Concluding Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th, 2022 but Adoptee Voices Will Continue to Blaze

by Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptee Remembrance Day: October 30th, 2022, has recently passed, and the collective echoes of adoptee voices can be reflected worldwide. To learn more about this day, click here

It’s no surprise at the outpouring of support the adoption community has received about this special day of remembrance for adopted people worldwide. No doubt about it, it was a difficult day, but every day, being an adopted individual, comes with its own struggles. Yet, we must consider that adoptees have never had the support they need to navigate such a lifelong, complex, and emotional journey. 

One of the core components of Adoptee Remembrance Day is to create one day before National Adoption Awareness Month which is in November and National Adoption Day, November 19th, where adopted individuals can share from the deepest parts of their hearts the reality of how adoption makes them feel. Unfortunately, the Pro-Adoption narrative has always dominated the narrative, but adoptees are dying, and we can’t afford to stay silent. 

Adoptees are overrepresented in prisons, jails, treatment, and mental health facilities, and we are 4x more likely to attempt suicide. Thankfully, the tides are turning, things are changing for the future generations of adoptees, and adoptee-centric resources are starting to surface more than ever before. But unfortunately, even with some resources surfacing for adult adoptees, our cries for help have been ignored for far too long. This is one of the many reasons Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th was created.

With our collective efforts, we’ve picked October 30th annually to share our hearts, and adoptees from all over the world showed up for this day, and they showed out. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this community. The adoptee experience is unique to each of us, yet we all share the ultimate loss of our beginnings, which can impact every area of our lives. 

Photo Credit: IG: @nikki_often / Artist / Korean Adoptee

Nikki’s Tribute, “Don’t let the feeling that I’m all alone deceive me. Among the many reasons for this day, Adoptee Remembrance Day is to raise awareness about crimes committed against adoptees by adoptive parents, as well as suicide, and different kinds of loss that are experienced by everyone who is impacted by adoption.”

While the internet is overflowing with tributes from adoptees worldwide, we wanted to share a message of gratitude for everyone who participated, adopted or not. Your voice was loud, and we appreciate everyone who took the time to share something on Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th. 

As the Adoptee Movement for Adoptee Remembrance Day continues to expand and grow annually around the world, more non-adoptees will learn that there is so much more to adoption than what they have come to know. Between now and then, Adoptees will continue to do outstanding work in the adoption community by raising their voices and sharing the truth about adoption. I commend each of you and appreciate you!

We are so sorry to all the adoptees who didn’t make it because their pain was too great. We will never stop exposing the hidden side of adoption, and we love you. For the adoptees who are hurting and can’t see past their pain. Don’t give up! You are not alone. To everyone who participated, THANK YOU! WE LOVE YOU! Sending you massive hugs of support and embracing you with love and encouragement to press forward in your cause. 

Below are some online tributes for Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th, 2022.

Photo Credit: IG: @chung.woolrim / Artist / Adoptee

Lisa Wool-Rim Sjoblom’s Tribute: “Today, October 30th, is Adoptee Remembrance Day. Today we mourn all the adoptees we’ve lost. Those who were murdered by their adoptive parents and other family members, and those who died due to neglect and abuse. Those we lost to suicide. Today we acknowledge all the adoptees suffering in their adoptive homes and whose please for help no one hears or believes. We recognize all adoptees struggling with depression, addiction, poverty, homelessness, abusive relationships and loneliness. We acknowledge those who have been re-homed – some multiple times, those without citizenship, those who have been deported and those who are incarcerated. We recognize all adoptees searching for their first families, all who are not allowed to reunite and all who are trying to get access to their birth certificates and other documents they’ve been denied for far too long. We recognize all adoptees who will never find their families and will never learn where they came from. We recognize that for many of us, adoption is a wound that will never heal, a grief that will never diminish and a trauma we will carry for the rest of our lives.”

Korean Adoptee Community in Germany‘s Tribute: “We are proud of this collage! It shows cohesion, understanding, love and trust. We are an international community and nobody has to be lone! Special thanks to our friends around the world.”

Photo Credit – IG: @sanjaypulver / Indian Transracial Adoptee / Trans Man ‘ Advocate / Shirt = http://www.adopteemerch.com

Sanjay’s Tribute: ” Thinking of all of us who haven’t been able to grieve the losses to our community because we’re supposed to be grateful/thankful. Or even how close I’ve come to that edge because the pain felt is overwhelming and I couldn’t imagine another way forward. For all adoptees today, I see you, I love you, and your lives matter!”

Photo Credits – IG: @carmencampbell_ / Guatemalan Adoptee / Adoptee Awareness Advocate

Carmen’s Tribute: Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th. This day holds a special place in my heart. It’s one in which we reflect upon the hardships that are within being adopted. As well as remembering and honoring those in the adoptee community we have lost too soon. I light a candle to remember how far I have come in this adoption journey of mine. Had you known me as a child, even two years ago I never would have expected me to be speaking at my own candlelight vigil. Sharing with others my adoption journey has led me to a whole new world of healing.”

Photo Credit – IG: @valnaimanauthor / Adoptee / Author / Advocate

Valerie’s Tribute: Adoptee Remembrance Day is October 30th, 2022. Adoptees are four times more likely to commit suicide than non-adopted people. Here is a bowl of yellow flowers from my garden for all my co-adoptees out there. Adoptees Matter, We Matter. So much love to all the lives we lost, those who have attempted, and for those who are still struggling.”

ADOPTEE’S & SUPPORTERS ON TiKTok

Reflections on Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th, 2022.

Video Credits – Tik Tok – @wardofthestate1.0
Video Credits – Tik Tok @1adoptee
Video Credit – TikTok – @dariarottenberk
Video Credit – TikTok – @withloveaugust
Video Credit – TikTok – @transmomsbex_kasey
Video Credit – TikTok – @alauraslateagain
Video Credit – TikTok – @theoutspokenadoptee

Video Credits – TikTok – @truthspeakssp
Video Credits – TikTok – @wardofthestate1.0

Video Credits – TikTok – @june_in_april

To our fellow adoptees, keep sharing and keep shining. We need you; you matter, and your voice is critical to the community that has been marginalized for a lifetime. Please take care of yourself and practice a healthy balance between self-care and pouring into the adoptee community.

Please visit the next Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th, 2023 Event Page on Facebook at CLICK ATTENDING! Invite all your friends and family.

Much Love and Gratitude,

Pamela A. Karanova / President Adoptees Connect, Inc. | Founder, Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th.

Here’s a comprehensive list of some wonderful articles for everyone in the adoption constellation.

100 Heartfelt Adoptee Quotes that Honor the Truth of Adoption by Pamela A. Karanova & 100 Adoptees Worldwide

Before A Month Celebrating Adoption, A Day to Recognize Adoptee’s Trauma by Kathryn Post of Religion News Service.

Adoptee Recommended Resources by Adoptees Connect, Inc.

Recommended Resources by Adoptees On

Understanding Why Adoptees Are At A Higher Risk for Suicide by Maureen McCauley | Light of Day Stories

Suicide Amongst Adoptees by Hilbrand Westra

Adoptee Centric Therapist Directory – Grow Beyond Words

Adoptee Remembrance Day: Today by Light of Day Stories

Toward Preventing Adoption- Related Suicide by Mirah Riben

Adoptee Books- Visit adopteereading.com where you will find a comprehensive list of adoptee books recommended by adult adoptees.

Adoption and Suicide Prevention: Adult Adoptees Speak Out by United Survivors

Still Grieving Adoptee Losses, What My Adoptive Parents Could Have Done Differently by Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptee Remembrance Day by InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV)

Adoptee Remembrance Day by Adoptees On

Adoptee Remembrance Day Presentation by Brenna Kyeong McHugh

Adoption, DNA and the impact on a concealed life Tedx by Ruth Monning

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th by Bastard Nation

It’s Hard to Smile Today – My Tribute to Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th by Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptee Suicide by Layla Schaeffer

Adoption BE-AWARENESS and Remembrance By Mirah Riben

Adoptee REMEMBRANCE Day by Janet Nordine, Experience Courage

Considering Adoption? What Adoptees Want You To Know by Pamela A. Karanova

Facing the Primal Wound of Transracial Adoption by Naomi Sumner

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th YouTube Poetry Hosted By Liz Debetta

Listeners Acknowledge Adoptee Remembrance Day by Adoptees On

Adoptee and Identity by Just Jae

Adoption and Addiction by Paul Sunderlund

The Trauma of Relinquishment- Adoption, Addiction, and Beyond by The OLLIE Foundation

Adoptee Suicide in the Media by Jeanette-ically Speaking

An Adoptees Nightmare by Cryptic Omega

6 Things You Should Know About Adoptees and Suicide by Jennifer Galan

InterCountry Adoptee Memorial by ICAV

I’m Adopted: You Can’t Fix Me or Take My Pain Away. Please Stop Trying by Pamela A. Karanova

Transracial Adoptee Voices of of Love and Trauma by Mikayla Zobeck

What is Gaslighting and How Does it Impact Adopted Persons by Dr. Chaitra Wirta- Leiker

Creating Space To Find Who I Am – Pamela Karanova – Who Am I Really Podcast? Damon Davis

The Secret Identity of An Adopted Child: Catharine Robertson at TEDxBaltimore

Article on Light of Day Stories about Adoptees Connect, Inc.

Bringing Adult Adoptee Issues to Light by Angela Burton of Next Avenue

These Adoptees Refuse to Be Christian Pro-Life Poster Kids by Kathryn Post of Religious News Service

Adoption Decision Making Among Women Seeking Abortion

Mental Health and Psychological Adjustment in Adults Who Were Adopted in Their Childhood: A Systematic Review

Substance Use Disorders and Adoption: Findings from a National Sample

Dealing with Adoptee Suicide by Lynelle Long

Adoptees, Why Are You So Angry? Over 100 Adoptees Share Heartfelt Feelings by Pamela A. Karanova & Adoptees Worldwide

We Should Be Fighting for a World Without Adoption by Michelle Merritt

When Your Biggest Blessing Invalidates My Greatest Trauma by Pamela A. Karanova

    Where darkness resides: suicide and being adopted – is there a connection of elevated risk?

   Adoption as a Risk Factor for Attempted Suicide During Adolescence

What it Costs to be Adopted by Michele Merritt

The Mental Health of US Adolescence Adopted in Infancy by Margaret A Keyes, PhD.

Relationship Between Adoption and Suicide Attempts: A Meta Analysis

     Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring

     Behavioral Problems in Adoptees

Risk of Eating Disorders in International Adoptees: A Corhort Study Using Swedish National Population Registers

Cancelling My Adoption by Netra Sommer

Risks of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring

Rediscovering Latent Trauma: An Adopted Adults Perspective by Michele Merritt

     Adopted Children Have Twice the Risk of Abusing Drugs if Biological Parents Also Did

     Can Adoption Create Addicts?

On Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Adoptees Don’t want to Be A “Pawn” in Abortion Debates

Adoptees 4 Times More Likely to Attempt Suicide by Jenny Laidman

Infant Adoption is a Big Business in America by Darlene Gerow

Adoption and Trauma: Risks, Recovery and the Lived Experience of Adoption

Give Me Back My Name by Michele Merritt

Stop Weaponizing Adopted People for Your Anti-Choice Agenda by Michele Merritt

Adopted Children at Greater Risk for Mental Health Disorders by Madison Park

     Understanding Why Adoptees Are at Higher Risk For Suicide

Video Credits – Korean Adoptee Community in Germany – @koreanische_adopteierte_ev

For All The People in The Back, It’s Time to Acknowledge Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th

What do I mean by “For all the people in the back?” It’s saying “SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK” aka for the people on the sidelines, in the shadows and/or for the people who refuse to acknowledge the sentiments in this article. It’s been used over the years to put an emphasis on an important topic, but specifically to those who turn a blind eye, or refuse to listen or acknowledge something. In other words, I don’t need to say it louder for some as they are actively involved for the cause, but I’m saying it LOUDER for the people in the back who continue to turn a blind eye. This is my meaning behind it.

Soon we will be honoring our 3rd annual Adoptee Remembrance Day – on October 30th around the globe. This is a day to reflect on the side of adoption that’s almost always ignored. I would love to ask for the support of all who care to take the time to listen and learn that there is more to the adoptee and adoption experience than what society portrays.

If you have an open heart and an open mind, please proceed with the willingness to listen and learn from a well-versed adult adoptee with some essential things to share that could be life-saving for adoptees worldwide. Thank you in advance.

First things first, before any adoption takes place, every adopted person experiences a life-altering loss first. This loss is so profound that it can and does impact every area of our lives. If you can evoke empathy for another human being, I am asking you to briefly place yourself in the shoes of an adopted person so I can take you on a journey of what our experiences can be like. Let’s put the “adoption” piece on the shelf and rewind how our lives unfold before we’re ever adopted.

No matter why adopted people are separated from their biological mothers, families, cultures, and beginnings, we all have a [His]-Story and a [Her]-Story. Yet, a lot of the time, our beginnings are swept under the rug as if our beginnings don’t exist. The reality of this being a traumatic experience is ignored by all, and adoption is viewed as a win, win for all in the adoption constellation.

The agony that many adoptees face, not knowing who we are or where we come from, is an agony that some adoptees can’t survive. Sometimes our pain is too great. As an adoptee suicide attempt survivor, I take this cause to heart in a very significant way.

Not only did I try to end my life when I was a teenager, but I have also struggled with suicidal ideation throughout my life. I almost ended my life again in 2017 due to many adoptee-related situations and issues happening all around the same time that almost took me out. However, I found enough strength to turn things around and take a lifetime of pain, and I found purpose in it. Not all adoptees can find this strength. They are the reason I share my story and voice.

We must acknowledge and understand that separation trauma is separate from us being adopted, and with that, we can learn to understand each dynamic more profoundly. Please read The Vital Contrast Between Relinquishment Trauma, Separation Trauma, and Adoption Trauma and Why We Should Know The Difference to learn more.

The separation from our biological mothers is a preverbal trauma tucked away in our subconscious memory that, for many of us, has a way of visiting us throughout our lives. Some adoptees struggle significantly in life, and some don’t struggle as much. I am sharing my voice for those who struggle because my heart can feel their pain because I am one of those adoptees.

Building relationships with adoptees worldwide for over a decade, dedicating countless hours to hearing their stories, I can say that every single adoptee I have had contact with has struggled with being adopted, EVERY SINGLE ONE. Even the ones with the “picture perfect” adoption story still have had difficulties with it to some degree. To ignore this reality would be a travesty to adoptees everywhere. When they hurt, I hurt. When they cry, I cry. I feel their pain because I have carried the same pain.

When separation trauma is swept under the rug and never acknowledged by the adults in our lives, it hurts the adoptee. Adoptees can’t find the language to articulate how they feel in our childhoods, and we can’t heal from secrecy, lies, and half-truths. However, when the adults in our lives acknowledge this reality, it helps us heal when we have the adults in our lives facilitate helping us find the language to process our complex emotions. It also helps at great lengths when they help us find our truths and support us along the way.

The sooner we can start this process, the better and I recommend an adoptee-competent therapist on deck to help facilitate this process at age-appropriate times. This is a lot of work; however, when anyone wants to adopt a child or newborn, they should automatically take this into account because the complexities from relinquishment trauma compacted by adoption trauma run deep.

When we are adopted and our separation trauma is ignored, it can set the adoptee up for a lifetime of abandonment, rejection, grief, loss, anger, rage, and addictions. The list could go on forever. When we know that separation trauma is different than adoption trauma or the adoption experience, we can acknowledge the different feelings each adoptee might have about their own lived experience.

It’s totally okay that we feel different feelings, and we all seem to have different degrees of struggles. No two adoptee story is the same. We can have fantastic and loving adoptive parents and also feel deep grief, loss, sadness, and sorrow for all that was lost before the adoption took place. Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day we would love others to acknowledge the loss that every adoptee experiences before they are adopted.

Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day to step outside our level of understanding and into the lens of adopted people worldwide, with the willingness to listen and learn from their experiences. It’s a day to acknowledge that separation trauma and adoption trauma come with unique layers that need understanding.

We are urging everyone to get involved because the reality is that adoptees are DYING, and we can’t afford to stay silent or turn a blind eye. You don’t have to be adopted to participate. Maybe you know and love an adoptee or had a wonderful adoption experience, but you know many of your fellow adoptees did not. Whatever your role is inside or outside the adoption constellation, you have a much-needed voice within Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th.

How can you get involved?

Listen to adoptees! Visit the Adoptee Remembrance Day Info tab and learn more about how to put your hand on this critically important day in the adoptee community. Below are valuable articles and videos about Adoptee Remembrance Day and the adoption experience. I encourage you to tap into each resource, share them on October 30th and add your thoughts based on what you have learned.

You will find acknowledgments and thoughts from individuals and organizations worldwide who have something to say about Adoptee Remembrance Day. Please read and share these resources on your social media platforms. A little willingness goes a long way, and you could be saving an adoptee’s life!

Thank you to all the adoptees, relinquishees, non-adoptees, organizations, and supporters near and far. A collaboration of our voices coming together for this critical cause is a powerful message to send to the world! People are finally starting to listen! Thank you for your time reading; your support means everything to me and adopted people worldwide!

