Joe is from Assonet, Massachusetts, just south of Boston. He shares his pride for being an adopted person, the challenge to make his way through his physical limitations as a kid, and the demons he removed from his life before attempting reunion.
Facing secondary rejection. He had to overcome the anger and hurt to even attempt the next reunion decades later. When he did, Joe learned that his siblings in different families were friends, his father’s had friends in common and that everything in his life was connected in ways he hadn’t realized.
This is Joe’s journey.
Joe: [00:00:00] [00:00:00] Cold OpenThere's the fun pieces of finding all these friends, mutual friends, siblings, everyone knowing each other. But what's really important is my 20 year old daughter still has her father around to be with her because I was fortunate enough to advocate to myself, which I couldn't do all my life.
I had no medical history. If people take well, you know, is your heart disease and your family . I don't know I'm adopted. So what a valuable piece it was for me to get that medical information. And when I was having a heart problem. We were able to fix that. [00:01:00]
Damon: [00:01:02] I'm Damon Davis. And today you're going to meet Joe who called me from accident, Massachusetts, just south of Boston. He shares his pride for being an adopted person. The challenge to make his way through his physical limitations as a kid and the demons he removed from his life before attempting reunion.
Facing secondary rejection. He had to overcome the anger and hurt to even attempt the next reunion decades later. When he did, Joe learned that his siblings in different families were friends. His father's had friends in common and that everything in his life was connected in ways he hadn't realized
this is joe's journey
Joe lives in, what's known as the south coast of Boston between fall river and new Bedford. His accent isn't as thick as some people's, [00:02:00] but you could definitely tell he's a native Bostonian. Joe said he's listened to a lot of adoption related podcasts. He's part of many adoption support groups and he leads a monthly group there in Boston. So he's familiar with the stories of adoptees.
Talking about his own adoption. Joe said he was pretty fortunate. When he was born, he developed a staph infection that led to some medical conditions, but his parents brought him home anyway.
Joe: [00:02:29] And again, they didn't, they didn't have a ton of money, but they knew it goes ahead of them that they needed to get my, my legs fixed. But we wanted to do that and they were wonderful folks, very caring. And then my mom was going to have another baby and it was still born a couple of years later and I wanted, I wanted a sibling.
I wanted a baby sister and they said, well, you know, it went wrong. And I said, well, well, let's go where I came from and let's pick one out. Like you picked me out. And I got myself, I got a brother [00:03:00]who was three, three and a half years younger than me. It was also adopted and then we'll be a couple of years later they had two children, bang, bang.
Yeah. So there's four of us and honestly, it was a family, there was no separation. I've heard stories where people felt broken or they didn't belong or anything like that. We didn't have that. My brother, Louie and I didn't have that. We would, we get, we get just as much joy and just as much punishment , altogether.
So my adopted life was fabulous. , my extended family, everything was all about being included. And I think that, you know, you hear a lot of stories, you know, adoptees and include mid sad because, you know, we didn't choose to be adopted. I mean, we were into this because of the circumstances, and then you dig up the circumstances later in life.
But my parents always had a lot of respect for biological parents. They never spoke badly about them. Which made [00:04:00] me happy later on in life that I grew up with respectful my biological parents as well. I remember as a kid. You know, worrying about , my biological mother is saying, I really hope that she knows I'm okay that.
You know, nice people adopted and they got my legs fixed and they're taking good care of me and I have a good life. I was, I was I was always worried about that. You know, that they wouldn't know that I was okay. I think that, , I get that from my folks. I think because they were very concerned too, that, you know, my biological parents were treated the respect and understood that the loss that they had too
Damon: [00:04:36] really fascinating. I mean, you've, it sounds like what you've said is your adoptive parents were so supportive that you actually perhaps learned a little bit of empathy for your natural mother earlier, perhaps than you might have. Normally
Joe: [00:04:53] I did a hundred percent correct that They, they, they, they had so much [00:05:00] respect and it, and it went through a lot of different things, but it was really important later on the life of my brother, Louie and I, to understand how respectful they were we're so that we did have the empathy and understanding for what my biological parents went through, you know, having to do what they needed to do at the time I was adopted in 1958, my biological mother was 16.
My biological father was 17. So back in 58, you didn't keep children. I mean, things changed over the years, , into where there was more resources and understanding of the seventies and eighties where, you know, teen teens were keeping their children back at 58. They didn't do that. You were given up for adoption so that the child was given a better opportunity and the biological parents were given an opportunity to grow up as well.
Damon: [00:05:50] Yeah. That's, that's really interesting. Something else interesting that you said was that you, you wanted to a sister and you [00:06:00] basically said to your parents, like he's a little, what's it almost sounds like a shopping trip. Like let's go back and go where you got me, you know,
Joe: [00:06:07] that's the visual you get as an adoptee when you've been quote unquote picked out special or selected, or we went and got you it, you know, it's like, you went.
Shopping, you went do what you were looking for and that's the child you want it. And that's how I picked out. Therefore, when it was time to go get a sibling, we're going to do the same thing. We're going to go pick out my brother. And that's what we did.
Damon: [00:06:30] That's really funny. As you were speaking, I had to chuckle to myself because this funny story came to mind.
As you said that you wanted a sister, but then you got a brother. My wife was making my son, who's now 13. He must've been about seven or eight when he said this, she made him dinner and he didn't ask him for his input on it. So she just put it down in front of him. And she looked at, he looked at the plate.
And he looked up at her and he goes, I didn't order this.
Damon: [00:07:02] I was just thinking, I was just imagining like your little face, when you said you wanted a sister and they came home with a brother and you're like, I didn't order this.
Joe: [00:07:10] Well, here's the thing about it. Damon's dad. I tease him. Well, we have our meetings or whatever, the different meetings we go to. I said, you know, I wanted a sister and I could stuck with, you know, the best brother on the planet.
