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

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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

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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! 👇🏼

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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

Being Found VS. No One Looking – An Adoptees Perspective

The thoughts coming to life in this article are reflections I have had brewing for a very long time. My perspective is from the natural lens of an adopted adult who unfortunately had no one from my natural family looking for me, not in this lifetime anyway. 

What do I mean by “I had no one looking for me?”

Many adoptees, myself included, have formed this fantasy that our biological parents made a big mistake, and they are coming to find us! Every day in my childhood, I dreamed of the day that my birth mother would reappear and take me back home to live with her. When we are told she “loved us so much,” it’s easy to attach all kinds of fantasies to this scenario. Dreams, fantasies, and wishes are endless and limitless. Sometimes I feel like my whole life was built on a fantasy, a dream, and a wish. But instead of dreaming about a husband, an amazing career, children, and a fancy car and house like most people, it was all about HER.

The biggest dream, fantasy, and wishes were always centered around my birth mother coming back to get me or me finding her. Year after year passed, and I hit my teen years, and reality set in. She wasn’t coming back, and as I reached adulthood, my fantasy was shattered and destroyed.

Here’s why – my birth mother was never looking for me, and she never wanted to be found. (These are two separate things) It’s hard to put into words the depths of pain this reality has caused me, but it’s shifted every part of my being to be disappointed and rejected in such a profound way, buy the woman that should love me the most. The high hopes in a happy reunion story came crashing down, and I have found myself picking up shattered pieces of my heart, step by step, trying to put the pieces together again. While I have healed at great lengths, I have accepted the pain is here to stay.

Not running from it has been the key to healing for me.

My biological father didn’t know I existed, and I was adopted without his consent. So it would be ludicrous for me to think he was looking for me. However, before I learned that he knew nothing of my existence, I had hoped he was trying to find me—more fantasies at their finest.

I am 12 years into coming out of the fog and navigating my healing journey, and things are much better today. I made a choice to leave alcohol alone and decided to feel the feelings of rejection, abandonment, and the primal wound, aka relinquishment trauma.

However, over the 12 years, there were many times the pain and REALITY of my truth were just too much to carry, and I wanted out. I had plans to leave the earth many times and I thought I would die from a broken heart. I don’t share that lightly.

But here I am, alive to share my story. The future seems to have developed into a more peaceful existence. Of all the time and energy I have spent on healing, I will never forget how it has felt to have not one person on this earth looking for me after spending a lifetime thinking they were.

It’s a sad feeling, dark and hallow at times like I wasn’t worth finding. It feels like I shouldn’t exist in a world where my own biological family could care less if I lived or died. To show up and exist in this world with these dynamics at the root of my very existence has been a never ending challenge most will never understand.

Thankfully, even when no one wanted to find me, I wanted to find me, but it doesn’t take 47 years of the pain away.

My desire to find myself, who I am, and who I am not is something that has taken me 47 years to experience. I have pondered what it might feel like if someone was searching for me, and I can imagine it would be the best feeling in the world. 

Unfortunately, I will never know. 

The adopted adults who have the experience of a biological family searching for them can hang onto that experience, so they will likely never know what it feels like for NO ONE to be searching for them.

However, I suppose that they could experience the maternal side OR the paternal side searching for them, which would give them a glimpse of what it feels like for one side to search for them, and another side not to search for them. Regardless of how it all plays out in each adopted person’s story, our very existence on earth comes with so much weight to carry. It’s painful no matter how you slice it.

But to carry the weight of NO ONE searching…

It hurts, and there isn’t much in the world that has topped this type of pain off. It’s primal, and it’s deep-rooted. But, the most significant part is that if we sit with the pain long enough, it starts to heal. I have sat in it for over 9.5 years without using alcohol to numb the pain, and it’s getting more manageable. Still, I can completely understand how some adoptees choose not to go on because the pain can be that difficult to navigate. That was once me.

Suppose a biological mother, biological father, or friends and family of an adopted person are weighing in the dynamic to search or not to search. In that case, I hope this article sheds some light for you in making your decision. This article is on a dynamic on how it feels when NO ONE is searching for you. On top of the pain and trauma from relinquishment, we also deal with this dynamic of no one looking for us that no one wants to talk about, yet it’s the reality for so many adopted people.

We must also take into consideration that some adoptees don’t want to be found. I can chime in and say, that they rightfully should be respected in this wish, however, how will you ever know unless you try to reach out to them? They deserve to get the choice in the matter. This means that even if you make the choice to search for an adoptee, the adoptee ultimately gets to decide if they want to open that door or not. We are all different and no two adoptee journeys are the same but I would think it would count for something if one of our biological relatives at least tried! I know it would have meant EVERYTHING to me that at least one of them tried.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. My heart aches for adoptees who stepped into a space where no one was searching for them and for those who stepped into a space where their biological parents don’t want to be found. I see you, hear you, and my heart is with you. You are not alone.

For adoptees, what has your experience searching for your biological family members?

Are you one of the adoptees who had no search for you?

Were your maternal or paternal biological parents or family searching for you?

Did they embrace a reunion, or did they not want to be found? 

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Thank you for reading.

Healing through writing, one article at a time.

Love, Love

*The views and opinions expressed in this article 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