Kyle tells the story of growing up, towering over his mother and sister and looking very different from them, but being loved. Locating his birth mother he was amazed to see someone he looked like but struggled to get along with as she battled her own pain. In the end, he was able to truly connect to his Native American heritage while discovering the pain that was deep within him. His experience inspired him to write two songs.
Kyle: 00:03 And that’s the thing is she’s a great person. It was just very hard towards the end to have the relationship because I think she felt she wanted to be my mom. I just period and she couldn’t be. She didn’t raise me and it was a very tough thing for her. And I think it’s just the trauma, you know, it’s easy to get wrapped up in my own trauma, but you know, that can’t be easy… Giving up a baby, especially when you don’t want to.
Damon: 00:47 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 my guest on the show today is Kyle. He called me from Seattle, Washington. Kyle tells the story of growing up, towering over his mother and sister and looking very different from them, but being loved, locating his birth mother. He was amazed to see someone he looked like, but struggled to get along with as she battled her own pain. In the end, he was able to truly connect to his native American heritage and the experience inspired him to write two songs. Here’s part of one of them called the saddest song and did this is Kyle’s journey
Damon: 02:33 Kyle said that he had a good childhood, but they didn’t really talk about adoption still. He felt like everyone in the family knew he was adopted and some folks were a little nicer to him in his extended family while some folks were less so within Kyle’s nuclear family. His mother told him the story of how she had several babies to choose from, but she picked him and he liked that his dad was engaged, cracking jokes, and he was a fun Dad, but his parents separated when he was young, so the challenges of switching between houses made things a little tougher. He acknowledges that he did feel kind of different.
Kyle: 03:10 Really good childhood. I think I always felt a little different, but when you’re a child you don’t really know why. I just thought I was very shy, so I think I attributed a feeling different. Just that I wasn’t outgoing. My sister is very outgoing and so I thought, well, it’s just because I’m really shy that people don’t notice me as much or you know, I feel different. Yeah, we’d go to my grandparents’ house. They have a farm in North Dakota and go there as children for the summer and my grandmother did the opposite. I was the youngest, so a lot of times the older kids didn’t want to play with me so she would take me under her wing and teach me things and my grandfather would take me with him and he, you know, fix farm equipment. And so that was a, that was actually some of the best memories I’ve had in my life was growing up on the farm.
Damon: 04:05 Those were great because Kyle could just tag along as his grandmother baked and did other things around the farm. She taught him a little about how to play piano and told him stories about when his father was younger or when she first met Kyle’s mother. His grandmother knew he was shy and she needed to reach out to connect with him. She even attempted to connect him with his heritage.
Kyle: 04:29 They always knew that I had some native American blood, but they didn’t know what tribe or anything else, but I remember when I was really young that my grandmother took me by myself all the way up into Canada to go to a powwow and at the time I didn’t really know. Yeah, I didn’t think it through. I just thought, oh, this is kind of cool. Or by herself and, but looking back he was trying to show me things that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Um, my family is very scandinavian, so that was a very, a very interesting.
Kyle: 05:09 I think she, she knew of my birth heritage and just thought I’m going to, I’m going to take him up there and expose him to cultures that may be like, you know, some of his ancestors. I also remember she would tell me ,well, When she was little, it was still in a lot of places to kind of the wild west, you know, so she remembers a chief that would come into town and trade for things when she was a little kid, so she told me about him all the time and how he was really tall and proud and so I think she, yes, she used her, her real experiences also to connect with me in ways that I didn’t even fully. I mean I appreciate them, but I appreciate them more now.
Damon: 05:52 Kyle paints a picture of his grandmother as a very kind person you may have picked up on. Kyle’s mentioned of his sister. She was born after his mother had two miscarriages. After her birth, his mother’s physician told her she could not have another child naturally or it might kill her. So Kyle was adopted. Remember now he’s already said his family is very scandinavian. His sister, is blue eyed and blonde haired. I’m sure you can imagine that Kyle’s descent from native Americans gave him dark brown eyes, black hair, and to add to their differentiation, he’s six foot three, much taller than his family. Kyle and his sister battled like any sibling pair would as children, but they’re much closer now as adults. Sadly, his father passed away when he was 11 years old, making the challenge of raising two children much harder for their mother still. She was a great mother, so he didn’t feel much desire to seek out his birth. Mother, Kyle said it wasn’t until his mid twenties that he really decided he wanted to search. He said the urge just hit him one day.
Kyle: 07:01 It comes a an awakening, I guess, where you realize that you want to just know, and I guess I had been married really young. I had a child. I got divorced so I had to kind of a new life and I think that’s when I started realizing that I, I want to know more. I wasn’t putting my energy into my marriage anymore and I think that also kind of… I was a little bit depressed, so I think that made me think more of longing and things that might make my life better or things that are kind of in the back of my mind,
Damon: 07:36 Kyle was wondering what his birth mother looked like and what bits of the information the social worker had given his family were right. His mother found some notes from the social worker from the time prior to his adoption. The documents said that Kyle was a plump little baby with chubby cheeks and his birth mother was very young. She also noted to her social worker back then that his birth father was a truck driver and Kyle is a black crow Indian. Reading that for himself, Kyle was left to imagine whether his birth mother wanted him or if she was forced to give him up. Did she try to keep him or did she hand him over easily because he was a mistake. He had lots of unanswered questions, but I know that for many people actually reading your true heritage instead of just hearing rumors from family members can be a bit of a moment. I asked Kyle about that moment for him.
Kyle: 08:29 That really hit me because it, it kind of reinforced the identity. I already know. You kind of identify yourself as different things. It made me realize I wasn’t know. I wouldn’t say like living a lie, but you kind of wonder. There’s a lot of family things that people say they turned out not to be true. So I always wonder, am I really, you know, I have black hair and everything, but I am more pale skin, so I’m thinking maybe I’m just, you know, what if it turns out I’m Italian and I’m tall from, you know, or whatever. So it felt good. It felt good to, to be told something for so long and then have it be real. It made me feel a little bit of a little piece to me. I was missing, you know, made me. Yeah. Made me a little bit more whole. I think
Damon: 09:21 I can see how that’s true. If all of your life, you’re told that you’re generally native American, then you learn your true tribal identity. Anyway, the letterhead was from children’s home society. He called them and they said he could go in to have a conversation that same day,
Kyle: 09:38 and I told him who I was, what my, what I wanted to find out, and they said, well, your birth mother sent a letter this week, which was just crazy. She sent a letter to let them know that if I contacted them that she wants them to let me contact her back and had her address. So
Kyle: 10:07 Yeah, she’d sent it. It gotten there a couple days before I stood in the office. I mean it was still in her desk, in a file drawer that she probably just put in a couple of days before that just waiting in the off chance that eventually someone might come in and I was yet literally there within days. So
Damon: 10:41 Kyle said he was 28 when that remarkable simultaneous search for each other started. I told him I thought that their timing was really interesting because it wasn’t like he was 18 or 21 landmark ears in a person’s life when their birth parent might say to themselves, okay, he’s legal or now he’s old enough. Twenty eight was a fairly odd year to my mind and after I said it to Kyle, he agreed, but he said it was actually a great time for her to reach out because he knew more about who he was and he was more comfortable in his skin. He was an angry guy in his early twenties, but after his divorce and the birth of his son, he had really settled down. Kyle felt a bond to his boy and try to imagine what it would be like if someone took his son away. A lot of adoptees say they’re hugely impacted by the birth of their children, so I asked him how it was for him.
Kyle: 11:34 Oh yes, definitely. It’s a bunch of factors, but first I lost my father when I was 11, so he never really… I wasn’t taught how to be a man through him as much because I was so young. So having a child actually helped me to become a man and not only that, uh, they didn’t, their rooms were all full. There were so many people giving birth that made to be in a tiny exam room. I had to hold my ex wife’s leg, so when she gave birth, I mean I was a much bigger part of it than I thought. And I can imagine I can just remember just the emotions, you know? Yeah. There’s just something about it. And I realized after a couple of days that I didn’t even know what I was missing, but now I couldn’t imagine not having a child. Now that son is 25, so ya know.
Kyle: 12:34 And he’s, he’s a, he’s a really neat guy and I have three children now and I just can’t imagine my life without them. And I know maybe for me at least as an adoptee, there’s something about being able to build your own family and you know, you’re more in control of the relationships. And yeah, it really has changed my life a lot and I never realized how much it would change me. Yeah, it’s helped me grow as a human. I mean, every child I would have, I would have some kind of new personal growth. And your confidence or. Yeah, it’s amazing.
Damon: 13:13 Kyle was way more excited than he was nervous to send his birth mother a letter. So he went straight home to draft it knowing that she actually wanted contact, made the whole thing so much easier. About three days later he got a letter back.
Kyle: 13:28 Yeah, she was very… Gave me your phone number. It was very interested in meeting me and her letter told me that she never wanted to give me head. She wanted to keep me, that her parents had made her give me up and it was just, it was, it was sad. I felt sad for her having to give me up, but I was so happy that she’d wanted me. I mean, that really, really impacted me a lot. And uh, it was very emotional. I know I cried when I read the letter and I kind of, when I wrote the letter, I was so elated that didn’t even occur to me how, you know, I was, I was Kinda happy crying when I got her letter. I was sad for, it was a lot of emotions. But yeah, the main emotion though was just joy at the fact that she wanted me. And you know, I just think that’s a very powerful thing is feeling unwanted, you know, that’s a very human thing just in life in general. But to know your mom does or doesn’t want you is I think something that you really want to know. So that was a, that was really great. And uh, yeah, it didn’t take long before. I mean obviously when I got that letter I composed myself enough and then I called her and she said the same things and it was just amazing.
Kyle: 14:48 Well, uh, I called her and she, I could tell that she was trying not to cry, but yes, she just, she kept telling me that she wanted me and I want you to know that I wanted you and I want you to feel like I didn’t want you. So I, the first realization was a lot of reassurances she really wanted me to know that she had always thought about me, you know, she told me she thought about me every day and yeah, it was a, she was just very, very thankful and happy that I reached out to her and as you know, as I was to her and
Damon: 15:24 since they were reassuring one another, Kyle also wanted to let his mother know that he had been raised by loving parents and that he had been okay as anyone does leading into a big conversation. Like there’s, he tried to imagine what it was going to be, like to speak with his birth mother and tell her about his adopted mother. But he said, describing his mom to his birth. Mom wasn’t nearly as awkward as he thought it would be. A few days later, Kyle went to meet his mother in person. He took the ferry to the island where she lives off the coast of Washington state. He jokes about the first time he saw her,
Kyle: 16:01 she opens the door and she’s even shorter than my mom and sister, but she’s got the. She’s got black hair and dark brown eyes and so it’s like, I felt an instant kinship, but I was also surprised. Part of me was like, why is she not blonde? Because I was so used to, you know, mother figures and women in my life were always or light headed. And so part of my brain was like, she’s not blonde. And I was like, well, of course you have outlined, are you blonde? You know?
Kyle: 16:33 Yeah. It was. It was very, very interesting when I. There’s just something about hugging somebody that shares your blood that you’ve never. You’ve never hugged someone you should share their blood it’s like you feel an instant kinship. And not only that, but I’m people telling me I’m really laid back and I got it from her 100 percent.
Kyle: 16:53 She is very, very laid back and it seems very calm and yeah, it was interesting to see that right away, see the, um, the features and the way she acts and she paints and draws and I paint and draw a lot of things like that in common as well. So that was very kind of eyeopening and then there’s the whole, you know, nature versus nurture and I don’t really know if something’s or coincidence or not, but it just, it felt like it felt like a genetic thing — laid back, painters and drawers, you know. But uh, yeah, that was amazing that I’ll never forget meeting her. And she was very, very nice and very, very nice lady.
Damon: 17:44 At that time in Kyle’s life, he had been feeling lonely. He just divorced his wife and moved back in with his mother to focus on saving money to provide for his son. So meeting his birth mother filled a wide open void, giving him a new sense of joy and coming off of that high in 1999, a separate relationship also started.
Damon: 18:18 Kyle told me his world expanded with two new dark haired women. When I asked how the relationship with his birth mother progressed, he said that was the tough part. He didn’t ask about his birth father at first because he didn’t want to upset or offend her. When he did ask, she was really uncomfortable,
Kyle: 18:36 you know, when I broached the subject, she didn’t really want to talk very much about. It was very little information and actually kind of have found that with kind of every man in her life. She didn’t really want to talk about her father. Um, so that would be, you know, my grandfather, she just didn’t want to talk about him, didn’t want to talk. It was her and her mom and her sister were kind of her little family.
Damon: 19:07 Kyle figured if the topic hurt her, he wouldn’t bring it up. But he did want a little more information just in case he wanted to try to find the man. Some day he still had curiosities. Like whether there were medical conditions he should be aware of, or was his father where he got his height?
Kyle: 19:24 Unfortunately, I think it was very hard for her. I think when I was around her it would make her feel more like a teenager. She was, it brought it all back. Yeah. It wasn’t always like that, but I think it was very hard. I mean when I got married, I invited her. She came to the wedding, so you have my birth mother and my adopted mother in the same, you know, sitting next to each other. And boy, the tension mostly on my birth, mother’s side was, I think she felt very slighted, but there was nothing going on and I started to find out later that, I mean she’s a great person. She really is. I think there’s just these, this deep pain and so she was always kind of looking for something, some kind of slight or something bad to happen. And so I was very careful to not upset her.
Kyle: 20:22 So that’s part of why I had trouble getting any information, you know, about my grandfather and my birth father is she would get, she would get very upset and kind of shut down and also if I, if I, if she even thought I was kind of upset, like irritated, she would really get upset. I think she was very worried about me rejecting her, just like I was worried she’d reject me. So I think anytime I would get even slightly irritated or upset here so it wasn’t her. She got really kind of nervous and that’s the thing is she’s a great person. It was just very hard towards the end to have the relationship because I think she felt she wanted to be my mom. I just period and she couldn’t be. She didn’t raise me and it was a very tough thing for her and I think it was just the trauma, you know, it’s easy to get wrapped up in my own trauma, but you know, that can’t be easy giving up a baby, especially when you don’t want to. Whether you’re mature enough or not, doesn’t really matter. I mean, trauma is trauma.
Damon: 21:29 It got so hard that sometimes his birth mother would just get really angry and hang up on Kyle. He said he would always call back and try to talk her down, but she was also pressuring Kyle’s son into religion and while he didn’t mind his son being exposed to new things, it was her pressure tactics that Kyle wanted to protect his son against. Kyle asked her politely to tone it down, but of course she got upset. He had reached a decision point in his relationship with his birth mother.
Kyle: 22:00 I had to decide because I have a, another family. I’ve gotten my children and my wife, how much I can take, you know, how much a kind of chaos I want in my life. And then I asked myself, is this helping her because she always just wanted to know I’m okay. She knows I’m okay and I just think that for some reason, I don’t know. I don’t think she can move forward from the pain and I don’t know if that’ll ever change.
Damon: 22:30 Kyle was open to making amends with his birth mother, but he decided this time he would let her call him back. She never did. They had a relationship for nine years. He diverted his energy into his immediate family, recognizing that he didn’t want to set the example for his children of being in an unhealthy relationship when they could just exit, but the thought of a biological relationship that has died never goes away for an adoptee. Kyle told me that whenever the phone rings from an unknown number, he wonders if it’s her, so he answers, but it never is. He’s thought about sending a letter to her to let her know he’s okay to see if their relationship could be better through mail correspondence, but he hasn’t done that yet. Their last phone call was 10 years ago still, even though things turned sour between them, Kyle still thinks very highly of his birth mother.
Kyle: 23:28 She’s a very good person. I mean, she really is and it’s just. I think just that one part of her life is just hard for her and yeah, I’m hoping that someday we can maybe find some type of relationship that isn’t this strained and where she feels comfortable and good and I do too because I don’t know, when I think about I don’t want to have her pass away and never resolve this.
Kyle: 24:01 Because you know, even though I don’t want to be the person who always comes back and like, you know, you hung up on me, but here I am, you know, I’m a carpet walk on me some more. But at the same time I don’t, I don’t want to regret anything and maybe it’s not in her. Maybe, you know, I think, I mean I feel like I’m damaged in some ways and maybe she’s just too damaged in that way to do it or maybe she’s has in her head that she hung up on me. She can’t call me back because I don’t forgive her. I won’t separate. Maybe she’s worried I’ll reject her. So I just came to the conclusion that I have to reach out to her again. And who knows, maybe the second reunion will be the reunion. I don’t know, but I’m not the same person I was. So
Damon: 24:54 Yeah, yo know, you said some interesting things in there, one of which to me, you know, the idea that you don’t want to just be walked all over. That’s one thing for sure. But the other thing is, you know, you guys were separated at birth and not reunited again for, you know, almost 30 years and you know, you found each other. She clearly wanted to get to know you or at least reach out and find out if you were okay by virtue of the letter she sent. Um, yeah, I think it’s okay that you still want to reach out and at least crack the door. Don’t leave it slammed shut, but you know, just kind of open it up and let somebody know this is unlocked. It’s open for you. You can come through if you want and continue to invest the energy that you have into your family. But you know, there’s another side which is you all have lived separate lives for 28 years and you might be right that the like maybe she did just want to know you’re okay.
Damon: 25:57 I’ve had a relationship with him. He seems like a decent guy on, I can’t handle this, but it may be really, really tough for her too. And so I guess what I’m saying is I think it’s smart for you to reach out, open the door again and then you know, see if she wants to open it from her side and if she does, cool. If not, you can at least rest assured that you’ve done all that you could do to invite her back in and you can continue to do that. Nobody says it has to be a one time thing. Every three months you can reach out and just say, hey, just a quick update, here’s what’s happening with the family and I hope you’re well and leave it at that. And then you’ll know that you’ve done all that you could to invite her back in.
Kyle: 26:40 Exactly. Yeah. I don’t want any regrets. Yeah, yeah, I agree. Totally agree, and it might be she’s not capable of reaching out, you know, I really don’t know. I think she’s kind of left that up to me. He always for fear that she’ll bother me or upset me so.
Kyle: 26:59 Well probably had, you know, you’ve said that the pattern between you was we would talk, she’d get upset, she’d hang up and I would call back and now basically the pattern has ended. You haven’t called back and it may be that she feels that the pattern has been broken and she might be thinking it’s you and you might be thinking it’s her. You know what I mean? So it’s probably worth reaching back out just to say, Hey, I’m still here.
Damon: 27:26 Kyle feels like writing letters is the right way to go. And after our chat he said he thought he might do so. So of course I was really curious about whether he found any information about his biological father. He said he searched for at least 10 years before the era of DNA testing. Then more recently he found the third cousin on a DNA platform who told Kyle that his biological father, whose name he had been misspelling, thereby crippling his search was the guy’s great uncle.
Kyle: 27:56 She had passed away in 2002, but through exhaustive search. And then I finally went to facebook. I found that I had six siblings, so that was a really great. And I’ve so far I’ve connected with five of them. One of them’s not, she doesn’t think she’s interested, which I understand. So she’s not ready yet and maybe she’ll never be ready, but it’s just, it was amazing at that time to, to find that. So that was kind of the same. It was like meeting my birth mother because meeting my sisters was just, I felt like I’d always known them. I was able to meet two of them and wow. It was just, it was pretty, uh, pretty emotional and pretty great.
Damon: 28:52 He’s got a good relationship with his four sisters and he’s working on the connection with his brother whom he hasn’t met yet. Kyle said it’s weird to go from only one sister and no nieces or nephews to be in a great uncle to tons of nieces and nephews and having six siblings in his words. It’s crazy in a good way. Also, interesting. Kyle figured out more clearly what his native American heritage really is. He’s actually Yakimaw,
Kyle: 29:21 but yeah, I found through the tribe there’s a genealogy that goes back so I can trace my way back to the mid 18 hundreds to my family on the reservation. Yeah, that was the only good part. Maybe the government, you know, it was really with making sure they knew all the people where they lived, their spouses. The census is very detailed. So I found that and I found a picture of my great, great grandmother and uh, that was somehow even more emotional because she has the exact same eyes I have. So seeing a picture of her, like the actual person and see my eyes was just like where I caught my eyes from generations ago. That was a really amazing. So
Kyle: 30:25 You know, I think the only, the only thing that was kind of hard during this was going through this journey is I found I had a lot of extra hurt and anger in me that I’ve kind of held in for years and years and years and it wasn’t as much for my birth mother. Anybody was more just the, the idea of not being able to know the truth, you know, having to, to try so hard to find out where you’re from. You know, the. Unfortunately most states don’t have great adoption laws or you don’t. I understand you want to protect the people, but I think it’d be great maybe to have more information or to make it easier for adoptees to, you know, if your birth mother and father don’t want to talk to you, that’s fine, but maybe make it easier to at least reach out or have some type of information because that. I think that’s the, there’s a joy when you find it, but then a part of you is thinking, why do I have to. I mean, I invested 10 years just trying to find a birth father who’s not around anymore. It’s worth it. I found these siblings, but at the same time it’s kind of crushing, you know, I have friends who they wake up and they know who their parents are and they can just call them or drive over and see them and they know who all their cousins and aunts and uncles and everything. And I’m still trying to figure that out. I mean, I have one aunt left on the native side and she’s, you know, she’s it and it’s hard kind of getting to her because I have to go through a bunch of other relatives. So I may never meet her. I mean, she’s, she may not be around much longer and she’s the last person of that generation who, my father’s sister, who could tell me about them.
Kyle: 32:20 And it’s, uh, it’s hard not knowing the truth, but I will say this though, through all the, the frustration anger had after this, I come to another place where now I feel, I think for the first time of my life, I feel whole. I feel like a whole person. I know everything I need to know and you know, I’m good with it. I’m, I, I think information is power and when it comes to being adopted, the more you know, the more you can kind of fill that that wound you have. And so, and that’s another reason why I want to talk to my birth mother again. It’s, I, I don’t, I don’t want her to leave us and not realize how much I care about her and how important she is.
Kyle: 33:15 You know, I think initially I’m pretty sure it made her uncomfortable and a little bit insecure. But, um, I was very careful to always assure her that, you know, you raised me, my mom and that’s not going to change. And I think after, I think it took her a couple of years to really feel comfortable and know that I’m, you know, I’m still visiting her. She’s still my mom. Nothing’s changed. I think she was, she was pretty good about because even when I, I felt that she was uncomfortable, she never said anything. She never, um, she tried not to show it and she was just very supportive. So I was very lucky that she’s always been a very supportive mom. So that helped me a lot too. I know it could have probably gone way worse
Kyle: 34:10 Oh yeah, yeah definitely, but I mean, you know, you had your share, you, you went through the reunification process with your biological mother, found some traits about yourself that are similar, you know, being an artist in a and having a similar demeanor but then know to find that her wound in her, not anger, but you know, her disposition is preventing her from sort of proceeding in what would hopefully be a healthier relationship. I mean, you definitely had your ups and downs. It sounds like it’s been really challenging. But um, I was really glad to hear you say I’ve reached a place of, of feeling whole that the information is power and now I have the information. That’s an incredible spot to be in and not everybody gets to that point. So in some ways you’re pretty lucky. I definitely feel lucky and that’s cool. Well, thanks so much for sharing your story. This has been really interesting to hear. I’m glad that the tribe had the extensive genealogical information that allowed you to see all the way back into the past. That’s really fascinating.
Damon: 35:34 Hey, it’s me. Kyle says, gotten through the tough part of his magical journey with some nightmares parts mixed in, but he feels the journey marches on. You could probably hear the excitement in our voices as we talked about Kyle’s access to genealogical records about his family. There’s something about delving into recorded genealogy that’s just incredible for an adoptee, especially when you can see pieces of yourself in pictures of your ancestors. Of course it’s even more special for him because his heritage is one that was nearly obliterated when this nation was formed. Like I said, Kyle has composed music reflecting his adoption and reunion experience. This one is called home in your eyes. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you will find something in Kyle’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?
Damon: 40:08 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/waireally, 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.
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