I love my brother dearly, but I use the word I tell him yet. Well, I see, you know, I wanted a sister, but I got stuck with him, laugh over it because, you know, we, we grew up late. We, we, I mean, we were very fortunate and I mean, I have to tell you something, I'm proud to be an adoptee. I'm a proud that I was adopted carry with me, like a badge, because it's an honor to have the parents that I had And then later on in life to then reconnect with my biological father in see that I probably would have grown up in a very similar family.
Damon: [00:07:54] Joe, and I agreed. There's a reconciliation that goes through and adopt these mind when we decide [00:08:00] to search for our biological parents. There's the question of whether we're searching, even though our relationship with our adoptive parents is awesome. Or maybe because the relationship was awful or some combination there in.
. We ask ourselves if we're expecting a fairytale ending, will we be able to live with any heartache that comes from searching? And will we be okay with some combination of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Joe's had multiple people ask him about their own reunion journeys over the years and he's always offered this sound advice
Joe: [00:08:34] You need to do some soul searching because it's going to get difficult, no matter how good it goes. There are going to be some very difficult times that you, no one else is going to understand what you go through cause they're not adopted.
And, I don't think I was a hundred percent prepared
Damon: [00:08:50] Yeah I think it's important that anybody listening recognize you will never be 100% ready. No. You know, and that says with any situation in your life, you know, when [00:09:00] you're. Planning to have a baby. It's never the absolute right time when you're thinking about getting married, it just, you kind of just have to pick a date and go for it.
And the same thing is through is true with, you know, your professional life and other pieces of personal life. And with search and reunion, you're never 100% ready because you can't know everything that's about to come at you. So it's impossible to prick completely prepare. So I just wanted to sort of touch on that for anybody who might be listening and thinking to themselves, Oh man, he's right.
I'm not 100% ready. You will never get to be 100% ready. So you might just have to dive
Joe: [00:09:37] in. Cause Lord knows what's going to happen. I mean, nobody knows What you're gonna, what you're going to find you. Right? When you talked earlier, you said you don't know what you're going to find and you need to be prepared to that.
And not everything you could be prepared for. It brings up a whole different. Ball of wax , because , this is a lot about, [00:10:00] emotions and you cannot control all of your emotions and anyone else's emotions that are involved.
Damon: [00:10:08] When Joe was a kid, he got into sports at an early age, even with what he called bad legs. It was a place to distract himself and expend his energy instead of getting into trouble. He used to play with those little green army men. Ran around playing cops and robbers and listen to music and watch TV as a boy.
He was an average kid, even though in many ways he was different.
Joe: [00:10:32] And fortunately, you know, I was treated just like everybody else.
And I always wanted to be like everybody else, , you know, you could see I had a disability, but you couldn't see that I was adopted. So I had two things going on there. But it never interfered with my growing up. I was, I was pretty good with it up until about I moved, I went from one town to the next town over and things changed a little bit because of my disability.
But and I felt bad about that because I was always accepted. In [00:11:00] East Bridgewater, but when I moved to Bridgewater, the next town over it got it was times difficult, but for the most part, I try to let it go.
And then I worked my way into being accepted in things got better as time went on and I did. Okay. I had a couple of rough spots, but for the most part I did. Okay. I got a little ugly for a while. I took, I took a lot of hassles, but you get through that, you know what I mean? It is what it is. You make friends and you move on, but it was, it was something that, again, I wasn't prepared for and it hurt a little bit.
Damon: [00:11:31] I can imagine. Cause those folks in the new town aren't used to you, you haven't grown up together. And so you're just this new kid and there's for lack of a better word, something to make fun of.
Joe: [00:11:43] You're exactly right. That's exactly what it was. It was certain to pick on the new kid about yeah. And I did well, and again, I think for the most part, I had a normal childhood.
Damon: [00:11:53] You said that , if a person looked at you, they could see that you had a disability, but they can't see that you're adopted.
[00:12:00] Tell me what, if someone looked at you back then, what would they see? Physically , I don't know how a staph infection.
Joe: [00:12:08] My left, my left hip was decayed and I had no ball and socket. So I had a lift, a doctor in Brockton, which was near East Bridgewater, made it so I could at least walk cause they said I would never walk, but I walked, I did little league ball. I did all those things. So I, I was kind of slight, I was light heavy set down, cause I'm a fat old guy, but but you know, I was, you know, I looked, I didn't look like anybody in my family, which was it later on, it became a little difficult for me.
But but I was, I was kind of, but I had a limp. Yeah, I got you. Cool. And they had a shoe that had a lift on it and I was a little embarrassed about that being a six, eight, 10, 12 year old kid. You're going to be because you're different. You don't want to be, you want to be like everybody
Damon: [00:12:57] Joe said he wore his adoption, like [00:13:00] a badge of honor. And he would tell anyone who would listen, that he was an adoptee. He was proud of it. And his openness about adoption made him interesting to other people. . Joe mentioned that it became a little more challenging later in life when he started to recognize that he didn't look like his family.
I asked him to elaborate on that. He said in his teen years, when kids are really contemplating themselves, how they behave to fit in and what they look like that he really didn't look like his mom and his dad or his siblings. He didn't look like anybody.
Joe: [00:13:33] And it was a little a little unnerving to me. Cause I didn't understand why, you know what I mean? And it seems funny to say that, but couldn't compare everybody else could, you know, they go, Oh, you look like your sister I can't tell you how many, when I was growing up, how many sets of twins I hung out with?
And they had somebody right beside him that look like them. And I had nobody that looked like me. As I got a little older I'd look in the mirror and I I didn't see anything. [00:14:00] It's kind of weird to explain. I had, there was no visual in the mirror. Yeah. It, it,
Damon: [00:14:06] that's interesting in the mirror, not in a family portrait where you're looking at everybody together, you're saying in a, in the mirror
Joe: [00:14:13] with my family, I was comfortable with the pictures.
