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163 - It's All About Connections
Episode 16320th November 2021 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
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Debbie lives outside of Portland, Oregon. Her parents adopted her and her brother too soon after tragedy struck their family. Debbie found her roots in Kansas, in a small town where the grape vine unexpectedly spread news fast that she was in town. Uh, sad loss. Oddly gave Debbie a chance to connect more deeply with her birth mother.

But her birth father only told half of his family about Debbie creating a minefield of secrets in this era of consumer DNA testing. This is Debbie's journey


163 -Debbie Biller


If you feel the same way Kate and Debbie do I'd love it. If you would support the show at a I really okay. I just wanted to express a little gratitude to Kate. And every supporter of every kind over the years. Thank you.

Cold Cut


He said that she would [00:01:00] leave him. And I said, well, at this point, I think she knows who you are. Take that how you need to.

Episode Intro

I'm Damon Davis and by guest today is Debbie. She lives outside of Portland, Oregon. Her parents adopted her and her brother too soon after tragedy struck their family. Debbie found her roots in Kansas, in a small town where the grape vine unexpectedly spread news fast that she was in town. Uh, sad loss. Oddly gave Debbie a chance to connect more deeply with her birth mother.

But her birth father only told half of his family about Debbie creating a minefield of secrets in this era of consumer DNA testing. This is Debbie's journey



[00:02:19] Debbie: You know, we're all kind of from a different tribe, really. I mean, that's how I would describe it. there, it was a good family was really close with my maternal parents was really close with my dad, my mom and I didn't get along very well. Not that it was bad, but , there just wasn't that like mother daughter click that I really wanted.

was. , but my brother and I, [:

A lot in common, I guess I would say so as I was preparing for this, just like thinking about like, what is that one thing that I always sort of wanted? And I think it was connection is the one word I would use. Um, it's I just didn't really feel that... I felt it with my dad growing up.

There was a strong bond with us and with my maternal grandparents, but not my mom. , not my brother.


[00:03:38] Debbie: You know, I'm not really sure. I mean, we just always had a connection and I could talk to him about things and, and I wasn't so much like that with my mom. There was a lot of, kind of just judgmental stuff.

o, I do. Well, no, you don't [:

[00:04:10] Damon: yeah. That's cool that this difference in validating your curiosity


. And when my mom went back to her OB for the regular postnatal checkups, and I think she'd had a miscarriage before that as well. She let the doctor know that they were probably going to adopt and he said, oh, I have another patient. Who's looking to put a baby up for adoption. [00:05:00] And that's how I came to be.

So my parents adopted me almost exactly three months after they had the loss of a child. And my mom was adopted and didn't process that for the times, , either. So I think a lot of that came into play with, and I've had some therapy around this now.

, but it came into play with the relationship my mom and I. And, you know, nowadays you would never be allowed to adopt a child if you just lost one, three months earlier. I think just, just a lot of the stuff that she never, ever processed in her lifetime came into play.

Debbie was a happy, curious kid growing up. She was a typical first born subscribing to the stereotypical things she was supposed to do. Staying in her lane doing what she was supposed to do.

Getting validation from knowing stuff that she was supposed to know.


And now that you know, I'm over 50, I don't need it at all, but it's interesting to think about the things I thought about growing up and then the things that my friends who aren't adopted, like things that weren't even on their radar, that, that I was thinking about that they weren't,

that's really fascinating.

, can I just ask quickly, how did you find. When you were young that your parents had lost a child?


And, and I find this [00:07:00] birth certificate with the footprints on it. And it, it said her name and the date she was born. The year she was born and I'm looking at it going all. This is just three months older than me. Like who, who is, who is this? And I said to my mom, mom, who is this person? And I said her name.

And, uh, my mom was kind of engrossed in the TV and she looked at me, she said, what I said, who is this? And I held up the birth certificate and she said, give me that. And she just like snatched it away and walked out of the room. And I was like, oh, okay. And the next day she actually came back to my brother and I and told us.

You know, oh, that was the, a baby that your dad and I had before you guys were born and, and she passed away and you know, that's why we adopted you guys. And I said, oh, you know, and, it took me a while to understand that really and take that in. And, um, that was really the only thing that was said to us.

ke in my, you know, probably [:

I don't want to talk about it. And at one point, you know, I would kind of prompt her with things and ask her questions that she really didn't want to answer. But She said, you know, I didn't really think about it after you came. It's like we lost her and then you were there and you took her place.

And I didn't think about it after that. And that's interesting. And I'm sure, you know, therapists would have a lot to say about that. I had talked to my dad about it. My parents ended up getting divorced when I was 16. And I did spend a lot of time with my maternal grandparents back in Kansas at different times.

ght, you know, they've never [:

And my mom was afraid of a lot of things. And just talking to my dad, I said, did she change over the years? Cause it seems like maybe she had like a slow, nervous breakdown or something. And, and he said, yeah, you know, I think there, there was a change for sure. but you know, at that, in those times, the late sixties, early seventies, those things weren't really talked about


You've received and carried this baby and delivered her only to lose her must have been just heartbreaking. And that is devastating. Yeah. That's just, it's unreal. I can't conceive of anybody not changing after something.


[00:09:51] Damon: interesting to hear as you've alluded to. The fact that you were then placed in their home only a short three months later, [00:10:00] there was an immediate transference of emotion, right.

And love and attention from the loss to nurturing and raising you.


[00:10:17] Damon: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Right. That's exactly what I was going to say with, without acknowledging the loss. Right. There was very, it sounds like, you know, three months, isn't a long time for something as well as a heavy devastating.

Is that exactly. And so for, I mean, That you had an opportunity to go to, you know, a home, I guess, but it just you're right today that wouldn't have been something that would go through. I would hope because there's too much happening right. In that home, in their minds, in their hearts, uh, to. Sets you up for success.

. Exactly. Yeah. Wow. That's [:

[00:11:02] Debbie: yeah, but I think looking back, like, there always seemed to be some sort of elephant in the room, you know, like there was just something that wasn't making sense. And I think that kind of helped me go, oh, okay.

Now I get it.


[00:11:30] Debbie: Exactly.


[00:11:50] Debbie: , gosh, that's a good question. I mean, I think it probably took a number of years. , I like what it really meant. I probably knew very quickly, but, but [00:12:00] understanding the intricacies of it, I mean, Some intricacies. Honestly, I went to an adoptee competent therapist a couple of years ago and she helped me understand my mom more and, and that loss.

So, I mean, I was probably 50 at that point. So, you know, some of these things, you know, Your brain can't process, since there's a certain maturity, you know, and, and life, you know, life has happened to you and you understand that things aren't so black and white and there's a lot of gray and that sorta thing,


[00:12:47] Debbie: I always knew I was going to do it. I was born in Kansas, which is an open adoption state open birth certificate.

ways knew that would happen. [:

I just need to contact Kansas. And, um, I really wasn't ready at 18 busy with life and college and all that. And then I graduated college and probably was going into the next kind of phase of my life and just thought, oh, let's just do this. And the timing of it turned out to be kind of amazing in a sad way, but great.

I, I sent away for one, like August, I got it in September and just to back backup, I'd have like a little health scare, which I think might've at that same time. So I think that might've kind of helped me go, oh, I need to really get this health information if nothing else. So, I got the birth certificate.

le town in Kansas. There was [:

Wow. . Yeah. And it just so happened that I was going to be in Kansas. I was living in LA at the time I was going to be in Kansas a month later for my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary. So, , we spoke and it was great and she wanted to meet me. And she had told her husband about me already. And she had two kids that she hadn't told, but was going to, and they were both in like, I don't know, maybe 19 and 21 at the time or 22.

as always been really lovely.[:

So I went back to help my grandma. Kind of just go through the house and, you know, maybe not get rid of things right now, but let's look at the situation. So I went back and lived with my grandmother for about four months and got to spend some time with my bio mom and her kids and her family, which was, which was great.

Cause I, you know, living on the west coast really wouldn't have had that opportunity. Yeah,


[00:15:39] Debbie: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.


[00:15:50] Debbie: correct?

school. When can she get her [:

And I called her. You know, it was ready to vomit the whole time. But, , she, I had, I had had another friend whose mom had put a baby up for adoption, and I had asked her like, what would your mom want this child to say to her when she called, like what would be okay, what wouldn't, what are the questions?

You know, like she would be okay with answering. And she asked her mom and her mom gave me some things to say, so I had those things written down. , but once I got through those, I didn't know what else to say. but we had a really great conversation, probably an hour or more, the first conversation.

pt the immediate family knew [:

I couldn't see you if I, , and give you a way, You know, it was interesting. She'd asked me what color my hair was. And I was shocked because I had very bright red hair when I was born. And I thought, what do you mean? You don't know what color my hair is that had never crossed my mind that she wouldn't, you know, hold me or see me or anything like that.


Right. And they know that baby is going into the adoption process and it's entirely possible that they may said. , [00:18:00] when this child is delivered, just whisk it away to, you know, the, the care area. And she might not have had an option, but I can see how it would have also crossed her mind. You know, I would like to see the child, but no, I can't, I can't do that because I know I will get attached.

It will too. It would be too hard, too difficult. And it's fascinating as you said that she didn't have any concept of how you looked because of this process. That's really interesting.


[00:18:26] Damon: Yeah. And especially given that you had, as you, I think you said bright red hair, like that's a very unusual trait for a person and for her not to know that that's just really


That was, that was actually really shocking to me.


The man visited her in Las Vegas sharing details about Debbie's conception that were more than she needed. She said kind of TMI from her perspective. Staying with Debbie's birth mother. I wondered how their relationship was going forward


and when my kids were young, my youngest was about a year and a half and my older son was maybe three, three and a half. I wanted my kids to have that connection with cousins, you know, and family and, and my husband is an only child. , and you know, my brother doesn't have any children, so there's, [00:20:00] there's no real cousins.

And I thought, oh, let's, let's get together. Can we come back and visit? I probably actually just invited myself now. Now if I really look back on it, but they were like, yeah, come on. So I brought the two kids, they were little, my, , have sister had kids who were like right in the same age, slightly older.

And I look back and I think it was a great trip. , Got to bond with my half sister. And there was like a, a really good connection there. , and we stayed in touch and, and then as time went on, my bio mom's husband became ill. I think he was probably starting to get sick when I was there, but it was a long, I think, journey for them.

times. And oh, I think about [:

And I was like, well, you don't bother me. And if I can't, I can't talk at that moment, I'll call you back. Right. But I think she just maybe got out of the habit of it in life. And, you know, I think she's got some health issues now. So. Really probably in the last five years. Cause I've cut back on my keeping up on it because it's a two-way street.

We, we, I think we talk when I call her on her birthday once a year. Wow. , we, you know, we are on Facebook, so I see what's going on and they see what's going on, but you know, life is kind of, and distance have gotten in the way. Yeah. And that makes me sad and. And I wish it were different, but I'm, I can't really do much to change it.

, it would be as I'm still kind of in the muck of life and teenagers and you know, all of that.

ng with, you know, there's a [:

Disrupted is not the right word, but it is, you know, disrupted with this massive relationship that is in incredibly intimately personal. And that you've been, you know, sort of wanting and wanting to know more about this other person. And, and my sense is that you kind of people sort of check the box. They go, well, I'm glad to know.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I've thought about that.

her and you visit and things [:

And then the energy fades away

and right. Because you're not having shared experiences. That sort of thing. Yeah, exactly. I don't think there's any ill will at all between bio mom and her family and myself. It's just, we're just not on the same plane.

Really. Yeah.

Now, how was it getting to know your siblings? How many do you have and how was the sort of introduction and getting to know.

Yeah. So on bio mom's side, I have a half sister and a half brother and, I think that's been fine. My I'm not, you know, even when I was super close with my half sister, I, not that I wasn't close with my half brother, but there were just very different.

, we speak a little bit of a [:

And then I, on my bio father's side, I have, , a brother and two half sisters.

I've met my half brother. My half sisters don't know about me. Really? Yeah. When, yeah, it's interesting. , so I met my bio father maybe a year after I met my bio mom. I'd had his name, but I really, I don't know.

I'd always kind of had my bio mom in my mind and, he was. Not an afterthought, but it just didn't require that at the moment. But then when my grandmother was moving from Kansas, I thought, oh, I need to work on this. You know, if he wants to meet me, this is his chance.

ter. He called me, you know, [:

We met, we talked he was, I never really pictured him in my mind. And as I was getting out of the car to go meet him, I was like, gosh, what's he look like? What am I thinking? He, you know, also asking, you know, the question, any questions about myself, ask me questions about why I told them I met bio mom and he asked me questions about her family and, wanted to know, you know, are they, where do they work? That kind of thing. And, turns out my half sister worked at a place that my paternal half-brother had worked at


Your paternal [00:26:00] half-brother. Right. That's


Went on my day, I was moving my grandmother out of Kansas. So I had a lot on my plate and I had actually not told my bio mom, I was meeting him. I wanted to kind of see how it went before I let her know. And I was at my grandmother's place, packing things up and there's a phone call. My grandmother says, it's for you.

y gosh, okay. We can do that [:

I too much on my plate, too much to think about. I just walked away. a few hours later, my bio mom called we're talking for a little bit. And then she says, so I heard you met your dad. today. And I'm thinking my dad, you know, my dad that I was raised with, and then I thought, oh, you mean my bio father? Oh yeah, I did.

How did you hear about that? And it's like a string of, people basically. And Gordon went back to his house, told his son, showed him the letter I'd written to him, told his son and said, you might know her sister. And he did his. Best friend is, was my half sister's boyfriend's brother.


[00:28:05] Debbie: seriously. And so he called the best friend who called the brother who called, you know, who are, and eventually got to my half sister and my half sister called my bio mom and said, Hey, this, this guy is looking for Debbie.

And he says that he's her half-brother. And my biomom said, well, I think it's okay to give the number. So that's how just probably three hours later, he was calling me. So kind of, yeah, yeah. It, it was, , so he and I met and he was lovely and super excited to meet me and, you know, told me that I looked like a couple of his aunts and we talked about keeping in touch and sending him pictures and blah, blah, blah.

he said he was going to do. [:

And, , I said, you know, where does everybody think you are? If you're your wife doesn't know about me. Cause he told me he, he hadn't decided yet if he was telling her. And he said, they all think I met, , a Greyhound thing. So, , we had a good time. I mean, it was, we got to know each other. , he's a little bit of a character.

, his time, a little toasted.[:

He was very upset with his younger daughter because she was 21. She had the same boyfriend since she was 16, they were engaged and she was moving in with him, living in sin. And I said, you realize you're telling your illimited illegitimate child this, right. Like, I am not going to have much compassion for you.

And that was like, I don't know, a point in time to me that, that I was like, yeah. You know, he's just not like thinking in a logical manner to me. And , there's just some allowances he's giving himself that, I don't know. He's just not being honest with himself in some ways.

And as time went on and we continue to talk, , he wasn't telling his daughters and, but he studied would, at some point, he said, I will at some point. Okay, great. And his youngest daughter eventually ended up getting married in Las Vegas. So he came out and he called me, he was at the rental car place and it was literally around the corner from my house.

So I went and met [:

I don't know. And even as we were sitting at the rental car place, he said, well, I told the boys about you, meaning he told my half sisters, like one was already married, her husband. And he told the, the husband be. About me. And he, he said, oh, if you see a beautiful redhead in the back of the church, you know, that's, that's my other daughter.

d, is that because when they [:

And he, he thought that was funny. So, I, I, wasn't super thrilled and I think we talked one more time. After that he called me, didn't leave a message. I called him back. Couldn't talk because his daughter was there with him. And then we didn't, we didn't talk again. , my life kind of, took off, I was, you know, bought a house, met my husband to be, we moved, we had kids.

u know, is it a genetic, um, [:

And even though my half-brother and I had not written each other, he had written me. We had connected on at the time, my space that's how long this goes back. And, uh, he, and I said, oh, you know, I was, you know, disappointed. This was before I'd had my son. I was like, I was disappointed that we didn't continue.

And he's like, I just felt really weird with my mom and my sisters not knowing. And I said, you know what? I completely get that. And that was the only conversation we had. And then when I had my son and we were kind of trying to figure out what this all was, I just, I emailed or I messaged him and I just said, Hey, I've just had my son.

. And I was like, you've now [:

As I came upon 50, I was like, gosh, you know, it's been like 23 years. I would sort of like to know my half sisters. And, and I started, you know, listening to your podcast. Your podcast was the first one and it opened up a whole new world to me, like kind of validating my feelings and things that, that I was, you know, going through that, oh, other adopted people feel like this too.

So I started, I started getting a little angry and. , I wrote him a note and I just said, Hey, , you know, it's been 23 years since we met. Can you believe that? , I'm wondering if you have told the girls about me yet, because how would I know? And I would really like to get to know my sisters, if they want to get to know me.

e to be the one to tell them [:

Just horrible. I got it at work. I was a friend of mine was standing next to me as it popped up and I was reading it and we were both in tears. It was just horrible. And, you know, he's like, I don't know why you're contacting him. You know, you will never be a part of our family. You will never be in our family photos.

I was stunned considering I wrote like a four sentence note to my bio dad. Like, I didn't think, first of all, I didn't write it to the bio brother because I don't want to put him in the middle of any of this and wrote it directly to the person I needed to contact and it took me about five days before I could respond to him.

And I just said, [:

Your brother-in-law. I hope you can still run because if there are anything like me, you're going to need to run because the secret, is going to be the problem. It's the secrets that you, all the men in the family kept from them. That's going to be the problem. , , and I said, I don't understand the big deal.

I thought it was just, you know, like a one-time thing and.

nt the month I was conceived [:

I'm sorry. They got engaged. Two months later, basically Gordon proposed and the next morning found out that my bio mom was pregnant. And he was a close friend of the family. So there was discussion for about a week that he and my bio mom would get married, that he realized that temperaments were going to go well in that situation.

So he basically stepped away and let her family deal with what was going to happen to me. And by December of that year, And bio mom was probably five months pregnant. He married the, this other person who he's still married to. Wow. So, you know, it's just a tangled web. Um, I said to my half-brother, I've never, you know, I've never asked that your mom know, I said, you know, and you live through it.

Why can't your sisters know? [:

I was just like, oh brother, here we go controlling again. Right. , in the end, his father did calle me. And he basically said, okay, it was more than a one-time thing. It happened multiple times. And I think there was some crossover and his wife would have a problem with that is what it comes down to. And now the lies been going on for, 53 years.

re medical information and I [:

So I wrote him another letter about a year ago and he actually called me and we had a nice conversation. , he answered all my health questions, all my genealogical questions, and actually was like, oh, I might have some more information on that person. I'll call you back. And he did,, So, you know, like he can give what he can give and I know he's got, some issues and it's fine.

half of my DNA is your DNA. [:

Like he had never thought about that. And I said, I'm getting connections all the time. And I said, I guarantee you, within 10 years, they will know about me if not sooner. And that's how we left that conversation.


[00:40:32] Debbie: 10 months.


[00:40:49] Debbie: well, he conceived my half-brother I guess, about a month after I was born.

So he was married by then, but yeah.


My sense is you're scared. Like there's a lot going on here. And then this is really about me. It's about the situation and it was really smart of you to, to pause before you said something that you would eventually regret and, and make very thoughtful responses. What it sounds like to me with,


And I even, I said, you know, what, if it's better for us not to be friends, like let's just sit unfriend of each other and that, and that's when he said back to me, , no, no, no, I like seeing your family and blah, blah, blah. And [00:42:00] then, uh, probably about seven or eight months later, he actually just unfriended me and blocked me like out of the blue, which was super interesting to me.

Now this is like three years on three and a half years on, since that, that interaction. I've got his first cousin is a match on ancestry and I'm all over the place. I'm on ancestry. I'm on 23 and me I'm on GED match. I'm on my heritage.

Like you name it, I'm on it. And I pretty much know how everybody fits in. , but I just email, Hey, I see we're close matches, but you'd like to figure out how we're related and I, I tell the truth. I say, I know a lot of DNA, history, connections I've made through DNA that I don't really know current, um, generations.

And then I throw out a couple of names and then, then you can tell people, get scared. Cause then they stop responding.

on her maternal side of the [:

[00:43:11] Debbie: I would say, you know, again, the word is connections and I kind of think. The fiber of my story is like wanting connections and sometimes not getting it, how you want it and accepting and being accepting of it, but then making other connections that are, that are quite lovely.

So you know, it's not an easy road, but you can just have an open mind. It's it's a good road. I like


And, and you sort of keeping the calm, cool head that allows you to. You know, navigate the situation in a way that allows you to stay sane while the other people are going wild, you know?


[00:44:16] Damon: Yup. Well, thank you so much for taking time to call me today, Debbie. It was really good to hear.

Thanks for sharing for the benefit of other adopted people. I appreciate it.


So it's, it's really helped me process through so much and, kind of being angry at a certain point. And now, you know, a few years later just like settling in and it's like, okay, I understand there's like a bigger picture and it's it's okay. But it's, it's so helpful and, and I really, really appreciate it.

t your. A guy doing this and [:

[00:45:21] Damon: that, well, thank you. That's fair in those comments. I really appreciate it. I love to hear how the show has impacted somebody.

And I integrate you go through these roller coasters of emotions. And I, and I also love that you're able to share it with him. He may not be ready to speak out, but if he's listening to you and you're listening to this where other adoptees are sharing their stories, that's amazing. So thank you, Debbie.

Take care. It was really good talking to you. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday, all the best. Okay.



o hear that Debbie's parents [:

But her mom was forever changed after their child's death. And Debbie wasn't able to connect with the woman the way she was with her adoptive father. It was nice to hear that Debbie had a reason to spend time in Kansas with her birth mother, but sad to learn that it was because her grandfather had passed away.

When Debbie highlighted that the men in her paternal family knew about her, but the women didn't, I could feel the storm brewing for those guys getting in big trouble. When the women in their lives found out the news. As a man, I can admit I've screwed up a thing or two here and there. But I've never kept a secret as Dilla.

pe you've found something in [: