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Deanna, from outside of Tampa, Florida, could see in her youth that she didn’t look like her adoptive family. In elementary school she discovered her name change documents under her parents bed which added to her desire to search for her birth family.

When Deanna found her birth mother, she cried repeatedly listening to the woman’s voice and when her husband found her she told him, ‘We have to go to her now’.

Unfortunately, her birth mother kept her vow of taking Deanna’s birth father’s name to the grave. But Deanna had her personal search network, her own patience and drive and God to thank for finding Mr. Greek.

This is Deanna’s journey.

Florence Fisher, Advocate for Opening Adoption Records, Dies at 95

Who Am I Really?

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Transcript

224 - Totally Worthy To Be Found

[00:00:00] Damon: Hey, it's Damon. While I was doing some research for this week show featuring Deanna, I learned a bit more about a legendary adoptee, Mrs. Florence Fisher. If you don't know, Florence Fisher was an adoptee and she founded the adoptees Liberty movement association or Alma. A New York times article, Which I will link to in the show notes Reported that Mrs. Fisher's advocacy began after a car crash in 1969. She recounted after the accident, that in the moment before the impact, she thought to herself, I'm going to die without knowing who I am. Mrs. Fisher amplified her efforts to find her birth parents completing the task a few years after that pivotal moment in her life. In 1971, she placed an ad in several newspapers offering to connect with other adoptees to discuss adoptee related issues. Expecting a handful of interested parties. Mrs. Fisher receives hundreds of replies in an outpouring that signaled the need for adoptees to connect and [00:01:00] launching The adoptee Liberty movement association. Mrs. Fisher wrote her memoir, The search for Anna Fisher, which was published in 1973. Mrs. Fisher fought for open adoption records in many states, including her native New York state, which had closed adoption records from 1938. Until they were famously reopened in the year 20, 20 and 85 year lockout of adoptees from their birth information. Mrs.

Fisher started Alma in 1971, Which means she fought for open adoption records in her state for 49 years. Basically my entire life. And only got to see a victory from her tireless advocacy three years before she left us. I hope you'll join me in paying respect To adopt the advocacy pioneer Mrs. Florence Fisher, who died on October 1st, 2023 at the age of 95 years old. This is the last show of season 13 of the, who am I really podcast and [00:02:00] the 224th episode after this, I'm going to take a break and focus on some more writing Until spring when I'll bring you more adoption stories. As you know, it helps so much.

If you take a moment to leave a five star review in your podcast app or wherever you get your podcasts, Your ratings are truly impactful in helping others to discover this podcast too. Okay. I hope you're ready to do this one more time. Let's go.

Cold Cut Intro

[00:02:28] Deanna: I went to her, I said, you were totally worthy to be found. And I don't have one minute's regret that we reunited and I'm so thankful for all these years I just want to ask your forgiveness of anything I may have done to hurt you and I just want to tell you that I forgive you for anything that you may be Upset about that you think that I would need to forgive you for and I just want you to know how much I love You

Show Opening

[00:02:51] Damon: [00:03:00] I'm Damon Davis. And today you're going to meet Deanna who called me from outside of Tampa, Florida. When Deanna was a young girl, she could see, she didn't look like her adoptive family. And she discovered her name, change documents, which added to her desire to search. When she found her birth mother, she cried repeatedly listening to the woman's voice and told her husband. We have to go to her now. Unfortunately, her birth mother kept her vow of taking Deanna's birth.

Father's name to the grave. But Deanna had her personal search network, her own patience and drive and God to thank for finding Mr. Greek. This is Deanna's journey.

[00:03:57] Damon: Deanna comes [00:04:00] from a very conservative Christian family. And she told me adoption is considered a very noble action in her family because of their religious beliefs. Uniquely her adoptive mother is also a birth mother who placed a child for adoption during the baby scoop era. Deanna said her mother's experience as a birth mother colored her and her sisters lives in interesting ways.

I asked Deanna to explain what she meant.

[00:04:25] Deanna: well she had definite beliefs on how things should go. Being a birth mother herself and being told, you're starting over again, no one is to know about this, and you will never have connection with your child. And being that she made that decision, I think she also expected that we would.

Live in the same way, or the best way I can describe it would be that she believed that the adoptive parents should always call the shots or make the decision. because she respected the adoptive parents of [00:05:00] her child, and so she felt, the adoptive parents, should make the decisions in this case too.

So, yeah, she definitely believed that the adults call the shots even after you're grown. that always

affected our relationsihip.

[00:05:13] Damon: do you mean that it affected your relationship? What's an example of what you're referring to?

Well, let's do this. Why don't you continue? Tell me more about your childhood. And, and I'm sure it will come up. How about that?

[00:05:25] Deanna: Yep, yep. That's great. So in all of that, I was very grateful for my relationship with, God and how the church was also in anchor for me. There was no understanding of trauma back then, especially in the circles I was raised in.

That was not even a thing. Going to therapy, not even a thing. And in many cases, still isn't. And I guess that was really common. But it was difficult. We didn't have access to therapy or anything like that. And the environment we were raised in There was really no understanding of the need for it.

So, I grew up in Baltimore. I was raised in a very [00:06:00] conservative, authoritarian home, very strict. We went to church a couple times a week, and our life, our whole life, centered around the church. And while many of my adoptee friends seem to not have a good experience with that at all, I feel as if not only God, but the church saved me in many ways.

My adoptive parents ended up getting a divorce. Secrets and other issues made for A toxic environment that the marriage just couldn't withstand. It was only later when I became an active part of the adoptee community that I understand things like the baby scoop era. I hadn't even heard of that before I became a part of our community.

And then I learned how this impacted women forever and how it affected their lives and their marriages and their relationships with their children and literally everything about their life. So, it definitely impacted my life and our home and I believe everybody's the way they are for a reason. And there's a reason I prioritize the things I do in my life now, like [00:07:00] self leadership, healthy leadership.

It's why when I completed my higher education, my focus was on undressed trauma. My parents were leaders. It was not addressed in their life at all things crumbled, and I'm a leader and I don't want to get it wrong, so I prioritized the help that I needed,

so I was the oldest child. In my adoptive family, my parents adopted another daughter four years after me.

So there are two of us. And my adoptive sister and I, her name is KIm, we're still very close today. And I think part of this is, and we often say it, we're all each other has. We often say we are all each other has. In understanding our unique life experience in our home, being in the same household, being in the same family structure And Kim and I have leaned on each other through the years with everything that we've gone through.

I went through what I call the triple whammy, first losing my birth family. Then my adoptive [00:08:00] family breaking apart. So I really felt like I'd lost my adoptive family when all of that happened. And then later on, I went through a secondary rejection in reunion. And that was absolutely crushing. As you know from being an adoptee and talking to thousands of adoptees, It's like almost unbearable.

And it really didn't matter how accomplished I was in life or how great the family I had that I had established of my own, because this happened in my 20s, and I already had a couple children. When I went through this and the pain of that loss was so crushing, I can't even describe it looking back, sometimes you look at back of hard things you went through and how you were just so devastated at the time.

And then once you're through it, you go, well, maybe that wasn't really so bad after all. No, that was living hell. Going through that secondary rejection. I don't wish it on it. don't wish it on anyone. I mean, it's

[00:08:58] Damon: horrible. [00:09:00] Yeah, it really is crushing when someone decides they don't want to know you.

They don't want to acknowledge you, and I want to get to that, and I'm sorry that you had to deal with that. Hell. But I want to go back for a while. Can you, let's talk a little bit more about your childhood. tell me about what life was like growing up how did you get along with your mom?

How'd you get along with your dad? Did you notice similarities or differences between you? Tell me about yourselves.

[00:09:27] Deanna: Oh yes, huge differences. I don't look like anyone in my family. I would often, as a young adoptee, just look at my face in the mirror and I don't even have the issues that other people struggle with, like, in a way, I kind of feel like, oh, maybe I shouldn't be complaining so much about this because I'm not a different race than my parents, but yet Looking in the mirror, I just question constantly, where did my face come from? Why do I look like this? I look nothing like anyone in my family. I'm very different from others in my family.

[00:09:58] Damon: How so?

[00:09:58] Deanna: you know,

Some of it [00:10:00] is almost like intrinsic. I don't even know how to describe it. The things that I'm so passionate about, like, maybe, it's not just looks. It's, I'm so passionate about No secrets and things like that and it just seems almost like my family that I grew up in is almost addicted to secrets.

It's crazy I'm very transparent. I'm very open. I'm not shallow in any regard I'll go deep into a conversation five minutes into it with and I hate shallow conversation hate it and I hate superficiality And, my relationship with my parents would have been very much we just tell you what to do and you just do it.

there's not any talking back. Now I know some of that is the generation we were raised in, but mine was kind of on steroids. We tell you what to do, you do it. There's no conversation here about it.

[00:10:50] Damon: And how did you get along with your parents then?

[00:10:53] Deanna: I was the compliant one out of, my sister and I. I am not, I definitely don't want to bash my sister at all. I love her, to [00:11:00] pieces. But I would have been the more compliant one. She was the one that would test the waters more. I was very compliant outwardly because I just knew, just like right now, I know what it takes in my job to succeed and even though I may not like everything I have to do for my job, well I just know what I need to do to, get results.

I just kind of knew growing up, you're just going to have to learn to get along. And so, I didn't, I may have done things behind the scenes that my family wouldn't have agreed with, but outwardly, I always complied. I was the compliant adoptee. And the achieving adoptee.

[00:11:32] Damon: Deanna said she loved school from the moment she discovered it. She loved education. Music and the arts and she was a high achiever in playing piano. Singing and as a high school journalist and constantly trying to achieve. Deanna said she could play the piano pretty well before she got formally enrolled in lessons, playing the organ at church. Getting paid for some of her musical performances at a young age. And eventually she played in some professional settings. Deanna [00:12:00] joked that to this day, her friends tease her that she may have come out of the womb with a briefcase in one hand and a microphone in the other, because of her achiever personality. She's always been focused on reading, writing, singing, and performing, And even though she never got any therapy or counseling growing up.

Deanna did have her areas of high performance as outlets.

[00:12:21] Deanna: I Would kind of say that that was a huge part of my way of processing things as a young person. that kept me sane. That really kept me sane. It would not have been okay for me at any point in my younger years. I hear people say, well, my adopted daughter or son has never said anything about this or that.

I'm thinking, so many of us never did. We didn't feel like we could. I just intrinsically knew it was not okay to verbalize. what I was feeling.

[00:12:49] Damon: But what were you feeling? Can you articulate now or do you remember what you were feeling back then?

Mm-Hmm? . What were you holding back that you didn't tell people?

[00:12:57] Deanna: I didn't share about the [00:13:00] overwhelming desire to understand where I came from, who I came from. My overwhelming need, it wasn't just a desire, that was probably the wrong word that I just used. The overwhelming need to know where I came from, who I came from, to have no secrets about this, to have the answers, to understand where did this face come from, where did the things that I just intrinsically know how to do come from.

I was convinced maybe it was somewhere in my roots as to how I could just listen to an album and then go to the keyboard and play what I just heard. I didn't understand where that came from, because nobody in my family does that that I grew up in. I Didn't understand so much about just different giftings that I had.

Everything from my looks to my giftings to all of these things. I didn't understand and I had an overwhelming desire to know and being that I knew from a very young [00:14:00] age that my mom was not okay. Outwardly, she seemed okay, especially at places like church or So when she would go to our school or whatnot to have a meeting with the teacher.

Certainly things seemed okay. She's a very congenial person on the outside. But at home, she was depressed or cried at different times, having nothing to do with me or my sister. I now know that some of that was the marriage. But, of course, later on when I found out that she's a baby scuba era birth mother, that just answers a whole lot of questions.

I just knew it's not okay to ask mom this or that, it's okay to say that we're adopted. We were told from the very beginning. I don't ever remember my parents telling me that I was adopted because they did it from the very beginning. That was one thing they definitely did right.

They were counseled by the adoption agency with both my sister and I. Tell them from the get go that they're adopted, and they did. So I can't ever remember being told I was adopted. But beyond being told I was adopted, [00:15:00] I never felt the freedom to say, I want to know who my birth mother is. I want to know who my birth father is.

I don't understand so many things about my life or the way I feel or I, just have an intense need to know this. I just knew inside me that would have not been okay with particularly my mom. That would have not been okay. And I was right. it ended up in years later to be okay with my dad. That's good to know. But it wasn't okay with my mom.

[00:15:27] Damon: Yeah, I'll bet not. I mean, I can only imagine the trauma of giving up a child for adoption and then adopting later. Is that right? That your mother went through those? Is that correct?

[00:15:42] Deanna: Yes, because she could have children, but my father could not.

And they didn't know that when they got married. But that was the way it went. That's really fascinating. So, you told me that you were registering these feelings and a deep need and desire to know more. And understand your story, you've said [00:16:00] no lies.

[00:16:01] Damon: what kinds of things did you think about throughout your days, sort of going to school as an adoptee? Did you know other adoptees? Did you talk about it with others? Did adoption come up in ways that were triggering for you at all?

[00:16:14] Deanna: I can't remember knowing a lot of adoptees when I was growing up.

Mainly just my sister and I. But I just remember having a lot of feelings inside myself. I'm a person of very deep feelings and always just so much, there's always so much going on in my inner world, always so many thoughts. And even as a very young child, I mean, every single time on my birthday or a holiday or anything like that, I would be thinking, I wonder if they're thinking about me.

Meaning my birth parents. I've heard other adoptees say this and I was really just shocked to hear it because I thought, wow, I'm just not so weird. I would just even look up at the moon and wonder, wow, she's looking at the same moon, stuff like that, that when I wasn't a part of the community of the adoptee community, I didn't [00:17:00] realize people have thoughts like that.

There were so many thoughts I had that once I got into our community and you hear other people's thoughts, you're like, Oh my gosh, how I wish I would have had someone to process this with earlier in my life that I could have felt understood. But I always wondered, what are they doing right now? Are they thinking about me?

Do they ever think about me? My birthday was particularly a time when I would think about that. Or a holiday or mother's day or things like that. I would wonder about it. And I just knew it was not okay on mother's day to ever say anything about that. It just would have been devastating.

[00:17:35] Damon: But it sounds like it was really on your mind quite a bit.

You've named almost every holiday on the calendar. I mean, you were really thinking about this, huh?

[00:17:43] Deanna: Yeah, I was constantly thinking about it and I mentioned it to some other people that I felt safe with. It's, interesting. There were people that after I went public with it on social media

and my friends would see about my reunion and things like that. They would say things like, oh, I [00:18:00] remember when you told me that when we were about 12 years old. Or I remember back in elementary school you mentioned something to me about that, and so I did talk to various people. I usually didn't talk about it in my home.

But people that I felt safe with, I actually talked to a few teachers about it. I spoke to several friends about it. I spoke to several people like a youth leader in the church, people like that, I would mention something to if I felt safe with them.

[00:18:24] Damon: Did you talk about it with your sister, Kim?

[00:18:26] Deanna: Yes, we did in different ways. and I know this is a very charged phrase I'm about to use. Some people believe in it, some people don't. I understand that it can be really controversial, but I use the phrase like out of the fog. When I was still in the fog, we didn't discuss it the same way that we did once I was not anymore.

Like now, we just are totally open about it. It was a different type of conversation before we were out of the fog. Does that make sense?

[00:18:53] Damon: Yeah, it does, because it naturally is, right? You, continuing this analogy of being in the fog [00:19:00] when you're not fully recognizing what adoption is and means for your life.

You talk about adoption in a completely different way than once you have actually recognized. Oh, I was in another family, with two completely different parents and possibly no other siblings or ten other siblings. Like, it's just a whole different thing. And when you realize that you've been transplanted from one family to another.

You speak about it much differently than you do when you don't quite realize the gravity of what has transpired to place you in your family. So yeah, it's very, it's natural that that would be two different types of discussions, for sure.

[00:19:39] Deanna: Yes, and that is like another watershed moment when you come out of the fog I know for some people it might be really progressive for me It was it was progressive but there was a defining moment where I just came all the way out of that fog and it was very painful to just realize the depth of all of [00:20:00] that truth and loss and things that I needed to grieve and heal from It was huge.

[00:20:05] Damon: Deanna's first defining moment was when she was pregnant and then gave birth to her first child. Dustin. she said it was huge for her to make the realizations about who she is as an adoptee, and that she was about to bring another life into the world the same way another woman had done for her years prior. She just could not imagine how her birth mother even brought herself to execute her adoption. It was around that time that Deanna started searching wholeheartedly for her birth mother. She began attending meetings, held by adoptees Liberty movement, association, or Alma in Philadelphia, driving all the way down from her home in New Jersey.

But the Ana said that at that time, she wasn't part of the adoptee community yet the way she is today. . Moment number two for Deanna was just as impactful on her as her son's birth. She and her husband had gone to watch a [00:21:00] very popular Christian movie that she chose not to name Because.

Deanna says, whenever the movie is named, as she tells her story, critics quickly move the conversation to defending the movie itself, not focusing on her perspective as an adoptee.

[00:21:14] Deanna: the parents, in my opinion, just were deplorable, just deplorable, they were so, like, the dad was just so controlling, and was trying to prevent her from breathing.

Searching for her birth mother and reuniting and it seemed to me like people in the theater just thought that this was such a noble thing. Like they were all just taking this in in such a different way than I was. I was watching it and felt like I'm watching a horror movie. They're watching it and just feeling just so uplifted like isn't this a beautiful thing?

And I'm watching this adoptive dad on screen that I just feel like is a monster. And I'm just glancing around and just feeling the vibe in the room and it's like, they all think this is wonderful and the worst part of it was, next to me was my husband [00:22:00] and I sensed that he felt the same way that everybody else in the theater did.

And I just, I, I was devastated. I was devastated. I was crying for a different reason than other people were crying. I was upset. As soon as we could get out of there, I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go home. My husband wanted to go for ice cream. We went and we sat down in this ice cream place and he said to me, What is wrong?

Can you try to explain this to me? And I said, No, I, I can't right now. And he said, Why? And I said, Because I can't contain myself right now. If I start talking about this, and understand, Damon, I'm a person, I'm a leader, and I can usually be very well composed and contained, and I, I just know that's just what I need to do, but I knew in that moment I couldn't control myself.

I couldn't contain myself. If you force me to talk about this, I'm not going to be able to contain myself. And he just kept looking at me like, what are you talking about? Like, what is so wrong with what we just watched? And I said, don't, don't push [00:23:00] me. Don't push me. This is not a good thing. And so he insisted on pushing me.

He wanted to know, pushing me emotionally, just to say, please talk to me. I don't understand. And so I just started in on it and I began to just express myself in such a way. It was like he knew we have to get out of here and get to the car. It's like, I, I was like, okay, you want to know?

And I just started blurting it all out in this restaurant and it was obviously not appropriate for a public place and so we quickly went to the car and he says, Oh my God, what is wrong? And I said, this is what's wrong. And I just went into everything, everything that was wrong with that movie, how terrible it was, how terrible the message was, how terrible the people's response was to it, how deceived they are.

How, oh my God, that poor girl, what she went through in that movie. And, and it was based on a true story. That's the worst part of all. The movie is based completely on a true story. So my husband still didn't understand. And we got home, and I went straight to our bed, laid down [00:24:00] in a fetal position. I'm crying and crying and crying and crying.

And he comes in and he says, What is wrong? I just don't get it. And I said, I need you to leave right now. I need you to just go out of the room right now. I just need to process this and I just laid there and cried for a while. I was crying because I was trying to come to grips with the fact that everybody out in the world is one thing, but the person I live with, the person I'm married to, the person I sleep with does not get this.

And that was so hard for me to come to grips with. I laid there for a while crying and then I reached over, grabbed my laptop, pulled it open and just Googled Adoptee and bam. A bunch of stuff came up, a bunch of websites came up, a bunch of blogs came up, a bunch of resources came up, and that night I wrote a few emails, posted on a few things, and just said, help, I need help.

And right then, people in our community started reaching out to me and saying, we're here to help you. And that was my night, my first, that was my first [00:25:00] exposure into the Adoptee community. I feel like it saved me. I mean, it was, that was the first step into an amazing connection. And then I started communicating just constantly with people in our community and it was so healing for me.

It was, it was so amazing. And then slowly I began to expose my husband to those resources and to talk to him. In a way that he could understand what I was saying, I mean, he didn't understand it overnight, but over time, over a month's time, like I would give him this and that to read and I would tell him, look, Now I have the words to explain to you what I was feeling like millions of other people feel this way. Like, let me explain to you what I'm feeling and why. And then once I started doing research into things like The, just adoptee issues and the baby scuba bearer and stuff like that, when I was able to also explain all that to him, that took it to another level where we developed an understanding where he developed much greater understanding of why I felt the way I did and what I was going through and Why I believe the things I [00:26:00] believe and how I've come to this place of understanding and what this meant for me coming out of the fog.

And so now, we have an understanding of that in our relationship, but I think that was the hardest thing for me on that night of that movie was thinking, Oh, my God, the person I live with that I pledge my life to doesn't understand what I'm so upset about right now. And that hurt the worst.

[00:26:19] Damon: Yeah, yeah, I can imagine.

And you said so much. I want to just go back on a couple of things. One, I think. It's great that you were able to finally find the language that allowed you to express yourself to him, and that came by virtue of the fact that when you sat down in this moment of deep despair, and confusion, and sort of feeling lost, You went straight online and looked for help and you said previously, I caught this phrase that you said, you said something along the lines of, I prioritize, the help I need or, or something that basically sounded very empowering, right?

That I take focus for myself on the things [00:27:00] that I need. And so I just wanted to sort of applaud you for realizing that you needed help and going online to try to find it. And I'm so glad that. The adoptive community was out there to receive you and say, come on in, we got you. And there's a big hug and a whole bunch of supportive people and language to help you express yourself.

That's, that's really powerful. And it's also interesting to think that, I just can't. I was sitting there imagining being you or someone else in the audience, you know, another adoptee who was sitting there watching that movie at the same time as you are, and just cringing at how far off the mark all of the audience members were.

In not being supportive of that adoptees journey on screen and how challenging it must have been. And like you said, , I know your, your husband has come a long way since that night, but as you said, sort of recognizing that you're married to a person who is among the audience members who are so far off the mark and you just [00:28:00] cannot believe that.

That this is your life that so it's just really remarkable to think how Surrounded you probably felt by what could have felt like for lack of better words the enemy. You know what I mean?

[00:28:14] Deanna: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. In this movie, the dad is trying everything he can to make sure that the adoptive daughter does not, first of all, does not even find out she's adopted, and then that she doesn't go after her birth mother and try to reunite, and there's all these people, not only in the audience, but in reading things later on about it, that just feel like, well, there's certain circumstances where people shouldn't know.

There's certain circumstances it's okay to lie. There's certain circumstances it's okay to keep secrets. And just all of that was just so devastating and wrong for me, especially being a Christian. I felt like, how can you people think it is okay in any regard to lie or cover this up? Like, this is completely, completely [00:29:00] opposite of all we believe as Christians, or all that we say we believe.

[00:29:04] Damon: Around the time Dustin was born. Deanna had read a famous quote by author Alex Haley, the renowned novelist who wrote books like roots and Malcolm X. While the quote was originally focused on The de identification of slaves who were brought to America and separated from their families and their Homeland.

The quote has resonated deeply with members of the adoptee community.

The quote reads.

[00:29:29] Deanna: "in all of us there is a hunger marrow deep to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we've come from.

Without this enriching knowledge, there's a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there's still a vacuum, an emptiness, and a most quieting loneliness."

[00:29:45] Damon: That quote also resonated deeply with Deanna too. In the Alma group, Deanna learns search techniques and even got to hear the legendary advocate for adopting open records. Access Florence Fisher. Deanna said it [00:30:00] was mind blowing to be in the audience as the legendary adoptee rights advocate was speaking to her Philadelphia All my chapter. On the day Florence was speaking, there were people sharing search techniques at the back of the room. Those search assistants would call participants back one by one to share knowledge about how to search and Deanna found their resources and approaches very valuable. There was no internet at the time.

So the techniques Deanna accumulated were old school search methods using city directories. Building family trees and doing research at the library. Deanna sheered with the almost searched supporters that she was going into a reunion program through her adoption agency. When she told the people in the back of the Alma meeting, What her plans were. she said they gave. her one piece of advice. She found incredibly valuable.

[00:30:49] Deanna: the biggest thing they warned me in that group, they said, do not tell anyone what you already know. Meaning people in authority.

They didn't mean like if you meet [00:31:00] another adoptee, don't tell them what you know. But they meant if you go into that reunion program, and you sit in that chair in front of them, and they interview you, do not tell them what you already know. And the biggest thing they told me, I knew my birth name.

I had found my birth name. When I was a kid, I was playing a game with my sister. Yeah, my sister and I, to our recollection, we were playing hide and seek. And I slipped under my parents bed to hide. And I felt this large metal thing. And it was a, it was like a fire safe box. And I got out from under the bed, pulled out this black fire safe box, opened it up, and there on the top, Are my name change papers from when I was adopted and it had my old name and my new name and I knew it was me because it said Yannalyn Doss, which was my new name, but then it had my birth name there, which was Melanie Linnelli.

That was the first moment that I realized that this was my name originally. how old were you that day when I wasn't? When [00:32:00] I found my name, I was in elementary school. I don't remember the exact age. I was small enough to slip under my parents bed. So I think I was still, I think I was still elementary school or a little bit younger.

I read since before, I think it was even before kindergarten. So, I mean, I knew how to read for a super long time, but I opened those legal papers and immediately saw this was my name. And so that moment, I just, I just knew that was, and that even fueled the fire more to know who was Melanie Lynn Alley?

Who is Melanie Lynn Alley? Who is that? Like who, who, who are the Alleys? Who is that family? That's why I

[00:32:36] Damon: asked how old you were, because you said that you had such a passion to understand more that, but you hadn't revealed that you had seen your birth name previously. And I can see how that bit of information would have absolutely driven you even deeper into your search.

So they said don't tell you any, don't tell people what you already know.[00:33:00]

[00:33:00] Deanna: So they warned me, you know your birth name, and they told me how huge that was. They said everybody doesn't have that, this is huge information. So they said, do not let them know, do not let anybody in authority know that you know that name, you have to just act stupid.

So, I never ever told anybody that was in authority of any kind when I was searching. I just, they always told me, listen more than you talk, sit there and just let them talk. And then, the way that I was able to get valuable information in that first meeting with the reunion program, I never told them that I knew my name.

And the people in the search group gave me a list of questions. They said, if you can find out any of these answers, it's really gonna help you if they don't know that you already know your name. And so I asked a lot of things, including, can you tell me my mom's birthday? And they wouldn't have thought that was any big deal because they didn't know that I knew my name.

Mm hmm. But I also knew what year she was born because my parents had another letter or something, from the adoption [00:34:00] agency saying, How old my birth mom was when she had me. So I knew that, and then I knew my original name. And then I just very calmly said to them in the meeting, Oh, I've always wanted to know what my birth mom's birthday was.

That would be so meaningful to me to know. Would you, would you mind telling me? And because they didn't know I knew anything else, they said, Oh, sure. And they told me what her birthday was. So at that point, I knew her Complete birthday, because I knew how old she was when she had me, and then I knew my, whole name, so that was a great help, even though, because I ended up having to find her on my own later on without the help of the reunion program, and so that information really helped me.

So what I learned in that Alma group really did totally help me in leading me to her.

[00:34:42] Damon: Deanna went through the reunion program and they petitioned the court to open her adoption records. Her open records were granted, but they could only be accessed by a confidential intermediary of the program. Using the information in her records, Deanna social worker found her birth mother and [00:35:00] approached her about Deanna's desire for reunion. Unfortunately, for Deanna.

the woman declined to meet.

[00:35:06] Deanna: that began the two worst years two years of secondary rejection.

I was in such a deep depression. I had just had my first child and we pretty quickly had another one. And I was pregnant with my second child when I went through. The secondary rejection and then he was born during that time and I was still very successful in life. Keeping all the plates spinning, keeping all the balls in the air, achieving.

My husband and I were pastors. But there were always, the way I can explain it is that there were always tears at the back of my throat. Getting ready to spill over that people never saw. I worked so hard. I was taking care of two little babies. They were just a year apart in age. I was working at a church.

I was leading people. I was smiling around people and leading and acting normal. But [00:36:00] it felt like there was always a ball of tears in my throat just getting ready to just spill over. And I would just let it all out at night when I was getting ready to go to sleep. I would just finally let down and just let it out.

And that went on for two years. And then I was at lunch one day with another pastor at our church Pastor Norma. And she was just a wonderful lady and an older lady, closer to like retirement age, and we were both on staff there at this church at the time, and she said something to me that was a total shock.

she said to me, have you prayed about what to do about this situation with your birth mother? And I'm like, what situation? There's nothing to pray about. And keep in mind, nobody in my church knew this was going on. I mean, Norma knew because we were good friends. And she was kind of like a, kind of like a spiritual mom to me.

Just an older lady who kind of just led me along as, not just a woman, but as a pastor. And she knew I was hurting. And she said, what are you going to do about this situation? And I [00:37:00] said, there's nothing to do about it. There's nothing to pray about. Like, she said no. She doesn't want to know me. She doesn't want to reunite.

And Norma said, I think you need to pray about it. And I, I just thought that was the craziest thing I had ever heard. And as we're sitting there in Bob Evans, eating lunch, she says to me, we're going back to the church after we, finish this lunch, and we're going into the sanctuary, and we're going to pray.

And I thought, this is crazy. Well, we did. We, we went back to the sanctuary and both of us were on either, side at the altar at the front and we just were praying. It was like on our own. And then we stood up after a while and she says to me, Did you sense anything?

Did you hear anything from God? And actually, I did. I said, I did. I sensed him say, "She didn't tell you no. She told somebody else no. If she tells you no, then you have to accept it. But unless and until she tells you straight, you have not been told no." And I sensed, I really did sense God telling me. "She didn't tell you no, she didn't tell you no directly, and I haven't told you no, so go [00:38:00] for it."

So that day, I started what I call my second search, because my first search was when I was searching at Alma, and then I went to the reunion program. So that day, I started my second search. And utilizing everything I learned from that support group in Philly, as well as Joseph J. Culligan's book, it's called You Too Can Find Anyone, I found her pretty quickly, I found her in 1993.

And how old were you about that time? I found her pretty quickly. I found her when I was 27.

[00:38:23] Damon: So you were about 25 when, 24 when you made the first sort of quote unquote contact. Gotcha. And so you find her, and what do you do?

[00:38:31] Deanna: Oh, gosh. Well, honestly, I really was committed that if she looked me in the face and said, no, that was it, it was no.

And I knew it was going to be devastating, but I wanted to see her face to face. I thought that if I called she might say, and I would never even know what she looked like. I wouldn't know anything. I thought I want to just have one face to face with her and, I would like to ask her for a picture and that's it.

It'll be the end if she never wants to see me again. I'll have my picture, I'll have seen [00:39:00] her, I'll be gone, she'll never see me again. That'll be it. And I honestly did feel that way.

[00:39:06] Damon: Deanna went through a long process of locating her birth mother using all of the search techniques that the team at Alma had offered her. She said ultimately The government's death master file or the DMF was the key that unlocked the door to finding the woman. The DMF lists nearly 100 million wreck.

Recorded deaths that have been reported to the social security administration by tracing deceased relatives of the woman.

Deanna was able to find her name then with further research, she located her phone number. Back then you could simply dial four, one, one on your landline phone and get information about people all over the country. When Deanna called the woman's home for the first time, her voicemail answering machine picked up.

[00:39:50] Deanna: and I heard her voice for the first time, and I just wept, I just cried and cried listening to it, and then being that there was no caller ID at the time, [00:40:00] I called back, I called back about 15 times, because she wouldn't have been able to tell that I did it, because there's no caller ID, there's no, there's no anything like that, so this was in the middle of the afternoon, and I figured she was at work, so I just kept calling, And I just kept listening to her voice, and I just kept crying and crying and crying.

And my husband, I was home with my, my babies. My husband was out, and he was playing golf with a friend, and they came in, and my husband found me in this state, like, on the phone, listening and just weeping, and I hung up, and instantly when he saw me, I, I, he's never even characterized, like, why he thought this, but the moment he saw me, he knew what had happened.

He didn't even have to ask. he knew, looking at me, exactly what had happened, and the friend that he was, this pastor friend that he was with, looked at him and said, What is going on? Because he's just looking on this scene with me, just sobbing. And my husband just looked at him and [00:41:00] said, My wife has just found her birth mother.

[00:41:02] Damon: that was the same person that he saw the night where you said, don't push me. And all those other nights where you explained yourself. Yes. He could see the same person.

[00:41:09] Deanna: Yes, the same person. The same person. Like he instantly knew. He had never seen me like this before.

He just knew. And so his friend quickly left 'cause he could tell that I was really emotional. And this was really a moment just for. Larry and I, and so he quickly left and said he would contact us later, and I just said to Larry, I have to go to her, I have to go to her, and he says, okay, what do you want me to do?

I said, pack the car. Like, I instantly called our pastor, our boss, and I just said, We need a couple days off, Larry and I both. We just, we need, we need to leave town, and this is why. And he instantly said, go. So, I just said, start packing the car. We literally, that moment, started packing the car.

Packing everything that we needed for two babies, and for us, into a car. And, by the time that was done, it was approaching, like, five o'clock. [00:42:00] And I just said, hold on, I got to do one more thing. I wanted to make sure she wasn't on vacation or going on vacation or anything like that. And we packed the car and around 5 o'clock, I called the number again and I heard, the answering machine did not pick up, it was her live.

And she said, hello, and I hung up and I looked at my husband and I said, she's home, let's go. And we literally, I know when I, when people hear this, they're like, this is the craziest thing I've ever heard. I know, I know. we just got in the car, and we drove straight through, we drove straight through From Ohio to Virginia we went from Dayton, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, and just put everything in the car and went with two little babies. so we get there and it's during the day, we drive all through the night and we get there and it's during a time where she would have been at work.

I never slept. I never, I could never shut my eyes and go to sleep for three days. I was so Overwhelmed to finally [00:43:00] know, to finally be at this point, I couldn't even shut my eyes and sleep. It was, it was the most unbelievable thing I've ever experienced. I can't even describe it. My husband was fried.

He was so tired. Him and the kids immediately went to sleep in this hotel as soon as we got there. I couldn't even sleep. I started sorting through everything, sorting through all my stuff, sorting through my suitcase, and sorting through all these outfits. Because I was like, what am I even going to wear?

What am I even going to wear when I meet her? I literally was showering and probably changing my clothes five times. Because I knew, as soon as she gets home from work and they wake up, I'm heading over there. So, I told my husband though, I need to have this conversation by myself. I don't want to have this conversation in front of anyone.

Like, my mother and I started out together and this was going to be just the two of us together. And I was going to say what I needed to say.

[00:43:52] Damon: Deanna and her family got in the car and drove to her birth mother's home. When she thought the woman would be getting home from work. Now, [00:44:00] keep in mind. Deanna's confidential. Intermediary have been in touch with the woman years ago. At that time, the intermediary must have been trying to persuade Deanna's birth mother, not to close the door and reconsider reuniting with her. Trying to convince her birth mother, that she would be so proud of all that Deanna has accomplished the intermediary confidently shared that the end is a minister.

And since she figured this reunion meeting would never happen, the intermediary must have decided there was no harm in providing Deanna's name to.

humanize the possibility of their reunion.

[00:44:34] Deanna: And instantly, my birth mother said, Oh, okay. Well, I'm sure I would be very proud of her, but she's not going to be proud of me. And instantly that turned things where my mother said, I can't face her with my life. I can't face her with decisions I've made. I can't face her with this. And I begged to be able to write her a letter and tell her, Please don't worry about decisions you've made or things like that.

That's not what it's about. And [00:45:00] it's not about, whether you're going to be proud of me or I'm going to be proud of you. Hey, we're just people and we've all made mistakes. I've made mistakes. Hey, Let's sit down and talk, but I wasn't allowed to do that. There were no letters allowed.

There was no communication allowed, And then at the end, she told her, your daughter's new name is Deanna. So she knew my name, but my first name. So I knew that. So, we drove over there. My husband and the kids stayed in the car, and I got out of the car. I walked up to the door.

I knocked on the door. And she opened it up, and I, I asked, if she was, I said her name, my birth mother's name, and I said, are you this person, and she said, yes, and I said, please don't be afraid, but my name is Deanna, and I think you know who I am, and we just stared at each other for what, I mean, it seemed like five or six minutes at least, but it was probably 30 seconds.

We just stared. All we did was stare, just frozen, we're just staring. And we just didn't move. We just stared at each other and then [00:46:00] she, I, I said would you mind if I come in? And she just said, Oh, it's better than standing on the porch. Go ahead. And I came in and she told me.

To sit down at her kitchen table, and I, I sat down, couldn't believe I was sitting there. I kept thinking, oh my god, I'm in her house. Like, I'm sitting here, I'm sitting in her house, like, this is crazy. And she started just flitting around from thing to thing. She was going from the sink, to the stove, to the table, to, to the microwave, to just all these things.

She was just flitting around, like, nervously. Like, her hands were shaking, and she was trying to make coffee, and she was just flittering around from thing to thing. And saying things like, I know you don't understand. I know you don't understand why I made the decisions I made. I know you don't understand why I placed you for adoption.

I know you don't understand why I've made And she just went into all these bad decisions that she's made in her mind. And all of these failures in her life. And I know some people will not understand what I'm about to say, but I did truly sense the voice of God in my mind. Not, of [00:47:00] course, not out loud, but in my mind, just say to me, say nothing.

Say nothing. Sit here and say nothing. Let her fully exhaust everything she has to say before you say a word. So I sat there for probably 20 minutes. I didn't say a word. She was just flittering around nervously saying all, just pouring out all this. I've made mistakes, I've done this, I've done that, I made this mistake in life, I made that bad choice in life, I just got divorced, just on and on and on.

And then at the end of all that, she finally sat down in front of me. And finally, until she had nothing to say, absolutely nothing more to say, and then she wanted my response, and I said, Listen, I already knew that you felt you had made mistakes. I already knew from the confidential intermediary that you said you felt That you would be very proud of me, but I wouldn't be very proud of you.

I already knew that you felt that you had made bad choices in [00:48:00] life. And I said, and here's the truth. I said, I've made mistakes. I'm gonna make mistakes again. I've made a bad choice in life before. I'm, I'm gonna make a bad choice again. I mean, it's just, we're human beings. I said, I've known that you're not perfect.

I'm not perfect. I still went. To Helen back to find you and I would do it all again just to be sitting here with you and at that moment It was just like something broke and she stood up from her side of the table and she came across to me and Wrapped her arms around my head almost like in a headlock and she just had her face just buried in my hair And she was sobbing sobbing loudly like loudly from like like the pit of her stomach She was sobbing like that kind of sobbing And she just kept saying things like, You're beautiful.

You're beautiful. I don't know what I did to deserve this second chance. I don't know what I did to deserve this, but thank you. [00:49:00] Thank you. Thank you. And she just kept saying that over and over again. That's amazing. It seemed to last forever, that moment. she had her hands wrapped around my head so tightly, and just didn't want to let go.

[00:49:14] Damon: How did that feel?

[00:49:15] Deanna: Oh my god. it was surreal. once I said that, and then she did what she did. I didn't want to, for lack of a better phrase, I didn't want to jinx it, I didn't want to move, I wanted time to stand still. I was literally darting my eyes around the room going, oh my god, this is my birth mother's house, I'm sitting here, I'm sitting in her kitchen table, like, I'm with her, like, this, she's not kicking me out, like, I have not been kicked out of this house yet. This is unbelievable. It was always

what I felt in my heart that if I could just, writing is my main thing, and I just felt like if I could even just write her a letter saying everything that I had just said at that table, I just knew, I felt in my heart she would accept me, and I was right. I was right. And at that moment I realized, oh my gosh, this is really happening.

This is really happening. , You

[00:49:56] Damon: I want to just pause you for a quick second, because [00:50:00] I, I love what you did when you got invited in. It sounded like you held calm. And as you watched her get nervous, you recognized it's not gonna do any good for both of us to be nervous in this moment. Let me be the calm one and allow her to the space in her own home to exhaust the energy, this nervous energy, and I couldn't help thinking, and I don't know if your church does this, and so forgive me if this isn't correct, but , a lot of times, one of the general things that people think of about Church is confessing and it sounded like that was what you were allowing her to do here You are a pastor.

Yes. Who is supporting your community and, and all of the people that you lead. And you don't even know this woman, but you've recognized I need to just let her confess, just say it all.

[00:50:52] Deanna: Absolutely.

[00:50:52] Damon: And let it all flood out. That's right.

[00:50:54] Deanna: That's totally right. And then it was also. And I'd like to [00:51:00] I'd like to make a husband's day, a husband's day when I give him triggers.

I'd like to be Once it aren't so real and so have I like we we're both human. We've both made mistakes let's just come together and love each other. And yes, it was amazing. so we were sitting there and She mentioned oh my gosh she named her her boyfriend at the time.

She says Bob's going to be calling and I said who's Bob. She says my boyfriend And I said, oh gosh, okay. And I thought for sure, okay, she's not gonna want this to be revealed. And she said, oh no, he knows who you are. He knows who you are. I've told him all about you from the beginning.

And I said, you did? And he said, yes. And, and she said, yes, but he would know you as Melanie, not Deanna. she said, okay, he's gonna be calling. He always calls before I go to sleep just to see how I'm doing or just to say goodnight. [00:52:00] So I said, okay, well, I just was waiting to see what she was going to do and then pretty quickly he called, And he said, what are you doing? And she said, I'm sitting here with someone. And he said, who? And she says, well, I'll give you a hint, she's 27. And he goes, well, who do we know that's 27? I don't know anybody that's 27. And she goes, Bob, Melanie's here. And he said, oh my God, I'll be right there.

Wow. And he just hung up on her. And literally, about 5 10 minutes later, he comes walking through the door. He, he walks through the door, strides right over, wraps his arms around me and says, Thank you so much for coming. She's needed this. That's the first thing he said to me. Thank you so much for coming.

She's needed this. And, we were just fast friends right away. And then as we stood there talking, he said, Deanna, don't you have a family? I thought that the social worker said you have a family. I said, yes, I do. I have a husband and two, babies. And he said, where are they?

And [00:53:00] I said, they're in the car. And she says, oh, my Lance, they've been in the car all this time? And I said, yes. And she says, well, for heaven's sake, go get them. And so, She told me to go get them, but then she was terrified at the same time. She said, Oh my God, your husband, your husband, he's probably going to hate me.

She was just, right away, this flash in, it was just a thought that flashed in her mind that my husband is going to hate her. And I said, Why in the world is he going to hate you? And she said, For everything I've put you through. And I said, Oh my gosh, no, he doesn't feel that way at all. no, no, you're, that's not true.

And again, she was just carrying all this guilt that I've made these bad decisions. I put her through this rejection. Two years ago, even though I had not said a word about that, she was just carrying that guilt. So, I went out to get them and they came in and right away my husband just embraced her and said, thank you so much for my wife.

Thank you for her life. Thank you that you welcomed her in your door. I don't even know what's going on here, but I just want to thank you for just[00:54:00] Bringing her in. And then she met the kids, and these are her only grandchildren. I mean, even to this day, they're the only two. Well, there's three now, but they were the only grandchildren she had.

So she was just overwhelmed. I mean, right then and there, she's meeting these grandkids. And we started, we sat down, and we were all talking. then she asked me, where, where do you want this to go from here? And I said, well, I said, I'm going to be totally honest with you.

As I always am, but I said, I'm just going to shoot straight with you. I said, this is going to go wherever you want it to go. I said, if you want this after you meet us tonight to be that you never see me again, okay. I said, if you want it to be where I'm a once a year Christmas card, it's okay. I said, if you want us to talk every once in a while, okay.

If you want us to have a close relationship, it's okay. I said, I have one request of you, no matter which of these things you decide. I said, I brought my camera. I would [00:55:00] like one picture of you. to remember you by. If you decide after tonight, you never want to see me again.

I said, I know that I would have to accept your decision because you have told me You told me personally, no, I said, I will respect it and never contact you again. But I would like a picture of you just to remember this day. And before she could say anything, Bob said, well, that's absolutely ridiculous.

We're all meeting for dinner tomorrow night. And I said, no, I said, that's so sweet of you, Bob. I said, so nice of you. I said, but this needs to be her decision. I said, this, this really needs to be her decision. And I will abide by it. And very quietly and just very emotionally, she says, No, that's fine. I want to meet for dinner tomorrow night.

And, I said, that's great. So, unbelievably, unbelievably, she, invited us to stay. And I said, no, no, no. I said, you're going to need your space and to think about everything that's happened here. I've got a hotel for the next couple of days. however much time [00:56:00] you want to spend with me, I'll spend with you.

I said, but we have our own space in case, anything becomes overwhelming for you. I just want you to have your own space. So she reluctantly agreed with that, but I didn't realize why she was asking this until we went out to the car. She and Bob walked us out to the car. And we got the babies in their car seats and my husband got into the driver's seat and I was standing over by the passenger seat and she came over and she asked me one more time, won't you just come back in the house?

And I said, no, really, I don't want to impose. I said, we've planned our own space so that I'm not overwhelming you. And she clung to me and sobbed and she said she didn't want me to leave. And I said, I promise you, I'm coming back here. And she said, I know, but the last time this happened, I didn't see you again for 27 years.

And she just stood out there holding me for, like, it felt like forever. She just didn't want to let go.[00:57:00] I said, I promise you. I promise you. I mean, at this point, she was afraid of rejection. She was afraid that I wasn't going to come back. And I said, listen, this is overwhelming. Like, I have two little babies.

You're not prepared for this. I said, I swear to you, I'm coming back tomorrow. Okay. If you promise. If you promise. I understand. Okay. So, we went to the hotel. We had made plans to meet her and Bob for dinner at 5 o'clock. And, the next morning, the next morning, it was probably like 9 o'clock. A little bit after 9 o'clock, she called and said, what are you guys doing?

And I said, we're going to breakfast. And she goes, I'll meet you there. And I said, what is going on? And her and Bob met us at this breakfast place. And I said, what? What is happening? Because I knew she had work that day. She said, I went into work today and I told my co workers, there's something you don't know about me.

I've told you all this time that I had two children, but I really have three. And this is what took place in my life 27 years ago. And last night [00:58:00] she came back into my life and she's here for a couple days. And this is how I want to spend my time. So I'm taking a couple days off. And that was it. She met us and we spent the whole week together.

[00:58:11] Damon: That is unbelievable. Wow.

[00:58:15] Deanna: I know. It's crazy, right?

Really unbelievable.

Yes. It's, it's, it's unbelievable. It's, I still just am just amazed every time I, and there's so much more to it. I mean, it was honestly magical. It was like I had always imagined it being. We had 20 amazing years together

before she died.

[00:58:38] Damon: You know what, I, I heard in your recount of her, nervously running around in the words that you conveyed of what she said. It sounded like she was both confessing, but was, had been beating herself up for years. that was what came through, was that she had absolutely been torturing herself [00:59:00] as to what she had done, such that when you showed up, it just came out in this Unbelievable flood of confession and sort of self torture.

And that must have been so hard for her to live like that for years, but then to have you show up at her door and just wash it all away. I mean, just, not that it was washed away in an instant, but, like, sit at her table and confirm for her, we are going to be okay if that is what you choose. That's unbelievable.

Really, really incredible. Wow.

[00:59:33] Deanna: Yeah, it was, it was incredible. It was magical.

[00:59:36] Damon: When Deanna met her birth mother, the woman cried as she hugged her daughter, Melanie. Now, Deanna, for the first time in 27 years. As Deanna said at the kitchen table with her mother

Crying and holding her head tightly, her birth mother said.

[00:59:51] Deanna: oh my God, you look just like your father.

And at the time I had, Very long, curly, dark hair. And she says, oh [01:00:00] my god, same hair, you just have the same looks as your father. And then in the same sentence, she said, oh, I always called him my Greek god

[01:00:08] Damon: After Deanna's birth mother's boyfriend, Bob entered the emotional scene. They all moved from the kitchen to the living room to continue their conversation. Coming back to her birth mother's comments. Deanna asked about her birth father. She said it was like her birth mother immediately put up a wall about the man. The woman did not want to talk about it. She did not want to discuss who he was and shared that he did not support her at all. When she revealed she was pregnant by him. Deanna said that same story Was what her non identifying information from the adoption agency also reported.

[01:00:42] Deanna: Pretty much it devastated her in every way that a person could be devastated, she was shamed, she was kicked out of her home, she for all intents and purposes, she became homeless and she had nowhere to go.

She didn't have a job. Her family kicked her out. She wasn't supported by her family. She wasn't supported by him. She was left [01:01:00] alone in this. After a while of floundering around in the community with nowhere to go, she went a couple hours away to Norfolk to a maternity home to have me in secret. And then once I was born We were both transported back.

We were kept separate, but we were both transported back to Richmond, I was in foster care for a while, and she visited me. Before she signed the papers and made the final decision because her family just did not support her. They said, if you bring that child home, you don't have a home, you have nothing.

And she wrestled with it for a while as I was in foster care, but then she finally signed the papers and that was it. And she didn't have any help. So a lot of it was that. She was abandoned by him and she had no help and she just could not stand even the thought of him. So she said, he didn't support me.

He refused to even acknowledge that you exist. , no, I'm not talking about who he is. So that night I didn't push her at all. Of course, I was just so elated to be sitting there with my birth mother. And that [01:02:00] she wanted a relationship with me.

[01:02:01] Damon: So for their 20 years in reunion, Deanna tiptoed around the subject of her birth father. Her main goal was to keep a positive relationship with her birth mother and stay in her good graces. She just wanted to be a good adoptee and preserve her birth. Mother's reunion. Acceptance. Just like her birth mother had.

So emotionally divulged, Deanna also did not want to be separated again. She never pushed, but she always wanted to know more about the mystery Greek God. As Deanna danced around the question over the years, her birth mother assigned different age gaps to their relationship, possibly in an attempt to throw off her investigation. So Deanna deduced that he must be about 10 years older than her birth mother. 20 years into their relationship.

Deanna asked her birth mother when she was finally going to tell her Who her birth father was. She reminded her birth mother. That time was running out. The man had to be at least 80 years old at the time of their [01:03:00] conversation. And she reminded her birth mother. There could be no harm in revealing his identity at that point.

Deanna begged her birth mother to reveal who her birth father was.

[01:03:10] Deanna: And she said, what don't you get about this? I'm never gonna tell you.

I said, never? She said, no. She said, I'm gonna go to the grave with his name. And it was almost like a prophetic word. It was crazy because just weeks later, after she said that, weeks later, she was running up and down the stairs at home. She was perfectly fine, supposedly. She had just eaten some corn chips, and she got this terrible pain in her side.

And she told Bob I need to go to the ER. And they went, and they told her they thought she had pulled a muscle. And they gave her some cream. But a couple hours later, she told him to take her back, that it's, it's not a pulled muscle. And they went back, she thought maybe she ate something, maybe it was these corn chips, what is this?

And they did some x rays, and she had a huge mass. And they told her, right then and there, you have, you have [01:04:00] cancer And within a couple months, she was dead. She and she took the name to the grave. We had many arguments in those months before I knew that she was, she had told me that she was never going to tell me and that she was taking his name to the grave.

And I said, well, I just wanted to ask you one more time. I wanted to be respectful before I took other steps. And she says, what are you talking about? There are no other steps. I'm the only one with this information. There's no other steps to take. And I said, well, actually there is.

She said, well, what? And I said, I'm going to do DNA testing. And, oh my God, she exploded. She totally lost it. Lost it. And it was a very tense couple weeks. And then, right then was when I found out that, I mean, it was just weeks later that she was diagnosed with cancer. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. And she knew I was DNA testing and, I mean, it just, it blew up, ending of things was not good.

Unfortunately, now I did make things right with her, like on her deathbed. She didn't even want to see me in those months because she was so [01:05:00] angry that I was testing my DNA. as soon as Bob told me it was okay to come and see her, I did. she was extremely angry that I was pursuing him.

buT I told her, I It was never my desire to hurt you in any way. I love you. I'm never, I would never for a moment be sorry for reuniting. That night at the table, she had said to me, one of her ending statements 20 years earlier at the table was, she said, you found nothing.

Nothing. She said, I'm not worthy to be found. that night she was dying, and I went to her, I said, you were totally worthy to be found. And I don't have one minute's regret that we reunited and I'm so thankful for all these years I just want to ask your forgiveness of anything I may have done to hurt you and I just want to tell you that I forgive you for anything that you may be Upset about that you think that I would need to forgive you for and I just want you to know how much I love You she passed away and that was it and I [01:06:00] was devastated.

I mean that was it She really did die with the name

[01:06:05] Damon: Deanna is a self-proclaimed workaholic. When her birth mother passed away, She took a 40 day leave of absence. She began eight months of therapy to try to live with the fact that her birth mother had taken her birth. Father's name to her grave. Deanna could feel that she was so wrecked by her personal life's developments that she didn't want to return to being a pastor quite yet. Being a leader in her church required her to be grounded and empathetic. So the possibility Of bringing any negative energy from her personal grief into the church and how she might treat others was not going to work. She didn't want to say anything inappropriate to hurt anyone.

So Deanna focused on healing herself. Deanna had just submitted her DNA for analysis. Recently when her birth mother passed away on her maternal side, she found an overwhelming number of matches because her birth mother is [01:07:00] an American from Virginia, but her paternal side had only maybe Three to five, very distant matches because her birth father was 100% Greek. It was clear from Deanna's existence that the man had been in Virginia in 1965. But Deanna had no clue if he still lived in the states at the time of her search. She couldn't locate any meaningful paternal connections. Deanna decided to recruit additional help.

So she started a Facebook group called finding Mr. Greek. It was comprised of her supportive personal friends. Many of whom were in the adoptee community. Search angels Friends who were birth mothers and more. They took the little DNA search information that they had and dug in. One search angel had located hundreds of relative connections for other adoptees, but could not locate Deanna's birth father. That person said her case was one of the hardest ones they had ever seen. Deanna said she was devastated.

[01:07:57] Deanna: so I started praying about [01:08:00] this. As crazy as it sounds to people who are not believers, I started praying about this and I said, you know what? I really believe all this stuff that I say. I really believe all this stuff that I preach.

This is not just some kind of mumbo jumbo to me. I mean, this is real stuff. During those 40 days,

I took three days and pretty much just prayed. And I just said, God, you got to tell me the name.

Like, I need you to tell me the name. And after about three days of this, I sensed, not an audible voice, a lot of people say, how do you hear God? They just think that, like, some voice comes out of somewhere. It's almost like a, it's just an inner voice, it's an inner knowing, you get to know that voice.

And I sensed the voice of God say to me, your father's name is Gus. And I just knew, I just knew. It's that same voice that spoke to me when I was seven years old and said you're supposed to be a minister. I mean, same voice, same voice. And so I instantly told people, I knew that some people would think I was crazy.

Among [01:09:00] that group of people that was helping me search were several people that are, are even like total unbelievers, like atheists. Like one of, like my best friend in the adoptee community is an atheist. And we are extremely close, we tell each other everything. And I just said, Laura. I gotta tell you something.

She said, what? I said, God told me my father's name. She says, what is it? I said, it's Gus.

She goes, how did that happen? I start talking to her about prayer and all of this, and She said, you know, I don't believe in this. She goes, I believe you. I believe what you're saying. I believe what you're saying is true, but that's what you believe and that's what you perceive. We probably believe it's the two different things that are happening, but nevertheless, you're my best friend and I believe you.

[01:09:40] Damon: Deanna told searchers in the finding Mr. Greek Facebook group, that she understood. if they thought what she was going to tell them was nuts, but she wanted them to search for a man named Gus. Keep in mind, these are busy people with jobs and families who did not deserve to go down some stray rabbit hole. But every one of Deanna's [01:10:00] friends committed to helping her.

[01:10:02] Deanna: One friend who is an unbeliever said to me, I don't believe in God. I don't believe God speaks to people, and I don't believe in God, but I do believe in you.

You're my friend, so I'm gonna help you. I'm gonna do this. So I was really blessed that not one of my friends, even those who don't believe, said, you're crazy, you're a kook. This is nuts. I don't have time for this crap. I mean, I was just, I'm so blessed to have people that does really care and they searched, even though they might have in their minds believed Deanna's gone off the deep end,

[01:10:29] Damon: They searched for variations on names like Constantine and Costas, which are full names for the nickname gus in Greek. The team looked for men in the city phone directories Who were in a certain age range and had been in Richmond, Virginia in 1965. Her team accumulated a list of over 200 people and Deanna called many of them. Shared her story up to that point. I Asked if they would do a DNA test and many submitted DNA samples for her [01:11:00] because they felt compelled to help. But after a year of searching, there was no results. Deanna apologized to her support network for what she started to feel was a waste of their time. But the search crews stayed with her. Uh, particularly a small group of about three people who researched tirelessly. Deanna even questioned how much she could cold call strangers anymore. Going down the path of DNA tests with them. And letting down distant family members Who had also gotten invested in her search. For nine years, there was no light at the end of Deanna's tunnel.

After nearly a decade of searching. Deanna was on a leadership call one night with another pastor who was teaching the group. The pastor asked everyone on the zoom call to get out a piece of paper to write down one question to God. Deanna asked. when God was going to help her find her birth father. Her friend Christie, another pastor on the call had written the same [01:12:00] question. Everyone Deanna knew and trusted understood how important her search was to her. Deanna said when she tells people her. story, they ask, why would you ask God again for the answer pointing out the fact that she's prayed for this information for years with no results, Deanna answers with this.

[01:12:19] Deanna: I always tell people. The significance is that the Bible says don't ever stop asking, don't ever stop praying, don't ever stop seeking, don't ever stop knocking, keep asking, and so I kept asking, and then the second significant thing is, it's really important who you surround yourself with, and I was surrounded by people who didn't laugh at me, who didn't scoff at my desire, Christy is not an adoptee, but She could understand I was in pain and I wanted to know who my father was.

And because that mattered to me, that mattered to my friend. And so it's really important that you surround yourself with people who support you. And of course that you support them too.

[01:13:00] So that call ended and the moment the call ended, Larry said there's somebody trying to get a hold of you and it was my friend Regina, who's another adoptee in our community.

She was like the lead searcher along with my friend Gail on my search team. And Regina called me and she said, Deanna, I could not wait for you to get off of this Zoom call because this is the day, Deanna. This is it. The breakthrough is here. She said, within about an hour, we're going to know who your father is.

And I said, what? She said, yeah, while you were on your call, I went in, like I do on many days, to check your DNA sites. My friends that were on my team would check it. All during the week, just to see if we had a hit, we would all check it. And then, of course, there was a plan in place. The moment we get a hit, we're gonna start screenshotting everything we can find.

before we make a contact with somebody. So she said, we've already begun screenshotting. She said, you've got a very close first cousin match. It's on your Greek side. It's the one and only close match we'd ever received. [01:14:00] She said, we are in the process of locking everything down with everything we can find on this person.

and we're building out the family tree. And then they suddenly realized that he was an X match, which it's my understanding if you have a high enough amount of centimorgans on an X match, you can definitively say that that match comes through that person's mother.

Well, he was a high X match, so he had to be, he had to be my cousin through his mother's side. And then I thought immediately, Oh God, please, please help his mother to not have a bunch of brothers. , so that we would immediately know who my father is. And almost instantly, Regina realized that his mother only has one brother.

And they look down on the tree and they see her brother's name is Gus. Wow. And they see his birthday. I'm thinking, well then how did we miss it? How did we miss it? Well, we look down on the tree and we see that , we missed it because of his age.

We had, we had thought that surely he wouldn't be any younger than 10 years. And surely he [01:15:00] wouldn't be any older than 10 years different than my mother. But my mother was 20 when she had me. And Gus was 36. So they were 16 years apart. confirmed, this is my father.

And within 24 hours, I was FaceTiming with my father. I was stunned to learn that my father was 91. He was still alive. He had never married. He had never had any children. I was his only child in the world. And he was all alone. He was living in a nursing home. In Richmond, Virginia, matter of fact, this is so crazy, Damon, four streets away from where my mom lived.

[01:15:38] Damon: Oh my gosh. Wow.

[01:15:41] Deanna: walking distance from my mom's house.

[01:15:43] Damon: Oh my gosh, that is crazy.

[01:15:44] Deanna: I know, he was living in a nursing home because several months earlier, he had fallen. And he didn't show up. for a doctor's appointment and his doctor was concerned and did a wellness check and he was found in very bad condition he was taken [01:16:00] by ambulance to the hospital and after several months he got strong enough and He was taken to a nursing home, I found him, and we FaceTimed that next day. And immediately he accepted me. He still, at his age. He didn't understand what DNA was all about. But he didn't accept me based upon DNA.

He accepted me based upon the fact that he knew he had had a relationship with my mother. He knew that she had become pregnant in 1965. He knew I was the child that came out of that relationship. And so I didn't know anything about him at the time. I didn't know anything beyond he was a Greek man with black wavy hair.

I knew nothing. I didn't know that he was this very strong, proud Greek man who was, pretty unemotional. I didn't know that. But when I talked to him the first time on FaceTime, he got pretty emotional. And I said to him, I knew all this time that I was [01:17:00] coming for you. I was chasing after you as hard as I could for all these years.

I was turning over every rock in the world to try to find you. I said, but you didn't know I was coming. You're in shock. I said, it's very evident that you're overwhelmed. I said, do you need a minute? I can call you back. And the next thing he said was, How soon can you get here?

Again, Damon, it was like I was living a magical, like, what is happening here? It was unbelievable. And So, I went and, oh my gosh, it was just, it was so amazing to be together.

From second one, he accepted me. From second one. There was never a moment that he didn't accept me. He was shocked to know that I was adopted. He did not know that I was adopted. He thought that one of my Mother's older siblings because she's the youngest of six and the older ones were married and he thought in the Greek community I guess the way it was explained to me They don't [01:18:00] often just give up their kids for adoption Somebody older in the family an aunt a grandmother a mother somebody will just take you under their wing and raise you that's what he thought happened And he was shocked to know that I had been adopted And he was he was upset about it And for a while, I just kind of let him be upset about it.

When I say a while, I mean days. And then the last time that he ever kind of ranted about it, I said, well, Gus, you never supported her. What did you expect? And then he just, he never said anything about it again. Yeah. But it was a whirlwind of just, I realized, oh my gosh, I don't know how much time I'm going to have with my father.

He's 91. He's 91. It was just such a miracle that I found him. And pretty quickly we realized we don't want to waste any time. , we were kept apart this whole time. , I Not only talked to my mother, but I had talked to everybody in my maternal family that I possibly could.

I mean, pretty much anybody that I could contact and meet in my maternal family, I was begging for information.[01:19:00] And it was just wall after wall after brick wall, not wanting to tell me anything. And he had, I didn't know it, but he had reached out. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but he had reached out.

And so we were kept from one another. Wait,

[01:19:15] Damon: how do you mean he had reached out? What do you mean?

[01:19:18] Deanna: Okay, this is so, this is unbelievable. Okay, I had reached out to everybody in my maternal family to say, who's my father. So, I'm not sure, I'm sure that you're going to want to piece this together differently.

I just, I have to take it out of order because you've asked me the question. I ended up fighting to bring my father to Florida with me and I ended up winning that fight and I brought him to live out the rest of his days with me in Florida. Wow. And I took care of him until he died. Wow. Yeah, it's unbelievable.

And three weeks before he died, set up my phone, and just record us every day because I wanted to remember it for, , ever.

Like, I didn't want to forget one little speck of anything. we would just talk every day for hours.[01:20:00] I asked him, Gus, did you ever think about me down through the years? And he said, all the time. All the time. And I said, well, what did you do about it? Like, I wasn't afraid to ask him the hard questions.

I mean, I ask him a lot, I ask him a ton of questions But I would ask him hard questions, too. And I said, what did you do about it? You said you thought about me all the time?

What did you do about it? And he just got this pained look on his face and he said there were roadblocks. There were roadblocks. And I, I knew he was telling the truth. I said, I, I know, I know. I understand. Now, I didn't know what he meant by that, but I sensed in my heart, he was telling the truth. And for years, I had been asking maternal family, , who is my father, and they would just shut me down.

And even in the previous year, I had asked, this one set of cousins, they were the ones to take my mother to the maternity home. I mean, honest to God, on a several hour drive to a maternity home, are you not even going to ask who the baby's father is?

I mean, of course, and then you're the ones to pick her up from that [01:21:00] maternity home. Months later, you're not even going to ask about the father? You're not even going to say anything on this several hour ride? one of their girls was even in the car with them on this ride.

And I said, what was said? Like, who is my father? And I was just shut down. And out of those three cousins, two of them massively shut me down. Like, the middle one would never even, and these are my first cousins, they would never even answer the phone, they wouldn't respond. And then the oldest one said, We don't know anything and don't ever contact us again.

And then pretty much blocked me on social media. And I'm thinking to myself, why do you need to block me if there's nothing there? If you don't know who my father is, if you have no clue who my father is, why do you need to get so upset about it? Why do you need to block me? Like, if you have no clue, obviously I knew.

You have a clue or you wouldn't be so sensitive. So, anyway, I asked us if he thought about me and he said yes. But there were roadblocks. So then, just days later, he He passed away[01:22:00] and Larry and I needed to find some papers and I mean my father saved everything and my husband found this box of papers from the 1960s and There's this important file of papers on top And this was just in the first week of January this year, And my husband opened this file up and right there on the top in my father's unmistakable handwriting is this document and it's that, those girls mom, the aunt, and her phone number and where he was reaching out. To ask.

[01:22:38] Damon: Wow, where's my child? He had documented pieces of his search for you? Yes. Wow.

[01:22:43] Deanna: Yes. I was so angry and I immediately screenshotted it and texted it to the, to the one cousin that was still speaking to me and I said, here's the proof.

What do you guys have to say about this now? And she said, well, you have to understand times were different back [01:23:00] then. And I said, yeah, I do understand times were different back then, but this is 2023 and you guys are still lying. That

[01:23:06] Damon: was then, this is now.

[01:23:07] Deanna: Yeah, and I was really, really, really angry that day.

I was simultaneously that night, when I was holding that paper in my hand, I'm walking around my house, I'm angry as all get outs, at the lies, at the cover up, at the secrets. And at the same time, I'm crying happy tears, because my father, I believed him, but this is proof, he really did. He really did look and he was telling the truth.

So, I just had to go through a forgiveness process over all that, it, and I did, I just, I just released it. holding on to that. I've had people ask me, when they, when I tell them that they're like, why, how aren't you just burning down the world? , how aren't you so angry?

You're just burning down the world. And I say, I can't holding on to that. And all that anger just turns me into somebody I don't want to be.

Yeah, that's exactly right.

[01:24:00] And I'm just not going to hold on to it. And I believe that I met him at the right time. There's so many factors I really believe.

I mean, he instantly accepted me. I was able to bring him home to Florida with me to take care of him until he passed. able to spend every we had been kept apart for so long that I didn't want to live a moment without him and I couldn't move I don't have a job where I can move, and so I said, I can't move there.

But can you move here? And he came here. He came home with me. And we had seven months together before he passed away.

[01:24:38] Damon: Deanna had been all over Facebook groups In the Richmond, Virginia area searching for Gus. So once she found him, she went back to update those same groups with the news that she and Gus had reunited. Gus had been a well-known dance teacher in the community. So Deanna asked if anyone in the groups had been his students and if they had any pictures [01:25:00] of him in his younger days or stories they could share. Instantly people came out of the woodwork with videos, pictures, and stories of Gus.

Deanna was able to connect us with long lost friends from his past who visited him in his nursing home in Richmond before Deanna moved him Into her home in Florida.

[01:25:21] Deanna: It was unbelievable, and we were able to spend seven months together. And I was able to bring him here so that was possible for us to have every moment that we possibly could together before he passed away.

[01:25:31] Damon: That is so beautiful. That's incredible, Deanna. I mean, just one, your dedication to be able to find him over the years, and then two, his pure acceptance, and then three, obviously, the validation that he had been searching for you is just really, really wonderful.

Yeah. That's so fulfilling. Really cool.

[01:25:50] Deanna: It was, and my father had such a fulfilling, amazing career, and so much happiness, and he was accomplished, he was a very accomplished [01:26:00] person, but yet, he said, in the end, he said, These were some of the best, moments of my life this past year. This is the most incredible thing.

Like, this is the most amazing thing. I have so many videos that little just snippets that I've posted on social media of him sharing things like him saying, this is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. Like, these are some of the most amazing moments of my life. And I am more like my father than anyone else in my life. In fact, my husband, even though Gus has passed away, my husband always says, Gus is still here, babe. I look at him every day. And we're so much alike in looks. We're so much alike in actions.

everything just came together when I found my father. I'm just really understanding even myself as a person.

[01:26:46] Damon: I love it. I love it. That's really amazing and it, and it's full circle for all of the questioning that you did when you were a young woman to being able to find him.

That's, and knowing [01:27:00] these connections, it's, it's really incredible. So thank you. It's so much for sharing your story. This has been really unbelievable. I mean, to have. Two positive reunions in the way that you did is incredible. And I generalize it in that way because the experience of meeting them were positive.

But I think a lot of times we will say something about a, a reunion and we'll generalize it like that positive or negative. But it does have it, they have their ups and downs in the middle and it's not even necessarily fair. I'm realizing as I say it, that. Your reunion with your birth mother was wonderful, but she withheld the secret of who your birth father was.

And your reunion with your birth father was amazing, but you then confirmed the secrets that had been held maternally. So I'm so happy for you that you were able to get this closure, and I really appreciate you being here Deanna. Thank you so much.

[01:27:51] Deanna: Thank you. It's been such a pleasure to be here.

And can I just add one more thing?

[01:27:55] Damon: Sure.

[01:27:55] Deanna: I was going to say, I know that, as you mentioned, it's up and down. Sometimes [01:28:00] people can listen to the story about the reunion with my mother and the reunion with my father. And aside from the initial secondary rejection, they can think, boy, these were just two fairy tales.

But one thing to know, just for adoptees that might go, wow, well, she got literally everything she wanted in the end and there were no hiccups. Like, going after my father and refusing to just accept What was it did cost me relationships where there were there were people in my maternal family who basically said if you search For your father we're done, and so it did cost me some relationships But I wouldn't trade my decision for the world I would not trade knowing my mother and my father for anything and it was worth whatever Even though I don't want to lose anything.

I you know, I did that was my greatest fear to lose anything again But it hasn't been seamless. There has been a loss of some relationships over that, but it was worth it. I've just come to believe that anybody who's going to [01:29:00] demand that of me, that for me to remain in relationship with you, you can't know or search for the following individuals.

Well, I guess you don't really care about me.

Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah, that's well said, and I can't help thinking that it's the tradeoff that you make, right? I know what my goal is. It's to find him, and if you are in the way of that, then I will step aside and keep going. So, thank you, Deanna. I appreciate it so much.

This was really wonderful. I appreciate you. Of course. You take care then. All the best. Thanks for being here. Okay, Deanna. .

Bye bye.

Closing

[01:29:39] Deanna: Hey, it's me. Deanna is young life was colored by her adoptive mother's unsettled grief as a birth mother and an adoptive mother. Deanna admitted that she had always wanted to search. That she had been triggered deeply by the popular Christian movie That sent her reeling over the public's opinion of an adoptee's right to search And that her faith [01:30:00] had been a guiding force in her long arduous search. It was sad to hear all of the grief Deanna's birth mother brought on herself for her decisions that she had made in her life. But Deanna recognized that she needed to let the woman get it all out so they could begin their 20 year relationship. I wished that her birth mother had not been so committed to concealing Deanna's birth father's identity. But how awesome was it to hear that God had spoken to Dan again with Gus his name that even her non-believer friends stood by her search and at Deanna found Gus and brought him to her home so They could spend his final days together. Deanna search is filled with so many adoptive themes of feeling different in the adoptive home. Being guided by adoptee advocates who had treaded the path.

She was on the trials of a long arduous search. Validation of deciding to be face-to-face with her birth mother. Vindication of [01:31:00] believing her birth father had searched for her. And of course her faith in God to give her the answer she needed. Deanna's is another unbelievable adoption journey. I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something Indiana's journey that inspired you. Validate 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 the story of your adoption in your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit. Who am I really podcast.com/share. You can follow me on Instagram at Damon L Davis and follow the podcast at w AI really. Now I'm off to take a much needed break. I'll be doing a lot of writing in the off season, but I'll look forward to sharing more adoptees stories with you in 2024 until then take care, stay safe and be well.

I [01:32:00] just wanted you to know, I love your show. I've listened to all of them. I just love your show. So thank you for all that you do for all of us. Oh my

[01:32:06] Damon: gosh. You're so welcome. this is the project that I've always wanted to do.

And I'm so glad that it's meaningful to people. Oh, it's so helpful.