But if I looked in the mirror, I had nothing to compare it to. Therefore I didn't see anything I had. No, I didn't have any look to me.
Damon: [00:14:25] Yeah. I guess in the absence of the family mirror, your uniqueness in the actual mirror makes you really stand alone. That's that's fascinating.
I've never heard
Joe: [00:14:38] anybody say that before. That's very well put Damon. I think you hit the nail on the head on that, that when I was separated from what made me comfortable, I now had to be comfortable with myself and I wasn't quite there. With the fact that I couldn't compare myself to anything. So yeah, it was, yeah.
That's, that's really
Damon: [00:14:56] interesting.
As Joe started getting older, [00:15:00] his adoptive mother started to express concern that he might actually date one of his siblings or a cousin or something. He thought there was no chance he was born in Wooster an hour and 15 minutes away. So he wasn't concerned. Joe has admitted. He wasn't 100% prepared when he jumped into the deep end and started his own search.
For more than 30 years, he had lived with the diseased hip that eventually gave out requiring hip replacement surgery. Handling surgery preparation on his own as an adult. Versus when his parents handled his medical needs, when he was a kid. . Ignited curiosity about his medical history.
He wondered what happened years ago when his birth mother was pregnant. He was curious about who his birth father was and the dynamic between them
Joe: [00:15:48] throughout , in my life, I thought of my biological parents often many nights, you know, quietly, I think, I just hope my mother knows. That I'm okay.
Mostly because mothers, you know, they worry about their [00:16:00] children supposedly more than their, you know, the father does, but I always just wanted to let her know I'm okay. You know, I I'm all right.
Damon: [00:16:06] Joe started digging into his history, finding out where his records were through Catholic charities. He went to the courthouse where Joe found documentation of what transpired in 1958 and 59. Uncovering new information about his past. Joe realized he was hooked on his search.
Joe: [00:16:24] The medical records was still important, but emotionally, I, I saw a thing saying you need to go through all the way through this because not just for the medical records, you'll hook you.
You want to know, you want to know who your family is. And curiosity got the better of me. And then I started and I'm glad I did. I went through some difficult times with it, but I'm glad I did. And once I get started, there was no stopping. I always call the Pandora's box. And I tell people that once you start your search, there's no going back.
. because you've opened up that box. And the only thing, and you can do at one point, you say, I can't do this [00:17:00] and walk away, but other than that, once you open it up, it's like a train ride. You get on it and you just don't want to stop. You want to keep going to the next stop and keep going.
It's just amazing.
Damon: [00:17:08] Yeah. It's interesting. As you were speaking, I was thinking of it like once your curiosity is sparked about something you can't spark it, you know, think of how many times in this modern age, when you thought to yourself, something interesting.
Like, you know, I, I wonder how far the North star is from us and you reach in your pocket and you Google it and your curiosity, you satisfy like the curiosities that come up. Like, I wonder where my biological mother's from and you can't unscratched that you like, you have to scratch that itch.
You can't just say, nevermind. I don't want to know anything about, or once you've begun that process of starting to be curious, you can't not be curious anymore. It's just, I just don't think it's possible.
Once you get on that train, you're taking that
Damon: [00:18:02] ride. Yeah. Yeah. And I believe that it's probably also because something else stopped them in their tracks. Like if you were curious about perhaps your natural father, but your reunion with your natural mother, didn't go very well. Then you could see how that would be a deterrent from being curious about him.
Remember Joe was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, about 30 miles west of Boston But for about 10 years, they lived in east Bridgewater, a suburb of Boston. When he launched his search prior to hip surgery. Joe uncovered just how close he had been to . his family When I did my search and again, the key to this is I was born in Worcester I found out that my biological mother was right in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the town I grew up in. , , my adoptive parents had no idea where I was from. . They had a house built less than a mile, about a mile from my biological mother. And about two [00:19:00] miles. So my biological father,
that's amazing. That's
Joe: [00:19:04] incredible.
Damon: [00:19:05] what Was going on in your life?
At that time?
Joe: [00:19:09] I was getting ready to have my hip replaced. I was fixing some demons because of some things going on because of my adoption search and some other things, medical things going on, you are getting repaired. I put the bottle down. I was, I was an alcoholic functioning at work. That was what I was a workaholic alcoholic.
That helped a lot that helped clear up a lot of things to make this ride that I was wanting doable because if I kept drinking, it would probably would have turned into a disaster. So , I put down the bottle and concentrated on getting, not only myself physically well, but emotionally and mentally well with the upcoming search that I was putting myself into and then emotionally getting attached.
Cause he is, here's a town that I never wanted to leave. It was a town I grew up in. It was, [00:20:00] the town was accepted in and my biological family came from there. So now the rollercoaster is going at a much quicker pace and it's getting a little scary. And unfortunately for Joe me Joe didn't prepare well.
And at that point he got involved with. Yeah, I just got to do this and I wasn't prepared for the rejection. It hit hard.
Damon: [00:20:25] Joe's investigation, put him in touch with some people who were around when his birth mother was pregnant. He went to the high school, his birth mother attended to chat with some folks who recalled her situation before she was sent to Worcester to give birth to Joe.
. He relayed the new details to his social worker who got in touch with his birth mother.
Joe: [00:20:44] The information was set to my biological mother and she called my social worker immediately and said that he needs, he needs to stop.
I can't handle this right now and I wasn't prepared. . Well, I was a little. I was, I was a little foolish not [00:21:00] preparing myself for that because at the time all of the talk shows were flooded with adoptions and adoption. We, you talk about the early nineties, where everybody was getting reunited.
