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236 – I Will See You Again

Ken grew up in a mixed home with both biological and adopted siblings. While Ken was loved and treated equally, when his son was born, he felt the urge to learn more about his birth mother. When he found the woman living nearby, she answered Ken’s phone call with inspiring words, expressing her expectation of that moment finally happening for her one day. Ken said there was a moment with his birth mother when it felt like time was standing still.

With her, he finally feels like he can be himself without people-pleasing behavior. This is Ken’s journey.

I Will See You Again, by K. R. DeStefano

Who Am I Really?

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236 - I Will See You Again


[00:00:00] Damon: Hey, it's Damon. I hope that you feel as I do that, the hundreds of interviews on the, who am I really podcast are a wealth of knowledge about the experiences of adopted people. Well, I'm working on book two. Based on what my guests have shared here on the show. I never thought I'd be writing another book, but it feels like the right thing to do.

[00:00:20] Damon: And I'm happy to say book two has been going really well. I make time to write as much as I can about what I've learned From this incredible collection of adoptees stories. To give you some context on what book two will be about . My writing explores what it's like growing up in adoption, our relationships with our adoptive families. The myriad catalysts that make us want to search for our birth families. Various methods of searching and how adoption reunions unfold. And of course how we are impacted by the journey. That was truly an oversimplification of book to anyway, I have to say I'm really enjoying, pouring myself into [00:01:00] synthesizing our various adoption experiences and sharing our collective lessons learned. If this sounds like a book that you'll want to dig into, then go to who am I?

[00:01:08] Damon: Really? 2. And add your email address to my list, to stay up to date. I will share occasional updates on how writing is going and reach out to you with publishing plans, publicity events, discount codes, and other cool stuff. Again. I go to who am I?

[00:01:26] Damon: Really? to. Okay, I'm ready. Let's

[00:01:31] Damon: go.

Cold Cut Intro

[00:01:39] Ken: I looked at that envelope and said, when you open this envelope, your life will never be the same. Do you really want to do it? So I really, I held it there much longer than I expected. I said, yes, I want to do it because I want to know I don't care if it goes well.

[00:01:54] Ken: I don't know if it goes badly. This is something I need to do.

[00:02:00] I'm Damon Davis. And today you're going to meet Ken. He called me from New Jersey. Ken grew up in a mixed home of biological and an adopted sibling Where Ken was loved and treated equally, but when his son was born, Ken felt that urge to learn more about his birth mother. When he found the woman living nearby, she answered Ken's phone call with inspiring words That expressed her expectation of that moment finally, happening for her one day. Ken said there was a moment with his birth mother when it felt like time was standing still.

[00:02:57] Damon: And that with her, he finally feels like he can be [00:03:00] himself without people pleasing. behavior. This is Ken's journey.

Show Open

[00:03:06] Damon: Ken grew up 45 minutes from New York city in the New Jersey suburbs. His family was a mix of children who were biological to his parents and older brother and sister, then Ken and his younger brother also adopted like himself. Ken and his younger brother always knew they were adopted. So there was nothing mysterious about how their family was formed. He said there was lots of love in their home and adoption was just part of their lives. However Ken said there were.

[00:03:34] Damon: times when he was curious about adoption, though.

[00:03:37] Damon: He didn't even realize he was thinking about it.

[00:03:39] Ken: One of the things that kind of strikes me that is people have always told me from the youngest age I created this myth that my birth mother was a crossing guard that she needed to give me up So that she could help the kids go to school and take care of them And obviously she couldn't do that If she had to raise me and I think that's [00:04:00] very interesting because as a very young person Your first outside authority from your family is like the school crossing guard.

[00:04:07] Ken: So it was really interesting how that kind of snuck in. I didn't even know I was wondering, but you've got to believe you're Damon, you're a bright guy. You've talked to a lot of people. We're trying to fill in puzzles without even realizing we're filling them in.

[00:04:21] Damon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The brain abhors a vacuum, right?

[00:04:25] Damon: When there's an absence of information, you just insert something. And of course, As a child, you would think something along the lines of what you said. My birth mother was this important pillar in the community. So of course she had to let me go so she could go do her job as important as it was to help the kids get across the street.

[00:04:42] Damon: That's fascinating.

So in terms of your family, you've named several siblings where some, did you say some were biological and some were adopted?

[00:04:52] Ken: My two older were biological to my parents.

[00:04:55] Ken: brother five years older sister four years older.

[00:04:58] Damon: Gotcha. And then one [00:05:00] younger sibling who was adopted.

[00:05:02] Ken: Yes, correct.

[00:05:03] Ken: From Korea.

[00:05:03] Damon: Yes. Tell me about your family dynamic. How did everybody get along? Did you guys look alike? what were your similarities and differences?

[00:05:11] Ken: We got along well. We got along really well, very loving. I will tell you, I've always been very insecure about the way I look and they were Italian Irish.

[00:05:21] Ken: I'm Italian Irish genetically. So there was resemblance, but you know, going back, like I'll say right now, I can't look in a mirror, like to comb my hair and do stuff like that because I'm very uncomfortable with the way I look because I don't look, I didn't really even notice how it was happening when I was younger.

[00:05:38] Ken: I looked a little different. I, my brain worked a little differently. Not better or worse, that's more of it. I just noticed things differently. But there was a lot of love. I, I didn't know your exact age with siblings, etc. Five years and four years is a pretty big difference when you're little.

[00:05:54] Ken: So it, you know, my brother and sister, you know, now we're peers, but back then it was a pretty big [00:06:00] age gap. So loving good, but it wasn't like partners in crime, like when you're a little closer in age. And then when my brother came, that was much later. And it really, the five of us. We're so much older than him.

[00:06:13] Ken: It was very difficult. I'm guessing it was difficult for him to feel like a bonding sibling as opposed to almost like we were aunts and uncles.

[00:06:21] Damon: Yeah, I know what you mean. In my own family, my two older children are the adoptees and the age difference between them and my son is about 11 years. You know, that's a whole generation.

[00:06:36] Damon: So you, you definitely know that this is the difference between a child in elementary school and a child at the end of high school or whatever. So you can, I definitely understand where you're coming from in terms of your youngest sibling, in terms of how your brain works differently. I picked up once you, what you said, it wasn't, you know, dumb or smart, or it was just different to help tell me a little bit about those differences in how you work and how they work.

[00:06:59] Ken: [00:07:00] I'll tell you theoretically I have this theory that as adoptees, we're born, we go to a family, and unlike a biological child, everything makes sense. You've heard the voices. You've seen the faces. Everything just makes sense. It's all familiar, but an adopted child from day one It doesn't make sense.

[00:07:17] Ken: So you have to start unraveling puzzles, figuring out why are things different? So I think I've met a lot of adoptees and we're very good like puzzle makers We're picking up on hyper clues and tiny things and Looking for patterns, looking for things because we're, you know, since our birth, things don't make sense in a way that they do for some other people.

[00:07:37] Ken: So we're always trying to figure that out. You know, I've even said if you gave a baby infant five pound dumbbell curls and they did five pound curls, They'd be incredibly strong. That's what our minds did from the moment we were born. Now I don't want to ramble, but I'll tell you my example is there's in my family, there's birthdays and months.

[00:07:58] Ken: And if you [00:08:00] multiply the birth month by the birth day for me and my brother, it's the same my two children, birth month by birthday is the same as each other. Okay. Which is a multiple of mine. So when I say looks differently, I tell this to people and they look at I'm insane for figuring it out insane for even thinking to figure it out.

[00:08:22] Ken: But that's just the way my mind works. It goes into things like that. And my family does that. They have very high intelligence in other regards, but that's just not the way they think.

[00:08:32] Damon: That's really fascinating. You're looking for the synchronicities in life in a variety of ways. And it doesn't sound like they were necessarily searching for those kinds of things.

[00:08:40] Ken: No, and whether it's biological or like I said, the adoption experience where you're trying to find things, it's interesting.

[00:08:47] Damon: Yeah, that to me, I don't know where your story is going to go, but to me, that sounds biological, right? That's the kind of thing that you would find, is a quirk of family members to think in, in creative ways like that.

[00:08:59] Damon: I don't know. [00:09:00]

[00:09:00] Ken: Yeah.

[00:09:00] Damon: Tell me about what you were into as a kid. Were you know, outdoorsy? Were you athletic? Were you academic? What kinds of things were you into as a kid?

[00:09:10] Ken: I did well in school without trying. I painted within the lines color within the lines. I was well behaved. I was, , the pleasing adoptee.

[00:09:19] Ken: I was blessed by loving sports and cursed by not being good at them. So I absolutely love basketball. I'm 54. I still play. And, you know, God just made me terrible at it, you know, but that's okay. I still love it. Yeah. I played in high school team and pick up all through college and I still play, but I'm just terrible at it.

[00:09:42] Damon: That's pretty funny.

[00:09:43] Ken: What's interesting also is I played basketball for, you know, 45 years at this point. And then a couple of years ago, I was having trouble with my back. So I said, let me do something different. So I started swimming laps, jumped in the pool, swam a quarter mile.

[00:09:57] Ken: I was like, that was easy. Next day, a half mile. [00:10:00] That was easy. Next day, a mile. I'm like, wait, when does this get hard? I learned in reunion, my birth mother was a college swimmer.

[00:10:07] Damon: crazy. Wow. Oh, that's really interesting.

[00:10:13] Damon: Ken

said his parental relationships were great and they treated him just like one of their biological children. His parents were supportive and loving, showing up to all his basketball games, regardless of how well or poorly he played. but one of his random rules about his homework drove his mother crazy.

When Ken was a kid, he decided that if his homework could not be completed by the time he got off the school bus at home, Then it wasn't getting done. All young Ken wanted to do was shoot hoops. When he got home from school. Ken's family relationships in adoption were great. So there wasn't much at home that was pushing Ken to search for his biological family. But as things go for many of us, the birth of his son was a catalytic moment.

[00:10:58] Ken: When my son was born in [00:11:00] 99, and for the first time I saw eyes looking at me, that were my eyes, just the tiniest ember started to get a little oxygen. We started to realize, wait, there's something. Something here. And then as he got older and then my daughter was born, it's not just the visual, seeing myself visually, but also the way they would act, their tendencies, really starting seeing that and noticing at that point that it didn't exist for me growing up.

[00:11:30] Ken: And started making an itch that was very faint, stronger and stronger. and then I, as I started doing that, I started rethinking my life from the perspective of an adoptee starting to realize it probably made a bigger impact on my life than I thought, and it was a growing, slow process.

[00:11:50] Damon: What did you think about in terms of this sudden connection to your mirroring that was missing previously? This is one of our challenges is as [00:12:00] adoptees, we don't necessarily see ourselves in the people we are reared by loving or not. And I'm wondering, so what did you think when you reflected back on that lack of mirroring from your life?

[00:12:13] Ken: I didn't understand it. it was a very slow process. I just, I wear glasses, which I'm not wearing right now, but your whole life, until I got them everything was blurry. And then you put the glasses on and it's clear, but then you realize, how did I never notice it was blurry before?

[00:12:30] Ken: Because nothing ever seemed wrong until you were able to see clear. And this is what I saw You'll get great people, but you know, there were tendencies. I was going maybe There were some needs I needed as a child that maybe an adoptee has or maybe somebody with different biology has that weren't recognized growing up like I now realize I was much more sensitive to rejection to being hints that you're not wanted whether it's being [00:13:00] cut from a team or a girlfriend not responding or just friends not calling me back.

[00:13:05] Ken: In retrospect, I realized how hypersensitive it was to many of those things.

[00:13:10] Damon: that's really interesting. You know, I'm glad you raised those things because it's something that people don't really focus on, but when you do become heightened in your awareness of them, you start to realize, yeah, I did respond.

[00:13:23] Damon: in a more hypersensitive way than most people did. And I love the analogy that you gave about putting on glasses. I wear glasses too of the same age as you. And it's astonishing how, you know, your vision fades slowly, usually, and you don't really notice it. So you can kind of power through for a while.

[00:13:45] Damon: And then it fades enough that you get to the point where you go, Oh man, I need some help here. And then when you put the glasses on, you go, Holy crap. I didn't realize how much I was missing. Yeah. And that's what it's, what you're describing is this [00:14:00] smoldering ember of a clue of your mirroring starting to clue you into the fact that you didn't have it when you were growing up.

[00:14:08] Damon: And then you started to analyze more and more a little bit about your life. That's a really wonderful analogy of the glasses that when you finally looked at your adoption from the perspective of. Being an adoptee, not just that it was a good thing, but that you were for all intents and purposes, an outsider in a different family, you know, no disrespect to your family.

[00:14:28] Damon: It's a game changing realization. It's really the putting the glasses on. It really does help you to see a lot of things more clearly.

[00:14:36] Ken: And Damon, what's so interesting is as that's happening, you know, you see it with your children being born and raising. And that's the exact moment when you, life goes to hell and I mean that in the best possible way when your children, it's all about the kids, I don't know your situation.

[00:14:53] Ken: It's about, oh my, are we going to pay the mortgage? Are we going to pay the rent? Are we going to do this? Oh my God, they want to go to Disney. They have a game. They have to [00:15:00] do this. So. As you're realizing that your life is just becoming so busy that you don't even have time to really process it in the correct way because you're drowning you're not swimming, you're in a way, but it's interesting how it all happens at the same time.

[00:15:16] Damon: Yeah, that's funny. And it's also comical to think that this person who has said they jumped in the pool with back problems and swam effortlessly is drowning in life. There's a funny kind of irony of that metaphor. So then this is you going through life with your kids looking like yourself.

[00:15:32] Damon: Ken said his life started to get more under control as his children got a bit older. In 2016, Ken read an article about adopted people in New Jersey, getting access to their birth records. After reading about the access other adoptees had to their information. Ken went to the post office To get a money order for the application fee for his adoption records to be released. Ken wanted the information he was entitled to, but wasn't ready for the transaction to show [00:16:00] up in his joint account with his wife. He wasn't ready for her to know he was searching quite yet. Ken was unsure if he was going to follow through on the possible journey, but his adoption was becoming. Ken was unsure if he was going to follow through On this possible journey, but his adoption was becoming a bigger issue in his life. The following January, Ken received his

[00:16:22] Damon: the following January, Ken received his birth certificate..

[00:16:27] Ken: I saw my birth mother's name. I saw a father, none.

[00:16:30] Ken: I found out when I was born, where I was born and the name. And from there, it just, I'll tell you, I was looking at the envelope before I opened it and saying to myself, I'm a very, I'm the type of person that I went to college because I went to high school. I did this because life expects, like you just take your next step because that's what life tells you to do.

[00:16:51] Ken: Now somebody has told me this might be what I'm might be intentionality. But one of the few times in my life, I looked at that [00:17:00] envelope and said, when you open this envelope, your life will never be the same. Do you really want to do it? So I really, I held it there much longer than I expected. I said, yes, I want to do it because I want to know I don't care if it goes well.

[00:17:17] Ken: I don't know if it goes badly. This is something I need to do. So I made a conscious decision, and I got the name, and then there's this, as you and many adoptees know, there's a series of steps that you have to take until you get the reunion. And everyone knows I made the conscious decision. Do I want to take this next step?

[00:17:35] Ken: Am I doing it just cause I need to figure out the puzzle or am I doing it because this is a good thing for me as a person, I probably end up doing everything I would have just done if I was cruising down the river, but it's an overwhelming thing for us to bring into our lives and I'm sure. Yeah. I

[00:17:53] Damon: love the intentionality of every step because there's a lot to be lost [00:18:00] in just blasting forward.

[00:18:02] Damon: I've spoken to many adoptees who said. I wished I had slowed down and just thought about this from a different perspective, considered his, her point of view, whatever the thing is. And I like what you said about wondering if it's the right step for you, right? Do I really want to do this? That's a, that's an important thought process.

[00:18:23] Damon: So what happens next? You've seen your birth mother's name. I would imagine that was very moving. Tell me the story of how you went from opening this envelope with intention to any level of trying to find your folks.

[00:18:36] Ken: Well, there's this thing it's pretty popular now called Google. I've heard of it, yeah.

[00:18:42] Ken: Yeah, it seems to be taking off. It seems, I'm trying to get in on the ground floor. I just started Googling the name Googling, and finding, and It was so hard because, you know, back then records aren't what they are now.

[00:18:56] Damon: Online,

[00:18:57] Damon: Ken found some information indicating there was a [00:19:00] woman with his birth mother's name who could be about the right age Based on the 1963 elementary school year book information he found with her and her twin sister. Ken was able to find nearly everything about his birth mother except her phone number. Back then You could pay $25 to have someone's phone number exposed online.

[00:19:21] Damon: Ken didn't feel like paying the fee. For days, he tried to figure out other ways to get the woman's number. Then one day while swimming laps in the pool, he realized he was crazy. For wasting time and energy, trying to save the 25 bucks for a phone call. That could be so important.

[00:19:39] Ken: So I paid the money. I got the 25. I got her phone number and then becomes Damon.

[00:19:47] Ken: How do you make that phone call? What do you do? It's like the most important thing in your life. But I, you know, you go to every textbook. There's no way to do it. There's no best practices. There's no anything. What I ended [00:20:00] up doing was I called thinking I had the right person, which I did. Well, what do you say?

[00:20:06] Ken: So I said, hello, I was born on this date in this hospital. Does that mean anything to you? And all I hear on the other end of the phone is an obviously older woman say, Oh my God, I always knew you'd find me. Oh my God. So, we had a little chat there, and then I actually think that made arrangements the next day for me to take her out to breakfast.

[00:20:34] Ken: She lived about an hour and a half away.

[00:20:36] Damon: Wow.

[00:20:38] Ken: And.

[00:20:38] Damon: Tell me about your chat. What, do you remember anything that you guys said to each other?

[00:20:42] Ken: No, not on the phone. Yeah, it's adrenaline. It's you know, the adrenaline wipes your memory. So I really don't remember anything about that phone call.

[00:20:51] Ken: I do know if you know, New Jersey at all, there's something called the Garden State Parkway and there's exits that are numbered based on mile marker. And I had to get [00:21:00] off exit 105 and I was going to meet her and she was five minutes from the exit. I've driven the parkway literally a thousand times. I drove past her exit just because my mind was just so non functional at that point.

[00:21:12] Ken: So I had to circle around and come back and eventually we went out to to Grant and at that point, I remember more of that conversation. It was a good conversation. She was thrilled. I was thrilled. It was awkward, but it was really nice.

[00:21:24] Damon: Yeah, when you go into this restaurant, set the scene for me.

[00:21:27] Damon: What did you see and how did it go to see her for the first time?

[00:21:31] Ken: Well, I met her at her apartment and I rang the bell and she came to the door and she was dressed up nicely, not like formally but dressed nice and put together. And Damon, let me ask you Hi, nice to meet you. Shake hands. Like it's just weird.

[00:21:47] Ken: So we just standing and just hello. Hello. And then she lunges at me and gives me the hug. And I'm like okay. So then I escorted a car, doing the old prom formal with the elbow elbows it's not, yes, it's something, but it's [00:22:00] not too much. So we do that. Interestingly, if you let me sidetrack for a second, we had a little conversation, just didn't walk to the car.

[00:22:07] Ken: Okay. where I mentioned that before I went to law school, I was a bartender for many years. And she says, Oh, I was a bartender for many years also. So I'm like, okay, of course. And she goes, we started talking about drinking and I mentioned, which is true. I've never had a drink in my life. I had a drink. My, a sip of champagne at my wedding and a beer on my son's 21st birthday.

[00:22:29] Ken: Other than that, I've never had alcohol. Why? I don't know. Just always had this feeling. So I mentioned that just as, because you're nervous and you're talking and the Lloyd Dobler effect. So I'm talking and she like literally stops and grabs my arm and said, what did you say? I said, I've never had a drink.

[00:22:45] Ken: And I'm like, all right, she goes. I cannot tell you how many problems alcohol has caused in this family, especially with the men. She said there's something, not all of them, but there's a lot of men in this family that [00:23:00] cannot shake the bottle, including my biological paternal grandfather and other people.

[00:23:06] Ken: So we both had a really, went right into a very deep conversation about all of that and just how curious that was.

[00:23:13] Damon: Wow.

[00:23:14] Ken: Then we go to the restaurant, we just sat down and talked, you know, about, about the process, about whether I had siblings, biological siblings, about the thought process that went into signing the papers, etc.

[00:23:28] Damon: That's amazing. Wow. It must have been such a relief for her to hear you say that you had not struggled with alcohol given what she knew about her own family and the men, you know, finding whatever, searching for whatever they were searching for in the bottle. That's, that must have been such a relief.

[00:23:46] Ken: She really was.

[00:23:47] Ken: Like you could feel the relief from her because you think, we think of it from our perspective. We think of things from the adopting parents perspective, but from the birth parent, they relinquish and then they have no idea. So [00:24:00] they, , your mind just often fills in the worst case scenarios. So she was thrilled with my adopting parents for having done such a supportive job, loving me and getting me to a place of a good place.

[00:24:13] Damon: Yeah, that's really incredible. So how did your visit end then? And what happened next?

[00:24:18] Ken: We just agreed to stay in contact. Just, I have two biological sisters and a biological brother younger than me, all younger than me. They always knew about me. I was always referred to no, no secret there. She you know, she spoke about me openly.

[00:24:34] Ken: It wasn't a secret. And then we just agreed to stay in touch. And eventually she's indicated. She really wanted to meet my adopting mother my mom. So, couple of weeks later, we had a dinner with me and the two of them. And since then, you know, my wife and kids, especially my daughter have gotten close with

[00:24:52] Damon: remote.

[00:24:55] Damon: How was that dinner to sit there with the mother who raised you and the mother who gave birth to [00:25:00] you? How was that for you?

[00:25:01] Ken: Everybody was wonderful. But it was proof of Einstein's theory that time is relative. Because I think according to my watch, it lasted about an hour and a half. if you ask me to guess how long it was, I would say about 73 and a half hours because every moment was just so awkward and so uncomfortable and nobody said anything inappropriate and everybody was great but I just really literally felt like my soul was splitting because it was so tense within me.

[00:25:36] Ken: And listen, You know, my mom has been great, but it's not easy for her. And when, you know, you could see it not being easy. Even when she's being supportive and good, you could see that it's not easy. And as an adoptee who's a pleaser, it's very difficult on me knowing I'm putting her in that position because I take on things I shouldn't, but it was an [00:26:00] interesting experience.

[00:26:01] Damon: Yeah. And good on her for going through with it. Some people can't face that. It sounds like she knew you wanted it. it sounds like she was, thankful for, the son that you were and are and wanted to do it, even though that was going to be difficult for her. That's a powerful thing that she, Submitted to doing and I commend her for that as I'm sure you did as well.

[00:26:25] Ken: So I and it wasn't all, unicorns and puppies, but you know, one of the things I also kept telling myself is I had 50 years to prepare for this. She had three days, , so it's very. different for her. And sometimes I, there, I've been told that I give people too much latitude, too much forgiveness, too much understanding of their perception, but I do like to try and be fair.

[00:26:52] Ken: And to be fair, it must have been very difficult for her because she didn't see any of this coming. All those struggles that I was telling you about earlier, like a [00:27:00] wonderful adoptee son, I hated. So they had no idea.

[00:27:03] Damon: So tell me then, how did you share this with them? You've gone, you've said, you know, your children were born.

[00:27:10] Damon: You started to examine mirroring. You started to think about this more. You didn't even tell your wife you were doing this. You went out and got a money order or whatever, so that your bank account wouldn't show this particular expenditure. You were hiding the search quite a bit. How did you broach this with your.

[00:27:28] Damon: Adoptive mother. You said you gave her three days. Tell me a little bit about how that discussion went.

[00:27:33] Ken: Well, the three days was a metaphorical, a biblical three days. No, I'm sorry. When he, when the birth certificate came, at that point, I told my wife. So, at this point, I was starting to come out. And he inadvertently was divulged to my son, who was 18.

[00:27:50] Ken: And my son's amazing. He's a wonderful kid. Now he's 24. but there's just no ability to trust him. Not saying the wrong thing at the [00:28:00] wrong time. Well, once he knew, I knew I had to tell my mom because if we were at a dinner and he said something and it came out like that, it would have been, a total disaster.

[00:28:14] Ken: So I was very upset that he knew not that he's not entitled anything, but just because now I couldn't control the message. in retrospect, I don't know what I've ever had the guts to tell my mom. I don't know because it was so difficult, but I had to. And that's what I ended up doing is telling her and, you know, slowly, you know, just little bits, some learning, I'm looking and things of that nature.

[00:28:39] Ken: So she knew, but you know, to this day, I wonder If things hadn't developed like that, would I would have ever been able to tell her?

[00:28:45] Damon: Yeah, that's, it's so interesting when you contemplate how you're sometimes forced into a situation and then you, in reflection, you think to yourself, God, I'm, you sound almost like you're glad you were forced because you just don't know if you would have ever done [00:29:00] it.

[00:29:00] Damon: I've had situations like that. I can, I understand where you're coming from.

/ Naturally Ken's curiosity turned to locating his birth father. He had seen his birth certificate, which had no identifying information about the man. But Ken had also met his birth mother Who divulged that she had been friends with Ken's birth father, but they did not maintain a relationship. After she got pregnant Ken's birth father went off to college away from home. This guy had a very common name. So Ken gathered what information he could and eventually tracked him down.

[00:29:33] Ken: /I will say my birth mother is from one of those big Italian families in Neptune, New Jersey.

[00:29:40] Ken: And I don't know where you grew up, but there, there's certain families that just, everybody knows somebody by that name, because there's a lot of them. And it's oh, my older brother played baseball with them. Oh, my younger sister was on. It's just, oh, that was one of those families. So I called him up and again, [00:30:00] another very tough call and said, yeah, I want to talk to you about.

[00:30:04] Ken: My birth mother, Pamela, and her last name is And he said, Manzo? Never heard the name. Can't help you. So listen, I immediately knew that he was just going to deny because there's no way he grew up in that town and didn't know the name. So I just let it go. And I haven't pulled it that string anymore.

[00:30:23] Ken: And I'm curious what your feeling has been. I have recognized in myself less psychological churn about my biological father than I did about my biological mother. I'm curious, but it's not just psychological, the primal wound or the real trauma that is attached to the biological mother.

[00:30:41] Damon: Yeah, there's so much associated with your biological mother.

[00:30:46] Damon: When you just think quite literally of the word biological inherently means that you've come from this person genetically, but in the biological sense. We are so tied to our mothers. You grow in her [00:31:00] womb, you hear her heartbeat and voice. every single day. Everything that she does, you're doing with her.

[00:31:07] Damon: That bond is impossible to, not be curious about. And I can't even imagine. I've spoken to a few adoptees who have told me that they did have a curiosity about their birth father over their birth mother. And, you know, everything in life is on a bell curve. Some people are going to lean towards one versus the other.

[00:31:28] Damon: I think there's a significant skew towards birth mother searches, but it doesn't surprise me that you weren't super interested in finding and knowing this person, right? for my own story, when I learned from my birth mother, who she thought was my birth father, it turned out she had the wrong individual.

[00:31:46] Damon: But when she thought it was this other guy, I heard the story of how they, broke up and he wasn't supportive. And I was like, I don't need to know this dude. And I didn't even, you know, think twice about it. I will tell you can know that [00:32:00] when my curiosity got sparked was after she passed.

[00:32:04] Damon: Because for me, my thought process was I'm going to go my entire life never having been face to face with the man who was responsible for me being on this earth. And I wasn't really ready to reconcile that. I wasn't really ready to live with that. when she passed, I realized there was nothing I could do to hurt her feelings or drum up any bad memories for her because she was gone.

[00:32:33] Damon: So anything that happened was totally on me. so I decided to go for it. And I totally respect where you are. Like if the guy's going to deny mine, if you don't feel any kind of connection to him, whatever, but I wouldn't be surprised if your mind changed over time.

[00:32:48] Ken: And to me, that's part of the beauty of this process.

[00:32:50] Ken: It evolves. Like I really talked to people. I am. nowhere near the end of this process. Yeah, you've heard the expression coming out of the fog. Of course, if [00:33:00] I came out of the fog, I went into another fog. So it's just, I'm curious, as nature happens and I just want to address things as they come, but and I would not be surprised if I had the same sense of feelings that you did when that happens.

[00:33:14] Damon: Yeah. And you know, the other thing is you talked a little bit. In the early part of this discussion about how your life had its own priorities in it, right? And if this isn't a priority, there's no need to force it. You know what I mean? It's just, as you've said, you take things as they come. There's no real reason to push on this guy and his identity.

[00:33:38] Damon: To me, his response was clear enough that It was him, right? Because when someone has never heard of someone, they're not as definitive as that, right? When they come out and say, never heard of her, it's a very different answer than, wait, say that name again. I'm not sure if that's familiar, like a clear contemplation.

[00:33:58] Damon: You know what I'm saying? If [00:34:00] he's laid along and been like, Oh, I don't know. That sounds say, who was it? How do I know this person?

[00:34:06] Ken: What'd you say? Manno? Marto? What'd you say? I don't know. Yeah. He didn't do any of that. No. Yeah.

[00:34:15] Speaker 4: You

[00:34:16] Ken: know, Damon, I want to circle back. You were talking about being the biology, the breathing, the heartbeat, the voice.

[00:34:23] Ken: And that circles back to what I was saying earlier about us being puzzle solvers. Like, when we're born, that was our entire universe. In my book, I call it the motherverse, right? That's the baby's entire universe. And all of a sudden, , there's no logic. The brain hasn't developed logic yet, and it's just ripped away.

[00:34:42] Ken: So the baby has to start figuring out making sense of the world when the only thing they knew was gone And that's how the brain starts developing these Coping mechanisms. So I really like the way you said that because it does tie into a lot of things I've wondered about in the past.

[00:34:59] Damon: [00:35:00] Yeah.

[00:35:00] Damon: Yeah, I just I'm coming off of a wonderful conversation. I just had with dr. Bruce Perry, he is the co author of what happened to you. I don't know if you're familiar with this book, but he co authored this with Oprah Winfrey and he is a trauma specialist and what he has examined and what he talked about is that very idea that this.

[00:35:25] Damon: Immediate separation. If you were adopted at the time of birth and you were separated at birth, you've gone from your brain associating this, these rhythmic patterns of her life, her heartbeat, everything to a complete and total disruption of everything that you knew. So the. Placing of a child on the chest to create the skin to skin bond also has the effect of re Establishing the heartbeat in the baby's brain, right?

[00:35:56] Damon: That now that you're outside the heartbeat is still here and it's still [00:36:00] comforting to you But I made the analogy yesterday if you are taken from the mother's womb And now you're down the hall in a baby warmer, and she's all the way over there in the recovery room. , there's a trauma associated with the complete unfamiliarity of your new world.

[00:36:17] Damon: And Dr. Perry was saying that in these early formative times of your life, The time, the duration of a trauma and the timing of it where it happens in your life is of critical importance, you know, points out that there's a significant difference between, you know, a traumatic breakup with a girlfriend when you're 17 and you've got processes for dealing with rejection versus the traumatic separation of an entrant from the mother.

[00:36:45] Damon: At the time when the brain is just being introduced to the new world. So there's a lot of really stuff in there. And I love that word that you've coined the mother verse. That's fascinating.

[00:36:57] Ken: When you're one hour old, one [00:37:00] hour is 100 percent of your life. When you're 17 years old, it's, I'm not a math guy.

[00:37:04] Ken: Someone can do the math. Yeah. But it's point of your month. But that's your entire lived exam existence. 100%.

[00:37:11] Damon: That's a really good point.

[00:37:13] Ken: I was in, it took, I believe about a week to 10 days for her to sign the adoption papers 'cause she didn't wanna sign them. So, and that's something we spoke about when we met that morning for breakfast, is she just absolutely did not want to sign the papers but

[00:37:30] Ken: where she was living, she felt made it impossible to bring me home because of social pressures, Italian, Catholic, et cetera. And I'm told the only way they got her to sign was to, she had an uncle who was involved in law enforcement, really good guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was Italian, who knew a guy.

[00:37:49] Ken: So he made an arrangement where they guaranteed her I'd be adopted by an Italian family.

[00:37:54] Damon: Oh, wow.

[00:37:56] Ken: And that's Whether it happened by coincidence or whatever, but that was [00:38:00] important to her. So, It's interesting. Like in those 10 days, I was in a hospital, she was in the hospitals and we were seeing each other so little.

[00:38:08] Ken: And she had to fight to actually see me. Cause they didn't even want to connect with me because they didn't want to interfere with the process. So, you know, like many of us, I was floating out on an Island for a little while.

[00:38:19] Damon: Yeah. So from what you just said, it sounded like though, she did fight to see you.

[00:38:24] Damon: So it was your understanding that you all saw each other a little bit during that 10 day period that you were both in the hospital.

[00:38:30] Ken: Yeah. That's what she told me.

[00:38:32] Damon: Wow.

[00:38:33] Ken: But just, you know, snip a snippet or two.

[00:38:37] Damon: Yeah. But still that's the difference between a total severance of the relationship and like at least small sips of what could have been.

[00:38:48] Damon: That's really fascinating to hear. So what did you all talk about? I want to go back to the swimming thing. I thought that was so fascinating that you jumped in this pool and swam like a fish. Tell me about [00:39:00] when you told her about your swimming prowess and what other kinds of similarities did you find between you and her?

[00:39:06] Ken: The swimming, the bartending. Frankly, I grew up in a very good, but conservative, within the lines, Catholic family. She's much more irreverent. She has much bigger issues with boundaries. As do I. The humor goes places it shouldn't go. Truly cringeworthy stuff. There was a lot of that. You know, and she has joked, Oh, if I raised you, you'd be a mess.

[00:39:32] Ken: Thank God we had normal people raise you. She's joked that but there is just, like I said there's things we see. And we react the same way. And it's interesting. And I see it sometimes you're too close to yourself, but I see her and my kids similarity. She's gotten, my daughter goes to school college in the same town as her, and they've gotten to know each other a little bit, and you do see a little bit of, you know, simpatico where they're on the same train tracks at times, which is [00:40:00] nice.

[00:40:00] Damon: that's really cool. That's really cool. So how's your relationship now?

[00:40:04] Ken: It's good. We speak in contact regularly. It's, , she's a good person, like me, she's a bit of a knucklehead, but she does her best, you know, everybody in the situation is loving and trying to do their best.

[00:40:17] Ken: I'll tell you what I was just thinking about in the pool yesterday, when she's probably the first person that I felt really comfortable not trying to please. if she asked me to do something and I don't want to do it, I just say no. And I don't feel like I have to find a way to say yes. If she says something, which she has, which all people do, that irritates me, I'll tell her that irritates me.

[00:40:40] Ken: I don't want you doing that. And it's very strange because You know, part of it is starting this new life of myself, of knowing, what I want going forward. And it's hard to do with people that have known you for a long time. It's hard to change direction. But when you're meeting people for the first time, it's a little easier.

[00:40:59] Ken: And [00:41:00] that's part of how I'm part of, , The acceptance that what I always feared didn't happen actually happened, that there was unconditional love, that I wasn't going to be loved just because I behaved a certain way. I was loved because of what I was, which is almost empowering to be what you want to be.

[00:41:18] Ken: And not feel like you have to please other people.

[00:41:21] Damon: Yeah. Empowering to be what you want to be. That's really cool. Wow. Ken, what's the name of your book?

[00:41:29] Ken: I will see you again. Hearts will sing. It's actually a novel unlike a lot of the really great memoirs out there. And what it does is it starts with the story of an 18 year old girl in the Jersey shore, who's living a great life and gets pregnant and gets out of her house and is forced to give a baby up for adoption.

[00:41:49] Ken: And the other story is a man in his 50s and current day who has an itch and decides to ask for his birth certificate. So it's about how her life , possesses, how his search [00:42:00] goes towards ultimately finding her and then their UniFi reunification.

[00:42:06] Damon: That's amazing. I love it.

[00:42:08] Damon: I will see you again. Awesome. Really cool. Ken. Thanks for being here, man. I appreciate it so much.

[00:42:14] Ken: Thank you, Damon. It's been really great. Thank you.

[00:42:16] Damon: , of course. My pleasure. You take care, man. All right. You too. All right. All the best. Bye. Bye.


Hey, it's me. Ken had a great childhood defiant against his excessive schoolwork. Challenge to accelerate basketball, which he loved, but treated equally in his family of adoptees in biological children. Like many adoptees. He was catalyzed to search when he looked into the faces and features of his own children. When Ken found his birth mother, she said she always knew he would find her. I loved hearing that Ken was able to report that he had never been a drinker, as I'm sure that piece of his future was a grave concern to his birth mother. And I really [00:43:00] appreciated hearing that his adoptive mother took a deep breath and prepared herself to meet Ken's birth mother. That's not an easy relationship To confront after decades as Ken's mother and Ken admitted That he was uncomfortable.

Like time had uncontrollably slowed. But everyone made it through. And Ken learned that his people pleasing tendencies can be pushed aside and replaced with feelings of natural comfort when he is interacting with his birth mother. I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Ken's journey that inspired you. Validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you. to have this strength along your journey to learn who am I really.

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