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157 - My Surreal Parents
Episode 1579th October 2021 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:54:50

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Ed called me from here in Maryland. He shared the sad, circumstances of his adoptive parents losing two children, but not really healing from the losses, feeling loyalty to his adoptive parents. Ed went on a clandestine search for his birth mother, found her then lost touch for years. All of which exacerbated his anxiety within him. Fortunately Ed reunited with his maternal and paternal sides and connected to his personal history in some unique ways. This is Ed's journey.


157 - Ed Knight

Cold Intro


I think, I think it's kind of natural, you know, I can understand it. I can, I have empathy for her, but I don't like her approach and just saying, no, don't do it.

Episode Open




When she was three months pregnant, the Pentagon basically forced her to resign, citing quote, ill health. When they documented the reason for her resignation. She was fired for being pregnant


And she said that when she saw my finger, she knew that I would be an artist like she was . So my biological father knew about my existence, but he was kind of in denial about paternity, , guess there was no DNA testing back then, and that gave him plausible deniability, I guess.

, anyway, he wasn't supportive and fair relationship. He had been kind of a Playboy at the time, at that time in his life, he had been irresponsible, although later, if he would have become a family man, but not until years later, that explains my adoption.

So , my birth mother told me that, um, she found a new boyfriend and he told her that he would help her to get me out of foster care because I was in foster care for three months.

And she believed that the [:

You know, otherwise she wouldn't be able to reclaim me.


[00:03:24] Ed: Yeah. That's got a heavy,


[00:03:34] Ed: Well, she told me that years later, actually even not when we first met, but years later it was, uh, yeah, it was kind of a shock to me. That was kind of difficult to hear.

I felt bad for her because it just struck me as very unfair, the whole situation, I'm not blaming my adoptive parents. I mean, I love my adoptive parents. , the system back then was very rigid and, , , I don't think that it was fair in the way that it worked out


Then ed was adopted in 1961. His sister was adopted when she was a toddler. After Ed's adoption the family left virginia moved west to california then back to montgomery county maryland five years later


So I thought that was very helpful. so my sister and I think that our adopted mother's alcoholism must be, have something to do with the loss of her biological children. Oh. And she had, uh, by the way, when I was four, they had a third biological child to sign and he also died at the same disease.


[00:05:23] Ed: Oh yeah. So it was really horrible. And then after that they had their more biological children, they gave up on that.

So when I was six that's when my adopted parents told me that I was adopted and that my older sister was adopted. And there were very nonchalant about it. That kind of helped. I mean, I didn't take it badly.

r life and she couldn't care [:

And I don't know. Looking back. I don't know if they were aware that she had tried to get me out of foster care. I have no idea if they were aware of that at all.

Yeah, probably not. Right. Because once an adoption sort of goes through, I don't, I, I don't think there's any sort of reconciliation with what transpired, you know, on the other end of the,

yeah, I think it was because of confidentiality.

I think they did know some things, but they probably didn't know that much.

Yeah. Right. And in that era, there was a lot of, shall we say falsehood? I mean the process, right. You know, they would, they would, they would make parents believe one thing about the mother and they would make the mother thing. I think a certain thing about the parents, you know, to sort of make it seem more final, you know?

irth mother wanted you back. [:

Yeah. So, yeah, I know my birth mother didn't know anything about who I was adopted by or anything like that. Um, and my, my, my, my adopted parents must've gotten some information like, my biological father was in the Navy and he was a pilot.

And I remember when I was a little kid and I was playing with a toy airplane. I think my adopted parents had given it to me. Um, and my, they were very excited that I was playing with this airplane and they made a big deal out of it. I didn't understand. I didn't make, I didn't think much of it at the time, but looking back, I'm wondering if they knew that my biological father had been a pilot and maybe they saw me playing with a toy airplane and I thought, oh yeah, Genetic or something.

like how much did they know? [:

I don't know how much of that they got. So it would've been nice if they had told me, you know, your natural mother was an artist, you know, that might've impacted my identity,


He had the sense that his adoptive father may have been hoping his son would grow up in that image. [00:09:00] And he may have been disappointed in ed. Ed also shared that at 13, he had made an important realization about his identity.


You know, although I could have done worse for adoptive parents or her parents period, they took it pretty well. But back then, especially that was, I think, difficult for parents to hear, you know, one of their kids is gay and, my adopted father, he was very good about it. I mean,

I think it came as kind of a, maybe a surprise or, you know, I think he was always measuring against my biological father who had been very, you know, this tough guy, a fighter pilot. And that's just not my personality at all. I take more after my biological mother, I guess




then, I told my father when I was 15, I think, but by then, my mother had probably told him, yeah, he, he took it pretty well. And he said that, uh, he and my mother had had a gay friend when they lived in San Francisco back when we were living in California for that brief time. and he had a cousin who was a lesbian and then that point on it, he would try to include her more and gatherings.

lieved in unconditional love.[:

And, so neither one of them was mad about it, you know, like, , like they didn't kick me out or anything like that. I mean, I could've, I could've done worse.

Oh my gosh. So much worse, so much worse. That's really awesome. That they were in a position to be accepting of what you came with them as part of your own identity, because

Let's face it back then. The, you know, the ideals of masculinity were pretty tight and there wasn't a lot of room for a young man to come out as gay. So for you to be able to admit that, you know, at 15, , was, was pretty admirable.


He told me when he [00:12:00] was eight years old, he had a temper tantrum and broke a bunch of pencils, alarming his adoptive father with his destructive behavior. His mother took him to see a psychologist, but she wasn't a believer in mental health support and she thought psychology was a crock. It was a popular sentiment decades ago


Sure. And then my mother. Became an alcoholic. And, , she did join AA. That was good, but my father didn't really process that. Well, you know, like, , he continued to have alcohol in the house and I thought to be supportive, he really should have stopped drinking at least in the house. And he didn't do that.

e mentality back then in the [:

And as I recall, it was about guitar lessons because she came from a very musical family and she wanted her kids her adoptive kids to be musical too. And I don't think that we really were, you know, cause we hadn't gotten that gene, but she really wanted us to be musical. And I just did not like the guitar lesson and I wanted to quit.

move my hands or my arms or [:

It was very weird. And I, at the time I climbed, I climbed into the bath tub and I was fully closed and I was dressed in sweat.

And then I asked my mother, after the episode had passed, I got out of the bathtub and I was having a conversation with her and I suppose that a nervous breakdown. And, , should I say, should I go back to see the psychologist again? And she said, well, psychology's are crock. So we didn't go back to see the psychologist, but, , I think that that had to do with, I think it was psychological.

, I don't remember if she took me to get checked for epilepsy. I mean, in retrospect that would kind of be a logical thing to do. But I'm not epileptic.

. So that was probably. When I talk about having anxiety, that's what I'm talking about. That was kind of an extreme example of my anxiety


[00:15:16] Ed: I want it to settle down because I wasn't nervous about. and we've been together ever since. And he's deaf. He taught me sign language. , so that was kind of, I was busy with that busy getting settled in my career. , and my adopted parents got divorced in 1985 and my mother was in a treatment program for alcoholism and that treatments program succeeded and she's was sober ever since then.


[00:16:01] Ed: , my adopted mother was very insecure about my sister and me ever searching for her birth mothers. at one point I was a teenager in high school and my sister was at college and she was home for the summer. And this is one of the few times that my adopted mother talked to us about adoption because my adopted mother had been reading a book by Christina Crawford since the adoptive daughter.

Oh, John Crawford. the book was mommy dearest,

and my adopted mother sided with John Crawford. And she was very mad with Christina because I guess because my adopted mother had was an alcoholic. She identified with Joan Crawford and she took her aside and she, she was mad at Christina and she said that Christina was just out for money. And, she should have been grateful to Joan Crawford and all of this stuff.

So she said that she was my [:

I think, I think it's kind of natural, you know, I can understand it. I can, I have empathy for her, but I don't like her approach and just saying, no, don't do it.

so when I started, I decided to search, I decided to just do it behind her back, you know, just not tell her, you know, just kind of secretive.

, okay, well, everything was [:



That's not going to go well. So yeah,


We carry around guilt. And I was [00:19:00] definitely still in that, in that guilt phase back then. But anyway, my curiosity just got the better part of me, I guess.


[00:19:32] Ed: at first I was thrilled and we started off by exchanging letters with photographs. And, , she told me that her parents. Well, my maternal grandparents had already passed away. So it's September 27th, 1993. I talked with her on the phone for the first time and we learned, we had a lot in common. We were both artistically inclined.

re both fans of an architect [:

When she was a teenager. That's like, wow, that's incredible. I mean, yeah. How common, I mean, it's not that he's an obscure architect. And he was pretty famous, but still how many teenagers geek out on Frank Lloyd Wright?

ou know, like the one that I [:

[00:21:03] Damon: I asked ed, if it was a relief to hear that the kind of episode he experienced when he was a teenager was in his biological history. He told me and adoptees life can be like a big puzzle. So it was good to get more puzzle pieces to work with. But he admitted it would have been nice to have known that portion of his family medical history years before. Back when he needed it I think that's a, as an adoptive, that's something that really bugs me. the system of adoption is the lack of family medical history, and that it's just not passed on to, or even if it's passed onto the adoptive parents, you know, at least in my case, it didn't get passed on to me.

es back then. Ed said it was [:

[00:22:11] Ed: , I was just on cloud nine the whole time that I was with them. I now I didn't really read up on how you're supposed to do or where union, you know, I went into it very naive, you know, like, uh, since that I've read advice.

You should bring some along with you for emotional support, you know, your partner or you shouldn't be in a neutral place, like, , a hotel lobby or something like that. I didn't know any of that stuff. So I just drove down there by myself and I, stayed as a guest in their guest room in their house and luckily it all worked out fine.

ve us both kind of a strange [:

Like he was abused. , you know, he would be smiling and shaking his head. That's awesome. So, yeah. So

external validation on how the two of you look together that you probably can't see super well because you're sitting next to each other and admiring one another, but for this therapy,

it must have been cool.

Yeah. And actually, I don't think we, the, we don't actually look that much alike. I think. , uh, I think it's more, I think I'm more like my biological mother on the inside and I'm more resembled my biological father on the outside, but we did have some family resemblance, but it's not, , it's not, it's not that striking anyway.

nd my birth mother, although [:

And she had, she was in a habit back then.. She had been in the habit of going to the track at American university and going jogging there. So she had access to jog on the track there. And while I was in college, I had also gone jogging on.

So my birth mother and I had both had the experience of jogging on the exact same track. Oh my

gosh. That's easy.

That's real

jogging there at the, in the same year that you were there too.

shoe was there earlier in the:

It's still


It's crazy.


And, um, some of our ancestors came through the Jamestown colony, which was the colonial Capitol before Williamsburg. So, um, that was interesting

proud of. I mean, they were [:

So I can't judge for myself, , that she said that her mother, like she would be listening to, , , black musicians on the radio and her mother would, were for not let her listen to black musicians. So that was the kind of the atmosphere that she was raised in, but she rebelled against it. , and anyway, if you go back far enough, I have ancestors who were in the Confederacy.

So yeah, that's makes me sad to know that, but it's good to know it. Sure, absolutely learn lessons from history.

I remember from that time of meeting them, the first meeting of the first few meetings was it all felt very surreal to me.

So sometimes people call your biological parents, your real parents, but I think of them as my "surreal" parents


[00:27:16] Ed: the main problem with our relationship is really on my side. And that was that I had this feeling of guilt, you know, that I, I was having divided loyalties and I also was worried because I was keeping it a secret.

I was worried about my adopted parents finding out. I did tell my adoptive sister that I had found my birth mother, cause we were at the beach on a family vacation and my sister and I were, standing apart from everyone else. You know, some people couldn't hear our conversation and my sister got very uptight, you know, and she, I asked, should I tell?

n a vacation with my adopted [:

Our dad, you know, that I found my birth mother and she was just very uptight about the whole thing. so I respected her. her choice that we not discuss it with my adoptive father. So there was my sister and I, because it was kind of a tech adoption was kind of a taboo subject in our adopted family.

nt along with it, In the late:

I was kind of resented presented that I felt a little bit rejected. it's some point I started having panic attacks. so this is my anxiety coming back. like at one point I thought I was having a heart attack and I went to the hospital and everything. So maybe you're having a panic attack and you should be seeing a psychologist.

So I, I made an appointment with a psychologist and, I don't remember if the topic of adoption came up because I was still kind of in a fog. And I, I knew I was suffering chronic anxiety. I didn't connect it to losing touch with my birth mother, but in retrospect, in retrospect, I totally think it was because I had lost contact with my birth mother, because now I know about, you know, the primal wound and all of that.

o I think that that fed into [:

, a baby separated from their biological mother there, they experience, , separation trauma and, you know, it's, it's something that's most people don't realize happens. , so that's, that was, uh, proposed in a book written by Nancy Verrier, a psychologist in California back in early 1990s. so anyway, uh, was I was having panic attacks.

h my birth mother. We didn't [:

[00:31:07] Damon: Late one night, ed was up watching television. When he saw an advertisement for a program for people suffering from anxiety. Lucinda Bassett said in the commercial that she was a motivational speaker who had also suffered from anxiety, but had learned a path to conquering hers. Offering to help others to find their way out of their anxiety with her program


that's what happened there.

That's really fantastic. You know, one of the things that I often say on the show is I think that people need to sort of open up and turn to.

show, and don't tell people [:

And, and they sometimes can offer you, you know, tools, tips, and resources for how to navigate situations. And it's great that you were able to find tools, tips, and resources from this woman's program in order to overcome something that had been challenging for years. That's really awesome.

Yeah, I think so.

I mean, it was a big help to me. Um, it was self-help basically. But I, I feel like, the psychologist that I saw when I was a child, and then again, as an adult, they missed it completely missed out on the adoption angle. In retrospect. I don't think they were what you would call adoption competent that they should have read.

I was an adult, by the time [:

[00:33:14] Damon: Years went by. Ed and his husband got married in 2009 when their union became legal. At home one day, ed decided to Google his birth father's name, Scott Purvis. He's kept his birth mother's identity private here because he wants to preserve her anonymity but he's comfortable sharing his birth father's identity because the man is deceased and he made history which ed will explain shortly


That's crazy. So I just kind of dismissed it. So, time went on and then in 2010, my adopted father passed away. , he had Lewy bodies dementia. It was very sad. then, in 2015, my adopted mother passed away from COPD. HD was a chain smoker and she never gave up smoking and she died of CRP D so that was, that was a pretty sad.

She was what I, I was there at her death bed and she had a smile on her face. And that would just really struck me. I never seen, I mean, I haven't seen many people die, but I'd never seen someone die with a smile on their face. So that was very reassuring to me that she had had it.

d to being reunited with her [:

Yeah, you're right. That's a really fascinating insight that, you know, children whom she had given birth to who, you know, part of this earth way too soon, I'm sure that they were on her mind every single day. And you, you're probably right. That's a really interesting that you were able to pick up on that.

so, um, we had her Memorial service in August and then after her Memorial service, it was like a light bulb, a light bulb went off and I decided it's really time for me to search for my biological parents. I need to reconnect with my birth mother and to search for my birth father. And I think it was because I had that divided sense of divided loyalties that was kind of gone.

ntion on her. And, , also my [:

[00:36:17] Damon: It took him a while, but in 2015, ed did a Google search for his biological mother. He said he kind of kicked himself for not searching and reconnecting with his birth mother before then, but he was kind of in the fog of it all feeling rejected by her since she hadn't been in touch. And there were several competing emotions within him.

He found her phone number at her new retirement home. When he called she answered the phone and the 18 year disconnected estrangement was over


And I thought I saw a resemblance

does her really look like me or is it just wishful thinking? You know, I set my head spinning, oh my gosh,


The daughter suggested they take a DNA test to prove their relation. If there was one. The parties met at a hotel halfway between their homes in maryland and virginia to do a paternity test


To be able to have conversations. So he couldn't, he couldn't live independently. He was living with his wife, , and she was his caregiver, but, , you could still have conversations. So, we met at this hotel and I was so nervous. I had so much anxiety about this meeting, blood pressure.

wo hours away. And, , we met [:

but he was polite. He was also very skeptical. He still thought that he wasn't the guy this whole time, my whole life, he had known about me, but he had it stuck in his head. He wasn't the biological father. so that was the that's the context. Okay. Um, well we had a, I guess you could say it was a pleasant meeting.

You know, I was polite. I was very nervous and a friend took our pictures because she wanted to get pictures there. Remember the three ladies, you know, looking at both of us, looking back and forth to see if there was a resemble. And I, I, I felt like I didn't see a resemblance. I was just, I got into this negative mindset where I was like, oh gosh, I must have contacted the wrong guy.

othing. You know, I felt bad [:

[00:40:18] Damon: It would take a couple of weeks to receive the results from the test. While he waited. Ed went to see a psychologist about his anxiety. For that therapy session. He brought a photo of himself with his birth father and thankfully the therapist verified that she solved their resemblance I was really excited to kind of hyper, um, during this period.


This is not a pleasant phone call. I was, so I got the phone call. I was at work. I was going on a walk, like during my lunch break and I got the phone call and I just, I was so nervous talking to her. I like, I couldn't continue to walking. So I had to sit down. So I just sat down by the side of this building because I just felt overwhelmed.

and I, I was talking with her and she was asking me all these questions. Like she was interrogating me, like, what do you want from us? , I know she was worried that I wanted money, that it was some sort of a scam. She was trying to protect her elderly parents from a con artist or something, but she was, she was asking me lots of questions.

a member of the family that [:

It's like, wow, she's going to welcome me a member as a member of the family. So even though it started off rough, it had kind of a nice thing. I had kind of a hopeful ending, you know?

Sure. It's it began with interrogation, but there was this conditional acceptance inserted in it too. Yeah.

I think she was kinda, she was, she was also kind of testing my reaction.

She was kind of pushing me to see how I would react under pressure.

Yeah, that's right. And she could get you to fold and she could prove that you were not the person that you said you were, right?

Yeah. Some, something like that, something like that. She's kind of, she kind of like. That's her role is to be the guardian.

I think we are

all protective of our parents.

verybody came friendlier and [:

And, , he had an increasingly difficult time remembering who I was. , but he still, he was talkative. He liked talking about if I asked him questions about his history, you know, he had a fascinating. Career. I was so interested. I asked him lots of questions about that, and he was happy to talk about his career as a jet, you know, as a fighter pilot.

he had, in the late:

And that's why he had the name in it in Antarctica and mountain Antarctica named after him. That was fascinating. I was so proud. I was just on cloud nine that whole time let's call it the honeymoon period. I was, I was so happy during that time period,

You you've referred to the honeymoon period though, you sound as if there's a descent coming, like you you've reached the peak and now you're headed down. Yeah. The honeymoon period is over. I mean, it might feel more the word of stable. Is that the word? I mean, I guess I don't want to say I'm an unstable person.

e for me. and I was on cloud [:

Eventually you come down from the peak, but it wasn't ever anything. It wasn't anything bad. Like I didn't like crash from that peak. , the whole, it's been a good experience for me meeting my biological family. Um, and I've met, , cousins on both sides, the maternal side and the paternal side, and everybody's been welcoming.

And now I'm at a stage where I'm introducing my adopted family and my biological family to each other, which is nice. I mean, I would like us all to be one big happy family. I think that's probably unrealistic, you know, but, , trying to like integrate these different parts of myself, that's what you have to do as an adoptee.

It's a lot of integration work and, , I feel like, , I'm making a lot of progress.


[00:46:05] Ed: I was asking her, do you think, is the family tree that he had put a lot of effort into compiling a family tree?

Do you think it might be on his laptop? she was very friendly and supportive and she gave me. Laptop. And I guess I'm getting emotional talking about this. , she, uh, she gave me the laptop and I found a file on it and I didn't recognize the extension. So I, I did some research and I thought it was a personal ancestry file that I could open it up with a certain program called family tree.

And I was able to open the file and it was, it was his, it was the family career file and it had like 13,000 names on it. So he'd done a lot of research, went back many generations. Wow.

me from Ohio and new England.[:

[00:47:10] Damon: Wow. He sounds like an amazing guy, you know, just for his interest in, in family and his adventures as a pilot and everything. I've, I've found Purvis peak here on Google maps. It's Zeeland and it's just fascinating to see, oh, this mountain is named after Ed's biological father.

That's fascinating.


That's crazy.

That's super cool. Yeah, my, my biological father was active in an organization named sons of the American revolution. And I think more people have heard of this organization called daughters of the American revolution, but there's also sons of the American rivers revolution actually came first.

But, , daughters of the American workers are really shouldn't took off more . At any rate, my birth mother was also active in daughters of the American revolution. So I thought, well, why don't I apply to the sons of the American revolution?

estor who was a minute. , in [:

I get some satisfaction from


That's cool.


I'm halfway through it at this point. So, um, uh, I remember when I was my mother, my birth mother told me that I was born, [00:50:00] that she looked at my fingers and she knew that I would be an artist. So I feel like I've kind of coming full circle now. Uh, that's


Very good. Well, Ed I'm always interested to hear how adoptees take on some responsibility for their biological families, right? How they reach back.

To try to be caregivers and things along those lines. So that's a, that's a really fascinating sort of recent development for you. Congrats on that too.


I'm just applying to my biological mother. .

Yeah, that's


And that's a risk that teenagers have to take, you know, in order to sort of solidify their identity.


[00:51:14] Damon: That's a, that's a really good point. And I'm sure that was, that was really challenging, but I'm hopeful that everybody was sort of accepting and you sound like you're real solid


I'm really, I'm really blessed. Everybody's been, everybody's been great.


[00:51:39] Ed: Okay. Thanks damon.


Show Close


Ed suffered anxiety throughout his life, that manifested itself in different ways, but was certainly exacerbated on his reunion journey. Fortunately, he was able to get it under control. Ed shared a few updates before we got off the phone. In the summer of 2021, he moved his birth mother from North Carolina to a retirement home near him in Maryland. And it was her idea.

She's only 30 minutes away. So now he can see her more often. Help her with things and it's strengthening their relationship, which they both really like. Also remember that Ed's birth mother was an artist.

circle from his birth mother [:

I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Ed's journey that inspired you.

Validated your feelings about wanting to search or motivated you to have the strength along your journey to learn. Who am i really