It was a big, big subject. It was all over the place. So I just never thought of the possibility of rejection and it came. But thank God I fixed some of the things I had fixed and I was able to concentrate on getting myself better physically to start with. And then I ended up going to college after I got my hip replaced.
I couldn't go back to the physical work. So I went to college which helped it helped educate me and give me a direction. . But in the process again, you know what, you start you open that Pandora's box. Well, I opened up a whole bunch of them. So what came into became interesting is not only did I find out that my mother was in the same town that I grew up in.
I had a biological brother who also grew up in their town. He's significantly [00:22:00] younger than me. He's eight years younger. But so now I opened up that box as well. Yeah.
Damon: [00:22:07] So let me just, let me pause you for a minute. Cause there's a couple of things that I'd love to just go back to for a moment first. You've said that you very intentionally, it sounds like decided that it was time to cease your alcoholism to your consumption. And, and was that because you were preparing to be in reunion or was it that you knew you needed to do it? Something else was going on and. Reunion was possibly coming.
Like, was it the catalyst or was it one of many factors in your choice?
Joe: [00:22:48] It was the factor of of a few. Yes. I had gone out one night and this is after I get the rejection and I was out and I was actually at a Bruins game with some friends in [00:23:00] less than a year.
The thought ran through my mind very, very quickly that, you know, I should go and talk to her and let her know that I'm a good person. And then obviously that, that fleeting moment went away and I went home and I got up in the morning and say, you're all done. You can't keep doing this as stupid. You know, you almost made the biggest mistake in your life that, you know, thinking that was okay with alcohol to do something that is as serious and impersonal and important to you, you need to stop.
So in preparation for a hip replacement moving forward and not being stupid. Cause I didn't want to bring that appearance to people who I was trying to impress or, or I don't want to use that word. I wanna use gain acceptance from perhaps acceptance to be accepted by, you know, you certainly don't want to be a fool and I certainly didn't want to be a fool and I was being one and I wanted to [00:24:00] stop that behavior.
Damon: [00:24:01] that's really impressive. There's I interviewed a guest recently who basically said that the opposite happened for her. She used an a, a late discovery adoptee, and unfortunately she turned to alcohol as a means by which to cope because she found out at a very late stage in her life. And and she expressed some regret for how that piece.
Of her reaction unfolded in it's. I find it interesting that you caught yourself before going too far with alcohol as a crutch in your journey. And it's just an interesting, just, juxtaposition between the two of you.
So , the social worker has reached out to your biological mother and your biological mother has said, , I can't handle this right now.
Is that basically, what did you take [00:25:00] the right now piece as maybe later?
Joe: [00:25:03] Yep. I sat by the phone , and the mailbox for a couple of few years waiting to get that letter. I'm ready now on that phone call. I'm ready now. It never came. .
Damon: [00:25:15] I'm
Joe: [00:25:15] sorry to hear that. That's really tough. I learned to, I learned to accept it. It was not, it was difficult for a long time, but I learned to accept it. I had to, for my own good, my own health, my own mental health, mental, emotional, I had to accept the fact that I may never ever meet this woman, even though geographically.
We're very, very close.
Damon: [00:25:40] Yeah. That's gotta be so
Joe: [00:25:42] tough. It was tough for a long time Damon I want, I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to play the tough guy all don't. It didn't bother me. It bothered me a lot. I lost sleep. You know, think glad I quit the drinking because it could have pushed me even further into some really bad places.
I was already in pretty rough shape at the time, [00:26:00] but I was, I guess, fortunate enough. And I guess I had a good support system around me that was able to pull me through some of the most difficult times.
Damon: [00:26:11] Joe told me part of his support system was his parents when they were alive. Joe's brother Lou was supportive, but nervous that the ordeal would push Joe back into drinking, but their bond opened a door for Joe to be able to talk about what he was feeling. Joe also sought professional mental health support
Joe: [00:26:30] I got some counseling which I thought was really important for me. . It helped me understand that it's not me. That was really important. I mean, and that was the first thing that everybody, it's not you, it's not, you it's okay. Chill out, but you still have that for a little while.
And then you realize it's not, you it's it's I can't control how she feels about it. Just cause I'm excited just cause I'm elated just because I want, it doesn't mean that she has to agree with all that. .. And once I realized that emotionally, I can't became stronger. [00:27:00] Yeah. That's incredible. So there wasn't
Damon: [00:27:02] , you touched on something interesting that I hadn't contemplated directly. I know that the impact is out there, but you alluded to the fact that, you know, in the nineties and I can almost picture, you know, a Phil Donahue or a Maury Povich or some kind of, television talk show that it shows reunification of families and, you know, it's this live event.
That's very exciting, but it also depicts that that's possible for everybody, right? Because there is no show that is, you know, today we have adoptees who, whose parents we couldn't find and who refused to be in contact with them. That's, that's not a show that doesn't make television
Joe: [00:27:47] and that's exactly what it is.
They, everybody wants a happy ending and that's not the way a lot of these turn
Damon: [00:27:52] Or at least closure, for lack of a better word, you can't have an open-ended [00:28:00] television show where you've, you know, you've got this guest who's sitting on stage and you're waiting for the adopted, you know, the biological parents come out and they never come out.
That doesn't work. Right.
Joe: [00:28:12] And so they want to spend money on that. But yeah,
Damon: [00:28:14] so, so we would have all associated ourselves with these reunion stories on TV and it I've had more than one guest say that that scenario of a show sparked their own search, but it absolutely does not prepare you for the possibility that you could be on that show that doesn't air because the, the natural parent never came out to meet you.
Right. Wow. Yeah. That's really fascinating. Cause it, that, that whole show set up, created a mindset.
Joe: [00:28:47] It did. And it blinded me a little bit, but again, it's not the show's fault. It's my fault for not, you know, try to look past that. But like you said, the depiction of the whole [00:29:00] thing is brings its false sense of security and can be bothersome.
it can go bad. And that's
Damon: [00:29:07] joe's brother is eight years younger than himself on his maternal side.