Love, Love

Pamela A. Karanova

President, Adoptees Connect, Inc.

Founder, Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th

Pamela A. Karanova

100 Heartfelt Adoptee Quotes that Honor the Truth of Adoption by Pamela A. Karanova & 100 Adoptees Worldwide

Adoptee Recommended Resources by Adoptees Connect, Inc.

Recommended Resources by Adoptees On

Understanding Why Adoptees Are At A Higher Risk for Suicide by Maureen McCauley | Light of Day Stories

Suicide Amongst Adoptees by Hilbrand Westra

Adoptee Centric Therapist Directory – Grow Beyond Words

Adoptee Remembrance Day: Today by Light of Day Stories

Toward Preventing Adoption- Related Suicide by Mirah Riben

Adoptee Books- Visit adopteereading.com where you will find a comprehensive list of adoptee books recommended by adult adoptees.

Adoption and Suicide Prevention: Adult Adoptees Speak Out by United Survivors

Still Grieving Adoptee Losses, What My Adoptive Parents Could Have Done Differently by Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptee Remembrance Day by InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV)

Adoptee Remembrance Day by Adoptees On

Adoptee Remembrance Day Presentation by Brenna Kyeong McHugh

Adoption, DNA and the impact on a concealed life Tedx by Ruth Monning

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th by Bastard Nation

It’s Hard to Smile Today – My Tribute to Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th by Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptee Suicide by Layla Schaeffer

Adoption BE-AWARENESS and Remembrance By Mirah Riben

Adoptee REMEMBRANCE Day by Janet Nordine, Experience Courage

Considering Adoption? What Adoptees Want You To Know by Pamela A. Karanova

Facing the Primal Wound of Transracial Adoption by Naomi Sumner

Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th YouTube Poetry Hosted By Liz Debetta

Listeners Acknowledge Adoptee Remembrance Day by Adoptees On

Adoptee and Identity by Just Jae

Adoption and Addiction by Paul Sunderlund

The Trauma of Relinquishment- Adoption, Addiction, and Beyond by The OLLIE Foundation

Adoptee Suicide in the Media by Jeanette-ically Speaking

An Adoptees Nightmare by Cryptic Omega

6 Things You Should Know About Adoptees and Suicide by Jennifer Galan

InterCountry Adoptee Memorial by ICAV

I’m Adopted: You Can’t Fix Me or Take My Pain Away. Please Stop Trying by Pamela A. Karanova

Transracial Adoptee Voices of of Love and Trauma by Mikayla Zobeck

What is Gaslighting and How Does it Impact Adopted Persons by Dr. Chaitra Wirta- Leiker

Creating Space To Find Who I Am – Pamela Karanova – Who Am I Really Podcast? Damon Davis

The Secret Identity of An Adopted Child: Catharine Robertson at TEDxBaltimore

Article on Light of Day Stories about Adoptees Connect, Inc.

Bringing Adult Adoptee Issues to Light by Angela Burton of Next Avenue

These Adoptees Refuse to Be Christian Pro-Life Poster Kids by Kathryn Post of Religious News Service

Adoption Decision Making Among Women Seeking Abortion

Mental Health and Psychological Adjustment in Adults Who Were Adopted in Their Childhood: A Systematic Review

Substance Use Disorders and Adoption: Findings from a National Sample

Dealing with Adoptee Suicide by Lynelle Long

Adoptees, Why Are You So Angry? Over 100 Adoptees Share Heartfelt Feelings by Pamela A. Karanova & Adoptees Worldwide

We Should Be Fighting for a World Without Adoption by Michelle Merritt

When Your Biggest Blessing Invalidates My Greatest Trauma by Pamela A. Karanova

    Where darkness resides: suicide and being adopted – is there a connection of elevated risk?

   Adoption as a Risk Factor for Attempted Suicide During Adolescence

What it Costs to be Adopted by Michele Merritt

The Mental Health of US Adolescence Adopted in Infancy by Margaret A Keyes, PhD.

Relationship Between Adoption and Suicide Attempts: A Meta Analysis

     Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring

     Behavioral Problems in Adoptees

Risk of Eating Disorders in International Adoptees: A Corhort Study Using Swedish National Population Registers

Cancelling My Adoption by Netra Sommer

Risks of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring

Rediscovering Latent Trauma: An Adopted Adults Perspective by Michele Merritt

     Adopted Children Have Twice the Risk of Abusing Drugs if Biological Parents Also Did

     Can Adoption Create Addicts?

On Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Adoptees Don’t want to Be A “Pawn” in Abortion Debates

Adoptees 4 Times More Likely to Attempt Suicide by Jenny Laidman

Infant Adoption is a Big Business in America by Darlene Gerow

Adoption and Trauma: Risks, Recovery and the Lived Experience of Adoption

Give Me Back My Name by Michele Merritt

Stop Weaponizing Adopted People for Your Anti-Choice Agenda by Michele Merritt

Adopted Children at Greater Risk for Mental Health Disorders by Madison Park

     Understanding Why Adoptees Are at Higher Risk For Suicide

Chapter 20. Who’s Your Mother? – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir by Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 20.

Who’s Your Mother?

November 11th, 2010, was a game changer for me. After learning my birth father’s name and receiving confirmation of his location from multiple sources, I made a decision. I could leave my birth mother’s funeral and drive back to Kentucky on a ten-hour trip home, or I could drive to Leon, Iowa, and show up at my birth father’s door and introduce myself! Unfortunately, the latter would put me way out of touch with getting home to Kentucky at a decent hour, adding over six hours to my driving time.

After doing some digging, I was able to find the name and phone number of the biological cousin that my aunt Nan mentioned, whose name was Brian. I called him, and he acknowledged who Jack Jennings was and confirmed where he lived in Leon, Iowa. I told him I was Eileen’s biological daughter, and I had been told Jack was my father. He concluded that Jack was a pall barrier at my grandfather’s funeral, and he was a close family friend.

He shared that the Jennings brothers were all very close, and they all lived within a mile radius from one another, in the sticks of the little town called Leon just a little north of the Missouri and Iowa border. He said they always lived off the land, and even when gaming laws were in play, the Jennings brothers made their own rules and hunted year-round to feed their families. So gaming wasn’t only a hobby for them; it was survival.

He shared Jack’s wife’s name, Lanette, so I decided to look her up online, and I took a plunge and gave her a call. After two short rings, a soft woman’s voice answered the phone. “Hello” is all that was said.

“Hi, my name is Pamela, and I hope this call finds you well. I am calling to speak about Jack. I live in Kentucky but have returned to Iowa for my biological mother’s funeral. At the funeral, I learned from several sources that Jack is my biological father. I am on my way to Leon now. I don’t want anything from him, only to see his face and meet him at least once. Is he home today?” – I said.

“Oh, honey, I believe everyone deserves to know who their biological parents are. However, I must share that Jack is a raging alcoholic who stopped drinking a few weeks ago. The last few weeks are the nicest he’s been to me in over 20 years of our marriage. If there ever was a time to come, it’s right now. I am going into town today to play bingo with a friend. He will be home all day watching football. Once you hit our long gravel road, you will see our mailbox on the right about half a mile up the long gravel driveway. You will likely lose your cell signal, so write this down. You might have wild dogs chase you up the driveway, but call inside before you get out of your car and ask Jack to come out. He will scare them off. Our house number is 1-319-555-1212. Good luck, honey. I won’t say we spoke.” – Said Lanette.

Wow, I remember being shocked at how kind and understanding she was. It felt like she gave me her blessing, so I was all in and taking it. The few hours to get to Leon, IA, from Waterloo, IA, seemed like an eternity. The closer I got, the more nervous I got. What if he thought I was an intruder? Or what if he turned me away? What if it went south? Well, all the scenarios were on the table, but one thing was sure, I was not going to die without seeing his face at least once, so I was more determined than I had ever been to do what I had to do to see him.

He lived in the country off the land, with wild dogs on his property, and was a gamer and hunter. He had a gun shed and a slaughterhouse. He could have lit my ass on fire when I showed up, but my desire to see his face one time was more significant than any fears most would have had. I didn’t think twice about putting myself in harm’s way. I was willing to die to see his face one time.

Non-adopted people can’t fathom why this would be so important to an adoptee. Sometimes I think it’s because they don’t know what it’s like to grow up and spend your entire life not mirroring anyone. It impacts adoptees, and it impacts us profoundly. I feel that to grow and prosper in life, we have to have roots, and when we don’t have our roots, we become stagnant and can’t grow.

When we see others who share similarities, characteristics, and genetic mirroring, it changes things. But unfortunately, most non-adopted people have this privilege and know no different, so they can unknowingly take it for granted. Well, I am here to tell you that seeing the faces of our biological parents is a massive piece of our journeys, and if an adopted person has that desire, it’s essential they are supported.

My anticipation rose as miles brought me closer to Jack Jennings’s doorstep. This was where the rubber met the road. I was finally going to see his face, a dream come true. Yet, part of me always questioned if seeing his face was enough. What if we could pull together a relationship from all the years apart? I was dying inside, not knowing who my biological parents were, so this was life or death.

I was open to all scenarios, but seeing his face one time was the priority of this decision. I wanted to feel real like I had roots somewhere. No matter how it would turn out, I would soon be faced with the reality that had always been hidden from me. Was my birth mother right? Did he know nothing about me, and would he NOT want to know? I was about to experience this myself. Indeed, no matter what anyone told me, I had to see it myself. Adoptees need to see it for themselves no matter who wants to protect them.

Most of the time, when an adoption happens, the pre-story isn’t usually a pretty story. While our adoptive parents and society dress it up, the reality is that it always begins with loss. Loss of our cultures, ethnicity, genetic history, medical history, lost relationships, knowledge of our ancestry, and so much more. Only when everyone in the adoption constellation acknowledges this reality will adoptees have a fighting chance at a life of wholeness and happiness, and even then, it’s no guarantee.

I turned right down a long gravel road, literally in the middle of nowhere outside Leon, Iowa, with a population of approximately 1800 residents. I remember Lanette telling me how to find the mailbox that led down another long gravel road that would lead to Jack Jennings’s doorstep.

It was around 11:30 AM on a Sunday, and the sun was shining, but it was a cool crisp morning in November in Leon. The leaves were starting to fall, and the vibes were majestic. Country fields surrounded Jack’s house for miles. As I pulled slowly up Jack’s long gravel driveway, I noticed a pond to the right of his property. It was breathtaking, and the land where he lived was enchanting.

The closer I got to his house, the more determined I became. Finally, I took Lanette’s advice and called into the house to see if I could get Jack on the phone to alert him of my arrival. Getting out of the car alone, with wild dogs approaching my car, wasn’t in the cards. After two short rings into Jack’s landline phone, I hear a “Hello” on the other end of the line.

I said, “Hi Jack, I’m Pamela, and I’m outside your house. I have been told you are my biological father, and I would love a chance to meet you and say hello for a few minutes. Would it be okay if I came in to say hello?”

He said, “Come on in. I will open the door!”

Once he came to the door, the wild dogs scattered off, so I was able to get out of my car safely. Then, as I walked up the rest of his gravel driveway, I approached his front door; he opened his screen door and said, “Come on in!”

I could glance at his face when he turned around; he looked at me and said, “Who’s your mother?!” I am sure this was the million-dollar question, but I said, “My mother is Eileen Ward from Waterloo, Iowa. Her father was Garrett Burchett. From what I have been told, you were a pall barrier and a family friend at this funeral?”

He walked me into his living room area, I followed him, and he invited me to sit on the sofa. I noticed he had Iowa Football on the television. It seemed he was spending the day in the little slice of paradise he had created for himself.

He said, “I remember her; she was the only woman I ever danced with that I didn’t have to bend to dance with her because she was so tall! But she didn’t tell me anything about you!”

“That’s the story I was also told,” I said. So I let him know that Eileen gave me up for adoption on August 13th, 1974, and it was apparent it was without his consent because he knew nothing about me.

He started to ask me a few questions, and he asked me if I had ever had a chance to meet my biological grandmother on my maternal side. I said, “No, sir, she passed away long ago, and I never got to meet her.”

“She was crazier than a box of rocks!” he said. I told him I heard a few stories about her, but that was the extent of my knowledge about her.” This sparked my interest in wondering if any of his parents were still alive.

I told him I was in Iowa because Eileen had passed away, and I was there for her funeral, where I received confirmation about who he was. I also shared I drove to Leon instead of home to Kentucky at a chance to meet him. I had a 13-hour drive ahead of me, so I wasn’t staying long.

He started to tell me a little about his life and job, and in that piece of our conversation, he was using the graphic term for a black person, which let me know he was a racist. I was taken back a bit, but I also acknowledged that he was from a different era and time than me, so I just listened. He shared that my great- grandmother was part Cheyenne Indian and shared this with pride.

Jack said he attended college at the University of Nebraska, where he played football. He also served in the United States Army, where he served from 1961 to 1963. He was an outdoorsman and loved hunting and fishing. He also was a sports fan. He loved the Green Bay Packers and New York Yankees. He also enjoyed the University of Nebraska and University of Iowa teams. He liked to read Louis L’Amour novels, watched westerns and Clint Eastwood movies, played the card game 500, and had a great recall memory.

Jack worked at John Deere’s and retired from there several years earlier. One of the strange things is that my adopted dad worked at John Deere’s and retired from there, and so did Eileen’s most recent husband, Keith. The one that told me Jack Jenning’s was deceased! Such a wild paradox if you think about it. I wondered if they knew each other.

Jack asked me about the names of my adoptive parents, which I told him, but he seemed like their names didn’t ring a bell. I told him I had been living in Kentucky since I was seventeen, but I always wondered who my biological parents were. We talked for about 45 minutes.

I had another question for Jack. “Do I have any siblings?” I asked.

He hesitated and said, “Grant Blackcloud might be my son, but there is more to that story, and I’m not 100% sure he’s mine.”

I said, “Can you tell me where Grant lives?”

“He is from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.” He said.

I thanked him for the information, and I asked him if any of his parents were alive, and he said, “Yes, My mother is alive, and she lives independently in town and has an apartment. I check on her daily. She’s 82 years old.”

I knew I might not like the answer he gave me, but I expressed an interest in meeting her one day because I had never met a biological grandparent. Because she was still living independently, I had hoped he would allow this meeting to be facilitated, but I wasn’t holding my breath.

However, when I suggested the idea, he said, “Maybe you can come back in the spring, and I can set up a meeting between you two?” I was elated at the idea. I was also surprised that he was interested in us meeting again in the future.

Even when I knew this could be the last and only time I ever saw him in this lifetime, I knew I had to get on the road for the long ride home across the country. After about 45 minutes of a visit, I told Jack it was nice to meet him, but I had to leave. I took one more leap and asked him if I could take his photo, and he didn’t seem thrilled with the idea, but he allowed it. In the first picture, he looked angry; I decided to ask him to smile. I got a half grin, snapped my camera again, and my time with Jack Jennings was over.

He walked me to the door and stepped outside to say a few more words. “I made that lake over there and that house over there; that’s where my brother lives. My other brother lives over the hill, about a mile away.”

I remember being awe-struck at the beauty of Mother Nature that surrounded me. Jack Jennings was wrapped in nature’s most delicate, and it seemed like it would be a dream to live out in the country as he did. The rolling hills and fields spoke to me, and it was apparent that I was standing in a space where my roots lay for the first time in my life. Part of me felt at home, but I knew it wasn’t my home because of adoption. I was once again an outsider looking in.

I gave Jack my business card so he would have my contact information and told him I was already looking forward to the visit in the Spring. No hugs or warm fuzzies were happening. I shook Jack’s hand, got in my car, and headed back to my old Kentucky home.

I’m pretty sure I was in shock for the next several hours, days, and weeks. My brain was overloaded trying to process the interactions and emotions over the last few days. Then, I called my kids, who were 16 years old, and the twins were 12 years old at the time to share the news. Of course, they don’t fully grasp the experience and how important it was to me to meet my birth father finally, but they understand more than your average person.

After my final destination home, I think I stared at the photo of my birth father for hours and even days. Finally, I printed it and tacked it to the wall beside my bed. It’s one of my very few most prized possessions. I showed all my close friends and could hardly believe I had met the man who had brought me into the world. Jack and I departed with a penciled-in plan that I come back in the Spring, and at that time, he was going to take me to meet his mother, my biological grandmother. This would be a dream come true.

Then, finally, I felt like a genuine and authentic person and that I came from somewhere. I didn’t drop out of the sky by way of a spaceship as an alien intruder to a world I didn’t belong in. Even when I felt this way my whole life, I now felt like I had roots planted somewhere. These were my people. This was the land that they lived on. Even when adoption separated us at no choice of my own, the authentic reality was that I was home.

Jack and I had some of the same facial features and skin complexion. Our faces were shaped similarly. Knowing this truth and seeing it for myself profoundly changed things for me. After feeling like a fraud my whole life, I felt REAL; I finally felt fucking real. This experience was a game-changer for me.

