Kendra’s story is filled with peaks and valleys of emotion. After running far, far away in her teens, Kendra’s adopted mother blamed her for her adopted father’s demise. She and her mother were estranged for years until her adopted mother’s mortality changed their relationship. In reunion, her birth mother accepted her return but kept Kendra a secret. Decades later she had an amazing reunion with her siblings, only to find things were turning upside down at home.
Kendra: 00:05 I think that’s why I never really talked about my childhood with my kids. I just thought I’m just going to lock it up, you know, weld it behind this gate and it’s never. It can’t hurt if I don’t talk about it and that was a colossal parenting mistake. I do not recommend doing that at all because it will all come doubling up to the surface when you least expect it.
Voices: 00:31 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
Damon: 00:42 This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis, and on today’s show is Kendra. Kendra lives near Palm Springs, California. Her story is filled with peaks and valleys of emotion. After running far, far away, Kendra’s adopted. Mother blamed her for her adopted father’s demise. She and her mother were estranged for years until her adopted mother’s mortality changed their relationship. In reunion Her birth mother accepted her return, but kept Kendra a secret. Then decades later, she had an amazing reunion with her siblings only to find things were turning upside down at home. This is Kendra’s journey.
Damon: 01:34 Kendra was adopted after one week of life in 1965. Her parents planned on adopting another little boy, but unfortunately they divorced, so Kendra was an only child. She grew up in Torrance, California, and she remembers the day she was told that she was adopted and how she was made to feel.
Kendra: 01:53 I grew up in only child and my mother was an identical twin and her identical twin had a daughter who is nine months older than I was and so that was interesting. I was told I was adopted when I was four years old and it. It kinda came up one day when we were out shopping and my aunt was talking about having my cousin and I asked my mom got having me and I can see the eyes that darted and I knew something was up so they told me, Oh, you’re special chosen. We picked you. I got that speech and I didn’t really know what they were talking about, but the way they said it to me, so special and beautiful like a princess, you know, but yet there was this look in their eyes, like don’t ask any other questions about it. So I thought, well, I’ll get somebody else to explain it to me.
Kendra: 02:41 And I started telling people I was adopted and he would get these horrified look on their faces. Like, oh my goodness, I can’t believe you’re admitting that to me. And that confused me even more. And then one day my mom overheard me telling somebody and she snatched me up by my elbow and said, that’s a private family matter we don’t talk to people about that. So I was completely, I was confused. You told me something that was so beautiful and exciting and then now it’s this, this, this horrible thing. I’m not supposed to tell anybody. What does it mean? And I, I was just, I couldn’t believe it. And I thought I had figured it out one night at dinner because we went out to dinner and she said, I think I’ll choose the special and when my mom ordered chicken, I kid you not. I thought I hatched like an egg for about three years. I did. I thought I had like an egg. No wonder she didn’t want anybody to know.
Damon: 03:40 Kendra attended Chadwick school. The school is featured in the 1981 movie mommy dearest based on the book by Christina Crawford. Christina portrayed her life of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her mother, the famous Hollywood actress Joan Crawford. June, believed her own tough upbringing, made her into the woman she was, but she was unable to have children, was viewed unfavorably by adoption agencies for her multiple divorces and her status as a single woman. So she secured the services of an adoption broker who helped her adopt, Christina and three others.
Kendra: 04:17 And matter of fact, I remember, Christina Crawford, who wrote the book “Mommy Dearest”. The book came out in 19- Oh gosh, I don’t know, 78, something like that. And I remember my mom was horrified. you know she couldn’t believe that she would write such a book that she couldn’t even defend herself. Joan Crawford, and I remember thinking to myself that if she, you know, the book never would have been written and so we never talked about our opposing views on that, on that book, but I can remember that having kind of an impact on me and probably by that time I had figured out what, what adopted meant, that there was another woman and she gave birth to me and I always knew I would search. I knew, I always knew I wanted to know why?
Damon: 05:02 I was really curious about Kendra’s mother who had a twin sister who had her own biological daughter. You’ve probably experienced with twins, that people are always searching for the ways that they’re alike. That was true for Kendra’s mother and her sister and the search for likenesses even cascaded down to Kendra’s cousin, but no one could ever make the family comparisons with Kendra,
Kendra: 05:24 Like, my mother being an identical twin. The looking for similarities you know, I mean, they looked so much like that you’re always searching to try and find yourself in your family members and they would always talk about my cousin looking like this one or that one, and it stung, it hurt. You know I always searched for that for. I think that’s pretty common in adtopeess to seach for somebody who looks like you. It’s a yearning.
Damon: 05:51 Kendra’s mother was divorced and she remarried a widower. They moved into a big beautiful home and that was unsettling for Kendra.
Kendra: 06:00 For me, I was always scared in my childhood. I always felt really alone and especially when we moved into this big house master double doors would close every night and I felt so alone and so afraid in that big huge house.
Damon: 06:12 her mother started her own business, so as an entrepreneur she was working 16 hour days. Of course, while her mother was working a lot and parental supervision was scarce, Kendra got into a little bit of trouble. She said it felt frustrating that she could never do anything right in her mother’s eyes. Her mother started sending her away every summer to relative’s houses and friends. It all made Kendra feel unwanted.
Kendra: 06:38 I gotta tell you, I kind of felt like, like I was something that she had gotten that was supposed to be part of this beautiful dream for her and I was just a constant reminder of what she didn’t have the life that she didn’t. She didn’t get to have with my father, because he didn’t play by the rules.
Damon: 06:56 How do you mean?
Kendra: 06:59 My Dad, him and my mom thought that my father was going to have a political career and they were going to have a child and my father was kind of the cocktails after work and you know, he, he had girlfriends and you know, he had girls on this side and my mom finally had had enough and that’s when she left, you know, that’s not the way it was supposed to go down in her eyes. I think, you know, if he would have only played by the rules, they could have had this beautiful life together and he wouldn’t do it. Yeah. So I kind of felt like something she got saddled with when it didn’t work out. I don’t know how to explain that. Yeah.
Damon: 07:38 Her mother went on to be very successful at her escrow business and Kendra acknowledges that it must’ve been very difficult at that time when career development was not great for women. Still. Kendra was shuffled around in her freshman year of high school. She was sent to live with her father in Pasadena. It seemed like it would be great because she loved her dad and he was fun, but he was having medical issues at the time and he had set out to prove that he could parent Kendra more effectively than her mother. He clamped down on her grades and discipline, ending up at odds with one another, Kendra returned to her mother’s house.
Kendra: 08:15 Then I went back to visit my father when my 10th grade year had started. And what happened was I went out with some friends and it got later and later and I was too scared to go home, and I ran away.
Damon: 08:30 Really? Were you up to something nefarious or had you just broken the rule so badly? And with each passing minute it got worse and worse?
Kendra: 08:37 Yes. That’s, that’s the way it felt but. Actualy a guy came by and um, we went to go do some stuff and go hang out and stuff and this was the guy in high school that I always wanted to date so to speak. And so I was having a great time and it just kept getting later and I’d already missed my best to go back home. I just was scared to death. I was just afraid. I knew I was going to get yelled at, I wasn’t going to get beat or anything, but I was just, I just got too scared to go home. And so I had a friend call my mom because I didn’t want her to think it was in a ditch somewhere and she lit into my friend like no other. And I was like, Oh, I’m definitely not going home now. Well, I ended up flying to Hawaii and staying with my best friend moved there and I. Yes. And I went and I got enrolled in private school and I was living life in Hawaii.
Damon: 09:27 What!?
Kendra: 09:28 Yes! My mom came and got me and then she sees my best friend’s parents were taking a minor against across state lines without parental consent. Oh my gosh.
Damon: 09:37 Kendra was gone for two months. She didn’t go home at all. Her mother found out that Kendra was in Hawaii after Kendra sent a letter to a friend and her friend showed her mother. Her mother had to go to Hawaii to pick her up, but wait until you hear what happened next.
Kendra: 09:55 I thought I was going to go to a halfway house and because I was trying to become an emancipated minor so I can stay ’cause at this point I was 15, I think something like that. but what happened was My mom came and got me and it was Christmas Eve and on new years. I went to Pasadena, the Rose Parade and I just, I was supposed to go visit my father and I didn’t go because I just didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear him get on my case about taking off like that and he died nine days later. And my mom told me I killed him. She Said, “you killed your father from a broken heart”.
Damon: 10:31 She said that.
Kendra: 10:32 She said that to me, yeah, and that messed me up for a really long time.
New Speaker: 10:43 Oh my gosh, i’m so sorry.
New Speaker: 10:43 Yeah… yeah, But you know what? It taught me, it taught me not to live in land of regret, to try and do things that I’m not going to regret, you know what I’m saying, and I know it took awhile, but I understand that he had his own medical issues and he had a drinking problem and he had his own nightmares he had to deal with on his journey in life and he had accidentally killed his best friend in a hunting accident.
Kendra: 11:12 Right. So he had his own issues, which I found all of this out later.
Damon: 11:17 So her mother continues to sue Kendra’s best friend’s parents for taking a minor across state lines without parental consent. Kendra pointed out that had it gone to trial, they would have had to make a ruling based on the law that clearly states what her friends’ parents did was illegal. Not on the possible merits of the act of helping a minor stay off the streets. I know they took her to Hawaii, but I think you understand Kendra’s point. They settled out of court. Kendra’s mother received a huge settlement, but their relationship was severely damaged, Kendra never returned to her mother’s home. She was only 16. Kendra got an apartment, started waitressing, and then she got pregnant with her daughter at 17 years old. The relationship with her daughter’s father didn’t last, but the very next year Kendra met her now husband of more than 30 years.
Kendra: 12:11 We ended up raising his son and my daughter. We had two sides together and we actually raised a nephew, so we had yours. Ours, mine in there’s.
Damon: 12:19 Wow. Geez.
Kendra: 12:22 And it’s crazy, but my mom and I were estranged for a very long time. She had open heart surgery and nobody in the family called me. After her open heart surgery, her and I became closer. I think she really realized what was important in life and we were able to make peace and and come together. I took care of her the last few years of her life. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that she had cancer and I almost sometimes feel like that was her way of saying, okay, well this is my way of saying I’m sorry about the open heart surgery thing, but. And not telling me, but still I didn’t. I didn’t feel that was right.
Damon: 13:01 She, she was trusting you with her secret as a way to say special between you and me.
Kendra: 13:08 Yeah, and she didn’t want anybody looking at her with pity. right after she passed away at her weight and we’re at her wake and I’m speaking to a real estate agent on the veranda and my mom’s home is full of colleagues and friends and family and I’m talking to this real estate agent and he takes one bite of a chocolate chip cookie and starts having a massive heart attack dying on the floor yeah, and the paramedics arrived and they paddling back to life a few times to get him out to the hospital and he survived it. But that’s when it really hit me how quickly life can be over and I thought, you know what? I got to find her. They’re both gone now I gotta find her and find out what happened? And what is my genetic fate?
Damon: 13:52 The fragility of human life was made clear in a flash before Kendra’s eyes at her own adoptive mother’s wake. That emergency moment was the catalyst for her to try to locate her birth. Mother Kendra added her name to the international sound. Next reunion registry. She sent away for her non identifying information at the Los Angeles County adoption agency. But there was a 10 week waiting list. Keep in mind, Kendra is also in the process of settling her adopted mother’s estate.
Kendra: 14:22 While I’m dealing with this and trying to find my birth mother. My mother died without a will that she had made one when she wasn’t speaking to me. The original cannot be found. Well. I got accused of tearing up the original and I got taken to court for my mother’s estate, which I lost.
Damon: 14:41 You did?!
Kendra: 14:41 Yes. Which I lost. They had a whole bunch of people that just took my childhood and it was a parade of people saying what a horrible daughter I was. And you know, I ran away from home and I mean it was horrible. It was heart wrenching. I think for me, this is why I never talked about it with my children is because around that time they were ever really quite young during this period of me finding my birth mother and this whole trial thing going on that I think that’s why I never really talked about my childhood with my kids. I just thought, I’m just going to lock it up, you know, weld it behind this gate and it’s never. It can’t hurt if I don’t talk about it and that was a colossal parenting mistake. I do not recommend doing that at all because it will all come bubbling up to the surface when you least expect it.
Damon: 15:34 We commiserated for a moment on how terrible it is that the narrative she described being vilified in moments when family is supposed to be coming together and slash or being eliminated from parents’ estates is so common for adoptees. Kendra alluded to the fact that she hid the details of her childhood and the results of her search from her own children and how poorly that turned out. We’ll come back to that soon, but first I wanted to hear how her search unfolded. She told me that it took about 10 months for her to locate a full name for her birth mother in Michigan.
Kendra: 16:07 I just hit a stumbling block because even though I had the last name and I thought it was an unusual last name, I had about 200 of them in Michigan because she’s from Michigan. And um, I also found out I had five siblings, that I’m the baby. And I, I, you know, that was kind of confusing to why me, why did, why was I given up read, my siblings weren’t and I want to know why, so I didn’t know what to do and somehow some way, and I don’t remember how it happened, but I found the search angel who helped me get her name and she had remarried so her name was different, but a search angel gave me her number and your name and uh, the day arrived to call her and I was, I was shaking, I was absolutely shaking and I picked up the phone.
Kendra: 16:54 Yeah. And I, and I, and she answered the phone and I said, do you remember the name Carol? And, and that was my original birth name. And she said, “yeeesssss?” just like that, and I said, well, I’m her. And she said, well, how are you? And she was so sweet and so kind. I couldn’t have asked for a better conversation with her. I truly could not have. And she said, oh, you know, Cindy will be my sister, cindy will be so excited. She always wanted a sister and she was just bubbling with excitement and she was so, you know, she was just absolutely wonderful and I really want to know the medical history. And she said, wow, right now, anxiety. That’s about it. And I laughed. I thought she was joking because I thought she was talking about that situation. Yeah, it actually runs in our family, which I see now. Absolutely. But at the time I didn’t, but by the next phone call she had decided she didn’t want to tell my siblings.
Damon\: 18:00 Oh No. Yeah. So it started off awesome and she was ready to hear from you and then all of a sudden she just….
New Speaker: 18:09 Yeah, She didn’t mind having a relationship with me and we, We sent letters and we had phone calls back and forth, but I never met her face to face and I respected her decision for 20 years
Damon: 18:20 reflecting on her birth mother’s decision. Kendra admits that at the time it hurt, but she could fathom the stress of her emergence. You also have to empathize with Kendra situation at the time.
Kendra: 18:32 Yeah. Was also dealing with a lot of pain coming from family with the whole estate issues and stuff. And I was okay with it. I figured, you know what, one day though, when she passes away, one day they’ll find my letters, my cards and my pictures and they’ll contact me… But and they didn’t
Damon: 18:49 Really. Oh man, she passed away.
New Speaker: 18:54 I found out four years ago. I was. I was sitting on the computer with my husband and my husband has actually adopted also, but not. He was. He’s with his biological mother, but he was. His stepfather had adopted him and he never, he doesn’t remember his his biological father and we were kind of on the computer looking for maybe an obituary or something to see what he may have passed away from and I thought, well, you know what, I’m going to look at my birth mom and see if she has a facebook, and I found her obituary and I, and it was four years. It had been four years since she passed away and I thought, well, they’re not going to find my letters and it didn’t say what she passed away from. So I wrote a letter.
Damon: 19:34 Those were the early days of facebook when notes to people you weren’t friends with went into a spam folder. The note to her sister went unanswered for weeks. She sent the note to her oldest brother again, nothing
Kendra: 19:47 and I thought I’m going to have to friend request him. So I sent him a friend request and she accepted it and the only reason why he accepted it was because I was. I was kissing the cheek of my son who’s a marine and my brother had been in the navy for 32 years. Is it as a job? Oh, he thought it was one of his marines.
Damon: 20:05 Oh Wow. Wow.
Kendra: 20:07 Yeah. And he accepted the friend request and then he read my letter and she said, I’m so happy you contacted me. It was beautiful note back. And he said, can you call me please? And I said, well, I see that you’re in Chicago O’hare airport right now. That’s okay. Call me. And I was shaking. I was shaking. And so I called him and we talked for three hours and before he hung up. I’ll never forget, (crying) he said, “I don’t know how you feel, but I feel like I have a sister today.”
Damon: 20:47 Oh my gosh.
Kendra: 20:52 And that filled a void in my heart. So they needed so badly… so beautiful.
Kendra: 21:03 And I have five siblings and I’m the baby. And to be honest with you, all these years I thought I had a different father. But I don’t.
Damon: 21:14 Really, you all have the same father?
Kendra: 21:20 Mom and dad’s gato a divorce and another mom slept with Dad one more time and got pregnant with me and now she’s got to raise five children. It’s 1965 and she’s in Michigan and he has left and gone to a no support state so he won’t have to get child support. Yes, and she has to figure out how to raise these children on her own know and be a divorced woman in 1965, the small town in Michigan. Wow. And she becomes a police officer.
Damon: 21:56 Kendra’s birth mother was the second female police officer in the State of Michigan and she excelled doing well in the court system too. After speaking with her brother, he connected Kendra with her other siblings. She said they’re all wonderful people, but with five siblings it just seems like somewhere along the lines folks wouldn’t get along.
Kendra: 22:17 I thought one of them has gotta be it’s got to be where I don’t click. I’m not everybody’s Cup of tea and I’m okay with that but there has to be one of them that I’m not going to click with and it never happened. Never happened. But even with the family members and the uncles and the cousins it’s been wonderful. Aaah, it’s been a fairytale dream come true.
Damon: 22:39 Did you get the chance to connect with your biological father at all?
Kendra: 22:44 Ya know, I had no interest and no, he had passed away also, but she had told me, I didn’t even ask his name when I contacted her 20 years ago. It’s the strangest thing. When other job to say, you know, I don’t have that yearning to live or I don’t have that yearning to search for…d I understand that because I didn’t have it for my father and I cannot tell you why. I just had no yearning. I didn’t even. I didn’t even know his name for 20 years and I didn’t care.
Damon: 23:11 Kendra said she had a good relationship with her adopted father growing up. She was a daddy’s girl. We agreed it was okay that she had no desire to know her birth father. Different strokes for different folks. However, she feels deeply that she was never supposed to be an only child.
Kendra: 23:29 It hit me like a ton of bricks that we’re all biologically connected. I think I yearned for my siblings my whole life is what I was really yearning for . I would have gotten on a plane. He had, she said the word and kind of met her in Michigan back 20 years ago, but my soul knew I was not supposed to be an only child. I knew it. I would be in children, you know, in friend’s homes who had lots of kids, and that’s where I would feel most comfortable. I knew I was supposed to be in that type of environment. I knew it. So with my, with my brothers and my, Oh, do you know what they did. So beautiful. My oldest brother took my birth mom’s headstone off of her grave and they engraved my name on it with theirs.
Damon: 24:20 Oh my gosh. Are you serious?
Kendra: 24:25 It’s so beautiful.
Damon: 24:26 Oh my gosh. That is huge.
Kendra: 24:29 Yes. I said, not only do I feel accepted it, it’s in stone! (laughs)
Damon: 24:39 (laughs) Oh my gosh, I’ve never heard of anything like that. That’s incredible.
Damon: 24:44 Kendra never felt he looked much like her birth mother. The woman had sent Kendra a picture of herself at her own retirement party with her children, Kendra’s siblings, but she just didn’t see her resemblance. However, her brother completely disagrees.
Kendra: 24:59 My brother Bob said to me, he said, my God, you are the spitting image. And I said, really? Because I don’t see it, and so you’d have to be kidding me. And I said, no, I really don’t see it. And he sent me a picture and let me tell you what it was like me looking back at me. Wow. I probably looked the most like her. I asked or my mannerisms are the most, like her.
Damon: 25:21 T,hings were going great in reunion except at home.
Kendra: 25:26 So here I am, I’m on the phone for hours. It’s truly, you know, you can’t get enough of each other when you’re in reunion. I mean it’s almost like falling in love and in essence it kind of is like that because you just cannot get enough of each other.
Speaker 5: 25:41 That’s I always say, you’re so right.
Kendra: 25:43 Yeah. Okay. So here’s my husband and he’s watching me do this. And my sister in law had made a comment on facebook and she said, my husband talked about another woman. My husband’s on the phone for hours with another woman. Thank God it’s his sister. And my husband said, Time’s up. I thought…? And I suddenly realized that it was becoming an issue for him. And I kind of thought, okay, well I don’t want to rub this in his face, and so I kinda took it to where I would talk on the phone when he wasn’t home. I made a clubhouse, kind of secret little club house room for us siblings do go in there and get to know each other in instead of out on my facebook wall for everybody to see. And I just could not shut up at them. I could not stop. Even if you told me to.
Kendra: 26:31 I was glowing how that is. You can’t shut up about it. And my kids started… I started noticing everybody was backing off.
Damon: 26:41 How old were they?
Kendra: 26:43 My children were adults, married in the thirties and twenties, late twenties, early thirties. And I understand it now, but at the time I felt so alone because here was this beautiful joy to talk to you with my family. (crying) And then there was this beautiful that I couldn’t talk because I didn’t want them to see them in a certain way before they got to meet him. And I felt incredibly isolated and alone. And this is so normal. It happens all the time, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that and recently I’ve had some conversations with my kids, especially my youngest and my son said, mom, you don’t know how weird it was for us. These were complete strangers to us. Never talked about your childhood, never spoke about being adopted. We had no idea this was a dream for you and you were shoving it down our throats. That’s the way it felt and you would not stop talking about it, but these were strangers to us.
Speaker 5: 27:57 especially in the absence of any prior discussion about it. If they had no knowledge that this was a deep seated desire within you, I could definitely see how that would be a problem for you to suddenly have this, you know, overly emotional, overt reaction to meeting these new people. I’m, man, that must’ve been tough
Kendra: 28:20 And that’s when it started hitting me how much I had not spoken about it and how much I had not talked about my childhood. And I remember vividly my son was home from his last marine deployment. And I thought, do they even know my mother’s first name. And He came in to the house and he was home from deployment and I asked him what is my mother’s first name, and he said, which mother, and I said either one, birth mother or adoptive mother? Which one? And he could not answer that question,
Speaker 5: 28:53 Wow, Had you not talked about your childhood, because of how tumultuous it had been straight through to adulthood where you…
Kendra: 29:02 Yeah, it hurt
Speaker 5: 29:03 So you kept that… Did you. Were you keeping them from your pain or were you keeping your pain inside?
Kendra: 29:11 If I didn’t talk about it, It didn’t hurt. If I didn’t talk about it, It didn’t happen. Just tuck that away in this locked vault in my mind and I’ll never have to deal with it, but it was, you know, it doesn’t work that way.
Damon: 29:27 Kendra admits that not sharing her own childhood with her children was a colossal mistake, but when you’re in pain, you don’t always know the best way to proceed. Sometimes you’ve mulled something over so much inside your head. You don’t want to talk about it out loud with someone else. Other times, maybe we just don’t know the best way to raise an important topic. I asked Kendra with the benefit of hindsight, how she might’ve done things differently.
Kendra: 29:54 I probably would have talked, just story wise you know, I would have just told stories. Obviously I felt comfortable maybe talking about it because I remember one of my son’s friends at the time, I don’t know how we had the conversation and, and actually she had told my son, you know, you know, your, your mom’s adopted and this was in high school. He was in high school. What are you talking about my mother’s not adopted? She goes, Your mom is adopted. So obviously on some level I felt comfortable talking about it. Just apparently not to my own children. I don’t know.
Damon: 30:25 Oh, that’s fascinating. Yeah sometimes we as parents are striving for this level of perceived perfection in us that child should strive for and, and you have had a tumultuous time growing up. It was, I mean you left the state and went to school with another family among other very trying and challenging things and I could see how. It’s kind of like when your kids say, well, did you ever do drugs? And you’re like, well I did it but I didn’t like it. And it’s not true. And we portray these false narratives to where children as images of what we hope they will see so that they will emulate that
Damon: 31:05 as opposed to like trusting them to see like I went through a lot. But look how okay I am now. And it’s a really hard thing to balance. Yeah. Wow.
Damon: 31:16 Kendra believes that adoptees often make really great parents. She said that even though her upbringing was tough, she wouldn’t change a thing because the lessons she learned have made her a much better parent or her own children. And she knows she’s been a good mother. Of course there’s always the questions of how things could have been in her birth family and what she would have missed in her adopted life had she reunited sooner.
Kendra: 31:43 You know, part of it. Even with my siblings, we kind of regretted that we had missed 20 years with each other, but at the same time had I outted, mom said it’s big because I kinda joked at first like, oh, if I didn’t know it was gonna be this beautiful. I would have outted her a long time ago. But that’s not true. That’s not true. I’m a stickler on somebody’s wishes, but it’s kind of better because we had her out of the equation, so let’s just get to know each other, you know, because I think they would’ve came back to her and they would have been angry or why did you do that or you know, whatever they would have done. But I think it’s beautiful that we didn’t have to deal with that on either side. Oh, it’s just been incredible.
Damon: 32:27 Kendra’s husband also admitted that the reunion was tough for him. He was watching her fall in love with these people. She just met. She exuded pure happiness, but he wasn’t the source of joy and that was hard to watch. Kendra understands his perspective and that of her children, but she did explain there was a rebound effect of their reaction to her reunion within herself.
Kendra: 32:53 He was supportive of it. You know, when I went to go search for my grandmother who was totally supportive of that, he was supportive of me finding my siblings. I think he thought, I mean you don’t know how a reunion is going to go. So you would hope for the best and if it doesn’t work out that way that you know what you’re warrior. You went on that, quest. But I had no idea this was gonna happen. I mean Pandora’s box was opened and this is what happened and now you want me to stuff it back in and pretend like you know you wantit to go away, but I can’t do that. And I was angry. I was very resentful and angry because I felt like I don’t understand any of you. I would do anything to see the smiles on your faces, whatever that may be and why can’t you just bask in my glow and the smile on my face. I don’t understand this I was angry.
Damon: 33:41 Yeah, I bet you were.
Damon: 33:43 Kendra’s family is just fine now and everything is great. I asked her what she told her family to help them feel better. She said they took time to talk about her reunion, but they also just spent time together not talking about it. As with most things, time heals and when the honeymoon was over, their family returned to normal.
Kendra: 34:05 I just think it’s so important for people to understand that this is a common problem. That’s it’s not just you that it’s happening to. What really I think is important and talking about it, talking about whether it’s good or whether it’s just talking about the reunion and talking about the feelings as an adoptee. Do you know we’d been locked inside our own minds for so long. Trying to deal with this and cope with it on our own thinking. Nobody else is out there. That’s why I think it’s a beautiful thing you’re doing.
Damon: 34:42 Thank you
Kendra: 34:42 Yes.
Damon: 34:43 I wanted to know how her reunion unfolded with her siblings. She said her brother has an annual Christmas party, so they have to plan for her to appear as a surprise guest, but the surprise was spoiled. Word got out and every aunt and uncle and cousin wanted to meet her. She tells the story of her reunion and shares her wish for adopted parents as their children seek their birth families.
Kendra: 35:08 I felt like, Cinderella, belle of the ball, I kid you not. I truly did. I did and I walked into that party, that party, and I heard an audible gasp. Oh my brother lives in the house that they grew up in, so I spent the night in my sister’s room that she grew up in.
Damon: 35:28 That must have been so cool.
Kendra: 35:31 It was really cool. As a matter of fact, this is how much I looked like, or my sister in law said, Oh, you got come next door. Her best friend lived next door and I went next door to go visit the neighbor and I and she said, here’s what you need to say and your sound just like your mom. So I said it to him and he looked up at me from the table and he said, oh my God, you look just like her too. I’m sorry.
Speaker 5: 35:55 Oh that poor neighbor They set him up. Well boy.
Kendra: 35:56 Oh yeah. Oh, I’m sorry. You just like her. Beautiful. I go back once a year. Every year I go back and it’s like we’re a bunch of kids were like a bunch of kids. We played tricks on each other. We finally get to have that sibling thing that I never, ever got to have before.
Damon: 36:16 That’s just unbelievable.
New Speaker: 36:17 It’s so Cool. I love it so much. It’s really great and I knew in my soul, I kid, you not want to tell you this. I knew I was not supposed to be an only child.
Damon: 36:28 Wow. I’m so glad you were able to find them. That is really, really cool.
Kendra: 36:33 Yeah, it’s been a beautiful journey and I’m very grateful for it. You know, there’s one other thing that I really wish with all my heart that adopted parents can understand that when we go searching, it has nothing to do with them as a parent, that it’s a search for us. It’s a search for self, you know, and, and the could just hold your child’s hand while they’re on the journey with be so beautiful and not take it as an, as a, as a, you know, that they didn’t do a good job as one thing I really wish that we could change.
Damon: 37:04 Yeah. You know, it’s a funny thing. As you were speaking, I was thinking to myself, how would you make the parallel and ultimately you know, it’s a soul search. Everybody goes on one and it just so happens that for an adoptee, the soul search in this instance is an identity search. It’s not apparent replacement search and that’s really, really important thing to recognize is that at some point in every person’s life they are going to be on a very deep soul search and this is one of those things that happens with adoptees and you just have to recognize that that is what it is and it is not necessarily to replace you. In some instances it is when the parents are terrible, horrible, awful people, I get it. You’re replacing them and I totally understand that and you deserve to, you know should it happen, but in other instances when it’s just, Hey, wait, you just told me that I am actually biologically related to somebody else. Who is that person? It’s important.
Kendra: 38:04 Or you hatched from an egg, You never know
Damon: 38:08 Kendra thanks so much for your time. It was really cool to hear your story. I appreciate it.
Kendra: 38:12 Thank you.
Kendra: 38:14 Thank you for your bravery. Take care. All the best. Okay.
Kendra: 38:17 You too. Thank you.
Damon: 38:18 Bye Bye.
Kendra: 38:19 Bye Bye.
Damon: 38:23 Hey, it’s me. I was definitely glad to hear that Kendra’s reunion went so well with her siblings. I’ve never heard anyone say their name was added to a family gravestone before. That’s a really important symbolic move for someone that has been outside of the family for so long as Kendra had been, but it was interesting to hear the ways that her reunion affected her immediate family. Since she hadn’t spoken much about her childhood. Her family was totally unprepared for how impactful her reunion would be for Kendra and therefore for them. There’s a lesson there. While we have to proceed with search and reunion in a way that’s best for us, we do have to prepare our family for our reunion attempt in ways that we’re comfortable with and that are appropriate for them to be included. Reunion can be a roller coaster for you as either a horrific experience, an amazing reunification, or any combination therein.
Speaker 5: 39:19 Hopefully your family wants to support you, but they have to know what you’re going through so that they understand why you’re flying high or in the doldrums of despair. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Kendra’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have this strength along your journey to learn who am I really? If you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit who am I really podcast.com/share. You can choose to share your whole story, maintain some privacy about parts of your story or sheer completely anonymously. You can find the show at facebook.com/WAIReally, or follow me on twitter @WAIReally and please, if you like this show, you can subscribe to Who Am I really on apple podcasts, Google play, stitcher, Tunein radio or wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there it would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to share a rating or leave a comment, those ratings can help others find the podcast too.
Kendra: 41:34 I’m just really happy that you, that you’re doing this because I think we’ve, we’ve had this code of silence for far too long and I think that if you know, we, we should share our stories to help one another. I really do.
Damon: 41:45 I appreciate that very much. Thank you. That’s exactly why I’m doing it because every single journey is very, very different and it’s helpful for people to hear how different they can be
Kendra: 41:53 and yet there’s a common threads that seemed to weave through them though. Isn’t it interesting?
Damon: 41:58 It really is. It really is, and that’s one of the things that I find I actually have to battle within myself sometimes because you, you, I’ve interviewed so many people. I’m up to almost 50 shows now. I’ve talked to so many folks with so many different stories and they do have common threads and you know I start off with, I know where this is going and then they say the one thing and I’m just like, oh my God. (laughs)