I wondered if since his birth mother couldn't handle meeting Joe, if he reached out to his new sibling, Joe said one day during his search, his now ex-wife was out to dinner with a friend. Her friend asked how Joe was coming with his search for his family. His ex wife started to talk about joe finding his birth mother her unwillingness to connect with joe and the fact that he had a maternal brother
Joe: [00:29:36] And then she said, well, what about his brother?
And he said, Oh, he's got a name. And she blurted out the name and the, and the, and the friend that she was with dropped her salad fork into her plate and looked up and said, he's at my house right now. putting my heating system
shut up. Are you serious, Oh my gosh, this is a couple of, we went out to dinner, you know, quite a few times, hung out with, [00:30:00] you know, quite a bit.
And they finished the dinner when they raced over to the house. and he had just left. But once they told this young lady's husband they were good friends, so I didn't reach out to , his dad, my brother's stepfather. I reached out to him. I sent the letter. And he responded by calling me and said, let's get together to talk about this.
And I sat down with them, explain, look, here's, what's going to happen if I don't, if you don't tell them, you know, I'm going to have to tell them because if we don't, you know, offend you, I don't think that's where it should come from. And he agreed. So he sat down with Ned and my brother, Ned, and told them that what was all about.
And he was very excited. He, you know, he, he kissed his mom and he said, look, you know, I understand, but I also need to go see my brother. And we've had a long-term relationship. We've had a couple of things, you know, come and go because of life. But you know, we, we're still in contact. He's a great guy.
He looked a lot like me for the first time in my life. I actually met somebody that looked like me and it made, [00:31:00] made me very comfortable with who I was and what I look like.
Damon: [00:31:04] Yeah. When you get that mirror later in your life, it is so validating. It's crazy. Yes,
Joe: [00:31:10] it's and that's a great word. It is.
It's validating, it's acknowledgement. And you know, everybody wants to be acknowledged let's, you know, seriously, everybody wants to have some piece of them understood. And now I had that. . Viability and you know, it was, it meant the world to me, you know, it's, some people is finding the original birth certificate that, that, that helps a lot too.
But to actually see another person that you know is your relative, that is your blood. It's just absolutely amazing. I was on cloud nine the first night I met him. I'll bet.
Damon: [00:31:42] I'll bet.
. Now Joe was the oldest son in two different families, his adopted family and his maternal biological family. But as he was going through his search, Joe had to think about whether he wanted to reach out to this mystery man, given his experience . With his birth mother secondary [00:32:00] rejection
Joe: [00:32:00] But then there was a big gap. And you talked about it earlier about, you know, did the negativity stop you from moving forward to maybe making something positive, finding your biological father? Was it worth it at that point? I had to do a little research. A couple of names came up and they were dead ends.
Damon: [00:32:20] How did you learn who you could possibly be looking for during this search back in the nineties? How did, how did you get a clue?
Joe: [00:32:31] Ah, research. I started getting around these bridge, what I went to the library and looked at different town records, yearbooks. I went to the high school and the librarian there befriended me right away. When I walked into the library, she said, can I help you? And I said, yes. I'm looking to do a little research.
And she did a double take. And she said , to the two [00:33:00] students standing at the thing, she said, hold on just a second. She turned to me and she said, I want you to go sit in there, my reference room over there. And I'll be in, in a minute, I know exactly what you're looking for. And she took care of the students.
The bell rang for everyone to go home. She sat in the reference room and she said, I know who you are. And I know why you're here, you're here. Yeah. She said, I've been teaching at this school for 40 years. And I was here when your mother was pregnant with you.
Damon: [00:33:26] No way.
Joe: [00:33:28] Absolutely. Wonderful lady. We became very, very good friends.
Sweet, sweet lady that I owe a lot to
Damon: [00:33:37] Wait, , how did she know it was you?
Joe: [00:33:39] She could tell by looking at me and she was one of those people that knew everything. She just was that she was all that in a cup of coffee Damon. And I'm telling you she was sharp and
it was, it was it. And it put a hole in an hour. She put a whole bunch of pieces [00:34:00] together and she started giving me the opportunity to go look at some things on the biological father's side as well. Yo, if
she hadn't been there, she had retired. Maybe not even been there that day. I mean, you that's really unbelievable it would've
made my search more difficult.
So this is the high school that I would have been going to. If I didn't move from, you know, down the street, the next town over, I hadn't been going to the school. The irony again, here is this woman was very good friends with my grandmother, my biological mother's mother. She was the cafeteria manager in the same high school.
Damon: [00:34:43] Is that right. Oh my God,
Joe: [00:34:45] you can't make this stuff up.
So the whole town knew not only me, but they knew my biological family. That's
The librarian knew your mom, presumably knew your dad. You almost went to that high school and you grew up in the community. So anybody who knew the parents were probably able to whisper and be like there. Right? Yup.
Joe: [00:35:21] Wow.
Damon: [00:35:23] That's unreal. So there was this secret identification of you as their kid swirling around you, that you didn't actually know what's happening.
Joe: [00:35:32] Yeah. So the big secret, it really wasn't a secret for a better term. The big secret was really not
Damon: [00:35:40] a secret. The secrets only a secret to the person who doesn't know
Joe: [00:35:43] if everybody else knows it's not a secret
Damon: [00:35:45] at all. That's crazy.
The librarian hinted at who Joe's biological father could be. Joe contacted the guy, but the man told Joe it wasn't him. It was probably another guy. When Joe researched the next [00:36:00] guy, he found out the man had a wife and four kids. So Joe pulled back. He thought about what he might disrupt. If he stepped forward as a fifth child of this man.
He didn't want to disrupt the guy's life and their family. And after being rejected by his birth mother and the first guy that he thought was his father. Joe needed a breather. He put down the paperwork, documenting his search and took a break. Joe took a moment to go back and talk about someone significant in his reunion journey.
Joe: [00:36:30] I have to digress. , I knew this young lady in East Bridgewater.
We grew up together. We were friendly and then we ended up working together well, when I did my research, I found that young lady was my cousin. On my mother's side. Yes, she was actually technically, she was a second cousin, , her mother, and my biological mother are cousins.
Damon: [00:36:51] That's really incredible. Small, small towns are like that though.
Joe: [00:36:55] Well, there you go. So before you ask, no, we did not date. We were just very close friends. [00:37:00] We, we hung out. We partied, we had a bunch of laughs. We had some fun times, but no, we did not date that. That was the one thing that my mother was afraid of.
. She had that fear of coming home to my sister or my cousin and everything. Just kind of be blown out of proportion when we dug into the whole thing. But. And I, and I introduced my cousin Ellen because she became very significant later on in finding my biological father and my siblings.
. Everything is connected. Damon it's really it is something special
Damon: [00:37:32] ellen. And Joe got very close over the years, spending time with one another's families at each other's houses and developing a great bond. Joe said it was almost 25 years before he picked up his search again. Speculating on the name Joe had for his birth father and whether it was really that guy. Ellen shared that she knew one of the man's sons, possibly Joe's brother.
She gave Joe a picture of the man who could possibly be his brother, [00:38:00] but Joe wasn't ready to move forward with making a connection quite yet. Joe needed a moment to digest what the possibilities were. So he asked Ellen for a little bit of time. Ellen decided she wanted to help Joe along. So she contacted her girlfriend who was dating Joe's brother and share the whole story.
The next day, Joe had a Facebook friend request From the brother's girlfriend. She also told her boyfriend" i think we found a brother of yours"
Joe: [00:38:28] He then texted me and I called him and we, we had a conversation and he said, so who's your mom.
I told him, you know, how did you find out about us? I told him and I said, look, I don't know if you are father is my father. I don't even know if he knows I'm alive. And he goes, well, he knows all about you. He sat us down about 15 years ago and told us all about you. We've been looking for you have since.
Oh, wow. And of course we both started crying like babies. I mean, like we cried for 15 minutes on the phone. [00:39:00] . Every time we'd run into each other. We cry now it's awful, but you get these two burly guys that look like lumberjacks and they're crying , but yeah, it's just, it's an emotional game Damon.
We've already touched on that. It is such an emotional game and it's not really a game, but it's an emotional piece of life. Yeah. So he got off the pony. So look, I'm going to go tell dad, and I'm going to tell my mom and I'm going to get laced to siblings together. And about 10 days later we got together and it was a wonderful reunion.
I have a video of my dad walking up to me and hugging me from his garage that I keep that I play off. And . Everything went as bad as the other situation was with my mom. The, my father, that whole thing was just beautiful. It was, it was an experience. It, it completed me. It made me feel whole, it brought so many pieces together and now I'm the oldest in that family too.
So I'm the oldest in three families. That's [00:40:00] incredible. I would, I was raised one of four now. I'm one of 10. Wow. That's awesome. So my dad my father, the guy that raised me was the greatest man I ever met in my life. Don't ever get me wrong there. He was a wonderful man, but then I met my biological father and he was just a sweet, heart to a great guy that I enjoyed spending time with.
Damon: [00:40:26] awesome. Wow. So tell me about that first meeting. So have you arranged to meet at his house? Tell me how you were feeling like the night before and stuff.
Joe: [00:40:38] Oh, I couldn't sleep. You know what I'm saying? It talks about my, she she's you got to calm down. You're going to lose your mind, i said I can't. Wait, I can't wait. I was like a little kid waiting for Christmas to come along.
It was awful. But it was all good thoughts and go to can't wait, it's going to put so many things to rest. It's going to bring some peace to my dad who really want to talk to him a couple of my siblings my father has been looking at you. He [00:41:00] just, you know, he's just so excited. And I pulled up to the house and he came out and unfortunately his legs had gotten pretty rough himself.
So he was on a cane, but we hugged and we would just we were so overwhelmed and I looked around like, I'm looking over my dad's shoulder and I see all these people standing there and I'm trying to figure out all the pieces. And I look up and my brother Michael come over and he and he just started laughing and he gave me a big hug and he said, brother, I've waited so long.
It was just amazing.
That's awesome. Wow.
Damon: [00:41:34] Joe shared that if his adopted family had stayed in , East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, his adopted siblings and biological siblings would have been at the same school in the same graduating classes. His brother Louie would have graduated with his biological brother, rich, the oldest on his paternal biological side.
Joe's sister would have graduated with another brother and his youngest brother would have graduated with a paternal sister. [00:42:00] And one sibling pair actually did graduate together from east Bridgewater high school, and they were friends in that class.
Joe: [00:42:07] so it brings so many things out that when you talk about adoption and biological meetings and adopted families and. There are just so many things that tie together. My story is every time I tell it, people do it. That's amazing. That's just insane. And I, and I said, you know, I have all the documents to prove it because who believed that if I wrote and I started writing my book and I, I keep stopping, I don't know why, but I who'd read it.
Cause they're going to go. This is God, this is, this is BS. This can't happen. This isn't true. This is a Twilight zone for crying
Damon: [00:42:44] out loud.
Yo, this, I mean, this is the thing, this is how crazy our stories are. And it's, you know, they're not always this crazy, but the emotional gravity of them can be equally. If not [00:43:00] more. You know, heavy than what you've expressed.
There's, some of them are lighter stories. Some of them are very, you know, deepened trauma filled and dramatic. I mean, it's just such a wide array of experiences out here. It's just on your own.
Joe: [00:43:18] I've heard some horror stories. No, yeah. I'm sure you have to. And it's sad. Yeah.