Non-adoptees can’t grasp what it feels like not to have the first pages of your book of life. To have the beginning pages ripped out, so to speak, really impacts the adoptee and not in a positive light. 2010 was the first time in my whole life that I didn’t look at myself in the mirror and hated what was looking back at me. Instead, although very scarred, I felt whole like I never had before, but I still had questions, and now my new search was about to begin.

It was time to put my investigator hat back on and begin the search for my possible half-brother, Grant Blackcloud. I was going to get to the bottom of that piece of the puzzle if my life depended on it. I was never going to give up until I found all my people.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 19. A Casket and Clues – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 19.

A Casket and Clues

While my kids stayed in Kentucky with the twins grandma, I hit the road in November of 2010 and arrived in Waterloo, Iowa, on the day of Eileen’s funeral. I was entirely out of my element, being the adoptee outsider feeling invisible. Yet, I knew I was born at St. Frances Hospital in Waterloo, where my birth mother was. Waterloo always gave me an eerie feeling, one I have difficulty describing in words.

I have had dreams my whole life off and on about Saint Frances Hospital. I was five years old in the dream when I discovered I was adopted. I’m at St. Francis Hospital on the maternity ward where I was born and the last place I was with my birth mother before we were separated for life. I’m a little girl in the dream, wearing nothing but a small hospital gown with bare feet.

Everything was white, crisp, and had a paranormal feeling about it. It was the feeling of being misplaced, as if you are a little kid at the fair and you turn around, and your parents are gone. Like they left, never to return, a feeling of terror and panic comes over you. That’s how I feel every time I have this dream. I was frantic, searching for HER.

I take off running down the maternity ward hallways in search of her! The hallways never ended, and I ran in and out of every room, going on forever and ever. As I ran, I saw a giant clock, and time was running out. I kept running forever, but I never found her! I would wake up from these dreams in complete dire straights, completely inconsolable. Please believe me when I tell you that adoption is torture, and it’s a mental mind fuck for adoptees.

I had no idea how my trip to Eileen’s funeral would go down, but one of my main reasons for going was to learn more about her and possibly my birth father. It wasn’t long ago that I was told he was deceased, which never sat well with my spirit. I felt in my heart of hearts that was always one more lie, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. First, I wanted to stand over his grave and see if he was deceased. Second, I wanted DNA to connect me to his family tree. I was never giving up until I found all of my people!

I will never forget reading Eileen’s obituary online and feeling a knife stab me straight in the heart when I saw I wasn’t listed in her obituary. This is another time I have difficulty finding the words to explain how this blow made me feel. I am thankful I was sitting in my car; otherwise, I think I would have collapsed. Logic would say, “Duh, of course, you weren’t listed; she gave you away!” However, the little girl in me couldn’t acknowledge that at all.

I could feel my heart ripped into shreds, and it took my breath away that I didn’t account for shit. I didn’t even exist or matter even a little bit. I was non-existent, invisible, still, hallow, and empty inside—a walking dead woman. So while reality seemed like the more straightforward solution, I was deeply hurt that I was not listed in Eileen’s obituary. It cut like a knife.

However, I needed to put on a smile to show up for her funeral service to be surrounded by people I didn’t know and search for more of my adoptee truth. One more example of me being vulnerable and putting myself “out there” to gain a glimpse of my birth mother’s life and learn more about her.

I was dying to talk to her closest friends and meet biological family I had never been allowed to meet in this lifetime. Would someone be able to share who my birth father was? Soon, I would discover more than I ever had about my birth mother and her life, but much of what I learned rocked me to my core.

I remember seeing my birth sister for the first time in over a decade with her children and husband. She gave me a card with sisterly sentiments in it, which was nice. She talked about wanting to pick back up where we left off and apologizing for disappearing. Even when sad circumstances brought us back together, I was happy to see her again. I was elated to move forward and open the door back up at a chance at a relationship with her.

We met before the funeral service and rode together to the funeral home. We walked in, and Eileen was lying in a casket dressed in a denim button-up shirt with a Christmas print on it. I thought that was odd because it was November; however, they said she loved Christmas, so she wore that shirt year round. She looked frail, wrinkled, and old, yet she was one month before her 63rd birthday. Lifelong alcohol, COPD, and cigarette consumption did a number on her.

As I got closer to the casket, I thought my emotions might take over me, but I felt disconnected and hallow, which I wasn’t expecting. We stood over Eileen’s casket for a moment, and I knew this was it. This was the last time I would ever see her in my lifetime.

I went to sit down with my birth sister and her kids and husband. I was handed a funeral program, and the service for Eileen started. It seems her funeral was planned down to every little detail, which I thought was interesting. She had the funeral home paid for, and her service was simple and short. After the service, she was cremated, and her urn was buried.

But, first, someone shared a short eulogy of her life, sharing she worked at Engineered Products for 16 years and was a NASCAR fan, especially Jeff Gordon. Then, they shared about her surviving one and only daughter, Joanna, and her only grandkids as Joanna’s three kids. While I had already read the obituary online, this still stung extensively. My emotions started to work on me.

After they shared a few short words about Eileen and her life, they played a song she picked out and requested to play at her memorial service. As the song began to play, this is when my tears started to flow. The words to the song struck a chord, and the reality that it was her last song somehow connected me to her at that moment.

Frank Sinatra – My Way

“And now the end is here
And so I face that final curtain
My friend, I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
I did it, I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much, much more
I did it, I did it my way

Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all, and I stood tall and did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
Not to say the things that he truly feels
And not the words of someone who kneels
Let the record show; I took all the blows and did it my way.”

She did what she had to do, stood tall, and did it her way. Back to her learning, she was pregnant with me, in 1973, out of wedlock, with a married man who was a family friend. This song will always remind me of her; it has touched my heart profoundly. Not in a heartwarming way, in a sorrowful way. While I started to cry, listening to the words and incorporating her choosing to give me up for adoption, my emotions got the best of me.

I was sobbing, and just an arm’s length away, so was Joanna. While we both cried tears, we didn’t carry the same pain. I would learn in a few conversations that her pain was from a lifetime of loss of the mother she deserved. Eileen was an alcoholic who wasn’t present to support Joanna growing up. She had scars from her childhood and life and said it was challenging growing up as an only child with an alcoholic mother. I had great sympathy for her then, and I still do.

She mentioned multiple times that she wished she was the one given up for adoption. But, of course, this implies that an adoptee has a chance at a “better life,” although the reality is that it only provides a “different life.” In her mind, I had a better life, but the reality was that she didn’t know my life. So her conclusions were made on assumptions.

While the song “My Way” finished, there was a close to the service, and tears began to dry up. Now it was time to mingle and dig as deep as possible into every conversation possible, to learn more about my birth mother and find more information about my birth father and where he was.

Joanna took me around to meet everyone and introduced me repeatedly, “This is Pam, my sister that mom gave up for adoption.” Ouch, this stung in a wild ass way, but it was the reality of the situation. So over and over, I was introduced as “Eileen’s daughter that was given up for adoption.” I didn’t know how to feel, so I just tried not to feel.

I spoke to one of Eileen’s long-time neighbors, who shared that Eileen was disconnected from everyone around her when she passed away. She shared that they tried to bring her cookies and check on her in the winter months, and she wouldn’t answer the door. They reached out to her various times, and she became semi-hateful toward people trying to help her, even telling them to “go away,” so they eventually left her alone.

Joanna also let me know that several years before Eileen passed away, she and her kids and husband packed up and drove to Iowa from another state to see Eileen at Christmas time, and she refused to answer the door. So while Joanna and her husband and kids were stuck outside at Christmas, this was essentially the end of their relationship until she learned of her passing away. I am confident this was extremely hard for Joanna.

I was introduced to one of Eileen’s best friends named Janet, and we had a few moments of a one-on-one conversation. She let me know that she remembered when Eileen was pregnant with me. They both grew up together and had their daughters together around the same time. Then Eileen became pregnant with me.

Janet told me that Eileen worked up until she had me and returned to work the next day. She said she was never seen without a drink in her hand, despite her pregnancies. She said she had flowers delivered to the hospital the day I was born, but they were returned because Eileen used an alias when she gave birth to me.

I asked Janet if she knew if Eileen held me or named me? She said, “Honey, I don’t know if you had a name or if she held you. Maybe she named you in her heart if she did name you?”

I asked her if she knew anything about my birth father, and she said he was a pall barrier at my grandfather’s funeral and was a close friend of the family. Taken back by this, I started to ask more questions.

“Do you know where he lives or his name?” – I said

“She said his name is Jack Jennings, and he was from Leon, Iowa.” So I proceeded to ask more about him.

“Do you know if he had any other kids?” I said.

Janet said, “I’m not sure; he was much older than Eileen. He was married when you were conceived, and he knew nothing about the pregnancy with you. Eileen kept it to herself due to the nature of the circumstances.”

While I was eternally grateful for the information, I was only in a position to retain this information. Processing it all would come at a later time. So I kept digging, asking as many people as many questions as I could. Every little clue counts.

Eileen had planned a small funeral service to a tee, and she had paid to take everyone to a restaurant to have a meal together. This allowed me to sit close to her best friend, Barb. I met Barb 16 years earlier because she was at Eileen’s house during our first and final in-person meeting in 1995. She was a familiar face to me, and I was happy to sit next to someone I felt like I knew a bit.

Barb started to open up and let me know she was glad I returned for the funeral. She said, “You know, it never sat well with me how Eileen treated you after you all met in 1995. But I do know she had her reasons. One of them was that she was distraught when you met in person, and she found out your adoptive parents divorced a year after adopting you. She was also sad about all you went through in your life. She said if she knew that was going to happen, she would have kept you. But instead, she wanted you to be raised in a two-parent household and have a better life, so this hurt her and hurt her deeply. But I was still not okay with her cutting you off like she did.”

It was nice to finally have someone acknowledge that Eileen cutting me off and the way she did it wasn’t okay. When I learned Eileen had issues with how things turned out, it made me feel like she cared a little bit in her way, which comforted me and helped my healing. Still, I was taken back by the information regarding Eileen being troubled about my adoptive parents divorcing when I was one.

However, every little clue allowed me an opportunity to put myself in her shoes and try to feel what she felt. This helped me understand why things were the way they were. I imagine she would be upset that the dream she was promised, the “better life” I was supposed to have, wasn’t better at all. I would be more than upset. I would be heartbroken.

After the luncheon and the funeral, I asked Joanna if there was any way we could drive by Eileen’s house, so I could see a glimpse of what her life was like before she left the earth. She hesitated and said, “I don’t think you want to go, Pam. It’s not a pretty scene; it’s the opposite. It’s awful.”

I assured her I wanted to go, and nothing would be too much for me to grasp. So off we went on the drive to Eileen’s house, where she was found dead just a few days earlier. She was still an everyday alcohol drinker, a full-time smoker, and had severe COPD when she died. Whatever I was about to see, I had hoped it would bring me more understanding of why things were the way they were, but I was not fully prepared for what I was about to walk into.

Joanna opened the door, and we walked into a dark and gloomy environment that loomed with sadness and despair like a scene from the 1970s. It’s almost as if things were dead, and there was no life in the surroundings.

I noticed several windows had newspaper taped to them, with duct tape to cover holes in the windows—one on the front door and several on the exterior windows throughout the house. Curtains were drawn closed, and like the pattern on her old couch, the curtains appeared to be old floral patterns from decades ago, the kind they don’t even make anymore.

She had dust so thick that it had been collecting for years, and her empty oxygen tanks lined up along one of the walls in the dining room area. The water appeared to be turned off in the house, and empty alcohol bottles were scattered on the kitchen counter and table tops.

We went upstairs, taking each step and listening to the stairs creak. It was an eerie vibe, and darkness still loomed as we turned the corner to enter Eileen’s bedroom. She had a Garfield clock on the wall, and a box of Christmas decorations sat in the corner scattered all over the wood floor. All the curtains were drawn shut, and no outside light made its way inside.

We walked back down the stairs, grazed past the coffee table, and headed back outside. I saw a 2-inch by 2-inch green glass paperweight that looked like it might be an elephant shape. I took a chance and asked Joanna if I could have it, and she said, “Sure!.” As of this day, it’s the only tangible thing I had to hang onto that was a piece of Eileen’s. A small paperweight that might have a $5.00 value means the world to me, just because it was hers.

It would take me ample time to process this life-changing experience. However, during my healing process over the last decade, I read “The Girls That Went Away,” which was a pivotal read for me. I recommend it to any adoptees who might be tuning in. I learned that our birth mothers’ world often stops, and time stands still. They never recover from the separation; for many of them, life does not go on as usual.

I learned that life for them is never the same. In my situation with Eileen, seeing the surroundings of how she lived her life, it appeared to me that she was stuck in 1974 when we were separated, lost from one another essentially forever.

While Joanna was right, her home was not in good shape; I am eternally grateful to have been allowed to see this for myself. I will always be thankful Joanna included me in this life-changing event. It looked for any signs of life in Eileen’s home, but I couldn’t recognize any. Darkness loomed, and this was an eye awakening experience because it allowed me to see what the last days of her life were like. And likely, these weren’t only the last days of her life; this was her life.

Our next stop was to my Aunt Nan’s house, who I had also met in 1995. She was sick and couldn’t leave her home for the funeral, so we stopped to see her. She welcomed us again and allowed us to sit by her on the couch to ask how the funeral services went.

During our conversation, I decided it was now or never and tried one last time to get some information about my birth father. Aunt Nan confirmed what Janet had shared about my birth father being Jack Jennings in Leon, Iowa. I didn’t press too hard, but she shared that he had several brothers who all lived off the land in Leon. She gave me the name and number of a male cousin who was close to the Jennings brothers and encouraged me to give him a call.

Aunt Nan was a pleasant person, and I felt drawn to her. I have always been thankful that she was willing to share the truth with me, and I feel that she could sense it was essential. Unfortunately, not long after this meeting, within months, sadly, my Aunt Nan passed away.

As this trip to my birth mother’s funeral ended, a whole new adventure was about to begin. Now that I had the confirmed name of my biological father, I was determined to find him, but how? So I put Leon, Iowa, in my GPS and hit the road. I was fearless and determined to see his face at least one time. It was now or never, and one thing was for sure, no one would do it for me. My life would be rocked in a new way in the next few hours.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 18. Ulterior Motives – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 18.

Ulterior Motives

My first task after arriving in Lexington was to find a job and a new place to live. Of course, with no car, that wouldn’t be an easy task; however, I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to do. Thankfully, I could transfer my housing assistance voucher back to Kentucky, which would help me escalate finding a place to live. I was so thankful for this resource; otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done.

Waking up in a new place with new circumstances was scary, but my detachment from Patricia gave me a zest for life that I had never experienced before. I was finally free, but now what? I knew deep down I had so much to recover from, 31 years of traumatic experiences, to be exact. But I put being a mom first and foremost, and my self-repair work seemed to be on the backburner.

The reality was that I changed my surroundings, but deep down, I still had my deep-rooted adoptee trauma brewing below the surface. Being a mom with so many responsibilities on my shoulders created an escape from dwelling on my adoptee/relinquishee trauma as much as I had in the past. However, it was always brewing. I was still a drinker, and alcohol was still my escape from not feeling.

While I started drinking daily around twelve years old, my drinking career was a non-stop part of my life except for my pregnancies with my kids. It was a habit, a way of life. The world celebrates everything with alcohol, and I was for the ride. But, even with new beginnings in Kentucky, old habits die hard. I was able to connect with old friends and make some new ones. The party life was still prominent in my life.

After a month and a half of being back in Kentucky, we found a new place to live, a three-bedroom duplex on Whispering Hills Drive. We moved in just enough time for the twins to start 1st grade at Southern Elementary school, and Keila started 5th grade at Southern Middle school. We lived about two blocks from both schools, which was an excellent setup for a single mom with no car.

A grocery store and Walmart were less than a mile away, and a city bus stop. So I learned how to take the bus around Lexington and took the bus from time to time when the kids had doctor’s appointments. I got a job at a local grocery store, but I wouldn’t say I liked the job, but it did help with expenses I had coming in.

In October of 2005, just three months after making the most challenging decision of my life, I was offered a position in the home health field caring for an elderly stroke patient who needed a home health caregiver. So I quit the grocery store, worked in the home health field weekly, and made more money than I ever had. This was nothing I had done before in a career, but being Patricia’s caretaker for 31 years and a mom to my kids, I had all the skills to easily step into this new role.

This position was within walking distance from our duplex, a lifesaver! I was able to get Medicaid for myself and the kids. We established care with new doctors for each of us and settled into our new life. The kids all started to make new friends at school and in the neighborhood, and our house would soon become a kid-friendly home and a safe place for kids to gather after school and on the weekends.

I never had any friends come over during my childhood, so this piece was essential to me so that my kids could have friends to stay with all night and spend as much time with as they wanted. I loved making my house kid-friendly and hosting get-togethers with my friends and my kid’s friends. We cooked out, had game nights, had big birthday celebrations for the kids, had Sunday dinners, and slowly our lives became fuller and more normal than they ever had.

The kids could experience sports in elementary school and in private leagues affordable for young, single moms, which is something Salt Lake City didn’t offer. So Damond started playing football, and Damia started to cheer and dance. Keila was in volleyball, and we were busy!

Around five months after arriving back in Kentucky, I saved up enough money to buy a car, and finally, I had transportation of my own, so I didn’t have to ask anyone for rides or take the bus. This was lifesaving because taking the bus in the winter with the kids was not a fun task.

I was amazed that I could never gain this type of momentum in my life with Patricia close to me, but within six months of choosing to move across the country without her, everything changed for the better. Finally, I was following my path instead of her path. I was paving my way instead of following her way.

Patricia and I spoke a few times on the telephone and occasionally shared an email, but our daily interactions were non-existent, which is exactly how I wanted it. I needed to detox from all interactions with her, and for the most part, that’s what I was doing until she started pressing me about coming to Kentucky to visit. This started happening about six months into our move, and of course, she said her primary intent was to see the kids; however, I learned otherwise.

I have always been thankful that my kids didn’t have to experience the full extent of Patricia as I did when I was growing up. However, this has been a challenging experience to navigate because they don’t fully understand the depths of why I made the decision I did to move away. They know bits and pieces but will never fully feel what I have felt my whole life due to my experiences with Patricia, and I am glad. But part of me wishes they could feel what I have felt for just five minutes, and then they would understand my decision better.

I am happy that they each have happy memories with her and will always have those happy memories to remember. My trauma with her is so significant that it overpowers any of the positives I experienced with her. However, I can take certain things about my childhood and use them for good, like my love for plants. Patricia had plants, and I think I started to care for them at a young age, and I now love plants. I was her caretaker for 31 years and am now a caregiver by career. But there is a big difference between a caretaker and a caregiver. I feel I was a caretaker to Patricia because I had to be, but now I am a caregiver by career because I want to be.

I want my kids to have good memories of her, so after about two years back in Kentucky, I agreed to let Patricia come to visit. I prolonged the visit as long as possible so we could get settled. I hoped she was somehow more normal and healthy than she had been when we departed, so in 2007 she flew to Kentucky for the first visit together since we left.

She arrived, and we picked her up. I hoped that she would be different and our relationship would be different. I was proud that she could see I could survive without her and that I was doing better than ever. I wanted her to see how happy I was and the kids were, but she never once acted or seemed happy that we were doing so well. She didn’t celebrate any of my independence because the reality was that my independence was leaving her narcissistic supply tank empty. Instead of getting better, she did the opposite and got worse.

I hoped she had found happiness in her personal life and put some effort into becoming happy and healthy without the co-dependent relationship between myself and my kids, which kept her alive.

So many hopes and wishes for something to change with Patricia, but she arrived, and reality set in quickly. First, of course, she showed up with all her pills which I hated, making me feel like she was dependent on them all. What was she even taking at this point? I had no idea, but I hated my kids seeing her taking all these pills and seeing her pills scattered all over my house! Then, she stayed up late and slept the day away, even visiting for less than a week. Couldn’t she pretend to be healthy for five days so my kids could see a happy, healthy grandma? That’s all I cared about at this point.

My lens on how I viewed her visit, different from how my kids viewed her visit, was apparent. While I am confident they enjoyed having a visit with her, I had a hard time navigating her presence in my life, even for a short visit. I once again felt like she had an ulterior motive, but I wasn’t sure what it was.

After two days of Patricia visiting, she wanted to have a conversation with me. She wanted me to know she was having heart issues and to ask me again if I would be her POA. She also set an idea on the table about moving back to Kentucky to be closer to the kids and me. I will be completely transparent, and I almost fell over.

By this time, her health issues were something I wholeheartedly feel she used to manipulate everyone around her. I am not saying she didn’t have health issues, but I never saw her put in work to make her health better; but back in my childhood, her health issues made me feel terrible! Like somehow, I was responsible for them. I had to disconnect from her neverending health problems long ago because I saw how she used them to make people feel sorry for her.

In 2007, it was a new day. I had to disconnect myself emotionally and mentally from all things to do with Patricia so I could survive. I had to put myself before her emotional, mental, and health issues and be her POA.

These conversations with her gave me great anxiety and fear. I hadn’t even started working on my deep-rooted issues yet because being a mom was my main priority, and here she is, wanting me to take on HER as a responsibility once again? I was nauseous and frozen, thinking about the possibility. After everything I had gone through to get away from her, and now this?

Patricia even went to the extent of asking me to drive her around to look for rental properties, and I refused. However, she was talking about places she could work, and it was apparent she was planning this in her mind.

Patricia started telling me how she and Melanie weren’t getting along, and Melanie mistreated and was mean to her. Once again, trying to stir the pot with Melanie and me even when I hadn’t talked to Melanie in years. She was trying to gain sympathy that she was being mistreated in Salt Lake City, which was why she wanted to move back to Kentucky. She was carefully building her case and wanted me to take the bait. She tried to be on her best behavior because she presented me with her plan to move back to Kentucky.

What I suspect happened is that Melanie was forced to play the caretaker role for once in her life as I did for 31 years, and she got a glimpse of how unhealthy and toxic Patricia was, and she started to set some boundaries with her. I am sure this created waves in both of their lives. Sadly, I knew what Melanie was going through because I was the only responsible party for Patricia for 31 years, but finally, I had to set some boundaries for myself. Now it was Melanie’s time to do the same.

There was again no way I was going to support Patricia moving back to Kentucky, and I told her so. But she came into town with all these motives that made me nauseous. Allowing her to visit was a long shot; anything else was out of the question. So my wall was up thoroughly when it came to letting Patricia back in my life.

I let her see the kids, but now that I learned she had an ulterior motive, my guard was 100% up with her. I was clear and to the point, and I let her know that she is NOT moving back to Kentucky, and if she tried, I would not support it at all, and likely I would move farther away with my kids.

Looking back, I think she was so obsessed with my kids and me because there were four of us, and she had four humans to work through to see who would be kind enough to keep her out of a nursing home in her old age. So I think that was always why she targeted my kids and me, and I saw right through it all.

Her greatest fear was going to a nursing home, but I had news for her. Suppose she made her way to Kentucky and tried to ruin the rest of my life; that’s precisely where she would find herself. It would be an escalated version of her nursing home stay. The more she showed me she was unhealthy and sick, the more I thought she needed to be at a nursing home.

I thought that if she made her way back to Kentucky and something happened to me, my kids would all be responsible for caretaking for her, and they would be sucked in in a way they couldn’t escape. I was mortified at the thought.

My hope that something would shift and change with her and me having a mother-daughter relationship was down the drain. She would never change; the sooner I accepted it, the better. Instead, I had to start grieving the loss of this false hope. I should have known better, but once again, I stick myself out there only to be let down as usual. I tried, but it would take me some time to heal from yet another encounter with Patricia.

I wanted her to be on her way back to Utah, and now my greatest fear was that she would somehow be stuck in Kentucky and be my responsibility again, which frightened me on every level.

The sooner she departed, the better! She had a chance to show up and be the healthy and happy mom I always hoped she would be, but she couldn’t do that. Instead, she had to show up with an ulterior motive that was selfishly centered around herself. Of course, she led everyone to believe she was coming to see her grandkids, but I knew otherwise. I couldn’t fathom that this was her main point in coming to Kentucky, to try again to convince me to be her POA.

Was this normal? At 33 years old at the time, I had never even thought about where I would be at the end of my life! I always feel that if my kids are in a position to care for me, the circle of life will organically circle back around. It will naturally happen. However, I have never had any expectation that they care for me in my old age, nor would I try to push this expectation on them as Patricia has me!

This was even more reason I wanted my kids to see a happy and healthy mom and one that was more “normal” than I had. While moving away, I wanted to believe that Patricia would get her own life and make friends. I hoped she would have more time to focus on finding herself and even starting new hobbies she loved now that she wasn’t babysitting my kids and had more free time.

The thought of Patricia making her way back to Kentucky to live made me completely panic. The fear of my kids having to experience what I did growing up and the older they got, they would be on the front line of Patricia’s emotional, mental, and physical outbursts and issues only convinced me more that I had to set more boundaries with Patricia.

But first, I had to get her back on Utah soil because as well as I knew her, I was waiting for her to throw herself into dire straights and end up in the hospital in Kentucky, and then I would be stuck with her. I could not let that happen, so I played my part until she left Kentucky.

This visit was such an emotional paradox for me. The kids didn’t know what I knew and didn’t experience what I did, so they were protected. That’s all I wanted was to protect my kids from all I had to experience with Patricia. Having Patricia back in Kentucky temporarily was eye awakening. I learned that no matter how badly I wanted a happy, healthy relationship with her as my “mom,” I would never get it.

I tried opening this door for a visit, but as soon as she left, I shut the door back and continued with my life. It would be a long time before I ever let her visit again.

Around 2008, I learned that Patricia was headed to Iowa to help care for her youngest sister, my Aunt Jeanette, who had recently learned she had breast cancer. She left all her belongings in Utah and was in Iowa City, Iowa, for several months. Based on our few conversations, she was unhappy in Utah, and she and Melanie weren’t getting along. I am positive Melanie confronted her on many of her unhealthy habits and toxic ways. Patricia knew she wouldn’t be able to manipulate Melanie into taking care of her when she was older and being her POA. At the time, she didn’t have kids to use as pawns for Patricia’s manipulation and games. Good for Melanie. I wish I could have set that in stone when I was growing up, but by this time, my life was likely half over, and I was stuck.

Since she couldn’t manipulate Melanie or me any longer, Patricia’s next plan was to transition back to Iowa, and this was precisely what she did. Patricia’s narcissistic supply was running dry, but she was fed just enough in Iowa to stay alive now she had nieces and nephews she could work on. And Iowa was closer to Kentucky than Utah. I knew her ultimate plan was to return to Kentucky; however, I also knew I had to play my cards right with her to stop this from happening.

I was never letting her move back to Kentucky! But soon, I would learn she was conversing with her old Lexington friend about moving back, the friend she had ties with when we moved here in 1991. So once I got wind of Patricia trying to make plans to move back to Kentucky, I reached out directly to her friend and gave her a piece of my mind.

I told her that while her intentions might be good, she needed to plan on being 110% responsible for Patricia in every single way, including being her POA. I told her how sick she was physically, emotionally, and mentally. I let her know I would not support her move, nor would I assist in any way regarding packing, driving, unpacking, etc. I would not be available for anything, and I had already been her caretaker for 31 years of my life. I was done, and she needed to know it.

At this point, I started to feel like Patricia was a little lady who appeared cute and wonderful to those who didn’t know the real her, but behind closed doors, she was a con woman. The history I had with her is what formed these conclusions. Seeing and knowing of all the interactions she not only had with me but with others, she came into contact with reinforced these beliefs. I can’t count how many people she reeled in with her sob stories over the years, only to take advantage of them and use them for her benefit.

While Patricia transitioned to living in Iowa, I kept my boundaries firm and learned to set new boundaries. Not only for myself but for my kids. Eventually, I would let her visit a few more times, but those visits would stop in 2015. I had finally reached the end of my rope.

I had no relationship with Melanie or many people from Iowa. But in November of 2010, I received an inbox message on Facebook from Joanna, my half-biological sister on my maternal side. I hadn’t heard from her in over a decade! I wonder what she wanted? So I opened her message and never expected to read what I did.

“Hi, Pam,

I am sorry it’s been so long. I wanted to let you know mom passed away, and I thought you should know. We have her funeral in a week, and I would love you to be there. Can you make it? I don’t think I can do it without you! So please let me know, and I will send you the arrangements soon. Love your sister, Joanna.”

Wow, just wow. I could hardly believe what I was reading. The saddest part for me wasn’t that Eileen died. It was that I lived my life every single day, grieving her as if she was already gone back to my beginnings. Knowing she left the earth sealed the deal for me. I knew I was never going to see her again. This helped me close the door and move on with my life. The open wound could finally heal.

No more hoping, wishing, dreaming that she would come back or change her mind about me. This was a powerful dynamic to my healing journey. This was it, and it was over. The end of all the internal torment I carried because she was alive but would rather die alone than have me in her life.

She’s dead. She’s gone—the end of Eileen, but not the end of my story. I was just getting started, and I was on my way to Waterloo, Iowa, for her funeral on November 9th, 2010. Little did I know that the next 48 hours of my life would change drastically, and my life would never be the same.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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Chapter 17. New Beginnings – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 17.

New Beginnings

While I had no biological or adoptive family in Kentucky, my twin’s grandmother lived there. She was always supportive and involved in the twin’s life as much as she could be states away and before we moved to Utah.

On one occasion, she came to Salt Lake City to visit us through Greyhound Bus and spent several days. When contemplating my great escape to move back to Kentucky, she would be a critical lifeline in making this decision. If it weren’t for her, we never would have made it. She agreed to let us stay with her until we got on our feet which was an extension of her kindness and care for my kids and me.

I had to plan expenses on what it would cost to move across the country. I had to rent a 22 Foot U-Haul truck for five days, calculate paying for gas and food along the way, purchase six airplane tickets and come up with a plan on how the move would happen. My best friend volunteered to help me drive the U-Haul across the country, and she also was the only person who showed up with her little brother to help us pack the truck.

In March of 2005, I started conversing with Keila, Damia, and Damond about moving back to Kentucky, so they knew what would happen in the coming months. I broke the news to Patricia and Melanie, who were not supportive of my move or decision. I experienced the opposite from them: discouragement and lack of support. I decided I wouldn’t talk to them anymore about the move details until I had to.

The move date was July 2nd, 2005. I packed, reserved the U-Haul, and purchased six one-way airplane tickets for this move. First, Kelli and I would need two plane tickets to fly back to Salt Lake City after driving all of our belongings across the country to Kentucky. Then, I would need four more airplane tickets for the kids and me to fly back to Kentucky. It was a lot of money and a lot to plan to be all by myself, but I knew I had to get away from Patricia in my heart of hearts.

Because of my fear that Patricia would try to take my kids from me, I printed up a document and made her sign it before I started my trip to Kentucky. It went something like this,

“I, Pamela, am writing this letter to verify that I am temporarily leaving my kids with Patricia until July 6th, 2005, when I will return to pick them up. This is a temporary arrangement, and Patricia is fully aware of this.”

So Patricia signed this form, but she wasn’t happy about it. So I kept it tucked away because I didn’t trust her not to do something to interfere with me moving and taking my three kids. I hoped she would keep her word on it, but I had a lot of fears about this.

Once I started spending large amounts of money on plane tickets, it all started to get real. As the days got closer to July 2nd, my anxiety was through the roof, but my desire to want to get away from Patricia and her unhealthy ways was more significant. Not just for me but for my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I was unhealthy also and had my own issues clearly. However, I would never get better as long as I was in close contact with Patricia, so moving away from her was the first step.

It was possible to have a relationship with Patricia from a distance because I saw other people do it. I contemplated the hope that after some time, this decision to move away would shift a dynamic change in my relationship with Patricia. I hoped she would also want to make some changes for herself in her own life. Maybe she would want to get healthy also? I could only hope.

But finally, at 31 years old, for the first time in my life, I made myself and my happiness a priority. I put myself first and could no longer worry about Patricia or make her my responsibility. She was in charge of her happiness, and I was in charge of mine. It was time for this toxic co-dependent relationship to end and for me to grow up.

July 1st arrived, and it was the day to start loading the 22-Foot-U-Haul. We spent all day July 1st packing all of our belongings up. Keila, Damia, and Damond would stay with Patricia until we returned to Utah after delivering our belongings to the twin’s granny’s house. Kelli and I would fly back to Salt Lake City on July 6th. The kids and I would fly back to Kentucky, all of us together, on July 8th.

Once the truck was filled to the brim, on July 2nd, around 8 am, we drove by Patricia’s so I could explain to my kids one last time how everything was planned. I wanted them to know I promised I would call to talk to them every day, and I promised I would be back to get them in less than one week! I wanted to make sure they knew I was coming back, so I emphasized many times that Kelli and I would be back on July 6th, and we would fly back to Kentucky together. Finally, they understood, and I gave each of them big hugs telling them I loved them, and we parted ways.

This was when shit got real, real. I will never forget driving off in the U-Haul and making our way to Park City, Utah, coming around the mountain and leaving my kids behind. I had so many emotions that came over me it is hard to put into words. I was worried about them thinking I wouldn’t come back for them, and it made me feel conflicted, but I knew I was coming back. But what if Patricia tried to take them from me? That was my biggest worry.

But then, we looked at the map and realized that Lexington, Kentucky was 1655 miles away, and I think reality set in for Kelli also. We had a long, long trip ahead of us. We also had Pookie Brown, Keila’s cat, with us.

When she agreed to help, Kelli had no idea Kentucky was so far away, and as a wonderful best friend, she agreed to help me regardless of the distance! I will always be eternally grateful for her help and friendship all these years. Without her, I would never have been able to make this great escape away from Patricia. We kept one another laughing, and hour by hour, we were closer to Kentucky.

After twelve hours of driving, I called Patricia’s landline phone to speak to the kids. I wanted to talk to each of them to see how they were, give them an update and let them know how the drive was going. I also wanted to remind them that I would be back to get them on July 6th, and we would fly to Kentucky together. I never wanted them to feel for even a second that I was abandoning them or not coming back to get them!

However, Patricia had games to play. So she decided to turn her ringer off so I couldn’t reach her or my kids. I called and called and called. Once I couldn’t reach my kids and knew she turned her ringer off on purpose, I lost my shit. Finally, the sun started to set, and we had made our way to North Platte, Nebraska.

The drive across this state was just awful, but my anxiety about not being able to reach my kids set in, and I had a full-blown panic attack. I started to hyperventilate, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t seem to calm myself down and didn’t know what was happening. I had never experienced this range of emotions before. But, it was true; Patricia was trying to take my kids from me and her not answering my calls was only the beginning.

We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and Kelli found an exit and took me to the emergency room in North Platte. I remember feeling an overwhelming amount of feelings. I kept calling Patricia only to get no answer every single time. If I could have talked to my kids like I promised them I would, none of this would have happened.

Now they would feel abandoned, and now they would wonder why I didn’t keep my promise. I became infuriated at Patricia. The ER gave me some meds to calm me down and an albuterol treatment to help my breathing. Even calling from the emergency room in Nebraska, Patricia still wouldn’t answer her phone. This wasn’t a new thing. She was notorious for turning her ringer off and making Melanie and I worry about her. But this was different. She did this out of spite because she knew I was moving away with my kids, and she saw it was me calling.

Slowly, I started to calm down and was discharged from the ER. We found a cheap motel room in North Platte to stay all night, and I had an idea. I asked Kelli to call Patricia’s landline phone from her cell phone. But, of course, Patricia answered her call on the first ring because it wasn’t my cell number calling. So Kelli handed me the phone, and I went in on Patricia. I was so triggered by her doing this to my kids and me that I went completely off on her! It’s a good thing I was at a distance, or I would have likely ended up in jail, and I don’t say that lightly.

She didn’t have to support me or this move, but she was NOT going to come between my kids and me, and I let her know if she doesn’t answer my calls moving forward so I could speak to my kids EVERY SINGLE DAY, she would be sorry. I was not playing either. This situation made me hate Patricia, and I still have not forgiven her. This only added to the list of reasons I was moving away from her and confirmed I had made the right choice. I was fed up with her emotional and mental mind games and manipulation.

I spoke to my kids several more times during the trip, and this eased my mind that they knew I was coming back for them, and that was always the plan. As we continued our journey across the country, we stayed another night in Kansas City, Missouri. Kelli had a friend there who said we could stay with them, which would save us a night at a hotel. It was a fantastic time to hang out for the evening after we finally arrived. It was blazing hot in the middle of the summer, so there were lots of outdoor happenings going on. We were exhausted, but now things seemed like more of an adventure.

The following day at the crack of dawn, we woke up and had one final day to drive from KC, MO, to Lexington, KY, which was 582 miles until we reached our final destination, the twin’s grandmother’s house. That last eight hours seemed like an eternity, but on The 4th of July 2005, we pulled up in the 22 Foot U-Haul, and after a three-day drive, we had to unpack all of our belongings and store them in the twin’s grannies garage, which took hours.

Thankfully the twin’s dad was present to help, as well as their uncle. So after three days of driving, we took the help. I could see the bedroom that my three kids and I would soon occupy, and while it was going to be a tight fit, we were going to make it work. So I called the kids and spoke to each of them to let them know we made it, and on the 6th, just two short days away, I would be on my way back to Utah with Kelli, and we would be flying back to Kentucky TOGETHER.

Part of me could hardly believe that I had finally come to this place of independence for myself and my kids. It was surreal, but I wouldn’t be able to truly celebrate until I was back on Kentucky soil with all three of my kids, far away from Patricia.

If you might wonder why I would call this move my “great escape,” it’s easy. The burden I carried my whole life as Patricia’s caretaker was a heavy weight to carry. The cards stacked up against me being adopted into an abusive adoptive home was a life of grief, loss, heartache, and heartbreak. In addition, having little self-love at the time or the ability to stand up for myself created a very long and drawn-out process of me being independent that no one in my family supported. So it felt like a great escape in all regards.

Melanie talked trash about me always depending on Patricia, but when I finally decided I wanted to cut the cord and be independent, she didn’t support that either. Same with Patricia. I felt like my life was sucked dry trying to make everyone else happy, but finally, the day had come when I decided I wanted to be happy. So it was time for me to pass the 31-year baton I carried as Patricia’s caretaker over to Melanie. It was her turn.

Moving away from everyone was the hardest thing I ever did in my entire life because I knew I didn’t have any cushion to fall back on in the “family” area. I knew it was just the kids and me, which was a scary thought at times. But one thing is sure about me, I’m a doer, and I was going to do whatever I had to do so that my kids would have a better life than I did.

Kelli and I rested on July 5th and headed to the airport on July 6th as planned. We arrived in Salt Lake City, and I returned to Patricia’s house. We would spend a little over 24-Hours before we made our final destination to the airport on July 8th to ascend to Lexington, Kentucky.

It couldn’t get here quick enough, and I was ready to start a new life. But, to be completely transparent, I was exhausted. The emotional and mental anxiety I felt about the whole move took a toll, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Lexington to our final destination of the twin’s granny’s house.

On July 8th, 2005, we said our final “goodbyes” to Patricia and Melanie and boarded our airplane Kentucky bound. I had all my three kids with me, and we were together. As our airplane lifted in the air and the kids got settled for the fight across the country, the weight I had carried my whole life from caretaking for Patricia started to lift off me. The closer we got to Kentucky, the freer I felt and the lighter life became. The burden of Patricia disappeared into nothingness. I had never felt so free in my entire life.

After 31 years on earth, I could finally work on myself, find myself, and be a better version of myself for my kids and future grandkids. But unfortunately, I could never do this with Patricia in my life.

We landed in Lexington, KY, on July 8th, 2005, and we got a ride from the airport to the twin’s granny’s house. We settled in a small bedroom with twin bunk beds and one twin bed. I slept on the floor in the middle of the beds in a small space just for me. We slowly got used to our new surroundings.

I didn’t have a bank account, a car, keys to anything, our own home, or a job. I only had about $300.00 to my name and some food stamps, but we had each other, and my kids had me. Welcome to Kentucky, where new beginnings are born, and a new chapter is about to begin. I had no idea what was in store, but I knew the next 31 years of my life would be better than the first 31 years.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 16. Five Years in Salt Lake City – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

I remember several life-altering experiences during our five years in Salt Lake City. I was drinking my life away, partying while working, and being a single mom. I was in one relationship in the five years I was there. I think my relationships with men always filled the void in my life from relinquishment from my birth mother. Alcohol also filled the void and got me in a heap of trouble on many occasions.

I was invited to a party, desperate to make friends and be social in a city much more extensive than Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Lexington, Kentucky. I drove across the valley to the party and remember leaving entirely intoxicated to find my way home. I ended up at a gas station in Ogden, Utah, about 30 minutes from Salt Lake City. I was going the wrong way; however, I was so trashed I had no idea how to find my way home.

Anything could have happened to me that night. I could have killed myself or killed someone else. I am not proud of any time of my life I chose to get behind the wheel of a car intoxicated. I have only blamed myself and felt deeply regretful for my choices in life. I am sharing these pieces, so you have a glimpse of my relationship with alcohol for 27 years of my life.

I stopped at a gas station and asked some guys getting gas which way is Salt Lake City. They told me to follow them, but when I turned around, I backed into a gas pump that I didn’t see. So I pulled off as if it didn’t happen. I followed the guys to get back on the highway, and then I had no memory of the rest of the night or how I got home. I woke up in bed the following day and was shaken. I acknowledged to myself that I had a drinking problem. There was no denying I made awful choices when drinking alcohol, which also made me very selfish. Alcohol and drug abuse do that to a person.

However, deep down, this experience scared the shit out of me. I am sure I resonated with myself and switched from drinking liquor to beer only on the weekends. I seemed to find ways to try to tame my drinking, yet it never stuck. Finally, the weekend would roll around, and I was back to the old me, forgetting about the changes I had made.

In 2004, I had a few friends over to play cards and have some drinks. The kids were tucked in bed, sleeping soundly. Naturally, I usually drank more than everyone and was the party’s life until the sun rose; however, this night was different. Somehow, suddenly after one drink, I lay my head down on the table, which was entirely out of my character. That was the last of my memories that night.

I remember waking up groggy the following day around 7 am with the guy I invited over sitting on the edge of my bed, he was fully clothed, and I was not. He tried to wake me up and tell me it was time to get my kids up for school. I remember feeling such a heaviness in my eyes, mind, body, and the entirety of my being that I had never experienced before. I could barely open my eyes or function.

I thought to myself, “What the hell happened last night?” But with me having no clothes on, it was obvious what happened, but I didn’t have a single memory of it. I could barely communicate with this guy. Finally, he said he was leaving and knew I had to get my kids up for school. I managed to wake them, get them dressed and send them out to get to school.

I remember going back to sleep, and it had appeared that I overslept, sleeping all day and missing meeting my kids at the bus stop to pick them up after school at 3 pm. This was so out of my character; I still had no clue what had happened to me at that time. I just knew something was deeply wrong with me. I had never felt so out of it, and all over one drink? It wasn’t a hangover, it was much more, but I didn’t understand it.

Trying to understand, I called my girlfriend, because I was playing cards with her boyfriend and the guy I knew, asking her what had happened. She said we were playing cards, and all of a sudden, I laid my head on the table, and they all got me to my bed, put the cards away, and all three of them, even the guy I knew, left together.

She said they locked the doors up, and that was it. When I told her he was there and he woke me up this morning, and that I had no clothes on, and how groggy I was, that is when we put two and two together that he had to have slipped a roofie in my drink. He also unlocked my patio door, which he reentered when my friend and her boyfriend left. I was completely shaken up.

To top things off, I slept for the next 24 hours without feeling like myself again, and I was so traumatized by this situation that it truly changed me. Sadly, my conclusions were validated by the guy gaining access to my banking information and stealing money by draining my bank account. An innocent card game and socialization with friends turned into this reality. And one of the pieces that I have never been able to forgive myself for is that my kids were all home tucked in asleep. I felt awful.

How many times in my life would something like this happen before I finally accept that I have a problem with alcohol and making bad choices? Instead, I internalized this whole experience, and I blamed myself. I should have never invited that guy over, and I should have never drank at all. I never even considered pressing charges because I see what women go through when things like this happen to them.

They get dragged and humiliated, and it wouldn’t even be worth it for me. It would be my word against his, and I locked this secret up and moved on with my life, but it greatly impacted me, and I hadn’t felt so awful and degraded in years. It was clear that I didn’t make very good choices at times, and even when I wanted my kids to have the world, that empty void in my life was prominent and gigantic.

As long as alcohol was in my life, I took the risk of these events happening repeatedly. Sadly, I still couldn’t sit with myself sober. And most days, I couldn’t sit with myself at all. I still had deep-rooted hate for myself. I felt defeated and broken, and it set in the most when I was alone.

One of my greatest fears was always that if something happened to me, what would happen to my kids? Patricia would get them, especially when I had no other family around. This terrified me, and I had dreams about her trying to take my kids from me. As my kids got older, things started to stir inside that I wanted and needed to do better and be better, but how?

Patricia continued to be a deep-rooted trigger to me from all my memories and experiences with her during my life and childhood. She was a big responsibility for me besides being a mother to my three kids. She was still heavily consumed with taking prescription pain pills, and she slept a lot. At this point, Patricia had convinced herself she could no longer work due to health issues.

I don’t think she had a job at all the five years we lived in Salt Lake City, and she was only 54 years old at the time. At this stage of her life, I helped her as much as I could, and she got a lot of attention for being sick and reeled innocent people into her life to “help her” manage everyday tasks. She was always excellent at manipulating churches into feeling sorry for her, so they would donate money to her and help her pay her bills. She also sued two companies to get settlements for various reasons.

She would constantly talk about her health issues, overtake prescription pills, drink back-to-back Pepsis, watch television until late at night, and sleep half the day away. Finally, she convinced everyone around her that her health was deteriorating and that she needed to walk with a cane.

However, I saw through her windows one day, stopping by for a visit, that she was walking around fine without a cane. Yet, when I rang the doorbell to alert her of my presence, she went to grab the cane and started limping on her way to answer the door. I had constant conversations that she should stop drinking so much Pepsi she consumed morning, noon, and night. It was all she drank, and she wondered why her bones were failing her and her health.

It was 2005, and I knew I had to make a significant change for myself and my kids. While I had allowed Patricia to babysit when I needed help, I had no choice. When I visited her with the kids, I began to have flashbacks of my childhood and started seeing my kids treated like I was growing up.

Wherever she lived was messy, and my kids were responsible for all the chores to clean her home. And, of course, I was also. So they started sharing how she had them massage her body, brush her hair, and clean for nickles, dimes, and quarters. But once it was time for them to cash in on their hard-earned chore money, she needed it for bills, and they never got what was owed to them.

It was clear to me that for me to ever be free, I had to get away from Patricia. I wanted to find myself, and being in a toxic co-dependent relationship with her was standing in the way of this happening. She was a huge responsibility, and she had been since I was caretaking for her as a small child. But unfortunately, she never nurtured me or cared about how huge of a burden she was for me to deal with my entire life.

I had never been away from her for even 24 hours, and she had never acknowledged or accepted that MY LIFE IS NOT HER LIFE. She did not own me and could no longer attempt to control and manipulate me. She had no friends of her own, and there was no doubt that my kids and I were feeding her toxic narcissistic supply.

Due to her convincing herself that she was sick with every ailment known to man in her early 50s, she started pressuring me to be her power of attorney. I became increasingly infuriated at the thought of taking on this responsibility of being Patricia’s POA my entire life. I had three kids to take care of, my hands were full, and she kept pressing about this topic. I think in her mind, this would be her way of controlling me because then, I would be in charge legally of many of her health issues and medical decisions eventually.

Considering I have already spent 31 years of my life being the sole caretaker for Patricia, the thought of being her POA almost made me have a heart attack and the idea that anyone would expect me to sign up for this blew me away. I was only 31, and she was just 54. Why was she pressuring me for this? Oh, that’s right. I will never forget all her conversations with me about not wanting to go to a nursing home. That’s really what this was all about, which is why she adopted two daughters, to begin with. I knew there was always an ulterior motive.

Melanie seemed to keep her distance from Patricia’s toxicity and popped in and out on occasion. I rarely saw Melanie when we lived in Salt Lake City, but she did help in ways when I had the fire, which I appreciated. But she threw every bit of help in my face, accusing me of being a user and an awful person. It was no secret we were like night and day. We didn’t have anything in common, and we still had some deep-rooted tension from unresolved childhood wounds. However, I was always more responsible for caretaking for Patricia because she helped me with the kids, so I owed her.

Patricia constantly played Melanie and me against one another, just like pawns from our childhood. She would tell Melanie things about me to turn her against me, and she would tell me things about Melanie to turn me against her. Once again, it was apparent we never stood a chance at being sisters because Patricia’s triangulation tactics constantly stirred the trouble and drama pot. These realities took me to a breaking point in my life and my relationship with Patricia. Yet, when I confronted her, she would deny anything was wrong. Finally, one day I decided that if I didn’t leave and move away with my kids, my likely future would be that of a grave one. It was life and death for me.

I had a small hope that one day Patricia would get better and be a healthy, happy mom and grandma to my kids. But it was clear that no one was getting better when we lived in the same city and had a co-dependent connection. Maybe being at a distance, we might have a chance at a normal mother and daughter relationship? I could only hope.

I sincerely wanted my kids to have a happy, healthy mom, which I never had. I could never achieve this being in such close quarters with Patricia. I was not in a good mental headspace and could not continue my life in this toxic negativity. She was the most significant trigger I had, based on my 31 years with her, and it was time to part ways.

Like everywhere else, Salt Lake City had no resources for adult adoptees. I spent about a year contemplating the idea of moving away, but how would I survive without Patricia? How would I live with three small kids with no family support? Where would we go?

Finally, in January of 2005, I decided that moving back to Kentucky would be the best option for my kids and me. Iowa was out of the question, so I started planning the move. Little did I know that no one in Salt Lake City besides my best friend, Kelli, supported my decision.

I thought long and hard about how this decision would impact my three kids. I knew that they would be impacted due to leaving Patricia and Melanie, but I also knew that I had to save myself. I was never going to prosper in life or find myself as long as I was close to them.

While I acknowledge they each have their own feelings about it, I also feel wholehearted that I made the best decision for us all. I am thankful they will never know the depths of what I have had to carry my whole life due to being adopted into this dynamic, and I never want them to feel what I feel and at the depts that I feel it. Because of this, I know they will never fully understand the layers and complexities of making this decision, not only for me but for them. It was either stay, and I likely end up dead or in prison, or leave and try to find myself and be a better mom for them than I had.

We weren’t saying goodbye forever. I had high hopes that my relationships with Melanie and Patricia would strengthen after some time, and we could visit one another on different terms. I hoped we could all separate and get healthy and reconnect later; maybe things would be different. I needed to grow up and stop depending on Patricia. Patricia needed to find herself and get healthy. In the meantime, Melanie can spend some time catering to Patricia like I have for the last 31 years of my life, all by myself.

Melanie accused me of playing the “Kentucky Card,” and while she set her own boundaries with Patricia, now that I was ready to set my own boundaries for my kids and myself, I was treated like the worst human in the world. But one thing about me. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I’m not a talker; I’m a doer. So Patricia and Melanie thought I was full of it and that I wasn’t serious about moving back to Kentucky in 2005. The more they assumed I wasn’t serious, the more I packed what felt like an escape in private planning.

Moving back to Kentucky without family was the hardest decision ever made. But, once again, I knew I was on my own. So I saved up every dime and carefully planned my escape from Patricia. Ultimately, this decision saved my life, and it wasn’t one I made lightly. At times I was physically ill thinking about moving away with my kids all alone, and at other times I was overjoyed at the thought of what life would be like without this enormous weight of caretaking for Patricia hanging over my head. I had never lived one day without feeling like she was my responsibility, but that was about to change.

I longed for a day to focus on myself and my kids without the co-dependent relationship with Patricia that I felt trapped in. I looked forward to the day when I could wake up daily, experience each day in freedom, and in return, find myself. Each day closer to the move across the country felt like another day closer to my great escape.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 15. Deal Breaker – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 15.

Deal Breaker

The three-day journey to Utah from Kentucky seemed like an eternity. The twins weren’t even a year old yet, and Keila was close to five years old. I was piled into a car with Patricia and my kids. We stopped every hour or so to tend to the kids and to use the restroom.

One of Patricia’s friends drove the U-Haul 1654 miles across the country, and it wouldn’t go over 60 MPH because we had it so filled with the belongings of two adult households and three kids. It was a grueling three-day trip, but in the summer of 2000, we made it to Salt Lake City.

In all fairness, we all had high hopes for a fresh start. Melanie did a lot of work finding us all a place to live. The plan was that we all move in together, and then in some time, we separate to find our own places to live. We moved into a three-bedroom home, and I shared the biggest bedroom with my kids. Patricia and Melanie each had their own rooms.

Thankfully, I was able to transfer my housing authority voucher to Salt Lake City, so as soon as I found a new place to live and set things up, I would be able to move out. But, even with this setup, it took several months. Living with Patricia and Melanie for those months with my kids was a sacrifice for everyone. We all gave a lot to try to make this work.

The reality was that I chose to have my kids and wanted to take care of them on my own with no help from anyone. But unfortunately, it wasn’t anyone’s job to take care of my kids but me, and after moving to Utah, I felt like I was back at square one with little to no resources available. The difference in Salt Lake City was that they didn’t have resources for young single mothers like in Kentucky.

There were no after-school programs, sports in elementary school, or organizations to help me out, so I felt like I was even worse off than when I lived in Kentucky. But unfortunately, Utah is mormonized, and the available resources are only available if you convert to Mormonism. They were centered around the family unit with a father involved, and the reality that I had my kids outside of the traditional religious sense and out of wedlock as a single mother left me shit out of luck.

Once again, I found myself depending on Patricia to help babysit at times, and I also found a wonderfully babysitter named Ms. Lora, who was a fantastic light for my kids and me. In addition, I was able to get a small amount of help to pay for her daycare services, which was a huge help.

I still had no car, but after getting a part-time job, I saved enough money to buy a $500 cash car. It was beyond a beater, but it was good enough to get me from point A to point B. Salt Lake City had its perks. I met my best friend there, and the city is surrounded by mountains. However, it wasn’t a place where I felt like I fit in with my kids.

I remember being in a city with no friends and how that experience made me feel like arriving in Lexington, KY, with no friends or family besides Patricia and Melanie. But, one thing was sure; I was going to make some new friends because it was in my nature. So, I got a job and started to meet people. Eventually, I found a three-bedroom duplex to move into with my kids, and we began our new life in Salt Lake City.

Keila started Kindergarten, and she started ballet classes. The twins weren’t ready for school yet, and with no pre-school in Salt Lake City, they went to daycare at Ms. Lora’s so I could work. I got a waitress job at Joe’s Crabshack and then Applebee’s. Then, I got part-time jobs at Smith’s grocery store and the state liquor store. I always worked two jobs and never seemed to be able to get ahead. I didn’t blame anyone but myself for my bad choices and carried a lot of guilt because of my decisions.

After we moved out of the home with Patricia and Melanie, we occasionally saw Melanie and her boyfriend, Nasser, having a meal together or having a picnic in the canyons. We saw Patricia much more, and in no time, I started to experience the same unhealthy co-dependent patterns developing in Salt Lake City that I had to deal with in Kentucky. But now, I had kids in the picture impacted by the toxicity.

With all these changes going on and moving even farther away from Iowa, it was obvious that my relationships with Eileen and Joanna were non-existent. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t try to reach out to Joanna in the hope of sparking some dialogue. I wanted her to know that I was no longer in Kentucky, and if she needed me for anything, she could find me in Salt Lake City. But, once again, I am “putting myself out there” only to get crickets. This continued to be a hard pill to swallow, and I would frequently find myself in tears mourning the loss of the family I had dreamed about my whole life.

One day while living in Salt Lake City, I decided I had nothing to lose and I called my birth mother to ask one last time about my birth father. She didn’t answer but her current husband, Keith did. I explained who I was, and was blunt in the reason I was calling.

At the time, Damond was in the hospital for childhood asthma, and I wanted to try to learn some medical history. After Keith shared that Eileen wasn’t available, I asked him if he could share my birth father’s name with me so I could try to gain my medical history; I also expressed that my son was in the hospital and needed this information. I didn’t give a damn about letting the secret out of the bag. They didn’t give a damn about me so why should I? I was concerned for my son’s health.

“I don’t know his name, but I learned several years ago that he was dead; he got shot in a hunting accident. He’s been dead for several years.” Keith said.

That was the first time I had heard anything about my birth father being dead, but my initial instinct was disbelief. This news didn’t sting a bit because I didn’t believe it for a minute. If he was dead, I wanted to stand over his grave and see his death certificate for myself. Keith refused to give me his name, even when my child’s life was on the line. Two words – Fuck em! I will get to the bottom of this, one way or another!

Being a mom now, things moved quicker, and I didn’t have as much time to sit and dwell on my birth family while in Salt Lake City. However, they were never far from my mind. One day, they might change their mind and open the door. So I waited and waited and waited. I was going to find my birth father if my life depended on it; even if I found a grave, I would stand over his grave one day. Until that day, he was very much alive to me.

In the meantime, I found a new circle of friends and continued my party life mixed with the mom life. I think I always made friends well because I was like a chameleon with a lack of identity in my beginnings. This created the ability to blend in with everyone. It’s impossible to know who you are when you don’t know where you came from.

Alcohol continued to numb my reality, and about a year after moving to Salt Lake City, I found myself in a new relationship. It was evident I lacked self-love, among many other things, because my relationship was very harmful and abusive, and I stayed in it for three years.

Those three years were filled with more physical abuse than I had ever experienced, but I kept it all a secret from my family and did everything I could to hide it from my kid. Moving to Salt Lake City was a nice thought, but I was still a walking train wreck. It was no one’s fault but my own for putting up with the abuse for three years, but I continued to make bad choices in the relationship area.

I tried to be kind, and I allowed a friend to stay with the kids and me with her four year old daughter because she had nowhere to go. I got a call at work one night while working at Applebees. The fire department called to let me know my house was on fire. She had left her daughter unattended, and she turned on the broilers of the oven, and it eventually started the fire.

Thankfully, all the kids were with Patricia; however, this was a huge ordeal to experience. I will always say things can be replaced, but our lives can’t if something happens to the kids or me. My friend left the next day with her belongings, and I essentially never heard from her again. I was left to clean up the damage and find somewhere else to stay while the house was remodeled.

One thing is for sure, you can leave everything behind, but all your old habits and patterns are sure to follow until you get to the root of the issues. Still, at that time, I never connected my low self-esteem and internal heartache, and lack of self-love with relinquishment and adoption trauma. Don’t get me wrong; I knew I was sad and heartbroken, but I didn’t understand the depths of everything and how everything was intertwined.

That didn’t happen until I reached my late 30s when I would start researching adoption and relinquishment to learn that it’s all connected. Then, I started uncovering the truth by connecting with other adoptees online. But unfortunately, I had a long way to go before I got to this point.

As I matured into motherhood, my wants, needs, and desires for my kids also changed. Then, finally, I started seeing them experiencing some of the same things I did with Patricia when I was a kid, and this was when I knew I had to make a move. This reality was a deal-breaker.

After spending five years in Salt Lake City, everything shifted. I wanted my kids to have a better life than I did, so I was forced to make one of the most challenging decisions of my life.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 14. The Struggle – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 14.

The Struggle

Life was about to take a whole new turn. I graduated from high school and got my diploma, and I also enrolled in some courses at the local community college.

On May 21, 1998, I gave birth to twins as 29-week preemies. Damia weighed 2lb 5oz, and Damond, who weighed 3lb 1oz. While I welcomed two beautiful babies into the world, Keila was four years old at the time. I was a struggling but strong-willed single mother. There was nothing that was going to come between my kids and me.

Once again, I was forced to depend on Patricia because I had no family in Kentucky, but I also depended on public assistance to help with the bare minimum and keep the lights on. Because the twins were so small, I had to keep them home and out of daycare for the first year. This made it impossible for me to work, so I had no choice but to get food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. We didn’t have a car, but we managed. My deep-rooted skills of taking the city bus as a young kid would learn to pay off.

I did everything I could to keep my babies, all three of them, even when they didn’t have an active father in the picture; I made it happen to the best of my abilities. Finally, I saved up enough money to move out of Patricia’s and got a 3-bedroom apartment, and Patricia was furious when she found out I was approved for based on your income housing.

She didn’t want me to be independent because I wouldn’t need her as much. Instead, she thrived on me depending on her. I had no idea what co-dependency was at that stage of my life, but unraveling the mess all these years, I now know we had a co-dependent relationship that was highly toxic. I felt thoroughly trapped in my relationship with her, especially now that I had three children as a single mother in a state where she was my only family. But, once again, I felt like this was her plan.

When we would get into arguments, she would always say, “Your life is my life, and anything that’s your business is my business!” As a 24-year-old mom of three, I had no idea if this was everyday parenting; however, it felt utterly intrusive and overwhelming.

However, the twins came home from the hospital sharing their bedroom, Keila had her room, and I had my room. We lived in a decent apartment, and we had everything we needed. The first year after bringing the twins home from the hospital, we’re some challenging times in my life. They had off-scheduled sleeping patterns, ear infections, breathing inhaler machines, and seemed to have constant doctor appointments. But we made it work, and we made it through it.

If I can raise a four-year-old and a set of newborn twins as a young single mother, anyone can do it. Of course, nothing was easy about it, but my motto has always been, “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.” My kids had me, but sadly I was still a very broken person, raising three children.

I made mistakes and, at times, was clueless about how to raise kids when I had the experience I had with my adoptive mother and biological mother. But unfortunately, I didn’t have any examples of a happy and healthy mom or a normal mother-and-daughter relationship.

I was still a partier, most evenings drinking boxed wine. Alcohol seemed to tame my misery regarding the emotional and mental torment I experienced from losing my birth family. Not to mention my experience in my adoptive homes and with Mark, Giovanni, Diego, and Patricia.

Patricia seemed to become an enormous responsibility for me as time passed. Her home was always filthy, just like it was when I was a kid. Even after moving out, it was my responsibility to help her keep her place clean in exchange for helping me with the kids. She seemed to move a lot, and it was my job to pack all her things up, gather my friends to load the truck, and help her get settled in the new place. Let me not forget that it was always my job to go to the old places and clean them to get them up to par to be re-rented so she could get her deposits back.

This was Patricia’s living conditions the last time I saw her in 2015.

My job was to come to the rescue when she found her dead old-English sheepdog dog on her basement floor from neglect. Any random task she needed to be done was always my job. It was all on me if something broke or needed to be put together.

When she had hip replacement surgery, it was my job to caretake her back to health. I bathed her and ensured she got where she needed because she couldn’t drive her car. Patricia was almost more of a responsibility than my three kids. She continued with her habit of staying up all night and sleeping half the day, and her pill addiction increased significantly after she had a hip replacement.

The doctors gave her endless pain pills, and she was completely wrapped up in the treatments of the doctors and the medical industry. Anytime she was in the hospital or ER, I was the sole one for being in charge of caretaking for her before, during, and after she went and was discharged.

While she graduated to get her RN, Nursing degree, she had issues at every job she worked. She was written up for falling asleep while working the night shift. She was fired more times than I can count from various nursing positions, which created a substantial emotional fallout that somehow I was responsible for managing.

One of the many memorable events was when I received a call from her supervisor. They let me know that they had “let Patricia go” as a staff member, and she was currently on the floor crying hysterically in the nursing director’s office. They wanted to contact me because I was her only emergency contact. Little did they know, this wasn’t the first shit show.

At the time, I was exhausted with Patricia, and there was NOTHING I could do about getting her up off the floor of her boss’s office, especially when she was hysterical in the middle of a meltdown. I instructed them to call 911 so the ER could deal with her. This was one of the first times I set a boundary for myself; I didn’t even know what boundaries were at the time. I felt obligated to go to the ER to check on her, but I only stayed a few minutes and left to be with my kids.

Buy this time, I am annoyed and exhausted with my responsibilities to caretake Patricia, which was exhausting. But I owed her for helping me with my kids, and I couldn’t survive raising them without her, and she made sure she let me know continually. So it was a total “You help me, I help you” relationship, but not by my choosing. There was no one in Kentucky helping me take care of Patricia, and at the end of every day, I was entirely indebted for taking care of her and all her wants and needs.

So really, I had four kids, but Patricia was an adult who couldn’t take care of herself. Nothing had changed from my childhood aside from me being the lone ranger and target of 100% of Patricia’s emotional, mental, and physical outbursts and needs.

I was angry, but I had no way out. No one in my life understood how these dynamics made me feel, but I kept pushing forward. But now, I had something to live for; even when I didn’t want to live for myself, I knew that my kids needed me, and I needed them. So, I wanted to live for them. But unfortunately, I was in an unhealthy relationship with the twin’s father, and all of a sudden, things turned another twist when the twins were seven months old.

In June of 1999, Patricia decided she was moving to Salt Lake City, Utah, to be closer to Melanie, who had moved to SLC from Iowa in 1997. I hadn’t had much of a relationship with Melanie since leaving Iowa, but sharing the responsibility of Patricia after all these years didn’t sound like a bad idea. Finally, someone could help me with these responsibilities of caretaking for Patricia.

Melanie and Patricia convinced me that I would have much more help with my kids, and I took the bait. Two family members are better than one? Right? However, it was either that or be in Kentucky alone with no family and three kids as a single mother. I lacked the confidence or strength to believe I could stay in Kentucky and care for my kids as three small children with no family at the time. That was a scary thought, so we started to pack up our things and I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I think Patricia again tried to lure me away from the twin’s father, who lived in Kentucky just like she did with Diego when we left Iowa.

In April of 2000, we packed up a 22FT U-Haul and began a journey across the country. I couldn’t help but hope things would be different than our childhood. Little did I know, the same shit show was present from when I was a kid, but it just relocated to a new destination, and now I had three kids to think about.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 13. The Naive Adoptee – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 13.

The Naive Adoptee

Even when the signs were right before me, I was still the naive adoptee. Putting myself “out there,” never dreaming for a million years that things could end up a different way than I had imagined. A lifetime of fantasizing about Eileen and being told she “loved me so much” couldn’t possibly prepare me for the reality that would unfold over the next 15 years of my life.

A few weeks after returning to Kentucky from visiting Eileen for the first time, I called her to say, “Hello.” The phone rang, and rang, and rang. No one answered. I left a voicemail, “Hi Eileen; I was calling to say hello and see how you were. Call me when you can. I hope you are well. – Pam.”

I didn’t hear back from her, so I tried calling her several times over many months, but that turned into years. Finally, I mailed a few cards and letters to let her know I was thinking about her. She never responded to me, but I couldn’t give up or give in.

The little girl in me couldn’t acknowledge nor accept what was happening. Alcohol helped me escape. I never did come to grips with the reality that she didn’t want to hear from me and never wanted to meet me.

Looking back, I think Joanna was “twisting her arm,” so to speak, when it came to our meeting, and she did it to be a good sport. But, the open wound from the rejection and abandonment that I felt from Eileen are wounds that have impacted me at every step of my journey and life in every way.

The abandonment is separate from the rejection, but they are intertwined thoroughly. I feel abandoned because she left me with strangers and never came back. I felt rejected because once I found her and tried to rekindle a relationship, she didn’t want a relationship with me.

How could I be so naive in believing my whole life that “her loving me so much” would mean she would want a relationship with me one day? At 47 years old, I think I can answer that question through the fantasies that plagued my mind. My fantasies ultimately began because of deception from my beginnings, being altered, and being severed from my biological roots and truth. My story was a secret from me, which should be against the law.

I couldn’t fathom that the woman I had put on a pedestal for so many years didn’t want to know me or have a relationship with me. The little bit that could tap into that reality was overcome by the hope that one day she would change her mind. I was never going to stop wishing she would change her mind. This kept an open wound that only another adoptee could understand.

The emotional and mental torment I felt resulted from the biggest disappointment of my life: a failed reunion and relationship with my birth mother. I felt utterly alone during this time, creating a split in my internal dialogue and life. On one side, I had my adoptive family and my life experiences with them.

On the other side was my biological family. Keeping them separate was challenging, but it also came naturally because I was doing this from a young age in silence. But these were big experiences and big feelings to keep silent; however, I had no choice.

My adoptive parents had no clue what I was going through because they never discussed adoption or the implications of a failed adoption experience. They also never talked about my birth family, ever. It was like an elephant-in-the-room-type topic.

The one chance at a face-to-face meeting with Eileen turned out to be the only time I was ever allowed to meet her and get to know her in my lifetime. Unfortunately, after that one meeting in 1995, she shut the door and put about 100 locks on it, and I never saw or heard from her again. No matter how hard I tried, she would rather die alone than allow me to be in her life: no goodbye, no reason, no note or letter to explain why she made this choice. I heard nothing from her after our one meeting in 1995. Sadly, my reunion with Joanna soured not long after and I was completely broken hearted about both failed reunions. Joanna and I also lost touch for over a decade but not at my choosing. I reached out to her many times, only to get crickets in return.

Am I such an awful person that I deserved this? What did I do or say wrong? Sadly, it would be many more years later that I would make sense of it all, but until that time in my life, I was a complete trainwreck. I internalized all my feelings. As a result, I didn’t understand it all, nor did I know how to heal from the pain I was feeling. Therapists had failed me miserably, and I had also failed myself.

I never gave up searching for my birth father. I knew that one day I would come face to face with him but I didn’t know how. I always wondered if I had more siblings and if finding him would be a better experience than what I had with my failed reunions with Eileen and Joanna. Alcohol again stepped in and allowed me not to feel or heal, so I rode the waves of the party life. I knew at the end of the day, even if I wanted to heal, there were no healing tools for me, the naive adoptee.

Through it all, in 1997, at 24 years old, I would receive some of the best news of my life, and everything shifted, at least for a while. I stuffed my adoptee reality deep down, and new and meaningful things would arise to take front and center.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 12. Illusions – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 12.

Illusions

Joanna picked me up from the airport in Waterloo, Iowa, the town I was born in, where Eileen lived. It was a cool crisp morning in September of 1995. The leaves started falling and stirring on the ground, adding beautiful colors to the landscapes.

The drive to Eileen’s was only about 10 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. Then, finally, we pulled up in her driveway, and I was anxious but on cloud nine simultaneously. I had no idea what to expect, but I know I had fantasized about this day my entire life. I was hoping for an immediate connection, a long motherly embrace to compensate for the lost 21 years together. I silently wished for a reunion as we see on all the television shows, you know, the warm fuzzy ones full of emotion and warmth.

We pulled up Eileen’s driveway, and I got out of the car with Joanna. My heart was racing. We both walked to the side door of Eileen’s house on Wilson Avenue. Joanna knocked, and the door opened a few short moments later. A thin, frail woman appeared before me who looked nothing like I had fantasized about my whole life. I didn’t feel the connection I had always thought I would.

Eileen had a short haircut curled back with sandy blonde hair. She wore blue jeans and a red sweatshirt that had mickey on it. She looked slim and slender, not over 100lbs. She stood about 5’10 and met me with a grin as she opened the door. However, she wasn’t warm, she didn’t hug me, and she wasn’t emotional in the slightest regard, more like standoffish.

“Come on in,” Eileen said with a half-grin as she held the screen door open for Joanna and me. We walked up the stairs, and I followed Joanna into the dining room. We met Nan, Eileen’s sister, and Barb, who was Eileen’s best friend. They were already sitting at the table waiting on Joanna and me.

We all sat down, but first, Eileen asked if I wanted a drink as she had already prepared hers ahead of time. I said, “Sure, I will take whatever you are drinking.” Joanna settled with some water.

She came back from the kitchen with a “Rum and Coke.” I thanked her. At the time, this was a dream come true. Finally, I was sitting face to face with the woman who gave me life, and we were having a drink together too! My prayers were answered, and my dreams finally came true.

Aside from giving birth to my daughter, this was undoubtedly the best day of my life. We all got settled, and Eileen lit a cigarette, took a drag, and said, “So, how was your life?”

All eyes were on me. Later I would learn this was a “make it or break it” moment. Everything was on the line.

I had no idea that this experience and conversation would forever change the trajectory of our interactions with one another. If I knew then what I know now, I likely would have shared a lighter version of how my life was up until that moment.

However, I am a genuine, raw, and honest person, so I only prepared ahead of time to share the truth about how my life had been up until that point. No one expressed the implications of sugarcoating the truth with Eileen, so I went all in sharing my life as I experienced it up until that moment we came face to face.

“Well, my adoptive parents divorced when I was one year old, and I was raised in a single-parent home, on welfare with my adoptive mom, who was addicted to pills and had untreated mental health issues. We have never had a good relationship, and I have never bonded with her as a mother and daughter should. She was emotionally and mentally abusive and tried to commit suicide in front of us many times, and used this as a weapon to control us. She also tied us to chairs and wouldn’t let us go outside to play,” I said.

I also expressed, “I have an adopted sister that was adopted a year before me, and my adopted dad remarried, moved over an hour away, and I gained a step mom and three step brothers. He took us for summer vacations and saw us every other weekend. Until I decided I no longer wanted to go in my early teens because the oldest step-brothers molested me repeatedly when I was young. I haven’t seen them in a long time. My adoptive mom got a job in Kentucky, so we moved when I was 17. “

On a lighter note, I shared some things about my daughter, Keila, Eileen’s biological granddaughter, who was genuinely the happiest part of my story. I also shared that I went back to school to graduate, and I had plans to go to college one day. However, I felt like I was on the spot and didn’t have many warm fuzzy pieces to tell her.

So instead, I told her I dreamed of her every day of my life and that she was the only thing missing. Everyone got quiet as if they didn’t expect to hear these things. I am confident that my birth mother and others had hoped to hear a wonderful and happy life story, but my story was quite the opposite of the picture-perfect adoption story.

I asked Eileen if she could share a little about herself and her life, and she did. However, she kept her sharing at the bare minimum, giving me tiny pieces of who she was and what she liked to do, almost as if it was enough to satisfy my curiosity, but nothing more.

The rum and coke were needed to calm my nerves after sharing these personal details of my life with four essential strangers. It was tense, but somehow I got through it. Eventually, I got up enough nerve to ask my birth mother about my birth father again.

She said the same thing she told me on the phone, “He didn’t know anything about you, and he wouldn’t want to know.” One thing was for sure; she wouldn’t tell me who my birth father was if her life depended on it. She was taking that secret to her grave with her.

Joanna shared a personal piece of her life on this day that she, too, was a birth mother, and she had a full-blood brother to her five-year-old son and gave him up for adoption. I found that this news took me back a bit. I always hear stories of our kids following in our footsteps, but this took it to a new level.

Joanna said she wasn’t aware that Eileen had me and had given me up for adoption because she was only four years old. However, she had her baby and gave it up for adoption also. It was almost a celebratory vibe behind them both giving their babies up for adoption. I wasn’t sure what to think, but I was taking notes in my mind and trying to retain all the details I had learned about my newfound family.

We sat together for approximately two hours, getting to know one another. Once our visit seemed to wrap up, we all took pictures together. I had more hopes that we would see one another again and keep our lines of communication open. The naive adoptee in me believed this would be the beginning of the relationship I always dreamed of. Little did I know, I created more adoptee illusions in my mind, and the hardcore reality would soon set in.

Most adoptees form fantasies and illusions in their minds about their biological families, especially our birth mothers. What does anyone expect us to do? When our reality is hidden from us, we have no choice.

The illusion that my birth mother was some beautiful woman from Hollywood, California, was shattered. Sadly, I didn’t feel like she was pretty like I always dreamed she would be. Instead, she looked like alcohol and cigarettes had taken a toll on her life. She looked far beyond her age of 50, more like her upper 60’s. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly built up a fantasy in my mind of the magical, mystical, flawless, and embracing birth mother. I was greatly disappointed to have the reality be a stark contrast to my fantasy.

It’s similar to when a family has a child snatched up off the street, and they are frantic searching for them, but they have been abducted, nowhere to be found. That feeling they have searching for them everywhere they go, never giving up or giving in, plagues them and creates a never-ending internal torment until they are found. But they can outwardly express their grief, loss, and sadness. Adoptees can not. We keep it all locked inside for an entire lifetime, but most of us never stop wondering or searching.

Her face tells it all…

While I was over the moon to finally have my dreams come true and see the woman who gave me life, I will always wish I would have kept my sharing to a bare minimum regarding my heartache and heartbreak. I will always regret that I didn’t ask more questions, take more notes and stay longer.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 11. High Hopes – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 11.

High Hopes

I was elated that I was on the phone with the woman I had fantasized about my entire life. “I have thought of you every year on your birthday, and I hope you have had a great life. What is it you would like to know?” Eileen said.

“I would love to learn more about you and your life. Do I have any siblings?” I said

“Well, I enjoy Rod Stewart, he’s my favorite artist. I collect Garfield memorabilia, and I have one daughter, but she doesn’t know anything about you, and I prefer to keep it this way” she said.

“Thank you for sharing. Can you tell me who my biological father is?” I said?

“Actually, I can’t share his information. He didn’t know anything about you, and trust me – he wouldn’t want to”, she said.

I was taken back by this, but we chatted for about five minutes, and I said, “If I sent you some pictures and a letter in the mail, would you possibly be able to write me back and send a photo of yourself?” I was dying to know what she looked like! Did I look like her?

“Yes, that would be fine. I look forward to that” she said.

I was over the moon and almost giddy. I wasn’t sure what to think about being a secret from my biological sister or the information about my biological father. Still, I glossed over it at the chance to get to know my birth mother better.

We ended the call, and I immediately started looking for photos of myself so that I could get together a photo album made just for Eileen. I retrieved photos of me being a newborn, toddler, and childhood. I found a few photos of my teenage and early adult years. I also included a few photos of Keila, her biological granddaughter.

I remember writing a poem for her that said, “My prayers were answered, my dreams finally came true, and all of this occurred the day I found you.”

I also wrote a letter telling her a little about myself and that I was looking forward to learning more about her, seeing her picture, and getting her letter in the mail. So I put a little photo album and package together, along with the letter and poem, and mailed it off to her the next day.

I couldn’t wait to get her letter back and finally see what she looked like. So I waited a few days, and then I started to check the mail about a week after sending my mail off to her. I knew the mailman always came around noon, so I would sit by the window and wait for his mail truck to roll up.

Then, as soon as I saw him coming, I would fly out the door to retrieve the mail. I could feel the excitement and anticipation from the tips of my toes to the top of my head!

A week passed, and then two weeks. After that, I thought maybe she was busy, so I gave it more time. Then three weeks passed, and then a month. Two months passed, and then three months. Finally, I started to get weary and couldn’t understand why she didn’t write back to me.

Maybe she didn’t get my pictures and letters? What if I had the wrong address? I better make sure she got them! So I decided to make a phone call and ask her myself.

I called Eileen, and this time the phone rang, and rang and rang. Finally, her voicemail picked up, and I left her a voicemail asking her to call me back at her earliest convenience. I was never going to stop waiting on her call, but I never received a return call. I was still running out every day to meet the mailman, and I had the phone close to me in case she called.

Three months turned into six months, and it was apparent Eileen wasn’t going to keep her word about writing me back. Deep down, I was crushed. But I thought she loved me so much? So why was she not writing me back? I internalized this in a significant way as if it was my fault. People tell adoptees always to prepare when they are searching and entering reunion; however, there is no natural way to prepare for what I was experiencing.

But, at this time, I had a decision to make. I could disappear as if I didn’t exist on this earth. Eileen’s secret would be kept hidden away from the world, and I would be the compliant adoptee. Or I could move along to find my biological sister, Joanna.

I decided to reach out to Joanna because I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork or agree to be anyone’s secret. At this stage, I had nothing to lose! So I reached out to Josie, who gave me Joanna’s address. I wrote a short but sweet letter, introducing myself and letting her know I was her long-lost sister and I would love to hear from her and get to know her. Once again, I had high hopes she would reach back out to me. So I mailed the letter off, and the waiting game began again.

I continued to fly to the mailbox waiting on any correspondence from Eileen and Joanna, only to be disappointed every time. Still, at 47 years old, I think of Eileen whenever I walk to my mailbox.

Saturday afternoon, my cell phone rang, and it was a call from an Oregon area code. I quickly answered, “Hello.”

“Hi Pam, it’s your sister Joanna. I received your letter in the mail today!” she said. Again, I was overwhelmed with emotions. My sister, I was finally talking to my REAL BIOLOGICAL SISTER! Another dream come true. We started to share a little information about one another, and she expressed that she always wanted a sister growing up as an only child.

She decided to fly to Kentucky the following week with her husband so we could meet in real life for the first time. I was 21 years old, and she was 25 years old. Friday couldn’t get here fast enough. I couldn’t believe I would be seeing my first biological relative aside from Keila. I was over the moon.

She arrived, we hugged for what seemed like forever, and we talked about our lives. She shared that Eileen was an alcoholic and still is and that they didn’t have a very close relationship growing up. She always wished she had a sister, and now she did. We spent several days together, and she told me she would talk with Eileen and set up a meeting between us.

Two months later, I was on an airplane to Iowa to meet Eileen for the first time. I was nervous but excited, with high hopes at the same time. I still hadn’t seen her picture, nor did I know what she looked like. Was she pretty like I always fantasized she was?

Of course, in a matter of hours, I would see her face for the first time, and hopefully, it would be the beginning of making up for lost time and a beautiful relationship.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 10. Paperwork Promises – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 10.

Paperwork Promises

I will never forget Patricia’s following words, “When we were going to sign the adoption paperwork, the attorney gave us the wrong paperwork. Thomas saw your birth mother’s name. If you call him, he might remember it.”

The emotions that came over my body at that moment are so complex and deep that I don’t think I’ve felt such mixed emotions all at once before. Part of me filled with rage because she lied to me my whole life. Even knowing I was in extreme agony, she told the stale lie repeatedly, even knowing the truth? I will never trust her or forgive her for this, ever.

The other part was elated at the hope of Thomas remembering my birth mother’s name. Within minutes I picked up the phone and called Thomas.

“Hi Daddy, Mom said that when you were adopting me, the attorney gave you the wrong paperwork to sign, and you saw my birth mother’s name? Do you remember her name?”

Thomas said, “Yes, her name was Eileen Ward., and she lived at 512 Rhey Street in Waterloo.”

I said, “Thank you!” and quickly hung up the phone.

Now, what was I going to do with this information? At the time, it was 1994, and cell phones and the internet were non-existent. So I called the library in Waterloo, the city I was born in. I asked the receptionist, who answered if she could help me because I was out of state, calling from Kentucky.

She was kind enough to help and gathered the 1974 Waterloo directory phone book. I asked her if she could look up Eileen Ward on Rhey Street. She found her, along with another person with a different address but the same last name, Josie Ward.

Then I asked her to pull up the 1995 directory phone book and look for the same names on the same street as the 1974 directory. She could still see Josie Ward, but Eileen Ward was no longer listed. I asked her to give me Josie Ward’s phone number, and I thanked her for her time.

I called Josie Ward immediately and explained that I was in search of Eileen Ward and wondered if she could help me. She said, “Eileen was married to my brother, John Ward, but they have since divorced, and they are no longer together. So how can I help you?”

I explained that I was searching for Eileen because I had recently learned she was my biological mother.

Josie said, “Wow, what year were you born?”

I said, “1974.”

She said, “We all knew something was going on because Eileen wasn’t coming around for a while, and when we saw her, she was wearing baggy overall bibs, which confirms our suspicions that she was hiding; a pregnancy. I think she must have worked up until the day she had you and went back to work the next day. She and John divorced in 1972.”

“Can you tell me anything else about her? Do you have her phone number?” I asked.

“Well, I can tell you that you have an older sister named Joanna, and she was an only child. You were born four years after her. I haven’t talked to Eileen in several years; she’s remarried to Keith, but her phone number is 1-319-555-1212. Good luck, honey.” Josie said.

I thanked her for her help and the information, and we hung up the phone. My mind and heart were racing at that moment, and I was gathering what I wanted to say to Eileen. But unfortunately, I didn’t have any guidance, assistance, or support. This was 1995, and adoptees had no resources, so I was winging it. I was on my own, as usual.

This was undoubtedly the absolute best day of my life, aside from giving birth to my daughter just nine months ago. I could hardly fathom I was minutes away from my dreams coming true and hearing the voice of the woman that gave me life! I waited 21 years for this. I had high hopes we would reconnect and compensate for the lost time. I knew she would be so excited to hear from me, especially when she “loved me so much!”

That Friday afternoon, I sat quietly, jotting down thoughts of what I wanted to say. Then, finally, I dialed the phone number, and it started to ring.

One ring, two rings, three rings seemed like an eternity.

I hear a soft “Hello” at the other end of the line.

I said, “Hi, Eileen, my name is Pamela, and I was born on August 13th, 1974, at St. Frances Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. Does this date mean anything to you?”

The phone got quiet, and the next thing I hear is a “click.” The dial tone was ringing in my ear.

My heart dropped.

I said to myself, “This must be an accident, the woman that “loved me so much” would never just hang up on me.”

I immediately pushed redial and heard the same “Hello” at the other end of the line again.

This time I said, “Eileen, I want you to know I don’t want anything from you. I only wish to get to know you and learn more about you. I have some questions for you. I mean no harm. Can we please talk for a few minutes?”

She said, “I am the woman you are looking for.”

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 9. A Reason to Live – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 9.

A Reason to Live

The next few years of my life were blurred, and the memories I have during this period aren’t genuinely happy or wholesome. I was constantly partying, and the less I had to sit with myself, the better. Don’t get me wrong, knowing how to party brought on a whole “fun” side of life; however, it was all a mask to cover up the internal sadness and heartache I felt.

I still thought of my birth mother, but at this stage of my life, living states away, DNA wasn’t a thing, nor was the internet, so I had no clues to go on when it came to finding her. Was she looking for me? If she “loved me so much,” I hoped she would be. But instead, internal sadness loomed as a dark cloud hung over my head, following me everywhere I went.

I dreamed my whole life that she was a beautiful woman with long ash blonde hair and possibly a movie star in Los Angeles. Maybe she was someone famous? It’s strange, but I never obsessed about my birth father as I did about my birth mother. Now I know that’s because my birth mother and I were connected on a primal level which was very different than being connected with my birth father.

After a lifetime of heartache, in November of 1993, my whole world changed. It was a cold fall morning, and I remembered I was supposed to start my period earlier in the week, but it didn’t come. So I waited a few days and decided to take a pregnancy test.

At 20 years old, I learned I was pregnant, and my life would change forever. So naturally, I became excited about the new baby that would come. Although I still had fears due to the miscarriage, I had high hopes that I was in a somewhat better space at this time than I was at 15 years old. I chose to change many things in my life due to the new idea of bringing a baby into the world.

I stopped drinking alcohol and using drugs, and I stopped partying. I made a doctor’s appointment and started to attend regular OBGYN appointments monthly throughout the entire pregnancy. I started buying baby items and filling a space with baby things. I learned my due date was June 21, 1994, and I was having a baby girl.

As my baby belly grew, I couldn’t help but think more of my birth mother. I would ponder thoughts about her during my pregnancy, wondering if she experienced the same or similar things during her pregnancy with me. How did she feel when she felt me move when she was pregnant with me? How turbulent was her pregnancy and delivery with me? Was she happy or sad? Even with new things happening in my life, she was never far from my mind.

Then, about five months into the pregnancy, I felt my baby girl move for the first time, which I described as more like a flutter. It was a magical experience. It was no secret that I loved my daughter and would do whatever I had to raise her to the best of my abilities as a single mother.

I broke the news to Patricia; at first, she cried, and then she got excited. Our relationship was still rocky, and I wasn’t close to her, but I tolerated her only because I had no choice. Patricia became consumed with my pregnancy, which is better than the alternative; however, it was a tricky dynamic to navigate. Part of me felt like she was viewing my pregnancy as her pregnancy, giving me creepy vibes, but there was nothing I could do about it. I still lived with Patricia, and because I had no family in Kentucky, it seemed like I depended on her more and more. I was not too fond of it, but I had no choice as a single mother with no other family, exactly how Patricia wanted it.

This dynamic created a co-dependent relationship between the two of us, and it was one I didn’t ask for. But, I was convinced I needed her in my life to help because I had no other options available, so I took it. She had me right where she wanted me, in a city all alone, all to herself.

As my pregnancy and belly grew, so did my independence. My need to want to do better increased, and I knew I had to change my old ways to create a happier childhood for my daughter than I had. At all costs, I wanted to keep her safe, away from anyone that could ever hurt her.

I wish I could say I worked on all the previous traumas I had experienced before becoming a mother, but instead, I put them all on the shelf and put my “mom” hat on by putting my daughter first. I had no idea how these traumas would revisit throughout my lifetime, but one thing is for sure – we can run, but we can’t hide forever. They would catch up to me eventually.

The crib and baby room were all set up with Lion King, filled with baby girl things, and a white rocking chair so we could rock our days and nights together. I was never more ready to take on the responsibility of being a mother. Of course, the world might have said differently; after all, I wasn’t married, and I was having a bi-racial baby out of wedlock as a white woman. I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t have a high school diploma or even a car. But I had me to give to her, and in my eyes, that was the most important thing. I knew the rest would all work itself out.

On June 18, 1994, I brought a beautiful baby girl, Keila, into the world. She weighed 7lbs 4 oz, and she was 21 inches long. She was perfect! She had all her fingers and toes and a head of brown hair. But unfortunately, I remember she was born with a touch of jaundice, and they had to keep her in the hospital two extra days after I was released to go home.

I remember going home without her, and I had a total meltdown. I went into her bedroom, shut the door, and collapsed on her bedroom floor. I will never forget this feeling as long as I live. I sobbed harder than I ever had in my entire life. I wanted my baby to be with me, but they wouldn’t let me bring her home for a few more days. I was heartbroken.

This triggered some powerful feelings about my birth mother. Did she feel like this when she left the hospital without me? How did she overcome that sadness that seemed to take my breath away? How did she cope or manage life with losing her baby? Did she block it all out? She “loved me so much,” so she must be distraught at my loss?

Thoughts plagued my mind about her pregnancy with me. I wished I could find her to ask her all about it. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby at the hospital to never returning for her. The pain I experienced for the two days we were apart would kill me if it lasted a lifetime. This experience showed me a glimmer of what birth mothers must feel when choosing adoption when they depart without their baby. If they feel this way, imagine what the baby feels at no choice of their own?

A few days passed, and I could pick Keila up from the hospital. Finally, I had something to live for because she needed me, and I needed her. She loved me, and I loved her. I can, without a doubt, share that June 18, 1994, was the best day of my life. It was the first time I looked into the eyes of someone’s DNA connected to me in my whole life. I was amazed at the beautiful baby girl looking back at me.

We got into the swing of things, and I made one of the best choices of my life. First, I returned to school to graduate and get my high school diploma. Then, I started applying for based on your income apartments in the hope of getting approved for a two-bedroom for Keila and me. I was on public assistance and donated plasma every week, sometimes several times, to afford to pay for diapers and wet wipes.

While I embraced being a mother, the alcohol component picked up shortly after giving birth. Still, I managed it better than before, limiting my drinking to the evenings when Keila was already in bed. It was still hard for me to sit with myself sober, and that is when my past problems would try to come to visit. A drink or two or three would settle my mind from wandering back and overthinking my past by helping me fall asleep each night.

I started attending Family Care Center, a high school for young single mothers. There were many great things about this school, but one of them was that all the mothers could take their babies to school with them. In addition, they had social workers, a daycare, a dentist, and doctors’ offices on-site with the school. The bus picked us up each day and dropped us back off. I loved attending Family Care Center because Keila could come with me, and I could check on her throughout the day.

I was 21 years old, and Keila was around nine months old when I asked Patricia again, “Are you sure you don’t have any information on my birth mother? I want to find her!”

I was expecting the same answer she gave me my entire life; however, I got another one this time that would change my entire life’s trajectory.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 8. Transporting Trauma – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 8.

Transporting Trauma

Trigger Warning // Suicide // Physical Abuse

Approximately 6-8 hours after trying to leave this world, I woke up with a hazy and sluggish feeling all over my body and mind. I remember lying in bed thinking, “Damn, I woke back up! Wasn’t I supposed to be meeting the Devil at the gates of hell right about now?” I could hardly believe it.

Looking back over that time in my life, one of the most shocking things is that hell seemed like a better solution than living in my reality on earth. That is tremendous because I knew I was going to hell for everything I had done to deserve it, but I didn’t care because I was drowning in my sorrow. I just wanted the pain to go away.

Does this give the world a small glimpse of how significant my adoptee pain was? Possibly, for those who want to try to understand. I was crushed that I woke back up, I didn’t want to wake back up, and I had this enormous feeling of guilt that came over me that I couldn’t even kill myself right. I felt like a total failure despite all the other feelings I was dealing with.

I quickly clung to the bottle and drank myself out of my misery morning, noon and night. Drinking alcohol was the only way I could survive the pain I was feeling. For 27 years, It allowed me not to feel but opened a whole world of other problems that would have lifelong consequences.

Most people won’t understand this, but at times over the last five years, I have been presented with a question on various social media platforms that says, “If you were to tell your younger self something, what would you tell them?”

Sadly, the first thing that always comes to my mind, even at 47 years old, is “Take more pills!”

Still, to this day, I feel like if I could have found a way out, I wouldn’t have had to live with a lifetime of excruciating pain. I wouldn’t have passed on my pain to my kids and had so much to recover from. But instead, I would just be gone, with no legacy to leave other than a dead, deeply troubled adoptee and one that is nothing more than a menace to society.

However, the universe had other plans for me. I wish I could say I figured this out in my teenage or young adult years; however, it would be a long time before I understood this.

You would think this experience “changed me,” but what changed me the most is that I tried to kill myself, and not one single person knew about it or noticed. It felt like no one on the earth cared about me. It’s a hard pill to swallow. I didn’t “get better,” but I continued to spiral out of control.

I ended up taking Giovanni back, and our relationship was rocky, but we both confessed our love for one another. I won’t go into all the details of every dynamic of abuse I experienced with him, but it was a lot. We were both troubled and were constantly getting arrested for fighting.

Eventually, I ran away so much and continued to break the law that I found myself in a group home called Foundation 2. During my time in Foundation 2, I remember liking the structure there, just like I did when I was locked in drug and alcohol rehab. I remember staying several months, going home, and acting out repeatedly.

Unfortunately, Giovanni was back in jail, and we were separated again. I know Patricia looked at our time apart as a positive thing, but all I wanted was to be with Giovanni. When I say I loved him, I love him.

When I was 16, Patricia started talking about moving to Lexington, Kentucky, because she had a friend who lived there. So she planned a visit to look at jobs and the city. We arrived, spent five days sightseeing around Lexington, and saw the beautiful horse country we would soon call home.

I remember having mixed feelings about the move because I would be leaving the state where I hoped to find my birth mother. Wouldn’t it be more challenging for us to find one another states away? But, of course, I knew the answer was yes, and I always wondered if this was part of why Patricia wanted to leave Iowa because I never stopped asking about finding my birth mother. I would never give up on finding her, no matter what state I was in.

I was also conflicted because I would be leaving Giovanni and I have always felt like that was part of Patricia’s plan. While he was locked up, we wrote each other letters constantly, and I started to keep a collection of his letters in a big box, and after some time, it filled up. I would read them repeatedly, and they were my most prized possession. We would sometimes write to each other daily, sometimes receiving multiple letters each day. We hoped we would be back together again one day, and until then, we knew that even when distance separated us, we would always be in each other’s hearts.

I hadn’t seen Thomas, Laura, Melanie, or the boys in a long time when I stopped going for weekend visits. Our time spent together tapered off into nothingness.

We packed up a 22-foot U-Haul and arrived at our new three-bedroom home in Lexington, Kentucky, in the Fall of 1991. I didn’t know a single person in the whole town, but I was always great at making new friends anywhere I went.

I think Patricia had hoped I would turn a new page removing Giovanni from my life and luring me away from Cedar Rapids, where I was always in nonstop trouble combined with constant alcohol use. The thing is, I was still dealing with all the same issues, but the only thing that had changed was my surroundings.

I was 17 years old, in a new city, and she was back working the night shift again. The summer of 1992 rolled around, and the new Dr. Dre – The Chronic album had just come out. What did that mean? If you don’t know, never mind.

It was about to be on and popping in the city of Lexington because one thing is for sure, I was the life of the party anywhere I went, and I was always ready to get the party popping!

I was expected to enroll in an all-new high school that was predominantly black, and being a white girl from Iowa, and I started to make friends one by one. However, my time at Bryan Station Sr. High was short-lived. Patricia must have forgotten that I hated regular school, so I dropped out within a month, and at 18 years old, I was a high school dropout. However, I attended long enough to make new friends, and I made friends with some neighbors close to me.

I think my mind did sway a bit regarding the nagging desire to find my birth mother, but I feel that’s only because I was in a new city with new friends and new things to do. The deep-rooted abandonment was always there, but drinking daily forced it to take a back seat.

I remember going to my first party with my friend Dorthy who lived down the street from me. I didn’t know her that well, but after a while, I learned that we ended up at a crack house in East End. I remember being offered the drug and trying it. I would do anything to get out of my mind. It didn’t affect me, so I tried some more. I drank until the sun came down, sitting in a crack house surrounded by people I didn’t even know. I wanted to belong and be part of something, so I was along for the ride.

While the evening would wind down, everyone at the party was just getting started. So I decided I wanted to split, and although we didn’t have cell phones back then, I was pretty sure I could walk home and find my way.

I set off to walk home through East End and ended up waking up in the Fayette County Detention Center with a public intoxication charge. At 18 years old, I graduated from juvenile jail to the big house, and I remember not feeling anything about this reality. Once again, I felt disconnected from my body and did not care if I lived, died, or woke up in jail.

The internal hate I had for myself only traveled with me to Kentucky. While I know Patricia thought she was doing the right thing, my troubles only followed me, but now I was an adult, and my actions had real-life consequences. I called some of my neighbor kids who were friends of mine who had a brother that was 19 years old, and they came and got me out of jail. I was drinking the same day and didn’t learn a damn thing.

Patricia kept nagging me to get my GED or go back to school, but I shot down every attempt at a conversation, expressing that there was no point in returning to school because, in my mind, the world was going to end. I was profoundly depressed but masked every bit of this with drugs and alcohol. Finally, she nagged me to start therapy, and at 18, I decided to try it.

During round 382 of therapy, I sat in a new therapist’s office again. But unfortunately, of all the feelings I had pondered deep inside about my birth mother, my sadness, grief, and loss still never made their way into the appointment with the new therapist.

When we make our adoptive parent’s “dreams come true” to be parents, our feelings of sadness are automatically stuffed deep inside. It’s known in a very subtle way that feelings that aren’t positive, thankful, or grateful aren’t welcome. For me, there was a block there, and I don’t know how else to explain why adoption or the implications of separation trauma were once again never discussed. The therapist never brought it up or addressed it, so neither did I. To this day, I can’t wrap my brain around why adoption was never discussed in all the therapist’s offices I sat in throughout my whole life!

The therapists detected that I was suicidal and that I had no hope for the future. Duh. I did express that I never got along with Patricia, and I felt comfortable sharing with her all the things Mark did to me growing up and why I decided to stop going to Thomas’s house. This was the first time I had shared this with anyone.

She encouraged me to call Thomas and Laura while I was in her office to tell them about the childhood sexual abuse Mark is responsible for. She also wanted me to tell Patricia, so I did.

While speaking to Thomas and Laura on speaker phone, I expressed to them vague details of my experience with Mark, and they said they didn’t know why he would do such a thing, but they would reach out to his therapist and bring this topic to the table to get him some help. They speculated that maybe Mark was being sexually abused by the catholic priest at the church they used to drop us off at? No one knew, but they assured me they would address it with Mark. I didn’t get any resolve out of this other than bringing a secret to light and finally telling them what had happened. No one asked how this impacted me in my life or if I needed help with healing.

A big piece of me feels they want to blame my outbursts and acting out on the childhood sexual abuse alone, omitting adoption and separation from my birth mother is even a thing. How convenient of them.

Everyone seemed to sweep this under the rug, and we never discussed it again. Finally, when I told the new therapist I thought the world would end, she prescribed me Prozac and sent me on my way. I took the Prozac for a week and threw it in the trash. I never went back to that therapist again.

Not long after moving to Lexington, I learned Giovanni was arrested for burglary, kidnapping, and aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison in California. We still wrote off and on and professed our love for one another, but we tapered apart due to his lengthy prison sentence. He served 16 years, got out, and is currently back in prison as a persistent felony offender serving federal time.

I ended up in another abusive relationship that resulted in a broken nose, stitches between my eyes, and two black eyes. When people say you attract what you are, they aren’t lying. I felt horrible about myself, and I attracted horrible men.

Again, I numbed the pain with more drugs and alcohol. I was farther away from finding my birth mother than I ever had been, and I had little hope I would ever find her. Deep-down sadness and despair were masked with a fake smile and a party over at Pam’s!

Unfortunately, I had never healed from all the trauma I had experienced. Even transporting me to a new state, with a new school and new friends, my unresolved, unhealed separation and adoption trauma wounds transported with me. However, the other traumas from Diego, Mark, and Giovanni compacted the root traumas. I was a walking dead woman, feeling hollow and empty inside.

At 18 years old, I continued to find my way in the party lifestyle and made severe mistakes and bad choices along the way. I was going down a path of destruction, and most days, I didn’t care if I lived or died. I hated myself, the world, and everyone in it. I had so much anger and rage it consumed me. However, I always felt like my life would end early, and at this stage, I hoped it would.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova