's find this guy. And once you did there, wasn't really much there. Huh?
Not at the time while I'm trying to approach the subject of my birth mother and I didn't want to hear a whole lot about her from him. I just wanted to find her. And so I kind of offhandedly mentioned. So what do you know about my mom? You know, are you in touch with her and seen her in certain, you know, I think six months after I was born the last time, you know, back in the mid seventies, I guess she had seen her, my maternal grandmother a few times, you know, they live in the same town and my step grandfather, grandmothers, we ended up calling her from a payphone outside of this restaurant and he got on the phone and he called her up. It's Tom, I'm here with our son. I can tell this kind of like, you know, just a real short blah, blah, blah here. Do you want to talk to him? And he gave me the phone. I could just, I could feel the tension in her voice. Very like, you know, trying to contain yourself as much as she could. She's like, we really want to meet you.
We want to get in contact with you but that man is not allowed in this house. And just, you know, like she didn't, she didn't drop a bunch of, it's like a very, very calm and controlled. Like he's not welcome here, period. And like don't even think about it and like, you know, it was real short. I'm like, I get it. I understand. And I'll be in touch and you know, like here's my number, I got her number and that was it. And I just feel how much chaos must've surrounded my birth, which surprised me because I think my intuition kind of told me that already. And I may have, I may have felt it as an infant, you know? Even, you know, in the wound I felt that, and I'm still carrying.
You felt what, from her, you said
I felt all the tension and resentment and anger and the chaos that surrounded my birth.
Wow. That's fascinating that you can identify that.
Yep. When I was growing up, I think a lot of that stuff didn't make sense that much, but looking back, I really believe that, you know, things that happened in the womb and, you know, pre pre memory free consciousness, we still pick up on all that stuff. And you know, there's been so many times I've heard other people talk about it and you know, just that gut feeling I've learned to trust that feelings. If something says like, yeah, that's what it was then. That's probably what it is. If you trust your intuition.
So Andrew was there looking at his birth father and was that much closer to meeting his maternal family because he had his grandmother's phone number. Andrew met two of his maternal uncles on that trip too. And they were astonished to see how much Andrew looked like two of their brothers. Andrew's other uncles who were both deceased. Unfortunately that was kind of wild for Andrew because as he looked at his birth father, he didn't think they resembled one another at all. The next day, Andrew drove back to Pennsylvania. He took a nap in his truck, then got back on the road, hauling a load to New York city. He was alone in his rig with miles of road ahead of him leaving plenty of time to review the surreal experience he just had. Andrew was also feeling like he was only halfway down the road to finding his first family. He still had to make the maternal connections halfway to New York city. Andrew stopped in a rest area. During that break from driving.
I ended up calling my grandmother and I was going nuts. This is Andrew. And I understand, I forgot exactly what I said, but it was basically something to the effect. I know why you're upset. I know how old my birth mother was at the time. I can kind of put things together that it was a very, very difficult situation when I was born. Bottom line is I really want to meet my biological mother and get to know her. No, I understand who he is, but it's also not who I am. And because there was no cell phones at the time, but I had a voicemail from my trucking company. I gave her that information. And by that evening she left me a voice mail and thanked me profusely for calling and leaving a message and explaining my side of things a little bit better, you know, we definitely want to meer and here is here's your mother's phone number? And she's down in Florida.
Andrew made his way across the country. One trucking delivery took him out to Wisconsin. He picked up another haul and headed back East toward Toronto, Canada on the way he stopped at a rest area in Chicago. It was 2:00 AM and Andrew decided to check his voicemail and there she was.
Yeah. She definitely wanted to get in touch with you to know, get to know me. So it was like, you know, it wasn't like some of the horror stories were here, but it was positive. And like finally sat down and cried for a few minutes and got back on the road.
That's a funny thing too. You know, I, I sometimes reflect on my own reunion the deaths of my parents, you know, various emotional things. And it's those moments when you're alone on the road or you're standing alone in the shower, you know, at these moments when you've got like full access to your mind in the privacy of some moment. And I would imagine being a trucker on a long haul and you just heard this voicemail. I mean, you must've just been in your head for the for miles and miles.
Yes. Quite a bit. I called it my dispatch and I explained to him like this isn't a voicemail again, I rambled on and I said, look, this is the craziest situation ever. I know, you know, we hardly ever talk, I get load assignments and that's it. You know? And then he runs around the country and I explained to him that I just located my biological mother. And she's down in Florida. Can you get me a load to Florida with a couple extra days? And I had requested certain locations and times as far as that goes, he's never come through all of a sudden I've got a load assignment from Mississauga, Ontario, almost almost where my birth mother lives in Florida with five extra days. Oh my gosh.
Wow. which is right down the road from where I was born. And and I, you know, gotten back in touch with my grandmother and I explained to her like, okay, so I have time. I have a load delivered down to Florida. I'm passing right through. And then I have, and I have a day and the next few day up here I could stop visit. And so we did, it was that Friday night. You know, I parked my truck in an old aims parking lot. Remember those old they met me there and it took me back to their place. And so, and that's actually a Friday right after Thanksgiving. And then went back to my grandmother's place. And this is actually the house where my birth mother lived. And I got met my grandmother, my aunt. And she was actually pregnant with my cousin at the time when I saw a photograph of my birth mother for the first time. And I ended up speaking to her on the phone as well for the first time. Like that was the first time we weren't playing phone tag and I called her too, like, Hey, I'm on my way to Florida. And I have some time off, are we doing this? Are you willing? Are you willing to meet? She's like, yes, absolutely.
Yeah. It was just, and that was the part where it was like, yeah, it was surreal
On the way down the East coast. Andrew stopped back in his hometown, visiting briefly with his parents and his brother. He shared that he had found his first family had met his birth father and his maternal grandmother and was on his way to meet his birth mother.
I think there were, I don't know. I'm still not sure where they're at. I just know they're kind of emotionally distant when it comes to this subject, they have a very hard time talking about it. And I wasn't quite aware of it. I wasn't as aware of it at the time, you know, and I kept trying to reassure them like, look, this is not, I'm not doing this because I'm looking for replacement parents. It has nothing to do with that. And just always very kind of cautious about their feelings. And I don't even think they quite understood that hadn't really connected with them on that.
Andrew got back on the road to make the long drive down to Florida. He pulls into town with his 53 foot tractor trailer and looks for the gas station in his birth mother's area with a dead end street where she had seen big trucks parked before, as he backed his rig down the road, Andrew realized he had been to that very spot a year and a half before that moment he parked the truck, then verified with the owners of the gas station that it was okay to leave it for a day or two, as he sat in the truck waiting Andrew's birth mother pulled up in her black SUV,
Close the distance, walked up to her and it was just, you know, it was like almost speechless, you know, and know, just kind of looked at each other and just like smiling. Yeah. It wasn't quite as like monumental picture of her, at least. So I was kind of prepared. But you know, she's very young. She was in her mid to late thirties at the time I was 23. She would have been 30, 37. Yeah. She's lived like a mile up the road and we just basically hung out for the next few days. Yeah.
Yeah. It was definitely positive. I remember the first photograph we got, I still have it in my wallet. It's the first photograph of she and I together that evening, that, that very day then it was like the Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. So over the course of may have been Tuesday, but it was over the course of eight or nine days where I met everyone. It's pretty intense when I got back in my truck and I got back on the road, I think within 10 minutes it was waterworks, you know, cutting. I just started crying and it felt like I cried for two weeks straight overwhelmed. I was like, yeah, I got from point a to point B with my deliveries did my job. But anytime like, you know, I had like five or 10 minutes or, you know, at the end of the day, whatever the case was, you know, if I wasn't driving, I just felt like tears came out, felt like two weeks. It might've been a week, but it was significantly every day. A little while.
Could you have predicted that it would have been such a release for you at all? I mean, at this sounds like you opened a spigot of emotion that you didn't even know had such pressure behind it?
No, I never, I think maybe consciously I didn't realize that it would have been that much of a release. Yeah, no, I was not. Didn't foresee that. I knew it was very important. I mean, since I can remember just growing up, you know, I've always had those, you know, it's kind of one of those like pagers looking out the window. And a lot of the time I was always wondering like, where's my mom, you know, they bring that up a lot. And it was, it was literally, you know, you can almost divide couple months next month will be 46. I found her. So literally like half my life, I didn't know anything. And then this last half I found, you know, I know where I'm from. Yeah. I didn't really see it coming. Or at least, you know, how, how much of an impact it had. I knew it was important, but not, not the level just gave me a sense of my vanity and completeness. And I wasn't wondering
A few years ago, Andrew took time away from trucking to do a work exchange program in Florida. He rode his motorcycle from New York down to Florida and camped out in a state park. He visited with his birth mother several times. Then for the last month of the work exchange, Andrew stayed with her in a house next door to hers. They spent some quality time together and her sister came for a visit as well. Andrew hadn't seen his maternal aunt since their reunion more than 20 years before.
That was the interesting thing. The extended family over the last 20, some odd years started out with good intentions. But I honestly say her mother, her mother's anger and resentment towards my birth father, really clouded things. And she kind of identified me with him too much and there was a lot of talk initially, but as far as like, you know, like having a relationship being in touch and everything, and I've written a number of times, but didn't really get much of a response from her. So it was kind of bummed about that. And also, you know, my, my aunt, everyone on my birth mother's side of the family was kinda distant. I think it has a lot to do with my birth father, who he was, and background at the time of my birth.
Yeah. It's a funny thing that, you know, a lot of adoptees are forced into the middle of, it's a situation of that wasn't of your own creation, but that often you are forced to bear the consequences of, and those consequences are sometimes that animosity that prevents a deeper connection because you are identified with whatever the quote unquote bad situation was many, many years ago. And, you know, they've gotten over it, the people who were present at the time and now your presence resurrects, the feelings that were there during that time in their life many years ago. And they just attach you to that negative feeling. It's really tough to get over for some people.
Yeah. Yeah. Cause I know this actually kind of leads into a, of the current chapter, started a little over a year ago. I don't know. I never, I've never has always felt like there's something missing. And and I actually have a younger half sister, older half brother on my grandfather's side. My birth mother didn't have any other kids. It was just me. But on my birth father's side, I have two siblings and I've been kind of searching for them on and off. And I finally a friend of mine located my half sister right around November. It's been a little over a year ago and sadly I reached out, but didn't get a response from her information gathering on Facebook and see a little, little bit of her life and what's going on.
And I think a lot of it has to do is, you know, what my birth father was like, you know, back in the seventies, early eighties, there was substance abuse issues and other things. But yeah, I know no contact back. I don't think, I mean, for me, it's not necessarily about celebrating his connection between her and I, it's a, it's more about, you know, like we're genetically related. And I think just having that connection is still very important for me. Yeah. And after the response from her I started, I actually got back in touch with my aunt. I, on my paternal side, the one, I first biological relative, I got back in touch with her and a couple of cousins and even my birth father. And I saw this past July and I was back East cause I went from Oregon back to New York and then Pennsylvania to visit family and spend some time with my son and then actually bring him out West here, actually something that's really, I think part of me was carrying a lot of I don't know what it was.
I don't wanna say it was anger, but I was carrying like loyalty from my biological mother. I think I was carrying some kind of, I was maintaining a distance between myself and my birth father and his side of the family and therapy. I've been through all kinds of different therapies, you know, live life a little bit more successfully maybe. But I found that, you know, all that anger and resentment and distance is not mine. You know, if, if I separate all the other junk and I just look at the situation where that's my biological father and that's my, that's his side of the family, you know? I don't necessarily approve of what he did or you know, the circumstances around my birth, but that really, you know, I can't take responsibility for that because I had nothing to do with it.
And so yeah, I reconnected with him and we had kind of a mini family reunion this past July and it was phenomenal. The first place was I went to my cousin's place and he said, welcome home. All my adoption reunion experiences. Nobody ever said that. And it's just the way he said it, timing everything, just, I was floored and wow. Yeah. Thank you. We ended up having a mini family reunion and uncle's place. And he was even saying that, you know, the family doesn't get together at all. Like this is because of you. It was people that I had met briefly 22 years ago. You know, things are different now and everyone's a little bit older and wiser and better perspective on the world and just got together and had a great evening.
That's amazing. Wow. It's crazy how time can heal and let you find a different pathway to connecting with people, you know?
Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
That's really cool. I'm glad that you got that welcome home. That's not something that everybody gets and it sounds like yours came with a second connection, right? Good for you, Andrew. That's amazing. Well, thank you all very much for taking time to share your story chief. This was fascinating to hear and I, I didn't dive into it, but I got to tell you, I was blown away with the coincidence that you dropped on us with the, the connection to the school teachers, having been pen pals with her students and then her being the connection that unleashed all of your ability to find these people. I mean, that's just an amazing coincidence,
I guess. Pardon me? I mean, it's a small world you never know about you know, not being afraid to share my story and what I was trying to do with people with complete strangers. A lot of times like, Hey, this is can you help?
Yeah. That boldness can can be a game changer and I'm glad you found it within yourself to do so. So congratulations on the reunions and, you know, wish that certain parts of it had gone better, but this is kind of what we have to endure as adoptees. Right?
Do take care. Thanks so much for the call, man. And I wish you all the best take care, Andrew. Bye.
Hey, it's me. Andrew's experience. As a trucker was such an interesting undercurrent to his reunion journey. It was really cool to hear about him being pen pals with an elementary school class and boldly connecting with their teacher. Then unsealing that letter in the wee hours of the morning, calling his birth mother from a rest stop and getting his dispatcher to schedule an extended journey to Florida, to meet her for the first time. It was interesting to hear that his maternal grandmother's deep scarring after what happened to her daughter in the past prevented Andrew's extended maternal family from making connections. I understand, but I wish she could have seen Andrew for who he is not a shadow of his birth father. On the other side, it was great to hear that Andrew was able to be the reason for a family reunion that brought his paternal family together.
Like never before. I can only imagine how amazing it must've felt to hear the words welcome home. I'm Damon Davis. And to hope you'll find something in Andrew's journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search for motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really, if you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit whoamIreally podcast.com/share. You can follow the show at facebook.com/waieally, or follow on Twitter at waireally. If the show is meaningful to you, you can support me with a contribution to keep it going on. Patrion.Com/waireally please subscribe to who am I really on Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. It would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to leave a five star rating there, those ratings can help others to find the podcast too. And if you're interested, you can check up the story of my adoption journey. Who am I really and adoptee memoir on amazon.com on Kindle or as an audio book on audible. I hope you'll add my story to your reading list.