150 – So Many Things Tie Together

Joe is from Assonet, Massachusetts, just south of Boston. He shares his pride for being an adopted person, the challenge to make his way through his physical limitations as a kid, and the demons he removed from his life before attempting reunion. 

Facing secondary rejection. He had to overcome the anger and hurt to even attempt the next reunion decades later. When he did, Joe learned that his siblings in different families were friends, his father’s had friends in common and that everything in his life was connected in ways he hadn’t realized.

This is Joe’s journey.

Transcript
Joe: [:. We were able to fix that. [:

Show Open

Damon: [:

Facing secondary rejection. He had to overcome the anger and hurt to even attempt the next reunion decades later. When he did, Joe learned that his siblings in different families were friends. His father's had friends in common and that everything in his life was connected in ways he hadn't realized

this is joe's journey

Episode Open

t as thick as some people's, [:

Talking about his own adoption. Joe said he was pretty fortunate. When he was born, he developed a staph infection that led to some medical conditions, but his parents brought him home anyway.

Joe: [:got myself, I got a brother [:

Yeah. So there's four of us and honestly, it was a family, there was no separation. I've heard stories where people felt broken or they didn't belong or anything like that. We didn't have that. My brother, Louie and I didn't have that. We would, we get, we get just as much joy and just as much punishment , altogether.

So my adopted life was fabulous. , my extended family, everything was all about being included. And I think that, you know, you hear a lot of stories, you know, adoptees and include mid sad because, you know, we didn't choose to be adopted. I mean, we were into this because of the circumstances, and then you dig up the circumstances later in life.

adly about them. Which made [:

You know, nice people adopted and they got my legs fixed and they're taking good care of me and I have a good life. I was, I was I was always worried about that. You know, that they wouldn't know that I was okay. I think that, , I get that from my folks. I think because they were very concerned too, that, you know, my biological parents were treated the respect and understood that the loss that they had too

Damon: [:Joe: [:

My biological father was 17. So back in 58, you didn't keep children. I mean, things changed over the years, , into where there was more resources and understanding of the seventies and eighties where, you know, teen teens were keeping their children back at 58. They didn't do that. You were given up for adoption so that the child was given a better opportunity and the biological parents were given an opportunity to grow up as well.

Damon: [:Joe: [:

Shopping, you went do what you were looking for and that's the child you want it. And that's how I picked out. Therefore, when it was time to go get a sibling, we're going to do the same thing. We're going to go pick out my brother. And that's what we did.

Damon: [:

As you said that you wanted a sister, but then you got a brother. My wife was making my son, who's now 13. He must've been about seven or eight when he said this, she made him dinner and he didn't ask him for his input on it. So she just put it down in front of him. And she looked at, he looked at the plate.

And he looked up at her and he goes, I didn't order this.

Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

I love my brother dearly, but I use the word I tell him yet. Well, I see, you know, I wanted a sister, but I got stuck with him, laugh over it because, you know, we, we grew up late. We, we, I mean, we were very fortunate and I mean, I have to tell you something, I'm proud to be an adoptee. I'm a proud that I was adopted carry with me, like a badge, because it's an honor to have the parents that I had And then later on in life to then reconnect with my biological father in see that I probably would have grown up in a very similar family.

Damon: [:

. We ask ourselves if we're expecting a fairytale ending, will we be able to live with any heartache that comes from searching? And will we be okay with some combination of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Joe's had multiple people ask him about their own reunion journeys over the years and he's always offered this sound advice

Joe: [:

And, I don't think I was a hundred percent prepared

Damon: [:

And the same thing is through is true with, you know, your professional life and other pieces of personal life. And with search and reunion, you're never 100% ready because you can't know everything that's about to come at you. So it's impossible to prick completely prepare. So I just wanted to sort of touch on that for anybody who might be listening and thinking to themselves, Oh man, he's right.

I'm not 100% ready. You will never get to be 100% ready. So you might just have to dive

Joe: [:cause , this is a lot about, [:Damon: [:

He was an average kid, even though in many ways he was different.

Joe: [:

And I always wanted to be like everybody else, , you know, you could see I had a disability, but you couldn't see that I was adopted. So I had two things going on there. But it never interfered with my growing up. I was, I was pretty good with it up until about I moved, I went from one town to the next town over and things changed a little bit because of my disability.

se I was always accepted. In [:

And then I worked my way into being accepted in things got better as time went on and I did. Okay. I had a couple of rough spots, but for the most part I did. Okay. I got a little ugly for a while. I took, I took a lot of hassles, but you get through that, you know what I mean? It is what it is. You make friends and you move on, but it was, it was something that, again, I wasn't prepared for and it hurt a little bit.

Yeah.

Damon: [:Joe: [:Damon: [:[:Joe: [:

But but I was, I was kind of, but I had a limp. Yeah, I got you. Cool. And they had a shoe that had a lift on it and I was a little embarrassed about that being a six, eight, 10, 12 year old kid. You're going to be because you're different. You don't want to be, you want to be like everybody

Damon: [:

I asked him to elaborate on that. He said in his teen years, when kids are really contemplating themselves, how they behave to fit in and what they look like that he really didn't look like his mom and his dad or his siblings. He didn't look like anybody.

Joe: [:and I I didn't see anything. [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

But if I looked in the mirror, I had nothing to compare it to. Therefore I didn't see anything I had. No, I didn't have any look to me.

Damon: [:

I've never heard

Joe: [:

That's, that's really

Damon: [:

s Joe started getting older, [:

For more than 30 years, he had lived with the diseased hip that eventually gave out requiring hip replacement surgery. Handling surgery preparation on his own as an adult. Versus when his parents handled his medical needs, when he was a kid. . Ignited curiosity about his medical history.

He wondered what happened years ago when his birth mother was pregnant. He was curious about who his birth father was and the dynamic between them

Joe: [:know, they worry about their [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

You want to know, you want to know who your family is. And curiosity got the better of me. And then I started and I'm glad I did. I went through some difficult times with it, but I'm glad I did. And once I get started, there was no stopping. I always call the Pandora's box. And I tell people that once you start your search, there's no going back.

nt, you say, I can't do this [:

It's just amazing.

Damon: [:

Like, you know, I, I wonder how far the North star is from us and you reach in your pocket and you Google it and your curiosity, you satisfy like the curiosities that come up. Like, I wonder where my biological mother's from and you can't unscratched that you like, you have to scratch that itch.

You can't just say, nevermind. I don't want to know anything about, or once you've begun that process of starting to be curious, you can't not be curious anymore. It's just, I just don't think it's possible.

Joe: [:

Once you get on that train, you're taking that

Damon: [:ogical mother. And about two [:

that's amazing. That's

Joe: [:Damon: [:

At that time?

Joe: [:

That helped a lot that helped clear up a lot of things to make this ride that I was wanting doable because if I kept drinking, it would probably would have turned into a disaster. So , I put down the bottle and concentrated on getting, not only myself physically well, but emotionally and mentally well with the upcoming search that I was putting myself into and then emotionally getting attached.

a town I grew up in. It was, [:

And at that point he got involved with. Yeah, I just got to do this and I wasn't prepared for the rejection. It hit hard.

Damon: [:

. He relayed the new details to his social worker who got in touch with his birth mother.

Joe: [:, I was a little foolish not [:

It was a big, big subject. It was all over the place. So I just never thought of the possibility of rejection and it came. But thank God I fixed some of the things I had fixed and I was able to concentrate on getting myself better physically to start with. And then I ended up going to college after I got my hip replaced.

I couldn't go back to the physical work. So I went to college which helped it helped educate me and give me a direction. . But in the process again, you know what, you start you open that Pandora's box. Well, I opened up a whole bunch of them. So what came into became interesting is not only did I find out that my mother was in the same town that I grew up in.

eir town. He's significantly [:Damon: [:

Like, was it the catalyst or was it one of many factors in your choice?

Joe: [:

The thought ran through my mind very, very quickly that, you know, I should go and talk to her and let her know that I'm a good person. And then obviously that, that fleeting moment went away and I went home and I got up in the morning and say, you're all done. You can't keep doing this as stupid. You know, you almost made the biggest mistake in your life that, you know, thinking that was okay with alcohol to do something that is as serious and impersonal and important to you, you need to stop.

as being one and I wanted to [:

Yeah,

Damon: [:

Of her reaction unfolded in it's. I find it interesting that you caught yourself before going too far with alcohol as a crutch in your journey. And it's just an interesting, just, juxtaposition between the two of you.

So , the social worker has reached out to your biological mother and your biological mother has said, , I can't handle this right now.

basically, what did you take [:Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

We're very, very close.

Damon: [:Joe: [:tty rough shape at the time, [:Damon: [:Joe: [:ly, I can't became stronger. [:Damon: [:

That's very exciting, but it also depicts that that's possible for everybody, right? Because there is no show that is, you know, today we have adoptees who, whose parents we couldn't find and who refused to be in contact with them. That's, that's not a show that doesn't make television

Joe: [:

They, everybody wants a happy ending and that's not the way a lot of these turn

Damon: [:

That doesn't work. Right.

Joe: [:Damon: [:

Right. Wow. Yeah. That's really fascinating. Cause it, that, that whole show set up, created a mindset.

Joe: [:

it can go bad. And that's

Damon: [:

I wondered if since his birth mother couldn't handle meeting Joe, if he reached out to his new sibling, Joe said one day during his search, his now ex-wife was out to dinner with a friend. Her friend asked how Joe was coming with his search for his family. His ex wife started to talk about joe finding his birth mother her unwillingness to connect with joe and the fact that he had a maternal brother

Joe: [:

And he said, Oh, he's got a name. And she blurted out the name and the, and the, and the friend that she was with dropped her salad fork into her plate and looked up and said, he's at my house right now. putting my heating system

a few times, hung out with, [:

And they finished the dinner when they raced over to the house. and he had just left. But once they told this young lady's husband they were good friends, so I didn't reach out to , his dad, my brother's stepfather. I reached out to him. I sent the letter. And he responded by calling me and said, let's get together to talk about this.

And I sat down with them, explain, look, here's, what's going to happen if I don't, if you don't tell them, you know, I'm going to have to tell them because if we don't, you know, offend you, I don't think that's where it should come from. And he agreed. So he sat down with Ned and my brother, Ned, and told them that what was all about.

And he was very excited. He, you know, he, he kissed his mom and he said, look, you know, I understand, but I also need to go see my brother. And we've had a long-term relationship. We've had a couple of things, you know, come and go because of life. But you know, we, we're still in contact. He's a great guy.

looked like me and it made, [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

It's validating, it's acknowledgement. And you know, everybody wants to be acknowledged let's, you know, seriously, everybody wants to have some piece of them understood. And now I had that. . Viability and you know, it was, it meant the world to me, you know, it's, some people is finding the original birth certificate that, that, that helps a lot too.

But to actually see another person that you know is your relative, that is your blood. It's just absolutely amazing. I was on cloud nine the first night I met him. I'll bet.

Damon: [:h his birth mother secondary [:Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:e. And she said , to the two [:

The bell rang for everyone to go home. She sat in the reference room and she said, I know who you are. And I know why you're here, you're here. Yeah. She said, I've been teaching at this school for 40 years. And I was here when your mother was pregnant with you.

Damon: [:Joe: [:

Sweet, sweet lady that I owe a lot to

Damon: [:Joe: [:put a whole bunch of pieces [:

she hadn't been there, she had retired. Maybe not even been there that day. I mean, you that's really unbelievable it would've

made my search more difficult.

So this is the high school that I would have been going to. If I didn't move from, you know, down the street, the next town over, I hadn't been going to the school. The irony again, here is this woman was very good friends with my grandmother, my biological mother's mother. She was the cafeteria manager in the same high school.

Damon: [:Joe: [:

So the whole town knew not only me, but they knew my biological family. That's

really

interesting.

Damon: [:

The librarian knew your mom, presumably knew your dad. You almost went to that high school and you grew up in the community. So anybody who knew the parents were probably able to whisper and be like there. Right? Yup.

Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:Damon: [:When Joe researched the next [:

He didn't want to disrupt the guy's life and their family. And after being rejected by his birth mother and the first guy that he thought was his father. Joe needed a breather. He put down the paperwork, documenting his search and took a break. Joe took a moment to go back and talk about someone significant in his reunion journey.

Joe: [:

We grew up together. We were friendly and then we ended up working together well, when I did my research, I found that young lady was my cousin. On my mother's side. Yes, she was actually technically, she was a second cousin, , her mother, and my biological mother are cousins.

Damon: [:Joe: [:

. She had that fear of coming home to my sister or my cousin and everything. Just kind of be blown out of proportion when we dug into the whole thing. But. And I, and I introduced my cousin Ellen because she became very significant later on in finding my biological father and my siblings.

. Everything is connected. Damon it's really it is something special

Damon: [:uld possibly be his brother, [:

The next day, Joe had a Facebook friend request From the brother's girlfriend. She also told her boyfriend" i think we found a brother of yours"

Joe: [:

I told him, you know, how did you find out about us? I told him and I said, look, I don't know if you are father is my father. I don't even know if he knows I'm alive. And he goes, well, he knows all about you. He sat us down about 15 years ago and told us all about you. We've been looking for you have since.

minutes on the phone. [:

We've already touched on that. It is such an emotional game and it's not really a game, but it's an emotional piece of life. Yeah. So he got off the pony. So look, I'm going to go tell dad, and I'm going to tell my mom and I'm going to get laced to siblings together. And about 10 days later we got together and it was a wonderful reunion.

I have a video of my dad walking up to me and hugging me from his garage that I keep that I play off. And . Everything went as bad as the other situation was with my mom. The, my father, that whole thing was just beautiful. It was, it was an experience. It, it completed me. It made me feel whole, it brought so many pieces together and now I'm the oldest in that family too.

st in three families. That's [:

That's

Damon: [:Joe: [:has been looking at you. He [:

So he was on a cane, but we hugged and we would just we were so overwhelmed and I looked around like, I'm looking over my dad's shoulder and I see all these people standing there and I'm trying to figure out all the pieces. And I look up and my brother Michael come over and he and he just started laughing and he gave me a big hug and he said, brother, I've waited so long.

And.

It was just amazing.

That's awesome. Wow.

Damon: [:ated with a paternal sister. [:Joe: [:

Cause they're going to go. This is God, this is, this is BS. This can't happen. This isn't true. This is a Twilight zone for crying

Damon: [:them can be equally. If not [:

There's, some of them are lighter stories. Some of them are very, you know, deepened trauma filled and dramatic. I mean, it's just such a wide array of experiences out here. It's just on your own.

Joe: [:Damon: [:doption for simplicity sake, [:

But for those who have had, , amazing reunions that are, laughter filled tear jerkers. At some point before that there was probably a low point of self doubt and worry concern challenges and, and all kinds of things that they had to surmount to make that thing be as awesome as it was to them.

I know it is a high because there was a low and so I'm, I'm always cautious to not paint everybody's reunion journey in such a way that it seems like they're all just awesome because they are just not,

mily too. Joe said that while:

Unfortunately, Joe and his new siblings lost their father last year as well. Apparently he had been sick And it was his time to pass on to relieve his pain

Joe: [:

I cherish every minute I had with him, , I had about two and a half years with him and, you know, and I have my siblings still and we get together. We're going to get together tomorrow at the cemetery and see dad. And then we're going to go have a bite to eat and hang out. I spent Christmas with these new, I call them my new siblings.

when my daughter was born in:

And here's the thing.

My father and I have mutual friends, really my biological father and my adopted father had mutual friends. Wow. And I talked to them all the time and they go, that's mind blowing because I know both of those guys would be both great guys.

Damon: [:though you weren't known to, [:

It's cool.

Joe: [:

They were both hard workers. You know, the first, the first Christmas I, I met my dad, my father. The first Christmas we had together. Oh, I was just talking to my friend on the phone and I was telling me how he sounds coming over. Oh, that's what, it's all, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Because who's was your friend. He said, Oh, you wouldn't know him. He's a little younger than me. And a little older than you. When he told me his his name. And I said, you mean from the mobile station, downtown East Bridgewater. And he looked at me and he said, yeah. And then, so yeah, I've known him since I was like eight years old.

says, Hey, do you know Joe's [:

he said the first time in 50 years of knowing , this guy he's, he was speechless. And then he says, and . I'll keep it clean. But he said, you gotta be kidding me. He's I've known that kid since he was six years old, eight years old, wow.

Damon: [:Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

Like you said, I'm a focal point of a whole bunch of people that supposedly didn't know each other and yet they did.

Damon: [:

tell. He reconnected with a cousin on Facebook who shared the news that Joe had another brother. Of course joe said yeah i know i met my paternal family and he felt like he had everything all figured out

Joe: [:

My mother had given another baby up for adoption three years later.

Damon: [:Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

What did it, what did it do for

Damon: [:Joe: [:

, I, I, again, I had to work through that and make that anger go away. Cause it was only stopping me from enjoying what was happening around me that I had just met, you know, four more siblings.

And I had to put the anger away in realize that she has her reasons for being who she is and which, and how she wants to handle it.

I can't control that. And it wouldn't be fair to try to I mean on several occasions. Cause I know where she lives. I drive by her house quite often that I could have stopped, but I didn't do that because I didn't believe in invading her privacy. I didn't think that that was right now. That being said, if I'm out in public and I happened to bump into her, that's her problem.

That's not mine. . I need to [:

I'm not trying to be here about it. I wouldn't want it done to me. So,

Damon: [:y say before this particular [:

That's I mean, wow, tough.

Joe: [:

So I went and got a physical and then I went and had some testing done on my heart. And in the process they said, well, we don't know what's going on. And I said, look, I found my biological father. He has a bad heart. He has bad arteries. He has, arterial sclerosis. I need to follow this all the way through.

I said, [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

I had no medical history. If people take well, you know, is your heart disease and your family . I don't know I'm adopted. So what a valuable piece it was for me to get that medical information. And when I was having a heart problem. We were able to fix that.

Damon: [:That's really [:Joe: [:

You get it. I listened to you and just talking to with you tonight, you understand all the pieces to it. And it's nice to know that.

Damon: [:[:

So I'm gonna look forward to reading it. And one day, Joe,

Joe: [:Damon: [:Joe: [:

Yeah. Thanks man. , . You're doing it because you care .

Damon: [:

Thanks so much. I appreciate.

. Great talking to you, Joe, man. Thanks so much for your time and I wish you all the best and continued health too. Okay,

Joe: [:Damon: [:

Hey, it's me. . Joe's journey had such a mix of life experiences. He grew up in a loving family, but struggled with bad legs that got him made fun of when the family moved to a new town. Joe said he found it hard to really identify with himself when he looked in the mirror because he didn't see any resemblance to his family.

He talked about the secondary rejection he experienced when he found his biological mother, but Joe never could have known that her state of mind, wasn't just focused on his return to her life. She had relinquished his brother after him. So she was reckoning with a much larger reunion situation than he realized

ion. You don't actually know [:

It was really cool to hear how close Joe had come to meeting his paternal siblings and how close his adoptive biological fathers and their friends were.

I'm glad he got two good years with his biological father before his passing. And he got the medical knowledge. He needed to manage his own heart condition with his physicians. Joe's is another story underscoring, the adoptee's need for accurate comprehensive medical information.

I'm Damon Davis. And to hope you found something in Joe's story 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

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