157 – My Surreal Parents
Ed called me from here in Maryland. He shared the sad, circumstances of his adoptive parents losing two children, but not really healing from the losses, feeling loyalty to his adoptive parents. Ed went on a clandestine search for his birth mother, found her then lost touch for years. All of which exacerbated his anxiety within him. Fortunately Ed reunited with his maternal and paternal sides and connected to his personal history in some unique ways. This is Ed’s journey.
157 - Ed Knight
[00:00:00] Ed: My adoptive mother told my sister and me that she was militantly opposed to us searching for our birth mothers. And that we should always remember that she was our mother. So now I think I have two mothers adoptive mother and a biological mother. I don't have any problem with that, but my adopted mother did have that problem and she just wanted it to be the only one, you know, and she was very insecure.
I think, I think it's kind of natural, you know, I can understand it. I can, I have empathy for her, but I don't like her approach and just saying, no, don't do it.
[00:00:34] Damon: I'm Damon Davis. And you're about to hear from ed. He called me from here in Maryland. Ed shared the sad, circumstances of his adoptive parents losing two children, but not really healing from the losses, feeling loyalty to his adoptive parents. He went on a clandestine search for his birth mother, found her then lost touch for years. All of which exacerbated his anxiety within him. Fortunately ed reunited with [00:01:00] his maternal and paternal sides and connected to his personal history in some unique ways. This is Ed's journey.
[00:01:07] Damon: Ed said he wanted to tell his story in chronological order. So he starts at the very beginning with the stories, his birth mother shared with him. In 1960, the woman worked at the Pentagon as a civilian employee. She was an artist doing graphics design work to make presentations and doing illustrations for periodicals. It was there. She met Ed's biological father, a us Navy fighter pilot.
When she was three months pregnant, the Pentagon basically forced her to resign, citing quote, ill health. When they documented the reason for her resignation. She was fired for being pregnant
[00:01:47] Ed: So she gave birth to me in a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. And she said that she countered my fingers and toes. So she was able to hold me. She was [00:02:00] able to see me for like 15 minutes, I think.
And she said that when she saw my finger, she knew that I would be an artist like she was . So my biological father knew about my existence, but he was kind of in denial about paternity, , guess there was no DNA testing back then, and that gave him plausible deniability, I guess.
, anyway, he wasn't supportive and fair relationship. He had been kind of a Playboy at the time, at that time in his life, he had been irresponsible, although later, if he would have become a family man, but not until years later, that explains my adoption.
So , my birth mother told me that, um, she found a new boyfriend and he told her that he would help her to get me out of foster care because I was in foster care for three months.
And she believed that the [00:03:00] issue was that she was married. So if she got married, she would be able to , reclaim me from foster care. So she married the man in July, 1961, but that was the, , the same time that I was placed for adoption with my adoptive family. So there was just a day or two late.
You know, otherwise she wouldn't be able to reclaim me.
[00:03:23] Damon: Wow.
[00:03:24] Ed: Yeah. That's got a heavy,
[00:03:27] Damon: yeah, it is. What, what did you think when you heard her tell you that?
[00:03:34] Ed: Well, she told me that years later, actually even not when we first met, but years later it was, uh, yeah, it was kind of a shock to me. That was kind of difficult to hear.
I felt bad for her because it just struck me as very unfair, the whole situation, I'm not blaming my adoptive parents. I mean, I love my adoptive parents. , the system back then was very rigid and, , , I don't think that it was fair in the way that it worked out
[00:03:59] Damon: [00:04:00] Ed's adoptive father was a manager at an insurance company. His adoptive mother was a registered nurse. She put her career on hold to start their family. They had two daughters in the late 1950s, both of whom died tragically of a rare genetic disease that took them within months after their birth. His parents adopted ed sister three years older than himself in 1960.
Then ed was adopted in 1961. His sister was adopted when she was a toddler. After Ed's adoption the family left virginia moved west to california then back to montgomery county maryland five years later
[00:04:40] Ed: then in 1966, I was five years old and my adopted father sat my sister and me down to explain that , my adopted mother was an alcoholic. , so he explained to us that alcoholism was a disease and that we shouldn't be mad with the, with the person with alcoholism or she'd [00:05:00] get mad at the disease.
So I thought that was very helpful. so my sister and I think that our adopted mother's alcoholism must be, have something to do with the loss of her biological children. Oh. And she had, uh, by the way, when I was four, they had a third biological child to sign and he also died at the same disease.
[00:05:21] Damon: Oh no.
[00:05:23] Ed: Oh yeah. So it was really horrible. And then after that they had their more biological children, they gave up on that.
So when I was six that's when my adopted parents told me that I was adopted and that my older sister was adopted. And there were very nonchalant about it. That kind of helped. I mean, I didn't take it badly.
I didn't, , it wasn't upsetting to me, but I think maybe because I was so young, I didn't really understand everything. You know, I remember them telling me that , my natural mother or, and he used the word natural mother, cause they didn't have it, the term birth mother back then. And they said that my natural mother had to have a better life and she couldn't care [00:06:00] for me basically.
And I don't know. Looking back. I don't know if they were aware that she had tried to get me out of foster care. I have no idea if they were aware of that at all.
Yeah, probably not. Right. Because once an adoption sort of goes through, I don't, I, I don't think there's any sort of reconciliation with what transpired, you know, on the other end of the,
yeah, I think it was because of confidentiality.
I think they did know some things, but they probably didn't know that much.
Yeah. Right. And in that era, there was a lot of, shall we say falsehood? I mean the process, right. You know, they would, they would, they would make parents believe one thing about the mother and they would make the mother thing. I think a certain thing about the parents, you know, to sort of make it seem more final, you know?
And so I'm, I'm sure there was no sort of relaying the fact that the mother, your birth mother wanted you back. [00:07:00]
Yeah. So, yeah, I know my birth mother didn't know anything about who I was adopted by or anything like that. Um, and my, my, my, my adopted parents must've gotten some information like, my biological father was in the Navy and he was a pilot.
And I remember when I was a little kid and I was playing with a toy airplane. I think my adopted parents had given it to me. Um, and my, they were very excited that I was playing with this airplane and they made a big deal out of it. I didn't understand. I didn't make, I didn't think much of it at the time, but looking back, I'm wondering if they knew that my biological father had been a pilot and maybe they saw me playing with a toy airplane and I thought, oh yeah, Genetic or something.
I'm not a pilot by the way, that never occurred to me, that was never a career path that it could occur to me. But looking back, it just makes me wonder, like how much did they know? [00:08:00] Did they know that my biological mother was an artist because they were always very supportive of, you know, whenever I did arts. , but you know, did they know that that might be genetic too, but they never talked about it because it was kind of a taboo subject. You know what I mean? Other than telling us they didn't tell my sister and I, that we were adopted. So they were honest about that and I give them credit for that. But, , my mother was an artist, like maybe it said something about that in a profile, maybe like a non-identifying information.
I don't know how much of that they got. So it would've been nice if they had told me, you know, your natural mother was an artist, you know, that might've impacted my identity,
[00:08:46] Damon: In retrospect, ed thinks his adoptive father may have been measuring him against the image of his birth father, the fighter pilot.
He had the sense that his adoptive father may have been hoping his son would grow up in that image. [00:09:00] And he may have been disappointed in ed. Ed also shared that at 13, he had made an important realization about his identity.
[00:09:08] Ed: I realized that I was gay. And I think that might have something to do with it.
You know, although I could have done worse for adoptive parents or her parents period, they took it pretty well. But back then, especially that was, I think, difficult for parents to hear, you know, one of their kids is gay and, my adopted father, he was very good about it. I mean,
I think it came as kind of a, maybe a surprise or, you know, I think he was always measuring against my biological father who had been very, you know, this tough guy, a fighter pilot. And that's just not my personality at all. I take more after my biological mother, I guess
[00:09:53] Damon: That's fascinating. So did you, you came out to your parents at
[00:09:59] Ed: I [00:10:00] came out to my mother when I was my adopted mother. I came out to her when I was 13 and she said that I was too young to know what I was just kind of in denial about it. and
then, I told my father when I was 15, I think, but by then, my mother had probably told him, yeah, he, he took it pretty well. And he said that, uh, he and my mother had had a gay friend when they lived in San Francisco back when we were living in California for that brief time. and he had a cousin who was a lesbian and then that point on it, he would try to include her more and gatherings.
And I think that was, that was nice. It was like, okay, here's another member of our family. Who's LGBT. And, you know, I thought that was, he was pretty smart about it. I might, my adopted mother had a little bit more difficulty because she's more conservative and he was more liberal, but, she believed in unconditional love.[00:11:00]
And, so neither one of them was mad about it, you know, like, , like they didn't kick me out or anything like that. I mean, I could've, I could've done worse.
Oh my gosh. So much worse, so much worse. That's really awesome. That they were in a position to be accepting of what you came with them as part of your own identity, because
Let's face it back then. The, you know, the ideals of masculinity were pretty tight and there wasn't a lot of room for a young man to come out as gay. So for you to be able to admit that, you know, at 15, , was, was pretty admirable.
[00:11:40] Damon: Ed decided that when he went to college, he would go to DC to be closer to the LGBTQ community there and further away from the small town of Damascus, Maryland, where he lived a closeted life in high school. It was really important to ed to talk about the anxiety he's lived with throughout his life.
He told me when he [00:12:00] was eight years old, he had a temper tantrum and broke a bunch of pencils, alarming his adoptive father with his destructive behavior. His mother took him to see a psychologist, but she wasn't a believer in mental health support and she thought psychology was a crock. It was a popular sentiment decades ago
[00:12:18] Ed: The family dynamics were kind of complicated. cause my although, my parents were wonderful people. They had this tragedy and they hadn't really worked through, I think they both should have gotten therapy for losing their biological children. And I think there was just a lot that they hadn't processed.
Sure. And then my mother. Became an alcoholic. And, , she did join AA. That was good, but my father didn't really process that. Well, you know, like, , he continued to have alcohol in the house and I thought to be supportive, he really should have stopped drinking at least in the house. And he didn't do that.
So, you know, I guess that was the mentality back then in the [00:13:00] 1970s. , so there was just a lot going on in my life at that time. , , so there's reasons for me to be anxious, you know? and then I remember when I was 12 or 13, I had what I thought was a nervous breakdown. And I haven't really told a whole lot of people about this, I was having an argument with my adoptive mom.
And as I recall, it was about guitar lessons because she came from a very musical family and she wanted her kids her adoptive kids to be musical too. And I don't think that we really were, you know, cause we hadn't gotten that gene, but she really wanted us to be musical. And I just did not like the guitar lesson and I wanted to quit.
So that was what we were arguing about. And , I had kind of a seizure, you know, and I remember falling on the floor in the bathroom, and, , kind of losing control of my body. I was very sweaty and I couldn't move my hands or my arms or [00:14:00] exactly what I wanted to.
It was very weird. And I, at the time I climbed, I climbed into the bath tub and I was fully closed and I was dressed in sweat.
And then I asked my mother, after the episode had passed, I got out of the bathtub and I was having a conversation with her and I suppose that a nervous breakdown. And, , should I say, should I go back to see the psychologist again? And she said, well, psychology's are crock. So we didn't go back to see the psychologist, but, , I think that that had to do with, I think it was psychological.
, I don't remember if she took me to get checked for epilepsy. I mean, in retrospect that would kind of be a logical thing to do. But I'm not epileptic.
. So that was probably. When I talk about having anxiety, that's what I'm talking about. That was kind of an extreme example of my anxiety
[00:14:53] Damon: In college, Ed's anxiety subsided. He had met other people in the LGBTQ community and [00:15:00] college was a good time of his life. He was on the Dean's list a few times and he felt more at home during college in DC. In the early 1980s, it was the era of the aids epidemic and ed met the man he wanted to have a long-term relationship with
[00:15:16] Ed: I want it to settle down because I wasn't nervous about. and we've been together ever since. And he's deaf. He taught me sign language. , so that was kind of, I was busy with that busy getting settled in my career. , and my adopted parents got divorced in 1985 and my mother was in a treatment program for alcoholism and that treatments program succeeded and she's was sober ever since then.
[00:15:43] Damon: As an adult ed learns that one of his friends was also an adoptee and was on a search for his birth mother. Hearing that search was possible. Ed started thinking about finding his own birth mother. When ed was 29 years old he joined a group called adoptees in [00:16:00] search
[00:16:01] Ed: , my adopted mother was very insecure about my sister and me ever searching for her birth mothers. at one point I was a teenager in high school and my sister was at college and she was home for the summer. And this is one of the few times that my adopted mother talked to us about adoption because my adopted mother had been reading a book by Christina Crawford since the adoptive daughter.
Oh, John Crawford. the book was mommy dearest,
and my adopted mother sided with John Crawford. And she was very mad with Christina because I guess because my adopted mother had was an alcoholic. She identified with Joan Crawford and she took her aside and she, she was mad at Christina and she said that Christina was just out for money. And, she should have been grateful to Joan Crawford and all of this stuff.
So she said that she was my [00:17:00] mother my adoptive mother told my sister and me that she was militantly opposed to us searching for our birth mothers. And that we should always remember that she was our mother. So now I think I have two mothers adoptive mother and a biological mother. I don't have any problem with that, but my adopted mother did have that problem and she just wanted it to be the only one, you know, and she was very insecure.
I think, I think it's kind of natural, you know, I can understand it. I can, I have empathy for her, but I don't like her approach and just saying, no, don't do it.
so when I started, I decided to search, I decided to just do it behind her back, you know, just not tell her, you know, just kind of secretive.
And maybe that's not the best approach. Secrecy is usually not a good approach, but I kind of felt like the adoption system, the baby scoop era adoption, , was secretive itself itself. So, I mean, I guess two wrongs don't make a right, but, , I felt like, okay, well, everything was [00:18:00] secret on their side. You know, they were keeping secrets from my sister and me, you know, probably, you know, my birth mother being an artist or my biological father being a Navy pilot know those are the things that they probably kept secret from me.
[00:18:16] Damon: Right. But the other thing is, you know, when you don't feel supported in your search, but you know, you want to search, why would you tell someone to continue to not be supported? You know what I mean? Like there's no reason to saying, Hey, just wanted to know that thing you told me not to do. I'm still doing it.
That's not going to go well. So yeah,
[00:18:33] Ed: exactly. And I was, I was really worried about. Adopted mother and her sobriety. , I didn't want her to relapse. I treated her, you know, she, she complained to me sometimes that I treated her like she's made out of glass and also many adoptees, we have this sense of, , divided loyalties and, , , am I being disloyal to my adopted parents?
We carry around guilt. And I was [00:19:00] definitely still in that, in that guilt phase back then. But anyway, my curiosity just got the better part of me, I guess.
[00:19:07] Damon: Ed was 31. When he was with the adoptive birth parents support network, they put him in touch with the Virginia department of human services who ushered him through the process. The processing fee was $340 for search services. In August of 1993. A social worker called ed to say that his search was successfully completed and his natural mother had consented to contact.
[00:19:32] Ed: at first I was thrilled and we started off by exchanging letters with photographs. And, , she told me that her parents. Well, my maternal grandparents had already passed away. So it's September 27th, 1993. I talked with her on the phone for the first time and we learned, we had a lot in common. We were both artistically inclined.
we were both fans of an architect [00:20:00] named Frank Lloyd Wright. , it's kind of a famous architect, 1930s and forties. And he designed falling water and a number, number of other famous buildings. . And I was very fascinated with him in high school. And then when I was talking with my mother, I found out that she had also been fascinated with Franklin, right.
When she was a teenager. That's like, wow, that's incredible. I mean, yeah. How common, I mean, it's not that he's an obscure architect. And he was pretty famous, but still how many teenagers geek out on Frank Lloyd Wright?
And she told me that, , her mother, , had had nervous breakdowns. So I thought, oh, okay, that's interesting. I have this anxiety issue. And I had a nervous breakdown and her mother had a nervous breakdown. So maybe there's something genetic there or, you know? . , so I, I don't know if what she had was psychogenic seizures or, you know, like the one that I [00:21:00] think, I think that's what I had, but maybe, you know, I don't know.
[00:21:03] Damon: I asked ed, if it was a relief to hear that the kind of episode he experienced when he was a teenager was in his biological history. He told me and adoptees life can be like a big puzzle. So it was good to get more puzzle pieces to work with. But he admitted it would have been nice to have known that portion of his family medical history years before. Back when he needed it I think that's a, as an adoptive, that's something that really bugs me. the system of adoption is the lack of family medical history, and that it's just not passed on to, or even if it's passed onto the adoptive parents, you know, at least in my case, it didn't get passed on to me.
We just kind of breezed past the lead up to ed meeting his adoptive mother. So I asked him to go back a bit to share what happened before they met. He said they exchanged the letters in photographs using fax machines back then. Ed said it was [00:22:00] very exciting to be receiving correspondence from his birth mother. On a three-day weekend that winter ed drove down to north carolina to meet his birth mother and her second husband
[00:22:11] Ed: , I was just on cloud nine the whole time that I was with them. I now I didn't really read up on how you're supposed to do or where union, you know, I went into it very naive, you know, like, uh, since that I've read advice.
You should bring some along with you for emotional support, you know, your partner or you shouldn't be in a neutral place, like, , a hotel lobby or something like that. I didn't know any of that stuff. So I just drove down there by myself and I, stayed as a guest in their guest room in their house and luckily it all worked out fine.
You know, it wasn't like, , I didn't get rejected, you know, I was, that does happen sometimes sadly, but,, we had a really good time. And, , I remember, , her husband would give us, give us both kind of a strange [00:23:00] look sometimes like we were. Exhibiting similar mannerisms or he kept looking at us and he had this quizzical expression on his face.
Like he was abused. , you know, he would be smiling and shaking his head. That's awesome. So, yeah. So
external validation on how the two of you look together that you probably can't see super well because you're sitting next to each other and admiring one another, but for this therapy,
it must have been cool.
Yeah. And actually, I don't think we, the, we don't actually look that much alike. I think. , uh, I think it's more, I think I'm more like my biological mother on the inside and I'm more resembled my biological father on the outside, but we did have some family resemblance, but it's not, , it's not, it's not that striking anyway.
One thing that really struck me was in my junior year, I had attended college at American university in Northwest DC and my birth mother, although [00:24:00] she had grown up in North Carolina and was currently living in North Carolina for a while, she had her husband had lived in DC and they had lived not far from American university.
And she had, she was in a habit back then.. She had been in the habit of going to the track at American university and going jogging there. So she had access to jog on the track there. And while I was in college, I had also gone jogging on.
So my birth mother and I had both had the experience of jogging on the exact same track. Oh my
gosh. That's easy.
jogging there at the, in the same year that you were there too.
No, I think, I think the shoe was there earlier in the 1970s and I was there in the late now, I guess I was there maybe 1979, but I think they were a few years separating us.
[00:24:53] Damon: though. There's something really magical about knowing that you have in this case, especially treaded the same path [00:25:00] that one of your biological parents has, you know, it's just fascinating. Like you've literally walked on something that has, you know, historically relevant to your family. You've walked in the same steps.
[00:25:14] Ed: Yeah, that was just really striking. , , she has roots in North Carolina and I guess she through her North Carolina and Virginia and Maryland.
And, um, some of our ancestors came through the Jamestown colony, which was the colonial Capitol before Williamsburg. So, um, that was interesting
my mother and her husband are both very progressive and I'm pretty progressive myself. , but her parents were very conservative. And if you keep going back further and further, that history on that side is, I mean, that side of my family, there's some things I'm not proud of. I mean, they were [00:26:00] very racist and apparently her parents and grandparents, I think her mother more so than her father, I'd never met them.
So I can't judge for myself, , that she said that her mother, like she would be listening to, , , black musicians on the radio and her mother would, were for not let her listen to black musicians. So that was the kind of the atmosphere that she was raised in, but she rebelled against it. , and anyway, if you go back far enough, I have ancestors who were in the Confederacy.
So yeah, that's makes me sad to know that, but it's good to know it. Sure, absolutely learn lessons from history.
I remember from that time of meeting them, the first meeting of the first few meetings was it all felt very surreal to me.
So sometimes people call your biological parents, your real parents, but I think of them as my "surreal" parents
[00:26:59] Damon: [00:27:00] After that first meeting ed and his birth mother saw one another about once a year for five years. One time she happened to be on business travel. So she came up to visit ed at his home. I asked him about their relationship over the years and how things developed
[00:27:16] Ed: the main problem with our relationship is really on my side. And that was that I had this feeling of guilt, you know, that I, I was having divided loyalties and I also was worried because I was keeping it a secret.
I was worried about my adopted parents finding out. I did tell my adoptive sister that I had found my birth mother, cause we were at the beach on a family vacation and my sister and I were, standing apart from everyone else. You know, some people couldn't hear our conversation and my sister got very uptight, you know, and she, I asked, should I tell?
So at that point, our adoptive parents had divorced and we were on a vacation with my adopted [00:28:00] father and his, new wife and, um, my sister and her husband and their kids, my son, my adopted mother wasn't in the picture. You know, she wasn't part of the vacation, but I asked my sister, what should I tell him?
Our dad, you know, that I found my birth mother and she was just very uptight about the whole thing. so I respected her. her choice that we not discuss it with my adoptive father. So there was my sister and I, because it was kind of a tech adoption was kind of a taboo subject in our adopted family.
We didn't talk about it much. We both kind of had a hang up about it. so I explained to my birth mother that I was keeping her a secret. And she said that it made her feel like, the other woman, but she went along with it, In the late 1980s, Ed's birth mother retired and she and her husband moved out of North Carolina. She thought she told ed the name of the island they were moving to and her forwarding, mailing address. Ed can't remember receiving that information at all. They lost touch with each [00:29:00] other. But the thing was ed hadn't moved and the woman still had his contact information. So ed couldn't figure out why his birth mother wasn't reaching out to him either.
I was kind of resented presented that I felt a little bit rejected. it's some point I started having panic attacks. so this is my anxiety coming back. like at one point I thought I was having a heart attack and I went to the hospital and everything. So maybe you're having a panic attack and you should be seeing a psychologist.
So I, I made an appointment with a psychologist and, I don't remember if the topic of adoption came up because I was still kind of in a fog. And I, I knew I was suffering chronic anxiety. I didn't connect it to losing touch with my birth mother, but in retrospect, in retrospect, I totally think it was because I had lost contact with my birth mother, because now I know about, you know, the primal wound and all of that.
So I think that that fed into [00:30:00] my anxiety. I wouldn't say that's completely explained to my anxiety, but I think that's a factor in my anxiety is when, if you've read the primal wound, do you know most of that? I hadn't back then. , I wish I had, I would clarified a lot of things.
, a baby separated from their biological mother there, they experience, , separation trauma and, you know, it's, it's something that's most people don't realize happens. , so that's, that was, uh, proposed in a book written by Nancy Verrier, a psychologist in California back in early 1990s. so anyway, uh, was I was having panic attacks.
I saw a psychologist and I don't remember if I mentioned that I was adopted, but anyway, we didn't connect it with my adoption or with my having lost touch with my birth mother. We didn't [00:31:00] explore any of that, unfortunately. , and I felt like I really wasn't getting much out of the psychologist, so I stopped seeing him.
[00:31:07] Damon: Late one night, ed was up watching television. When he saw an advertisement for a program for people suffering from anxiety. Lucinda Bassett said in the commercial that she was a motivational speaker who had also suffered from anxiety, but had learned a path to conquering hers. Offering to help others to find their way out of their anxiety with her program
[00:31:30] Ed: So I, I ordered her audio tapes and I listened to them and I followed her advice and I got my anxiety under control. So that was what happened
that's what happened there.
That's really fantastic. You know, one of the things that I often say on the show is I think that people need to sort of open up and turn to.
Mental health resources, right? We've often been taught, you know, keep your feelings inside and don't let it show, and don't tell people [00:32:00] all this, you know, all of these horrible things that are terrible for your mental health. When in fact, I know I've always felt better when I've opened up and talked about things with people, you know, because you, for lack of better words, get it off your chest, let alone have sort of a sounding board.
And, and they sometimes can offer you, you know, tools, tips, and resources for how to navigate situations. And it's great that you were able to find tools, tips, and resources from this woman's program in order to overcome something that had been challenging for years. That's really awesome.
Yeah, I think so.
I mean, it was a big help to me. Um, it was self-help basically. But I, I feel like, the psychologist that I saw when I was a child, and then again, as an adult, they missed it completely missed out on the adoption angle. In retrospect. I don't think they were what you would call adoption competent that they should have read.
When I was a child book about the primal word hadn't been written yet, but by the time I was an adult, by the time [00:33:00] I was having panic attacks, that book had already been hurting me. If I'd gone to see a psychologist who would have asked me, are you adopted? And oh, by the way, there's this book, the primal wound, you know, I could have educated myself about it back then.
[00:33:14] Damon: Years went by. Ed and his husband got married in 2009 when their union became legal. At home one day, ed decided to Google his birth father's name, Scott Purvis. He's kept his birth mother's identity private here because he wants to preserve her anonymity but he's comfortable sharing his birth father's identity because the man is deceased and he made history which ed will explain shortly
[00:33:43] Ed: I came across a biographical entry for a man named Ronald Scott Purvis. And it said that he was a financial planner and that there was a mountain in Antarctica named after him,"Purvis Peak"and I thought, well that can't be the guy why would my [00:34:00] biological father have a mountain named after him?
That's crazy. So I just kind of dismissed it. So, time went on and then in 2010, my adopted father passed away. , he had Lewy bodies dementia. It was very sad. then, in 2015, my adopted mother passed away from COPD. HD was a chain smoker and she never gave up smoking and she died of CRP D so that was, that was a pretty sad.
She was what I, I was there at her death bed and she had a smile on her face. And that would just really struck me. I never seen, I mean, I haven't seen many people die, but I'd never seen someone die with a smile on their face. So that was very reassuring to me that she had had it.
She had died in a peaceful way. And I, in retrospect, I think it was because she was looking forward to being reunited with her biological babies in heaven you know, she's very religious. She was looking forward to being reunited with her [00:35:00] biological children or their family members too. Like her parents in heaven.
Yeah, you're right. That's a really fascinating insight that, you know, children whom she had given birth to who, you know, part of this earth way too soon, I'm sure that they were on her mind every single day. And you, you're probably right. That's a really interesting that you were able to pick up on that.
so, um, we had her Memorial service in August and then after her Memorial service, it was like a light bulb, a light bulb went off and I decided it's really time for me to search for my biological parents. I need to reconnect with my birth mother and to search for my birth father. And I think it was because I had that divided sense of divided loyalties that was kind of gone.
I felt like I had done my duty. it's not, I'm not saying I did it begrudgingly. I mean, I was happy to do my duty to my adopted mother in her old age, that kind of focused my attention on her. And, , also my [00:36:00] lesser extent, but still to my adoptive father too. I played more of a caregiver role for my adopted mother. But I felt like ok, I've done my duty. Now I can, I'm kind of free. And it felt very freeing to me. I'm free to search for my and reconnect with my biological parents.
[00:36:17] Damon: It took him a while, but in 2015, ed did a Google search for his biological mother. He said he kind of kicked himself for not searching and reconnecting with his birth mother before then, but he was kind of in the fog of it all feeling rejected by her since she hadn't been in touch. And there were several competing emotions within him.
He found her phone number at her new retirement home. When he called she answered the phone and the 18 year disconnected estrangement was over
[00:36:49] Ed: we renewed our relationship by this point, we were both on ancestry.com and she shared her family tree with me from ancestry. And she'd done a lot of work in the last 18 [00:37:00] years, a lot of genealogical research. That was really interesting. , and then in August, 2015, I found my biological father through ancestry through his Naval academy, yearbook and I looked at the photo Naval academy, cadet photo.
And I thought I saw a resemblance
does her really look like me or is it just wishful thinking? You know, I set my head spinning, oh my gosh,
[00:37:32] Damon: Ed had done some research on Facebook where he found the man's wife's Facebook page and links to the pages of their three children. He found the man's contact information after paying a small fee to an internet search service. Ed worked up his courage and made the call. The man's wife answered and she was receptive to speaking with ed, but she also wanted to confer with her daughter. I mean, this guy calls out of the blue saying he's her [00:38:00] husband's son. Of course, that was reasonable.
The daughter suggested they take a DNA test to prove their relation. If there was one. The parties met at a hotel halfway between their homes in maryland and virginia to do a paternity test
[00:38:15] Ed: I did the cheek swab and then, his wife helped him do the cheek swap. Now at this point he had the beginnings of Alzheimer's, , which was unfortunate, but he was still, , with it enough to.
To be able to have conversations. So he couldn't, he couldn't live independently. He was living with his wife, , and she was his caregiver, but, , you could still have conversations. So, we met at this hotel and I was so nervous. I had so much anxiety about this meeting, blood pressure.
Must've been through the roof. I asked my stepmother, my adoptive father's widow. I asked her to drive me. So she drove me to this hotel. It was like two hours away. And, , we met [00:39:00] and, my biological father, we shook hands and he was kind of reserved.
but he was polite. He was also very skeptical. He still thought that he wasn't the guy this whole time, my whole life, he had known about me, but he had it stuck in his head. He wasn't the biological father. so that was the that's the context. Okay. Um, well we had a, I guess you could say it was a pleasant meeting.
You know, I was polite. I was very nervous and a friend took our pictures because she wanted to get pictures there. Remember the three ladies, you know, looking at both of us, looking back and forth to see if there was a resemble. And I, I, I felt like I didn't see a resemblance. I was just, I got into this negative mindset where I was like, oh gosh, I must have contacted the wrong guy.
You know, and I'm putting this elderly couple to all of this trouble and, you know, maybe it was for nothing. You know, I felt bad [00:40:00] I just had, oh my gosh, I was at mess. I was a hot mess. So anyway, but the but Lynn, she said, she could see a resemblance in our noses if you see it. so that was a polite meeting, but we didn't hug her or anything because we didn't know they were related or not.
[00:40:18] Damon: It would take a couple of weeks to receive the results from the test. While he waited. Ed went to see a psychologist about his anxiety. For that therapy session. He brought a photo of himself with his birth father and thankfully the therapist verified that she solved their resemblance I was really excited to kind of hyper, um, during this period.
[00:40:41] Ed: , so I finally got the DNA results and it confirmed that I was Scott's biological son. And then from that point on Scott's family became more friendly, but I forgot to mention, uh, in the interim, during this interim period where we didn't know the results, one of my biological sisters, called me [00:41:00] and she was very skeptical and she was.
This is not a pleasant phone call. I was, so I got the phone call. I was at work. I was going on a walk, like during my lunch break and I got the phone call and I just, I was so nervous talking to her. I like, I couldn't continue to walking. So I had to sit down. So I just sat down by the side of this building because I just felt overwhelmed.
and I, I was talking with her and she was asking me all these questions. Like she was interrogating me, like, what do you want from us? , I know she was worried that I wanted money, that it was some sort of a scam. She was trying to protect her elderly parents from a con artist or something, but she was, she was asking me lots of questions.
And then I was trying to answer her questions by telling her my life story, but she didn't want to hear my life story. it was very awkward. but finally. well, if, the test results come back, confirming, the, our father is your father. , you will be a member of the family that [00:42:00] really hit me.
It's like, wow, she's going to welcome me a member as a member of the family. So even though it started off rough, it had kind of a nice thing. I had kind of a hopeful ending, you know?
Sure. It's it began with interrogation, but there was this conditional acceptance inserted in it too. Yeah.
I think she was kinda, she was, she was also kind of testing my reaction.
She was kind of pushing me to see how I would react under pressure.
Yeah, that's right. And she could get you to fold and she could prove that you were not the person that you said you were, right?
Yeah. Some, something like that, something like that. She's kind of, she kind of like. That's her role is to be the guardian.
I think we are
all protective of our parents.
You know, I think that's kind of common for adoptees. Is there are certain members of the biological family who think you're in it for the money, you know, I think that's not unusual. Yeah. So anyway, after the DV of the results came back and everybody came friendlier and [00:43:00] I got invited over to their house on multiple occasions and I had lots of conversations with Scott and he talked about, I mean, he did have Alzheimer's so his short-term memory was shot.
And, , he had an increasingly difficult time remembering who I was. , but he still, he was talkative. He liked talking about if I asked him questions about his history, you know, he had a fascinating. Career. I was so interested. I asked him lots of questions about that, and he was happy to talk about his career as a jet, you know, as a fighter pilot.
he had, in the late 1950s, he had been on an expedition, something called operation deep freeze. And it was like a research that the Navy was involved in a research program or for two or three Antarctic summers. And he flew a plane. He was stationed in Memorial and he flew a jet plane, uh, to the [00:44:00] south pole and he planted the American flag on the south pole.
And that's why he had the name in it in Antarctica and mountain Antarctica named after him. That was fascinating. I was so proud. I was just on cloud nine that whole time let's call it the honeymoon period. I was, I was so happy during that time period,
You you've referred to the honeymoon period though, you sound as if there's a descent coming, like you you've reached the peak and now you're headed down. Yeah. The honeymoon period is over. I mean, it might feel more the word of stable. Is that the word? I mean, I guess I don't want to say I'm an unstable person.
I mean, I had a healthy career, you know, I held, I held down jobs. I mean, I had an anxiety that spiked at certain times, so I don't want to make it seem like I've ever been really unstable, but I feel more stable now from that when I met Scott, it was kind of a peak experience for me. and I was on cloud [00:45:00] nine.
Eventually you come down from the peak, but it wasn't ever anything. It wasn't anything bad. Like I didn't like crash from that peak. , the whole, it's been a good experience for me meeting my biological family. Um, and I've met, , cousins on both sides, the maternal side and the paternal side, and everybody's been welcoming.
And now I'm at a stage where I'm introducing my adopted family and my biological family to each other, which is nice. I mean, I would like us all to be one big happy family. I think that's probably unrealistic, you know, but, , trying to like integrate these different parts of myself, that's what you have to do as an adoptee.
It's a lot of integration work and, , I feel like, , I'm making a lot of progress.
[00:45:44] Damon: Coincidentally Ed's birth father Scott was also really into genealogy. But with Alzheimer's consuming his brain, the man wasn't able to convey his passion for his family history. Very well. When he was finally placed in a [00:46:00] nursing home for care ed was concerned that the family history might be lost
[00:46:05] Ed: I was asking her, do you think, is the family tree that he had put a lot of effort into compiling a family tree?
Do you think it might be on his laptop? she was very friendly and supportive and she gave me. Laptop. And I guess I'm getting emotional talking about this. , she, uh, she gave me the laptop and I found a file on it and I didn't recognize the extension. So I, I did some research and I thought it was a personal ancestry file that I could open it up with a certain program called family tree.
And I was able to open the file and it was, it was his, it was the family career file and it had like 13,000 names on it. So he'd done a lot of research, went back many generations. Wow.
That was just a treasure trove of information for me. So I learned a lot about his side of the family. His side of the family came from Ohio and new England.[00:47:00] I'm sorry. I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the civil war for the union and for the Confederacy. So that was interesting.
[00:47:10] Damon: Wow. He sounds like an amazing guy, you know, just for his interest in, in family and his adventures as a pilot and everything. I've, I've found Purvis peak here on Google maps. It's Zeeland and it's just fascinating to see, oh, this mountain is named after Ed's biological father.
[00:47:32] Ed: Yeah. Yeah. That was, that was, that was fascinating. And I think, you know, When you're adopted and you haven't found your biological family yet, so you have a tendency to think the worst, you know, like, you know, they were, maybe they were drug addicts or, you know, maybe it was a rape situation or, I don't think I, I didn't really dwell on that a lot growing up, but when I was beginning my search, I didn't allow myself to have positive thoughts cause I didn't want to be disappointed, [00:48:00] but I didn't do any of that. So, you know, uh, my biological product have a mountain named after him. That was so far out from anything. I had prepared myself.
That's super cool. Yeah, my, my biological father was active in an organization named sons of the American revolution. And I think more people have heard of this organization called daughters of the American revolution, but there's also sons of the American rivers revolution actually came first.
But, , daughters of the American workers are really shouldn't took off more . At any rate, my birth mother was also active in daughters of the American revolution. So I thought, well, why don't I apply to the sons of the American revolution?
Like my biological father on his side, we have a Patriot ancestor who was a minute. , in [00:49:00] Massachusetts. Oh yeah. And on my mother's side, we have a Patriot ancestor who served at North Carolina, , in the continental army so, , I applied, through my mother's side so all I had to do with piggy piggy back on her application, so I was accepted into sons of the American revolution and I'm still active in my local chapter. , so I feel like I'm following in their footsteps.
I get some satisfaction from
[00:49:32] Damon: cool that you're, you're sort of following a historical trajectory with this . Organizations is that as similar to your own biological parents and, and related to your own personal history, as much as it is to America's history. That's fascinating. Congratulations.
I'm halfway through it at this point. So, um, uh, I remember when I was my mother, my birth mother told me that I was born, [00:50:00] that she looked at my fingers and she knew that I would be an artist. So I feel like I've kind of coming full circle now. Uh, that's
[00:50:07] Damon: really cool. Wow. Congratulations. That's really neat.
Very good. Well, Ed I'm always interested to hear how adoptees take on some responsibility for their biological families, right? How they reach back.
To try to be caregivers and things along those lines. So that's a, that's a really fascinating sort of recent development for you. Congrats on that too.
[00:50:33] Ed: Wow. Yeah, it could have feel like, I felt like I got experience with my adopted parents, especially with my adopted mother being a caregiver and a lot of the same lessons.
I'm just applying to my biological mother. .
[00:50:45] Damon: really cool. Well, you've, you've got an amazing story of sort of finding your way through childhood, especially with parents who were so challenged by the losses of their biological children, you know, you've admitted that. [00:51:00] You took time to sort of come out as a gay man to them.
And that's a risk that teenagers have to take, you know, in order to sort of solidify their identity.
[00:51:10] Ed: I had to come out to two sets of parents, my adoptive parents, and then my biological. Yeah.
[00:51:14] Damon: That's a, that's a really good point. And I'm sure that was, that was really challenging, but I'm hopeful that everybody was sort of accepting and you sound like you're real solid
[00:51:22] Ed: in New York.
I'm really, I'm really blessed. Everybody's been, everybody's been great.
[00:51:27] Damon: That's fantastic. Well, I'm glad your journey has turned out as well as it has. And, and I'm glad for your sort of ability to get over your anxiety and stuff. And I just, I wish you all the best going forward. Okay. Thanks for sharing your story again.
[00:51:39] Ed: Okay. Thanks damon.
[00:51:40] Damon: You take care all the best. All right. Okay. You too. Bye-bye.
[00:51:51] Damon: Hey, it's me. It was really sad to hear that Ed's adoptive parents lost two babies in succession. And it was [00:52:00] crazy to hear how narrowly his birth mother may have missed getting her son back. But once the adoption machines engine started moving. He was on his way to a new family.
Ed suffered anxiety throughout his life, that manifested itself in different ways, but was certainly exacerbated on his reunion journey. Fortunately, he was able to get it under control. Ed shared a few updates before we got off the phone. In the summer of 2021, he moved his birth mother from North Carolina to a retirement home near him in Maryland. And it was her idea.
She's only 30 minutes away. So now he can see her more often. Help her with things and it's strengthening their relationship, which they both really like. Also remember that Ed's birth mother was an artist.
He decided that in his retirement, he would explore that side of himself. He joined a private art school and he's halfway through a three-year program. Coming full circle from his birth mother [00:53:00] saying when she saw his baby fingers. She thought he would be an artist.
I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Ed's journey that inspired you.
Validated your feelings about wanting to search or motivated you to have the strength along your journey to learn. Who am i really
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