Damon: [00:43:26] Yeah. I agree. , , and I try to be careful on the show with regard to that, because I don't like to just paint the awesome rescue story with the rosy, , reunions , you know, that it's just not true.
And every person who, even that the people who have told what you could loosely categorize as like. The most uplifting stories. And I don't know the right words to sort of use. I struggle with it sometimes, like I say, good or bad, good adoption and bad adoption for simplicity sake, [00:44:00] but that's not really a good nomenclature for how to categorize them.
But for those who have had, , amazing reunions that are, laughter filled tear jerkers. At some point before that there was probably a low point of self doubt and worry concern challenges and, and all kinds of things that they had to surmount to make that thing be as awesome as it was to them.
I know it is a high because there was a low and so I'm, I'm always cautious to not paint everybody's reunion journey in such a way that it seems like they're all just awesome because they are just not,
recall that Joe's brother Lou is also adopted. Joe said that after he found his birth father, Lou asked Joe to help him find his birth family too. Joe said that while 2020 was a rough year . One positive thing that happened was Lou was able to find his family and get a lot of questions answered for [00:45:00] himself.
Unfortunately, Joe and his new siblings lost their father last year as well. Apparently he had been sick And it was his time to pass on to relieve his pain
Joe: [00:45:11] He was sick. He had to go because he, he was just that sick. It wasn't fair to him because he just was in a lot of pain. He was very, very ill.
I cherish every minute I had with him, , I had about two and a half years with him and, you know, and I have my siblings still and we get together. We're going to get together tomorrow at the cemetery and see dad. And then we're going to go have a bite to eat and hang out. I spent Christmas with these new, I call them my new siblings.
I spend Christmas with them, which typically I never left the house because you know, when my daughter was born in 2000, my wife and I said, no, we're not gonna hit her up at your toys and say, psych and the drive around all day, people want to see her. They can come here and we always stayed home. But the last, you know, now Emma's a little older the last three years we've been, you know, we've been going to [00:46:00] my, we were going to my dad's this year my sister held it so we all get together and the love and the happiness and the joy and the satisfaction, you know, they looked for me for years and I was looking for them and we were down on the street. It was just
And here's the thing.
My father and I have mutual friends, really my biological father and my adopted father had mutual friends. Wow. And I talked to them all the time and they go, that's mind blowing because I know both of those guys would be both great guys.
Damon: [00:46:32] Awesome. It's always interesting to me to hear how frequently the adoptee is, the centerpiece.
That connects so many people, you know, that they were right in the middle of all of these relationships. I mean, clearly , your dad and dad both had, you know, mutual relationships with friends in common, absent you, but to know that you were in some way in the middle of this web, even though you weren't known to, [00:47:00] everybody's just always an interesting thing for me to try to fathom.
Joe: [00:47:04] It's just in it's when all those pieces together, unfortunately, both of my fathers are gone. I wish that my adoptive father had lived long enough to meet my biological father because they would have had a great deal of both mechanics, mechanically inclined. They knew the same people. They ran in the same circles.
They were both hard workers. You know, the first, the first Christmas I, I met my dad, my father. The first Christmas we had together. Oh, I was just talking to my friend on the phone and I was telling me how he sounds coming over. Oh, that's what, it's all, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Because who's was your friend. He said, Oh, you wouldn't know him. He's a little younger than me. And a little older than you. When he told me his his name. And I said, you mean from the mobile station, downtown East Bridgewater. And he looked at me and he said, yeah. And then, so yeah, I've known him since I was like eight years old.
He used to hang out with my father at the gas station. They used to be mechanics together. When he calls this guy up a couple of days later, he says, Hey, do you know Joe's [00:48:00] any, he says the old man of the kid. And he says so you do know him. And he goes, yeah. And he goes, well, why? And he says that's who my son is.
he said the first time in 50 years of knowing , this guy he's, he was speechless. And then he says, and . I'll keep it clean. But he said, you gotta be kidding me. He's I've known that kid since he was six years old, eight years old, wow.
Damon: [00:48:26] That's unreal, man. That's so cool.
Joe: [00:48:30] So we always had my dad and I, when we'd get, we talk about people that we both knew we'd laugh. We probably drank together at the same. Cause they used to go to the same places he did back, but it was drinking .
Damon: [00:48:44] To know that your town was small enough, that so many people knew who you were. . And some knew your relationship to other people secretly. I mean, wow, that's really fascinating, man.
Joe: [00:48:56] It's mind blowing. But then in [00:49:00] turn, it puts so much of my life, the pieces that I've always wanted to come together, it puts those pieces together even better because everything is connected.
Like you said, I'm a focal point of a whole bunch of people that supposedly didn't know each other and yet they did.
Damon: [00:49:18] Joe had one more story to
tell. He reconnected with a cousin on Facebook who shared the news that Joe had another brother. Of course joe said yeah i know i met my paternal family and he felt like he had everything all figured out
Joe: [00:49:33] He goes, no, no, no, you have another one.
My mother had given another baby up for adoption three years later.
Damon: [00:49:40] Are you serious? That's crazy.
Joe: [00:49:41] And he was in Connecticut. And through ancestry found and my cousins. And then we hooked up and we've, there've been pals ever since that was back in
Joe: [00:50:00] Damon blew my mind.
What did it, what did it do for
Damon: [00:50:05] your thoughts about your biological mother's mind state toward meeting you?
Joe: [00:50:12] I got a little angry and a little hurt that I didn't know that I had another brother.
, I, I, again, I had to work through that and make that anger go away. Cause it was only stopping me from enjoying what was happening around me that I had just met, you know, four more siblings.
And I had to put the anger away in realize that she has her reasons for being who she is and which, and how she wants to handle it.
I can't control that. And it wouldn't be fair to try to I mean on several occasions. Cause I know where she lives. I drive by her house quite often that I could have stopped, but I didn't do that because I didn't believe in invading her privacy. I didn't think that that was right now. That being said, if I'm out in public and I happened to bump into her, that's her problem.
That's not mine. . I need to [00:51:00] be able to live. I need to be able to go out. I need to be able to see my father being in the same town as her, if we run into each other, that's often me, but to purposely walk up to her doing not, I couldn't do that because it's an invasion or a privacy. And I don't think that that's fair.
I'm not trying to be here about it. I wouldn't want it done to me. So,
Damon: [00:51:17] but I think it's interesting too, though, that, , part of your initial feeling of rejection was all about you as the adoptee returning to this woman. And, and at no point, could you have ever known that her inability to connect with you.
Wasn't just about you, but that there were actually two boys, correct. And that your emergence was bringing back, possibly double the pain and, and double the memories and everything. I mean, that's a really, I've not heard anybody say before this particular [00:52:00] piece of rejection and then finding out there was another adoptee out there and I could see how that would be excessively challenging for her to relive and, and try to connect with you.
That's I mean, wow, tough.
Joe: [00:52:15] , and I think that's got a lot to do with her emotional state through all of it. She just turned 79 and is not healthy. My dad would have been 80 back a couple of days ago. He passed away last year cause he wasn't healthy, but here in turn, saved my life because I did know about some of , the biological medical conditions in a couple of years ago, I was , struggling with some issues.
So I went and got a physical and then I went and had some testing done on my heart. And in the process they said, well, we don't know what's going on. And I said, look, I found my biological father. He has a bad heart. He has bad arteries. He has, arterial sclerosis. I need to follow this all the way through.
I said, [00:53:00] otherwise I would just consider it anxiety, but I know it's not. It's more than that. Well, it did a cath test and they found three blockages in my heart. Wow. They put a stint in. So finding my biological father and getting the information on my biological mother, that she had a heart condition actually saved my life.
Damon: [00:53:17] Oh yeah. Dang That's amazing.
Joe: [00:53:21] So that's, that's all the pieces being tied in. There's the fun pieces of finding all these friends, mutual friends, siblings, everyone knowing each other. But what's really important is my 20 year old daughter still has her father around to be with her because I was fortunate enough to advocate to myself, which I couldn't do all my life.
I had no medical history. If people take well, you know, is your heart disease and your family . I don't know I'm adopted. So what a valuable piece it was for me to get that medical information. And when I was having a heart problem. We were able to fix that.
Damon: [00:53:51] Yeah. That's right, because not to be morbid, but that could have been a very quick end and that would have been extremely unfortunate.
That's really [00:54:00] great. And I'm glad you're here to tell the story. That's amazing.
Joe: [00:54:03] Well, I'm happy to be here to tell the story and I, I appreciate the fact that you reached out back to me and we had a chance to talk because I do love my story. I'm a, I'm a proud adoptee. I can tell that you are too. I, like I said, I listen to you often.
You get it. I listened to you and just talking to with you tonight, you understand all the pieces to it. And it's nice to know that.
Damon: [00:54:24] Yeah, . Well, I've learned a lot from team speaking to guests like you, because as we said in the beginning, our experiences are vastly different and you know, I mean, they just are, and I have one experience and I'm sure that if you've listened to any piece of my story, which is not like yours, You would have learned something from me just as I have sitting here listening to you tell yours, and this is why I feel privileged to be able to do this because I learned so much, and there are so many just diverse stories out there that I'm really appreciative for people to be able to open up about.
[00:55:00] So I hope you will sit down and continue to write your book. Cause there's a lot of color in here that I'm sure you could have filled in, you know? And and you get to write all the expletives down in terms of what people's responses were when they found out who you were to everybody else in town.
So I'm gonna look forward to reading it. And one day, Joe,
Joe: [00:55:22] What it's done. I'll send you
Damon: [00:55:24] a copy. Fantastic. I will look forward to it, man, until then.
Joe: [00:55:29] I'm going to keep an eye out for you as well. I find you extremely not just. Knowledgeable, not just emotionally tied to it, but you really care.
Yeah. Thanks man. , . You're doing it because you care .
Damon: [00:55:45] Well, that was high praise. I mean, you should see a smile on my face. You really made me feel good, bro.
Thanks so much. I appreciate.
. Great talking to you, Joe, man. Thanks so much for your time and I wish you all the best and continued health too. Okay,
Joe: [00:55:57] Damon. I appreciate it. Thank you [00:56:00] so much for reaching out. I, I appreciate all you do. And if you ever need anything from me, please give me a call. Reach out. I'd do anything to help you out. Yeah,
Damon: [00:56:07] that's a good guy. That's most kind, Joe, take care, buddy. All the best. All right. You take care. All right, dude. Take care. Bye bye.
Hey, it's me. . Joe's journey had such a mix of life experiences. He grew up in a loving family, but struggled with bad legs that got him made fun of when the family moved to a new town. Joe said he found it hard to really identify with himself when he looked in the mirror because he didn't see any resemblance to his family.
He talked about the secondary rejection he experienced when he found his biological mother, but Joe never could have known that her state of mind, wasn't just focused on his return to her life. She had relinquished his brother after him. So she was reckoning with a much larger reunion situation than he realized
that's one of the big challenges of secondary rejection. You don't actually know [00:57:00] whether the person you're trying to connect to is unable to connect with you for certain reasons, or if they're just unwilling.
It was really cool to hear how close Joe had come to meeting his paternal siblings and how close his adoptive biological fathers and their friends were.
I'm glad he got two good years with his biological father before his passing. And he got the medical knowledge. He needed to manage his own heart condition with his physicians. Joe's is another story underscoring, the adoptee's need for accurate comprehensive medical information.
I'm Damon Davis. And to hope you found something in Joe's story 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