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204 - I Don't Mean That Much To Them
Episode 20413th May 2023 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:36:52

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Today you're going to meet Joe, from New Jersey. Joe is a pseudonym for the true identity of my guest who wanted to remain anonymous. Joe didn't want for anything in adoption, but he's never been very open speaking about his adoptee status either. He said his reunions are complex because his paternal side has embraced him connecting with them. But his maternal side has placed roadblocks In front of Joe's progress to try to meet his birth mother.

Joe told me he just wants to thank her for the life she gave him.

This is Joe's journey.

Who Am I Really?

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Cold Cut Intro


[00:00:00] Joe: at this point I'll keep it 100 with you, man. Ultimately, I'm looking to find my birth parent to say what I need to say and you know, if she's not accepting me, she can kick rocks.

It's cool. I mean, I, I would love to a relationship, but I'm not going to go anywhere that I ain't wanted. And for whatever reason, . I don't know why, what my existence means to her. Like, that obviously doesn't mean much at all because she's felt the way that she felt about me.

Show Intro


Joe said he just wants to thank her for the life she gave him. This is Joe's journey.

At the time we spoke Joe's beloved wife was in the hospital. He said it was a rough time because they've been together for three decades and genuinely enjoy spending time together. So it was hard to see his life partner that way. Joe does not want to be identified. Joe is a pseudonym.

To protect his true identity. Joe said his childhood was good in adoption.

In his life, his adoptive mom is his real mom. She's the woman who's always been there for him. Joe Grew up in a rough city in new jersey


[00:01:59] Damon: when I [00:02:00] hear you say we have the same issues as any black city in America, my mind automatically goes to.

Some of the negative portrayals that are in the media, you know some violent crime, some drugs, and inequitable opportunity. You know, lack of a good education, poor housing, , unavailability of, , good food choices. Are these the kinds of things you're referring



[00:02:31] Damon:

Let me ask you about your family specifically. Tell me a little bit about your family growing up. Were you an only child? Did you have brothers and sisters? And, and how were your, your interactions with your mom and dad?


But I mean, I can't recall exactly when I found out that That I was adopted. It, it was somewhere in my [00:03:00] recollection, in between seven and probably 10 years old that I found it out. And I, I don't quite recall exactly how the conversation arose. I think it, it started maybe with me asking why I don't look like my cousins, you know, or my cousins look like each other.

But I don't look like nobody, pretty much, well, my father who raised me, he's from Jamaica and you know, he is dark-skinned like me. I'm, I'm rather dark.




I mean, you're mommy like, you're my mother. I'm, I'm happy to have you. So I'm, I'm happy I wasn't lacking anything, through my childhood. [00:04:00] Actually. I was grateful, you know?


You were grateful.


Then she put me in a she put me in I went to a regular public school, but seeing as she was a teacher, she knew the school in the part of town that had the best school in my city, that, that had the highest like grades So my, my mom I caught the bus from the south to the west.

And I went to that school in the West ward that had the the highest test scores in the city, like year after year. And you



[00:04:59] Joe: Yeah. And [00:05:00] in high school I went to you you heard of Seton Hall University?

I went to Seton Hall Prep. I went there for two years and then I went to St. Benedict's Prep for, and graduated from there.


cool. That's, that's great to hear that amidst all of the challenge, your parents were really striving to push you forward.

Now I say parents, and you've spoken about your mom quite a bit. Tell me a little bit about your interactions with your dad.


I think what he knew was soccer. I mean, as a little kid, you don't care what you do. You just, I mean, I, I live near park down here. I live park is a block away. grass playground, you know, everything that a park, you know, has, space and [00:06:00] opportunity. But pop never really took me to the park.

I could, I could probably count on one hand the amount of times he took me to a park. I mean, I don't care if he would've taught me soccer or what. He knew it didn't matter. That's daddy. So whatever they teach you, they teach you, you know? Right. So, you know, I guess I, I kind of immersed myself in the sports, you know, when I was young.




Mm. You know? Mm-hmm. So you know, he did expose me to some of that. Like, we, we did that as a family, mom, dad, and me. So, you know, when I got older, like maybe in my teens, the Yankees used to play the Red Sox around my birthday, so he used to take me to those games and whatnot. and[00:07:00] I but a lot of my godparents, I call them auntie, you know, auntie and uncle.

Yep. You know, everyone knew the dynamic of you know, My, my, my mom's close friends knew, knew that, knew my situation. I don't really talk about it. and anyone who doesn't know me, I don't just come out and share like right away. Like, I really actually don't share with anybody.

It's not anybody's business really. And I, I've always kept that close to the vest.



stance is.

