Linda: 00:03 Grandma’s drivin. Then we’re driving down the road and she begins calling me names and then she gets quiet and she goes, you know, Linda, you’re right. Your Dad is not your father. And it was like, wow, you know, my abuser is actually finally telling me the truth.
Voices: 00:27 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who Am I?
Damon: 00:38 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 Linda. She called me from Farmington, New Mexico where she lives so far away from it all, that she had to drive into town from her house to get a good mobile signal so that she could share her story with you. Linda’s childhood was tumultuous after her mother’s death as she was raised in what she thought was her grandmother’s home. Once she learned the truth about her life from the neighbor’s kids at age 10, Linda immediately wanted to find her birth mother. She endured years of abuse in her grandmother’s home with no love. She characterizes her story not as an adoption, she thinks of herself as stolen from her biological father. This is Linda’s journey.
Damon: 01:32 Linda admits her journey is convoluted, but you already know that many of our stories are on November 22nd 19, 63. President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The next day, November 23rd. Linda’s mother was killed. Linda was about three years old. Her sister was four the girls, went to live with their maternal grandmother as the family tried to make a plan for their future.
Linda: 01:59 The people in the family were trying to figure out what to do with us, and one day a grandma Brown into the house and sitting on her chair was a strange man that we had never seen before and so my sister and I, we looked at each other and looked at the guy and he had two great big white teddy bears and he held out his hands and said, hello. I’m your Daddy. And we’d never seen him before. Again, it was really strange and really confusing.
Damon: 02:35 Okay,
Linda: 02:36 so we did go to live with him and he could not handle raising a three and a four year old, so he took us to his parents. So we grew up with our Dad’s parents and we of course called and grandma and grandpa.
Daon: 02:54 Can I just ask quickly when you were two, I make the assumption that you were living in a two parent household when your mother was killed, is that correct?
Linda: 03:05 That is not correct. Okay. Um, basically our mother, she was divorced but she was living with a man and we were living with him too and he was her boyfriend and the one who caused the accident related to her death. Um, so it was actually vehicular homicide. We just remember bits and pieces of him, but apparently he was severely abusive and uh, the story goes that she wanted to break up with him. He was pretty angry about that and that should be one of the reasons that caused the accident.
Damon: 03:48 Do you remember any of your feelings at the time as a child who has lost her mother? Do you feel that you remember the grief or anything?
Linda: 03:58 I didn’t remember that we were told that she had died and so I remembered… What I do remember is we were being babysat by one of our aunts and I remember standing on the couch looking outside the window waiting for mom to come and pick us up and what I saw is her father or Grandpa come and start picking up our toys in the front yard, put him in his car, and when I asked him, I ran up to him and said, hey, where’s mommy? He totally ignored me. He wouldn’t talk. He wouldn’t look at us, nothing. So that was really confusing to me because again, I was only three, but apparently we were told that she had died. That I don’t remember that at all.
Damon: 04:52 Wow.
Linda: 04:54 I do remember that. Everybody’s looking around and I did go to grandma wants and asked, you know, when’s mom coming back? And she just looked at me and continued folding clothes and didn’t say anything.
Damon: 05:10 So the girls have had a lot of quick transitions. After their mothers death, they left their home with their mother and her abusive boyfriend moved to their maternal grandmother’s house. To their father’s house, vent to his mother’s house, she said the final move to their grandmother’s home was really difficult. They lived in the back of a cafe grocery store for transient farm workers. It was there in kindergarten. Linda worked really hard on a family picture of herself, her sister and their grandmother and father, and she was really proud of it. Linda looks all around the store for her grandmother to share her awesome work.
Linda: 05:48 Grandma! Grandma, look what I made for you in the course. I’m in that five year old. Happy Anticipation, you know, of getting real good. She take the picture, looked at it, shoved it back at me, put her hands on her hips. And so you think this is good? This isn’t good. You shouldn’t brag. You’re no good and should have never been born.
Damon: 06:16 Oh my gosh.
Linda: 06:18 `So that’s like at five years old, right. And um, I didn’t know how to process that. That hurt like to my core. And that opened up grandma’s repressed desire to come after me. So when you ask what my childhood was like, it was consistent, verbal abuse and emotional abuse. Every day, unpredictable physical assault. She hated me. She just absolutely hated me. She couldn’t stand the fact that she had to raise me and the people in the family, they all saw it, but grandma was diagnosed shortly thereafter as having bipolar disorder and in my opinion, I think she was an unrecognized trauma survivor because of just her family story, but I. I hold a lot of anger towards the family members that didn’t step in to do the right thing, to try to help a child
Damon: 07:30 to remove you from that situation. Regardless of whether she was diagnosed or not
Linda: 07:36 correct.
Damon: 07:37 Linda lived under those abusive conditions until she was 18 years old. I asked about her father, whom she calls daddy because Linda and her sister are living with his mother. He went to California and started a tavern, which Linda and her sister think was our front for illegal drug operations, but he did show up for occasional visits. He got married for the third time when the girls were about nine and 10 and they went to live with him. They were so happy because they were escaping the abuse and they actually liked their new stepmother. They all moved into a brand new house and they took baths every single day. Something they could not do in their grandmother’s home. Unfortunately in time they learned their father wasn’t a very nice man and their stepmother,
Linda: 08:23 she was schizophrenia and in time her mental illness really began to manifest and she was not all that nice to my sister and I. and one day we were at home and if we got in trouble, we had to wash the dishes in the kitchen. Right. And on this incident, she took out a butcher knife and started coming at us and saying, I’m gonna kill you. I’m going to kill you, you know, blah, blah blah. And so my sister and I’d we locked ourselves in the bathroom because we were afraid of her know to us that’s threatening our lives. And when daddy came home, we told him about it. He told us we were lying, that she would never do that and it never happened. And when she went after him is when he finally kicked her out of the house, so the day that he kicked her out the house, he went over to the neighbor’s and proceeded to get drunk with the neighbors and he told them a story and their kids overheard the story.
Linda: 09:38 So the next day we went over to play and they’re calling out my sister’s name going, we’ve got a secret and Glenda can’t hear it. And of course I want to know what the secret is. I don’t like being excluded. And then my sister actually pulled me aside and told me that my mother had an affair and I am the product of that affair. After she died, no one wanted me, so he took me so that could have a sister. And it was at that moment when I realized my grandma hated me so much is because I was not a part of their family. So that when you’re asking my childhood was like, it was exceptionally lonely. I didn’t have anybody that I could turn to anyone that I could look at and go, you’re a part of me, you know. So I basically grew up not belonging anywhere,
Damon: 10:43 so Linda’s mother had an affair while married to Daddy. She said that because they were married when her mother was pregnant, daddy is listed as her birth father on her birth certificate, but he is not. Also realize that means Linda’s sister was biological to their abusive grandmother, which led to favoritism towards her sister back in her grandmother’s home. Her grandfather in that house witnessed everything and he tried to protect Linda, but he never stepped up to do the right thing by ending the abuse. Linda’s sister also suffered witnessing her sibling being abused. So she tried to protect her
Linda: 11:19 but what grandma would do is pull her aside. And you know, as a young child, my sister became grandma’s confidant and that was way too much stress to put on her. But yes, she was going to be, you know, she was smart. She was beautiful. She was all that and me, I was nothing. I would never amount to anything. So yeah, there was favoritism, but my sister ended up having to take her own trauma from it.
Damon: 11:51 Yeah. It sounds like if I understand what you’re saying correctly, because you were both children of the same, almost the same age and you guys were close to each other, but you are being treated terribly and she is not basically you guys are partners in life because you were at the St Age, but her partner in life is being abused and she’s not. So even if she’s not directly receiving that, she is impacted directly by it because she loves you
Linda: 12:26 and she’s a child and she doesn’t have any power.
Damon: 12:28 Yes, exactly.
Damon: 12:30 When the neighbor’s kids let the cat out of the bag about the affair. When Linda was around 10 years old, she knew immediately that she wasn’t related to her family and it made her fantasize about finding her birth father,
Linda: 12:42 you know, and, and that’s when the fantasy of finding my real father kind of happened, you know, trying to find my real family, you know, who are they, who am I really connected to? And whenever I went to address the question to any of the adults in the family, they would tell me, well, you’re just as much ours as my sister is, you know, so no one wanted to talk about it.
Damon: 13:09 The secret was being swept under the rug at 18 years old, living with her grandmother again. Linda had worked hard, bought and paid for her own car, but she wasn’t allowed to drive it.
Linda: 13:21 Grandma’s driving down the road and she begins calling me names and then she gets quiet and she goes, you know, Linda, you’re right. Your Dad is not your father. And it was like, wow, you know, my abuser is actually finally telling me the truth. So when I got home, Grandpa gave me his name, but I was always told that he didn’t want any part of me, you know, that I was basically, you know, that he didn’t want me. So I knew where he lived in the town I grew up in. I almost ran into him, but I was so afraid of rejection that I didn’t want to pursue it any further. So he passed away in 1988. So the chance to meet him kind of went away.
Damon: 14:16 Linda was in her late twenties when her biological father passed away in 2015. Daddy also passed away. Linda was appointed the executor of his estate, so she and her sister were at their father’s house packing up and that’s when the treasure trove of secrets came out. The divorce papers were there indicating their parents divorced because of their mother’s affair, which apparently he was also guilty of at the time they located her mother’s death certificate and the core papers granting daddy custody of the children.
Linda: 14:49 Then we also have some letters, so we found a letter that she wrote him telling him that she was pregnant with another man. So all the pieces started fitting into place. And what did you think when you saw those details of the life that happened that put you in the situation you were in? To be honest, anger. I was angry. You know, people should have done the right thing for a child and also a sense of relief, you know, because here the truth is finally out. So when you finally get the truth, you don’t have to live with the wondering anymore. Does that make sense?
Damon: 15:34 Yeah. You’re guessing you’re in your own head trying to figure out what could the. What are the missing pieces that I don’t know and when you finally read them directly from the people who have lived the experience that brought you to where you are, it’s. It does fill you with anger, but it is. It is a huge relief to finally understand, oh, this is what was missing. Now I get it.
Linda: 15:58 Exactly. Exactly.
Damon: 16:01 Linda went through all of the papers thinking she might give the scrapbook of daddy’s life to her sister. She found letters, his family sent to him while he was in the United States air force. She found things that gave her some background about her grandparents and their relationship with their son. By all appearances, they had given him everything, never held him accountable and probably felt disappointment for how he turned out and the fact that they had to help raise his kids. The whole thing was making Linda angry. So the scrapbook idea flew out the window. Linda had a burning desire to learn more of her true. Somewhere along the way, Linda learned that she had siblings on her biological father’s side.
Damon: 16:44 She’s met her brothers and they seem to be good people, but they don’t seem to want to know her. She wrote a letter to her biological father’s adopted daughter, overcoming her own fear that she might open a can of worms. Thankfully they’ve become friends and Linda says that this is the part where her deep healing began.
Linda: 17:03 She told me that my father always loved me and so I’ve got a different pitch than what I had been told before and started sending me items his one time I got this box and in the box was his watch and his watch and some other items cufflinks and there was one box in there that she made me promise to open last night. I said, okay, I’ll open it last. When she goes, no, you gotta promise you’re opening it last. And I said, okay, fine. And so when I got the box and I opened everything else and it was just as one last package to open it up inside the envelope was a little box made of ivory tiles with one little tiles missing and I turned it over and there was writing on the green felt, but it had faded over time so I really couldn’t make it out.
Linda: 18:07 But I got daughter family, your Daddy. So anyway, I added curiosity, opened up the box, birthday candles. So every yeara year on my birthday. He celebrated me and he never forgot about me and I can’t believe how I tear up even now. But the writing on the box was to my daughter family and the courts have taken you away from me. My hope is one day you will find me. I have and always will love you, your Daddy Paul. So in essence I wasn’t adopted, I was stolen from the biological connection that I should have had.
Damon: 19:06 How amazing to know that he was thinking of you the whole time,
Linda: 19:11 The whole time! So his birthday is two days before mine. So he was born on the 14th. My birthday is on the 16th, so in essence I was kind of like this birthday gift to him because he loved my mother. He really loved my mother and I don’t know why my mother chose to leave, you know, it could be because of guilt for having an affair. I don’t know that. I do know that he loved me and he wanted me and that has really helped put all the pieces in place.
Damon: 19:54 Yeah, I’ll bet it did. In what way though? Tell me how you. Why did it make you feel better?
Linda: 20:01 Well, you know, I got a opportunity to because I grew up without any love. Right. You know, when you grow up without love, you crave it, you seek it, you want that connection to anybody, somebody that will pay attention to you… And knowing that I was loved this whole time has given me more of a sense of self. You know, I don’t have to go out and seek it anymore because it was always present.
Damon: 20:33 Linda has gotten her story out in her book, which she said was a scary but empowering process to complete. I asked why writing her trauma down for the public to read was empowering
Linda: 20:44 Because I no longer have to carry it inside of me, you know, I it, it’s, it’s out there. I don’t have to. I just don’t have to carry this story inside of me anymore. It’s now outside of me and in a book, so it’s empowering because I told the story.
Damon: 21:06 You brought out your inner journey, the challenges there in and accepted the outcomes and your anger and your acceptance and love and all of that other stuff and you’ve written it down, you’ve expressed it, and now you can more openly talk about it and it might not be the right words to say own it, but you know, be more in control of it and not let it be in control of you, I guess. Right?
Linda: 21:35 Actually, I think you’re right. The right words are “own it”. I own it. These are. This is my story. It’s convoluted. It’s sad, but it’s mine. And so from this point forward, I can have a greater sense of self for the light that I choose to have, so I can control my thoughts, energies and emotions rather than my energy’s thoughts and emotions controlling me.
Damon: 22:07 After her book went to editing to be published, Linda’s journey, continued searching for answers about whom she’s connected to. Linda went on ancestry.com. She received a message from a woman saying they have a very close connection and she just assumed it was someone connected to her father.
Linda: 22:25 I looked at her profile and she was from the same countries as I was but also from African countries. So she was biracial. So I continued to do a little bit more digging and it finally came to me that she was not from my father’s side of the family, but then my mother’s side of the family, she is our mother’s third daughter and she is biracial. So what we were able to find out is that when our mother at a relationship with a black man and that pregnant, the family disowned her. So from 1962 to her death, the family didn’t really have any contact with her.
Damon: 23:21 Linda’s half sister was born in 1962, but given over to the state for adoption because their mother couldn’t care for three children. The family had disowned their mother for her relationship with a black man and the resulting pregnancy and the following year their mother was dead. Linda’s new sister had no clue who she was connected to her whole life until Linda showed up in their ancestry DNA. I asked Linda if she’s met her sister yet.
Linda: 23:48 So we’ve had conversations and we’ve talked a lot, but to be honest with you, and I know that this could be a pipe dream or it could be a dream come true, but between her and I, we talked about meeting for the first time. We would like to meet up for the first time on the Ellen Degeneres show.
Linda: 24:06 That would be really cool. We’ll tweet Ellen, we’ll tweet Ellen and let her know that this is something that you want.
Linda: 24:13 I would really appreciate that because I think it’s a human interest story that a lot of people can relate to, if not understand, because I know our story is not unique. I think a lot of people have it.
Damon: 24:29 I keyed in on something that Linda said earlier that she didn’t grow up with love if she didn’t receive love as a kid. I wondered how has that impacted her adult relationships?
Linda: 24:39 You know, the truth of it is is… I choose to spend a lot of alone time because it’s just easier. Relationships are tough because the trauma does come up and the fear of abandonment and abuse and all of that kind of stuff is forever present, so I’m okay with being by myself.
Damon: 25:04 I can Imagine,
Linda: 25:06 you know, and I do have a daughter, you know, and raising her has been really helpful and learning how to have those connections.
Damon: 25:17 How has being a parent to her, how have you done things differently than how you were raised?
Linda: 25:24 Well, first off I gave her a lot of love. She knew that she was wonderful and appreciated and I gave her the support that she needed. Doesn’t mean there weren’t times when I wasn’t frustrated with her behaviors and she got told that, but the one thing that I have done as a parent is I’ve been absolutely honest with her and I’ve had her suffer the natural consequences of her behaviors, but never in a way where her sense of self was put in jeopardy. Does it make sense? So I think I’ve raised a really good kid
Damon: 26:03 that’s really great. You know, I like, I think a lot of times adoptees and children who are stolen, foster children, those who do not grow up in, you know, the most ideal of circumstances ended up raising children many times with Supreme Love, care, tenderness, right? Compassion and thoughtfulness because they recognize but they didn’t feel when they were growing up and they want to make sure that they pass on what they didn’t get to the next person in. That’s their own child. And I think a lot of times we make excellent parents. We want to dote on, you know, our own offspring in ways that perhaps sometimes we weren’t or that we get from our biologicals.
Damon: 26:53 I asked how Linda’s doing in general these days. She’s written her book and she owns her story. She said she feels good, she’s content with life and she’s looking at other ways to heal as well as help others. For example, Linda hopes to bring other stories from her family’s history to light in future books. I heard Linda say she was a social worker, so I asked her about it.
Linda: 27:16 So, um, right now I actually worked for the, I work with veterans and uh, yeah. That’s awesome. Good for you. You know, I’ve done a whole host of things. I basically, I’m the wounded healer, you know, you go in and you know, you can’t figure out your own stuff so you try to help other people. But you know, so I’m a wounded healer right now, you know, the, the work that I’m doing is pretty rewarding. So I’m enjoying it, you know, and I still get to help people, which is really nice. And because I am the wounded healer, and I think this is probably true for you too, you know, we have that empathetic compassion and so you go in, you know, when I work with people I can feel their pain, I can feel their emotions because been there, done that.
Damon: 28:07 It sounds like you’re up to some really cool projects going into the future that are going to be super helpful for other people. So I want to ask you one final thing, if you don’t mind, the title of your book is my father’s eyes. Why is that?
Linda: 28:21 So it’s “My Father’s Eyes, A Story of Stolen Lives”. And the reason why is so grandpa came to where I was living in Oregon cause how we bonded is with horses. And so my horse gave birth to the first line of my grandpa’s line, you know, so he wanted to see the new philly. So he came out and we were sitting on the back of my truck and, and this was probably 1980, 1987. So he was sitting on the back of my truck and we were talking and I asked him about my bio father, how come you never told me before what, what was he like in Grandpa’s? Said that he was a very nice man and he apologized to me again for the way that I was raised. I think he suffered a lot of guilt knowing that they should have done the right thing and given me over to my bio father.
Linda: 29:15 But anyway, he went and he went back home and grandma was in a nursing home at the time because she had another mental health breakdown and grandpa calls and he says, Hey, I found the obituary of Paul, would you like it? And I said, yeah, I do. I would love to know more about my bio father. So then we go to the impromptu family reunion and grandpa would never give me the obituary. And I was concerned, you know why? And then finally when everyone’s attention was diverted, he looked at me and you know, made that movement to come closer and he secretly passed me the obituary. So that was my cue. Let’s not talk about this. No one needs to know that he did this for me, so when I got a chance to get away and actually read the obituary, I was looking at my biological father for the first time and we have the same eyes, so it’s my father’s eyes.
Damon: 30:28 What did you think when you saw that?
Linda: 30:31 I am the spitting image of the man.
Damon: 30:34 Really? That’s awesome.
Linda: 30:36 So I wanted to honor my parents. Two was lonely people. They came together, created a life and they were good people. Both my father and my mother. They were very good people. They just didn’t know how to deal with things
Damon: 30:57 and they were in some complex situations it sounds like too.
Linda: 31:00 And they were. Yeah. Yeah.
Damon: 31:03 Wow, Linda, this has been an incredible story and I’m really appreciative of the fact that you’ve, you know, found the bravery within yourself to come face to face with everything you’ve been through and to share it with people so that they understand, you know, this is one way that a child can grow up and it’s, it’s not the best way, but that you’re okay on the other side.
Linda: 31:27 I appreciate that. It’s tough. I will admit that I still remain scared to share the story, but I did.
Damon: 31:37 You did.
Linda: 31:37 So there you have it.
Damon: 31:39 You Did. This is you? Here you are. Thank you so much. It’s good to
Linda: 31:46 I appreciate you too, so thank you so much
Damon: 31:46 You’re welcome. My pleasure. All the best to you, Linda. Take care. Have a great weekend.
Linda: 31:53 You too.
Damon: 31:53 Alright, bye, Bye. Bye. Hey, it’s me. It’s always disappointing to hear that the adults in a child’s life don’t do the right thing to try to save a child from threatening conditions that the child didn’t ask to be put in and has no control over changing for themselves. I really wish someone in Linda’s family had stepped up to save her from the tyranny of her grandmother. My eyes welled up when Linda said that her father’s box of ivory titles was filled with birthday candles from years they spent apart. Sometimes our birth parents can be so thoughtful when they miss us during our lives. You can find Linda’s book at Linda Blackmer Dot Com.
Linda: 32:36 That’s L I N D A B L A C K M E R Dot com. Or you can search “My Father’s Eyes, A Story of Stolen Lives Lives” on Amazon. I’m Damon Davis, and to hope you’ll find something in Linda’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really? Thanks so much for listening to season. I’m going to take some time off now to finish my book, work on some personal projects, and enjoy the holiday season. I’m planning to return around February of 2019. Until then, all the best. 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 journey or share completely anonymously. You can find the show at facebook.com/wairreally, or follow me on twitter @WAIReally, and please, if you like the show, you can support me at patrion.com/waireally you can subscribe to who am I really on apple podcasts, Google play or wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there it would mean so much to me. If you would take a moment to share a rating or leave a comment, those ratings can help others to find the podcast too.