Today my guest is Micheleana who lives outside of Kansas city in Lawrence, Kansas. Micheleana's early life was tumultuous after her parents divorced. Her adoptive mother passed away suddenly, and she was abandoned by her adoptive family. Incredibly her birth father walked right into her life twice and she didn't even recognize him.
Unfortunately, she got an unexpectedly awkward introduction to her birth mother that may have set the stage of continued uneasiness between them when it comes to really getting to know one another. This is Micheleana's journey
[00:00:00] Damon: Hey, it's Damon. Just a quick note to say, thanks for listening to season nine of the, who am I really podcast? It's time for a break from production to celebrate the holidays with friends and loved ones. And I've got a few things on my to-do list.
I plan to do some writing. Start recording for season 10. Shore up some loose ends with my real estate investments and check in on my adoptive mother, Veronica and my birth father, bill. I share these things with you to remind you that we're all human, we're all going through something uniquely special to us in our lives.
When you hear and adoptee's story on who am I really it's told only from that moment in time when they've chosen to share their story with me. That person's life goes on and their feelings about adoption, their relationship with their adoptive or natural families or other elements of their life may have changed. I hope you'll join adoptee support groups in person or online, share your stories or support others in Facebook groups on Instagramor on other [:
Cold Cut Intro[:
Unfortunately, she got an unexpectedly awkward introduction to her birth mother that may have set the stage of continued uneasiness between them when it comes to really getting to know one another. This is michelina's journey
Micheleana grew up in a small town in rural Kansas, her adoptive parents divorced when she was five years old. Michelina's adoptive father was in and out of her life, but they didn't have a very good relationship and he's not the greatest guy to use her words. She was raised by her single mother and they moved around a lot from town to town so she moved from school to school[:
And then, , when I was 17, my mom passed away and events leading, like from that was when, , I was told again that I was adopted and that's kind of what fueled my search shortly after that.[:
What was the setup?[:
And her and I were just extremely close. And I think maybe I might've had some emotions of, you know, not only confusion, but maybe some anger. And I, I can remember just crying and just being upset and her, you know, kind of just dropping it. And then we ne neither her or I ever brought it up again, after that.[:
[00:05:02] Michelena: Yes. I, I do remember feeling like confusion. , I feel like at that time it kind of solidified a lot of things that I felt with my adopted family, because we were so different.
I, I always kind of felt a little different from everyone in my family. Aside from my mom, I always remembered just feeling like I fit with her, she never made me feel like I was different in any sort of way or anything like that. But kind of when I, like, after finding out that, , I was adopted, yeah, I was still feeling confusion and, um, probably some anger from that.
[00:06:12] Michelena: Yeah, it was, it was, I remember it being a lot. And then, yeah, like you said, just like the lingering emotions from there, you know, leading up ship puberty. And, , I think I was probably a typical teenager. I kind of was a little bit rebellious and I'm not so sure that, you know, that conversation that I had with her when I was 10, didn't have something to do with some of my rebellion.[:
So I I'm not, I don't, I don't want to put emotions in words, you. I'm imagining what a teenager might feel hearing at 10 and living with that knowledge going into their teenage years.[:
So I think that kind of, it sparked a lot of emotions that I think, followed me throughout my teenage years.[:
Why, why were you so close? Do you think share interests? What was,[:
I, you know, I felt like she always had my best intentions, you know, just as any mom would. I never felt like she didn't love me or like her love was conditional or anything like that. And I was her only child. So, you know, growing up with just her, mostly we did a lot of things together. We always spent a lot of time together, and she was like my best friend.[:
You never brought it up again. And then just a few short years later, she's gone. What happened now? Was that for you?[:
And it was determined that she had a brain aneurysm that is a very sudden unexpected, , situation. It was a lot.[:
And I mean, at the end of the day, it's unbelievable that she just dropped dead out of nowhere. That must've been so scary.[:
And may she passed away in September? , yeah. And so she was recovering from , her bypass surgery. She kind of had like a new outlook on life and was just really, I mean, maybe just finding herself again and yeah. And then that happened and it was, it was very traumatic. It was a lot. And that was my first real experience ever losing someone, I think [00:11:00] like starting out with like the, you know, single most important person in your life.
It was, it was a lot.[:
[00:11:22] Michelena: Wow. Yeah. Yeah. So[:
Your primary caregiver is gone. What happened in the aftermath of her passing[:
So I can remember like vividly, like coming home and going to get like clothes. And like some of my schoolbooks and our locks were changed on our house. And, um, this is my, I guess, a little pre-phase to that. My mom in the hospital that she passed away in was about three hours from our, from where we lived.dparents to get into my home.[:
So it turned out like my mom's siblings kind of went in and picked over what they wanted from my mom's items. , I was told that some of the things would be put into storage that I would receive when I was of age or like when I moved out onto my own and, yeah, it, there was that, but my adopted dad, he did not reach out.
He, I, I don't know who told him about her passing, but he, he did not attend the funeral. He didn't, he didn't reach out. So yeah, I ended up moving on with my friend at the time and her family. Oh[:
You're telling me like within the same day or days after your adoptive mother's passing, her siblings have been to the house taking her stuff. And your adoptive grandparents have changed the [00:14:00] locks. Yes, absolutely unreal.[:
[00:14:20] Damon: right?
Yeah. That's a, that's a stark indication of the character of the people that you're dealing with. I mean, to basically loot somebody's house immediately after their passing is awful. But to also leave the child of your, this woman out in the cold, say, you need to know your stuff. Go through me is also very callous.[:
[00:14:47] Damon: How were they , I think I know the answer to this, but how were they in your grief?[:
You know, we'll make sure that you finish out your senior year, anything like that. So that was kind of where my, um, my friend's mom and stepdad kind of were like, Hey, we want you to make sure that you finish out your senior year, you know, and you're welcome here. And, and that's kinda how that got how that ended up going.
[00:15:47] Michelena: Yeah, very hurt. I didn't, you know, I mean, like I said, that was my first experience at death and grief and yeah. I didn't know, you know how to [00:16:00] navigate any of my grief or you know, where to like go and figure out things I didn't and not having your family who you think are supposed to love you and care about you.
When you know you, you're going through one of the worst moments in your life, there doing what they did. So it was, this is a lot.[:
[00:16:29] Michelena: Yeah. Yeah, I did. I lived with my friend and her mom and stepdad and stayed in school and focus on my studies and that sort of thing and ended up graduating.. So that was, that was a godsend that they opened their home and allowed me to live there.
And you know, of course didn't charge rent or anything like that, or just their main rule was you have to stay in school and finish high school.[:
You know, as an adult, like if that happened to me as a, you know, at this age, I would be like, what the hell is going on? You're 17, you got no resources, you've got nowhere to go, but check the box. These folks have stepped in and given you a home and, and giving you the guidance to say finish school. But I mean to actually do it, like I could see things going dramatically off the rails and the fact that they didn't for you, that you forced your way forward is really awesome.[:
So I owe a lot [00:18:00] to her family.[:
She tried to access the document at the hospital. But didn't have any look.
The situation is foggy for her, but she remembers hoping her aunt would be a resource for her. So she asked about how to get her birth certificate, the woman worked for a medical office in town. So when Michelina asked for more information, Her aunt called Michelina into the office to chat[:
And I remember her telling me, , to not go searching, that they weren't good people. , and you know, that was that as far as that conversation and of course, you know, I'm like, okay, well, you're going to tell me not to go looking so naturally I want to go look, you know, so that's kinda when that's sparked.
And, , I don't quite remember like how long after my mom's death that that happens. It wasn't long, like maybe within a year. And, , coincidentally at that, in that timeframe, my adopted father. Had reached out to me. So we were like communicating, , via email. And, , that's when I asked him, I'm like, well, Hey, like I just kinda had this bomb dropped on me again.lling me anything. Like, can [:
, Grandparents. He knew their names. , he was like, I'll, you know, I'll tell you whatever you want to know. Okay. So , , he provided me like names. Um, I think he told me like my biological father's like year that he graduated high school. I think he knew that my biological father went on to have more children.
So that's when I learned like, okay, wow. I may have, you know, siblings out there. So that's really what I think ignited me wanting to find my biological family.[:
It [00:21:00] is a lot. And you're young still and haven't been trauma. Like I don't, I, it's not lost on me that this is only a couple of years later. You were what? 20 years?[:
[00:21:23] Damon: real unreal.
So how did you go about like this? He knows who they are, so, yeah. So how did tell me about the search?[:
And. Unlike my first day, like I am [00:22:00] we're in the break room and this older gentleman walks up and I say older, but at that time, probably like what I thought was like forties.[:
[00:22:11] Michelena: guy, it was like this ran, you know, random guy. Um, he walks up to me and the break room and was like, Hey, do you feel like the green bay Packers?
And I'm like, oh, what the hell? Like, who, like, who are you? You know, like, how do you, like, how do you know that I like the green bay Packers? And, um, he was like, well, I substitute taught you in high school. And I remember like that you liked the Packers. And I was like, oh, I was like, well, yeah, like I do, you know, whatever.always very nice, like just [:
you know, this various things about his life and this isn't, like I said, this is where it's really weird because at that same timeframe is when I was getting the information from my adopted father about like names and that sort of thing. And I remember, you know, my boyfriend at the time, he was like, man, what's up with this old guy, like talking to you every day.
And like, I'm like, I don't know. Like, I don't know, just he's friendly. He's not like he doesn't give me the creeps or anything, , so when my adopted father told me that. Name of my biological father. I was at a friend's house on the computer, reading the email from my adopted father. And he told me the name.work with, that's his name, [:
And then like, as the emails from my adopted father are coming in, I'm reflecting back on my conversations with this guy at Amazon. And I'm like, okay. It was like, well, he did mention he's from the, you know, small town, which my adoptive father confirmed that, you know, he was from a small town called Cherryville Kansas.
And I was like, whoa. Okay. It was like, Cherryville is not big, you know? , He was like, he graduated, I think like late eighties. And I was like, okay, well, I was born in 88 and he was like, he had other kids and this guy had told me that he had kids andSoundlong
[00:25:00] Damon: Yes.[:
[00:25:04] Damon: But wait, he said he had substitute taught you.[:
[00:25:15] Damon: So you've known this dude, like you didn't know, you don't really know what your substitute teachers, but you have been introduced to this guy and he knows enough about you to ask about the Packers.
And now you're working next to him at Amazon. That
, you know, tell them my name kind of told them, like the [00:26:00] areas that I lived in and with a name like mine, you know, no one, no one has that name. So when he saw my name on the roster that day that he was substitute teaching at my high school he's he was like, oh my gosh. So, and he didn't know,
When he was subbing, you just didn't know who he was, what?
Correct. Yeah. And he didn't know if I knew I was adopted. So he, he had to, I can't even imagine the composure that he had to try to maintain, but yeah. Had to try to compose himself to know that his biological kid is about to walk through the door and he's going to spend, you know, however long teaching her.[:
[00:26:58] Michelena: Yeah. Yeah.[:
Micheleana ended up parking outside and psyching herself up to go knock. Sean wasn't home but his brother answered the door[:
[00:28:03] Damon: What's so crazy about that is like, there's a reunion happening that is unspoken, right. Clearly there to meet Sean uncle clearly knows who you are. You can tell, but nobody's saying, oh my God, it's you? Or, oh my gosh, I'm so glad to meet you. There's like this. Right of sort of acknowledging one another without acknowledging one[:
Yeah. Yeah. And I'm sure like your grandfather,[:
[00:28:33] Michelena: Yeah, it was cool. He was very receptive, very nice. And he was like, well, let's like, let's come in. You know, it's, it's hot outside. And, , he came in and he was like, I need to call your, you know, I need to call his wife and. , so I, like, I sat down in a chair in their living room and he called her and , I don't think he told her over the phone, like, what's going on?re. And, , she walked in the [:
A couple hours later and , that's when he was like, oh wow. You know, like you figured it out, you know? And, and he that's when he did confirm, like, while I was telling you all that information at, at Amazon, because he was like, I wanted you to have that, you know, if someday you were to go searching that you would have some, you know, some sort of information.[:
[00:29:47] Michelena: Yeah. It was, it's like a, like a lifetime movie or something. It felt like.[:
[00:30:00] Michelena: He drove over, he lived in a town also about 15 minutes from the town that his parents lived in.
So he drove over that evening. And, , we, we went for a walk and he just kind of, I think he, you know, tried to give me the best version of everything from his point of view. And, you know, told me about my siblings and it turned out, you know, I went from being, , an only child growing up to, I learned that I was the oldest of five.
So yeah, he's telling me about that, telling me about, you know, his life and, , you know, what transpired between he and my biological mom and kind of, you know, everything since then[:
Did he share why you were relinquished into.[:
And they knew that they weren't going to be together. And that they just felt like this was the best decision for me[:
[00:31:27] Michelena: it's it was tough. It, you know, it was, it was a lot, I, you know, at the time I felt like I was just taking it all in and trying to be understanding, , Yeah, I dunno. It was a lot, it was a lot to hear why, and, you know, knowing that they were a little bit older, you know, was kind of, that was kind of hard to hear, you know, that they were, you know, of age, they were 18 at the time.was, that was kind of tough. [:
[00:32:01] Damon: Yeah. It's its own age, but it's still young. Don't know that much. You know what I mean? It's in all the decisions are not your own either, you know, there's a lot that could have been in the background as well. That's[:
[00:32:34] Damon: Yeah. Let's, let's be real, like an 18 year old is. It's a very rare 18 year old that is completely in charge of their life and is in the position of making, you know, long-term decisions. And so there were certainly probably some things in the background that were influential over your adoption as well.[:
I was still in the living room and had went into the kitchen and I could hear her, like on the phone, I wasn't sure who she was calling, but she brought in the phone and like handed it over and was like, here's your mom? And that was something that I, that day, you know, I was not intending on facing at that time.
You know, I, I was excited to meet Sean and, was kind of just looking forward to that. Wasn't really planning on dealing with that yet. And that it kinda got put, you know, put on me pretty quickly. The same day. Yes. Yeah., her reaction was the same, [:
And yeah. Yeah, that was, that was a lot.[:
[00:34:24] Michelena: Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was the big one.[:
It wasn't a choice. You didn't. It doesn't sound like you said, you know, Hey Sean, would you mind connecting me with her or anything like that? It was just kind of hurled over the fence at you and you had[:
[00:35:05] Damon: After that brief, unexpected, awkward phone conversation. Michelina and her birth mother began texting one another. Her birth mom, Kathy lived in the same town Sean did about 20 minutes from Michelina's home. The women agreed to meet at a park in Michelina's community for their reunion.
Michelina made the decision to meet her birth mother by herself, despite her then boyfriend offering to accompany her for support.[:
[00:35:39] Damon: Yeah. And how was that? She didn't tell you they were coming .[:
[00:36:06] Michelena: Right, right. At a time. Yeah. I mean our very first encounter and it, yeah, it didn't. Happened the way that I maybe thought that it should have or wanted to, he, her husband, very, very nice guy.
He was very respectful, , that we, you know, it was more just like a casual, like friendship meetup, almost it didn't, we didn't talk about anything adoption related or anything like that. So it was, it was, it was a little awkward, I guess you could say a little[:
[00:36:44] Michelena: know, I, I'm not sure.ve never, still fully talked [:
[00:37:03] Damon: What's your sense of that? Like, now that you've been in contact for a while, is your sense that she's not the kind of person who opens up about stuff like this, or is your sense that your uncomfortable, awkward start set the stage for the rest of it to be uncomfortable and awkward and therefore sort of an unbreachable discussion?[:
I don't want people knowing a lot about me. Third sort of [00:38:00] thing though. I, I definitely think that our very first time meeting , , maybe set the bar I think she has maybe a lot of shame or embarrassment surrounding the adoption and I don't think she got the appropriate, , counseling or support or anything after the adoption. And then I think kind of just buried it and kind of tried to move on with life. And, you know, I think you see the effects of that with her to this day between her.[:
So she never really dealt with that stuff until all came back. [00:39:00] And that makes it hard because you've got compounding problems. There's the challenge of the person standing there before you, as it were quote unquote right there now here.
And you haven't addressed the stuff leading up to them being here either.
You got to cope with both at the same time. That's a lot to do with.[:
So it, it's definitely a challenge trying to navigate her and I's relationship because of some of that.[:
[00:40:03] Michelena: Yeah. I've, I've asked a couple of times, , she just says that she's a private person and, , that it's just, it's hard for her and that she doesn't really want to kind of go back and relive.
Those moments. And I've tried to be very, you know, respectful and understanding to that because I, you know, try to put myself in her situation and understand how hard it really must be for her, but also trying to, you know, for myself as well, give myself what I, I feel like I need and, um, you know, try to find answers about my life and, you know, being able to, I think have, , a good relationship I feel like is it's important for her.And I had to have those [:
[00:41:17] Damon: Yeah. I agree. And I wonder. I thought about, I'm thinking about, um, thinking of offering you things to say, if you haven't said them already, and one of them is along the lines of, I know this is hard for you, but you have to also sort of recognize I wasn't there and I kind of need this for me, and then maybe let her know, like, I'm not gonna, I'm not going to judge you and I'm not gonna drag this out, but I really would like to know, because this is a big missing piece of how my life unfolded over here in this adopted family.ust help her understand that [:
And it's really tough.[:
[00:42:45] Damon: Michelina is the oldest of Sean's four children, including herself and the oldest of Kathy's two children. Michelina shared that her younger brother Kathy's son is also an adoptee. When she told me that I [00:43:00] realized it added a whole new layer to Kathy's inability to discuss placing Michelina for adoption because she had adopted her son years later.[:
[00:43:25] Damon: Um, how then, you know, I often ask people how they get along with their biological siblings, half are whole, but I'm interested to know about you and this other adoptee of your biological mother.
Did she allow you guys to connect? Are you in touch? Do you chat at all?[:
So him and I have never, we've never talked about it. , I, I kind of get the impression that it would make her uncomfortable with him and I were to ever have that conversation. So I'm trying to be respectful to the fact that he's also, you know, he's 15 and I don't want to, go there with a lot of like really heavy adult conversations with him either.
So. That's that's also where , I'm trying to, you know, learn how to navigate, being a, being a sibling and I, you know, I didn't have that. So I'm like, I don't know how to be like a, an older and older sibling. So[:
She's an adoptive mother. Her adoptive son is younger than you. So he's, you know, possibly not ready to even think about this stuff. . And so there's the, I want to know everything that I can from her. And I would like to connect with him, support him, whatever it is, but there are two completely different approaches to adoption in the same house.
[00:46:08] Damon: yeah. Yeah. Wow. So did you, you know, one of the things that happens a lot with adoptees is we look for stuff that are, we are alike with. You look like your mom. Do you look like your, your Bert? Do you look like your birth? Mom? Do you look like your birth dad? Do you. Commonalities between you like shared interests, mannerisms, , what's the nature versus nurture for you?[:
, her and I were built kind of the same where we're kind of the same build. And I feel like her and I do look quite a bit of like, she, she has shared that she doesn't think we look anything like, so that, that's kind of interesting, but, , my dad's genes definitely are, are pretty strong . , my half siblings, we have a lot of the same features and, uh, yeah.
And I think Sean and I, we have like commonalities as far as sports. He's real big into sports. So we have that in common. Personality wise. I would say I'm probably more like him. I, I still don't have like a really good feel for how she really is that I, I definitely think there are some similarities there as well.[:
Oh my gosh. Michelina, you knew this guy as a substitute teacher, and then you worked next to him [00:48:00] for months. Yeah. But you know, I can't help thinking that there's often this theme among adoptees, where we talk about sort of looking for mirrors and looking for people that we look like in the crowd.
Right. I would go on vacation and be looking for people there, or , I would be in my hometown, like you hear adoptees say I would go to the, the town where I knew I was adopted in. And I would be looking for people that looked like me, but here, this guy walked right into your life and you feel like you look like him now that you know, you didn't, you couldn't see it before.
And it's just a fascinating phenomenon of sort of really wanting to find it out there on your own by virtue of just looking at someone and feeling like you look like them, but then. You know, not even seeing it, when it walks right up to you and asks, do you still like the Packers? You know?[:
I knew like growing up, like, I, I didn't look like any of my adopted family, but, you know, and [00:49:00] then later on discovering, you know, like I, I was indeed adopted it, it, that made sense. But then yeah, once I discovered my adopted family and thought like, wow, that kind of all makes sense. I didn't look like anyone, but I look like all of these people now, so[:
So how are you doing now? You have experienced the loss at a young age. You have found that these folks, some of whom you look like and, and sort of have this awkward introduction to your birth mom, who most people look for first, but your biological father found you first. Like you've had a lot happen.
How are you doing.[:
You know, kind of having that support and knowing that, this could be tied to being adopted, that's been a really. Good thing for me to have, , as far as support and filling that in, I I'm, I'm married now. I have two children on my own who are simply amazing. So it's, been a joy being able to experience being a mother and having, you know, a family of my own.siblings. So it's just still [:
[00:51:08] Damon: I love that. That's really great.
Yeah. Well, Michelina, thanks so much for sharing this incredible story. I just think, you know, I'm always marveling at people who end up being friends with working with knowing somehow a biological relative, and you've brought yet another one of those amazing stories. And I'm so glad that you know, you and Sean are getting along and I'm hopeful that you and Kathy can find a way to sort of have a more open discussion and at least, , build some trust that it sounds like you're really missing. So I wish you the best of[:
[00:51:45] Damon: Thanks for being here. I appreciate it. Take care. All right. All the best.[:
Thank you so much, Damon. Bye bye. All right, bye bye.
Admittedly, she wasn't looking for him, but how crazy is it that she had two encounters with him before they were reunited? It was kind of a shame that her paternal grandmother just dialed up her birth mother and put the women on the phone together. I think there's something healthy about anticipating reunion and having an opportunity to try to process it a little bit. So having there's rammed in the middle of Michelina's reunion with Sean, wasn't the best start.gate as a family in reunion. [:
I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Michelina's journey that inspires you. Validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really?