I, I don't like, people, their, their mind goes somewhere different, you know, different places when they hear that, you know, I've, I've gotten everything.

and this. I just don't want [:

That's a really

good point. You're absolutely right. People will take something intimate that they've learned about you and begin to see you through that lens with everything, and it can be an unfair prejudgment that you don't deserve. Right. Just because they've got some intimate detail that, that, could matter very much or might not matter at all.

Yeah. Agreed.

close enough attention, they [:

But Joe never said a word to anyone outside of his family. It sounded to me like Joe, wasn't really struggling with his adoption. So I asked him what motivated him to search for his biological family connections. Later in his life. When Joe was a senior in high school, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. On Memorial day of that year, she went into the hospital And then she passed away in the middle of July. After her death, Joe continued a lifelong habit of reading through old documents in his house, a habit he had since he was a child.

He found an adoption record with the name of the adoption agency. He assumed he was quote, brokered through to use his terminology. Joe was born in New York.

Uh, state with closed adoption records at the time of his decision to start searching. However, he was able to get access to his non identifying information. I asked joe what he learned from gaining access to his non-identifying information

Well, actually I have two [:

So they were kind of vague with it a little bit back when I did that in 94. you know, you try to find things that you have in common. you know, like what did the person look like? I found out that my birth mother was a dark-skinned, complexion like me.

I found out she had hay fever, which I developed in high school. And it, the severe hay fever was, was the one thing that I, I guess we could say I held onto that I could say like, there's somebody else out there that I share this with. Yeah. because of re a relationship, you know? Yeah.

e one thing that I held onto [:

Joe learned that at the time of his placement, his birth mother was 18 and his birth father was 17. After the agency shared all they could about Joe. They told him about the New York state adoption reunion registry, where he could register to be reunited with his birth family. If Joe's birth family had also registered to find Joe, then he would be reunited with them.

Joe never applied to the state reunion registry. The letter with non identifying information had been like gold to him representing his family. Even though the details were scarce about who they were

done years ago, but I never [:

Like I, I, I found out that banks are supposed to do it for free, you know, if you have an account there, most of 'em have notary publics. Yeah. And that's where I had it notarized a couple of years ago, but I never, I never just got the envelope and, and sent it off. I just never did.

Yeah. Right. Yeah. I never followed through.

Yeah. You know, so you got it done, got it notarized, and then it just sat there and you never really completed the process. So it expired and you had to do it again recently.

Yep. Yep. that's exactly what happened. Why do you think you could mail it in previously?

I've been with my wife since [:

Life was great. I, I wound up meeting the person that I was going to be with, and, you know, I was pretty happy that that was that was something that wasn't, that was kind of important to me. But I guess the difficulty in Make it some type of connection. Just you know, I didn't know that it would, it would wind up like that.

I thought maybe I could go through a back door or something and find out some type of information or that co would help me. I thought I could find a rather easily, like when I found that envelope. And I didn't understand the dynamic of everything the closed adoptions, the open adoptions and things like that.

So I just you know, I was living my best life at the time. I was. Okay.


that's what I'm hearing. It sounds like you, you know, despite the loss of your mom, you had a great life as a family growing up and you didn't want for anything. You've said that more than once, and then you found your wife.

ll not wanting for anything. [:

[00:14:23] Joe: Yeah. Pretty much, I mean, in the back of my mind, I still wanted to know, but it wasn't like, I guess you could say in the forefront it wasn't eating at me. You know, , there were certain things that I guess, you know, you naturally want to know, but it, you know, I just never followed through with it.

I just I procrastinated on it. I and then, like I said, I renewed my interest in it maybe like a few years ago.


[00:15:18] Joe: Him and I are actually the type people that. giving our DNA up, you know, conspiracy theorists, you know, we, we grew up in the seventies, man.

You know, , I ain't just giving my DNA N up. Like that's something that's intimately, like they could put you at the scene of a crime. They, you know, someone got your dna n you know, it's all kind of things involved with it. That, that just doesn't seem like what makes you, you, you don't just want to give it up , like as easy as, they say.


T's reunion story had ended with positivity and T wished the same for Joe. Joe bought a DNA test when it went on sale, but he waited to submit the sample for months as he gathered the strength to send his DNA away for analysis. When his results came back, Joe was able to find his birth mothers and his birth father's family online.


I didn't find her on Ancestry, but I found her family on Ancestry. I found parts of , my birth mother and birth father on Ancestry. So the dynamic between my, birth father, his family, like, we're, we're great. Like I, I, I've met cousins that I have that grew up Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant in New York and Brooklyn.

e like, I guess you could say[:

Kitts and Nevis, , and they, they were part of the British West Indies, sugar cane and all, all those things down, in those Caribbean islands. But they lived in, you know, a Caribbean neighborhood in In Brooklyn.


[00:17:32] Joe: crazy? Wow. Yeah. And I, well, I also found out that my grandfather's father had like something like 32 kids. . I guess he, he was about it.

I don't know what to say. That, that side of my family just you know, they, they procreate bro.

elf, how many of those folks [:

I mean, I, I gotta, I gotta have a high percentage of folks in that country that have d n a that I share.


Joe's maternal family and paternal, family's kind to know one another. His paternal aunt was friends with one of his maternal aunts, and they hung out in some of the same circles. Their families went to the same church in the bushwick section of new york city


Mm-hmm. You know, those are the two like people from each side that I share the most d n a with [00:19:00] that I got in touch with immediately. once I got the hit, and when I spoke to my uncle, he was almost like a a parent type, big brother.

He wasn't like a big brother that you would think of. One thing I, I found about my birth father, is that he was in the streets and he was big in martial arts. He was nice with his hands. he was one of 'em cats you didn't wanna screw with, and everybody in this Brooklyn neighborhood knew it.

You just stayed out his way pretty much. he went to Vietnam and he had to locate, the uh, vie and smoke 'em out and like kill him. Like he, he was doing some crazy stuff over in Vietnam from my understanding. You know, that that's probably what led to his drug use and stuff.

Yeah. Wow.


[00:20:16] Joe: I, I didn't want him to do anything that would have him in trouble, I guess with his family. Cuz when you are the buried secret. Mm-hmm. You know, that no one knows about, you don't want to infiltrate somebody else's life. The one thing I wanted to do and I still want to do is to thank this lady for life.

You know, I mean, it was God's plan for me to be where I was. I know that, I mean, that's the way it was supposed to go on. But, you know, they had a back alley abortions and all kind of things going on, you know, when you are young and, and you know, in the sixties, you know, it's got, it was a, it was something totally different than the way it is now.

ngle parent households, like [:

Right. You know, and so I, I really just want to thank her for life and getting me here, , on earth. And, and then giving me that chance by giving me up possibly, you know, at the age that you potentially were not ready for. . So that, , that's ultimately what I, what I still want to do.

ten to me a little bit, like [:

Like this is what happened before, what you know, to be true now like, history is what tells you why it is what it is and you it's just so relevant on the here and now. . I've always been curious about history and that, you know, not knowing my history.

, it, I guess it does get to you at times, but that's not the end all, be all. Just in my life, it hadn't been because I was raised so good with great parents.

. So I, I ultimately, I wanna meet this lady.


[00:22:51] Joe: the challenging part is I don't want to infiltrate somebody else's family. You know, the few things that I do know is [00:23:00] that my, my birth aunt.

Actually went to school with the person that my birth mother wind up marrying. And she knows that , he doesn't know that she had a child. She actually disappeared and I was born in Staten Island.

Ah, you know, so she was sent away?

Yeah, she was sent away. I found out, like I got some more non-identifying information later on. Because I got another more detailed version of that later on, when I, I sought out the adoption agency again.

There's another adoption agency taking care of my records now because the one that I was adopted through is no longer in existence. . So, I got another version , the people were way more in depth than the first person that compiler information.

Mm-hmm. You know, so I found out a little bit more. Gotcha.


[00:24:15] Joe: Yeah. Family, family members.


[00:24:28] Joe: how you feeling?

Well, to this day, , to me, the holy grail is meeting this lady, like who I resided within for nine months.

that I have I have two half [:

And you know, I, like I said, I found out that she married probably about four years after I was born To this guy. And unfortunately, he just recently passed away. So, and I, do know, like I said through my aunt that, that this guy didn't know. That she had a child beforehand.

You know, I don't know, you know, how that would've been received in the late sixties, you know? Right. That might have been looked at. You know, sixties, I know they were real conservative, so where, where I'm at now, my cousin that I met that lives over here in Jersey, her nephew, keeps the information that he does know, close to the vest.

receptive to the fact that I [:

I, I immediately felt like, I guess you could say a connection. Per se, like I said to myself, I should have been the older brother to be able to help them get through life. Like the, I was supposed to be that dude, , the big brother, like the, the person that has information for you guys, like on this world, this ball we call Earth, you know, and just navigating life, you know?

that, that connection I felt like immediately in my head. But you know, eventually he wouldn't, , if he's found out information about something that she should be interested in or might wanna know, he can't keep that to himself. So he, he's tried to explain. To her.

she has an older brother and [:

at this point I'll keep it 100 with you, man. Ultimately, I'm looking to find my birth parent to say what I need to say and you know, if she's not accepting me, she can kick rocks.

It's cool. I mean, I, I would love to a relationship, but I'm not going to go anywhere that I ain't wanted. And for whatever reason, . I don't know why, what my existence means to her. Like, that obviously doesn't mean much at all because she's felt the way that she felt about me.

So, well, lemme



[00:27:52] Joe: Like what I, I, what I did was I did write like, I had to write this cuz it came straight from my heart onto [00:28:00] the paper. Like, I, I didn't, I didn't want to type it like I wrote this out. Mm-hmm. The five pages were for letters of my experience in you know, my trying to , find my real parents, you know. So I I wrote like a five page letter that I wanted him to forward to her.

Mm-hmm. But his last correspondence with her, He was trying to talk to her and prepare her, for the letter but, the conversation , didn't end that well. And , she sort of, you know, I skeptical about this whole thing.

The pushback that I got was mainly from this sister and this uncle that I have that's six years older than me, which is his father. Mm-hmm. Like, so, you know, his, his reasoning to him, he said, my sister wasn't pregnant when I was little.

amily was aware that she was [:

Yeah. And it also states that she went away to have the baby, for like a certain amount of time. Mm-hmm. You don't have the baby and then, you know, you pop up and you the same, virtually the same size that you were. And no one's none the wiser.


[00:29:51] Joe: he denies me too. He doesn't even wanna speak to me, you know, reaching that roadblock, Keeping him 100, he can kick rocks too. Yeah. You know, [00:30:00] I'm willing to talk if he's ever willing to talk, or if he wants to see the information. I make sure, like my cousin treats me like a cousin. Mm-hmm. Like, really, he, he knows that we're cousins and he's accepted me with open arms, you know, then that DNA doesn't lie, so. Right. He's made me feel super comfortable, but I, I understand the situation that, that he's in too. . And he, he says that he doesn't feel comfortable giving me like, information about her, but I never really had to ask him.

Mm-hmm. I got this information from my birth father's older sister. . You know, she gave me all of the tools that I needed to find, what I needed to find.

You know, like I got roadblocks from the from my birth uncle, he, he's never wanted to even communicate with me.

ow I wouldn't walk away from [:

Intimate details, right? Like, what, what's going on here? Like, I'm, I wouldn't just write him off , like, he was , nothing. So I guess you could say I feel some kind of way about him and about my birth sister, . To me, that's strange. That, that you would just write me off.

Without hearing more of the story or wanting to know more of the story. Right. The fact that my, my birth sister doesn't want to hear anything else about it. , that, that bothers me because I, I wrote that five page letter that may help her to understand my journey.

I mean I don't know. Like, I mean, people can't walk in my shoes. You can't know how another person feels. But you might have an idea to me. I don't know. I guess I, I kind of feel like I don't, I don't mean that much to them, to, to be concerned with my journey.

all. Or to see if there's a [:

[00:32:04] Damon: You know? That's right. And they, they haven't known you, you know, and they may not really care. You know what I'm saying? This is kind of the challenge that we have as adoptees, is that people haven't known us.

We've come sort of quote unquote out of the woodwork. I. And it can be really challenging to think, Hey, like, I'm a person and you should , take just five more minutes to get to know me just a little bit more before you just say, I'm out. I don't need this relationship. You know what I mean? And that's a really tough thing that we have to deal with.

So I'm sensitive to that. ,


Yeah. Would love to chat with him.

Oh man, I, I, I heard that. And actually he was born in Staten Island also.

ave been something else that [:

You hear, you hear the, you hear the soft, fluffy, good version of reunion stories, but then there, you know, I'm living the darker side of that, that's all. Yeah, that's right. You know?


So to come forward and, and share some of your own pain and struggle, Is valuable, not just, you know, to the adoption community, but to other guys specifically, because there's not a lot of men who come forward and share their stories either. So I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you so much for being here with me, man.

I appreciate it. I,


I ultimately found out about your podcast and you being a black male adoptee, you know, my understanding was that. Like, it's not a lot of us actually, I, I listen to a lot, couple of podcasts that's out there and it is, it is majority women, you know? And black male, like, we just, I don't know.

I haven't heard us represented too much out there, I want, you know, I felt like I wanted to share my story, with the world, you know? Mm-hmm. And


[00:34:46] Joe: Oh, no problem. No problem. I mean, it, there's healing involved for all parties,


Take care,


[00:35:06] Damon: man. Take care. Bye-Bye.


[00:35:14] Damon: Hey, it's me. Joe said he didn't want for anything in adoption. And I love to hear that for adoptees. He shared that he didn't look like his family, but he felt love for his mom and dad Who propelled his academic success by making sure he attended great schools. But Joe struggles with the complexity of his maternal reunion.

ased. So if she was avoiding [:

I was really glad that Joe reached out to me to chat man, to man about his journey. And it meant a lot that he chose this platform to help share his story with the world. For anyone else out there listening who would like to be anonymized or de identified, but you would like to share your story, please visit who am I? Really? I'm happy to change your name. Changed locations and details about your story And even alter how your voice sounds. If it will help you to share your adoptive voice with the world.



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