Family Twist Episode 6: Found Family at 40
Sara Appelbaum “needed” to wait decades to connect with her birth family. Sara’s adopted mother kept in touch with Sara’s birth mother until Sara turned 18. Sara did a 23 and Me DNA test while in graduate school, but it was nearly a decade before family members matched. Her birth father connected to a drug cartel. Her birth mother’s a prominent judge. Sara learned a lot about her birth parents from her siblings; she has at least six on her birth father’s side. Sara has connected with both her grandmothers, and this wild found family story is just getting started. Sara’s DNA miracle story is unfolding in real time, so we’ll definitely have her back on a future episode of the Family Twist.
You were adopted (1:29)
Sara: The first time that I could remember hearing the sort of language was, ‘I’m your mommy, but I didn’t have you in my body; another woman did. And you’re adopted. I don’t even know if adoption was explained to me, but it was more like ‘I really wanted a baby and I was so lucky to get you.’
Sharing Sara (2:25)
Sara: My birth mother and my adopted mother must have decided at some point along the way that every year around my birthday, they would exchange letters. And so my mom would send my birth mother pictures of me and just like a short kind of update of like, ‘This is who Sarah is becoming. This is what she likes. This is what she doesn’t like. This is her with her dog.’
A letter from Sara’s birth mother (2:50)
There was actually a letter that my first mother sent to my mother, which was given to me on my 18th birthday, which was just really touching. Like, this is not going into details, but ‘This is part of why I made this decision. And I’m ready when you are and you are loved, and we’re here for you.’
Not ready to connect (4:50)
Sara: It took me decades to kind of come around and be like, I know I’m going to pursue this. I know that this is a gift to kind of have this opportunity to be able to meet my biological mother, my biological family. I know I’m going to get there, but I’m not going to rush myself.
A family genogram (13:29)
Sara: I was presented with the opportunity to do another sort of family history genogram, I decided to do everybody. So I did my biological dad side to the best of my ability, my biological mom side to the best of my ability, and my adoptive family. So I had these three parts of myself visually.
Within the same month, I was contacted by a first cousin on my biological mother side of the family [on 23 and Me].
Finally ready (15:02)
Sara: The timing was right for me. I was curious. I felt like I had a really good, solid sense of self where I could just be like, okay, let’s explore. And it was amazing. It was quite literally an amazing kind of moment.
Corey: We like to say DNA magic; that’s one of the things that we use.
Sara: I love that.
Discovering both sides of the family (18:02)
Sara: My sister didn’t know about me. I learned that I have seven siblings, at least that we know of. I have an older sister. She, I think, knew about me. And then I learned that my aunt I had two aunts, and my grandma knew about me. They had pictures of me. My grandma, when I was able to Zoom with her, actually, during pandemic, Unfortunately, I was going to go out there, but the vid just got to fall, right?
So when I zoomed with her, she was like, I prayed for you to come back to us. I prayed to meet you. And I was just Lord, because my dad opened adoption, right? My dad never kept in touch. My birth mom did, but my birth dad never kept in touch. And yet he kept pictures of me. He had a scrapbook of me. He told family about me. It was just like this whole sort of whole thing.
Who is Dad? (28:05)
Sara: My sister kind of described him as this visionary person where it was just like, we will be legalized at some point. It does have medicinal properties. Like, I’m growing it. I use it in this way, but also incredibly problematic person, incredibly flawed, dangerous, problematic person. And the way that she sort of she gave me that information, and then she was like, I would never tell you not to meet him because he is your father.
He is our father. But I will say, be careful. I will say, just understand that you’re kind of dealing with somebody that has really deep issues. And I was like, okay, all right, fair enough.
Family is so powerful (40:51)
Sara: This is such necessary work that you’re doing to just kind of make this more and more known, make these conversations happen more. Everyone is an individual with this, and yet we are all kind of in the same boat. I was just like, Whoa. And family is so powerful. Family is so powerful.
Listen, Rate & Subscribe
00:05 Welcome to Family Twist, a podcast about relatively unusual stories of long lost families, adoption, and lots of drama. I'm Corey. And I'm Kendall, and we've been partners for over 16 years. We're very excited about today's episode because we have someone with another very interesting, astonishing sort of adoption story, a little bit similar to Kendall's, but a little bit different.
00:31 Kendall's was a closed adoption, and the story is about an open adoption. And so coming to us via Zoom from one of our favorite places in the world, the Bay Area. Sarah, please introduce yourself. Hi. I'm so excited to be here. And thank you for this opportunity and pay for mouthwell. Thank you for hearing your story. We talked a little while ago just to kind of get some background.
01:00 And it's just like, well, your story is still unfolding in real time, so I think it's very cool. And hopefully as things progress, you'd be willing to come back on and share more details. But for today, let's just kind of dig in a little bit into the background. So an open adoption, your mom, at what age did she tell you that she wasn't your birth mother? I think I would have to pinpoint that around maybe being three or four so very young.
01:29 It was probably even before that. But that's the first time that I could remember hearing the sort of language where it's just like, I'm your mommy, but I didn't hear you and my body another woman did. And you're adopted. And I don't even know if adoption was explained to me, but it was more like I really wanted a baby and I was so lucky to get you. And it was like that was kind of the feeling about it that was far back as three or four years old.
02:01 And even before that, your mom was sharing updates about you with your birth mother, correct? That's right. And in retrospect, because I was born in the early 80s, it doesn't feel like that long ago, but here we are. But it just seems like a really progressive kind of beautiful thing to have happened.
02:25 So I guess my birth mother and my adopted mother must have decided at some point along the way that every year around my birthday, they would exchange letters. And so my mom would send my birth mother pictures of me and just like a short kind of update of like, this is who Sarah is becoming. This is what she likes. This is what she doesn't like. This is her with her dog, those kinds of things.
02:50 And there was actually a letter that my first mother sent to my mother, which was given to me on my 18th birthday, which was just really touching. Like, this is not going into details, but this is part of why I made this decision. And I'm ready when you are and you are loved, and we're here for you, basically.
03:15 So a lot of support a lot of just openness transparency and just the word progressiveness kind of really comes to mind. So what was that like for you, turning 18 and getting this letter from the woman who gave birth to you and essentially inviting you to be part of her life? Oh, man, I was not ready, and I'm sure we'll get more into this, but I didn't start reaching out to either side of my family until just a couple of years ago.
03:53 And it was overwhelming. I think it was also, like the way that the letter was presented to me was just felt kind of, like overwhelming. I think my mom was like, here, this is for you. You can read it at any time. And I just kind of, like, settled away with it and read it. But I think maybe it's temperament, maybe it's just who I am.
04:19 Maybe it's sort of like my relationship with my mother, which is complicated, as many family and mother daughter relationships are anyway. But I was just like I wasn't ready, and it was too much. I was touched. It sort of validated everything else. I had kind of been told in my life that I was loved, that this was the decision of kind of necessity and sort of what's in the best interest of the chat, everyone was trying to do their best, but it was not something that I was ready to confront or address or even really talk about or anything like that.
04:54 So it took me decades to kind of come around and be like, I know I'm going to pursue this. I know that this is a gift to kind of have this opportunity to be able to meet my biological mother, my biological family. I know I'm going to get there, but I'm not going to rush myself, basically. Yeah. I mean, that's totally up to you. So let me go back a little bit. Did you know as a child that there was this exchange of letters happening around your birthday every year?
05:24 Good question. Yes, I think I did. And I say I think I did because I don't have any memory of I wasn't involved in the picture selection or the letter writing. It was sort of like, but I am having some kind of memories of my mom saying, that's your birthday. I'm going to write to Marie. That's my birth mother's name. I think she might have invited me to be like, do you want to say anything and meet again?
05:55 Temperament, I'm kind of a shy person, naturally. And there's like, no, I don't want to, but it wasn't something that I was really actively involved with over time, different times. Would you ask your mom questions about the adoption, about Marie, what was in the letters, that sort of thing? Were you inquisitive about that side of the family? Yeah. And I think especially when I was younger, when I passed, like, the three, four ages to see acceptance of like, oh, this is who I am and I'm different.
06:29 And this is the way that I'm different, which obviously comes with those sort of hosts of special kind of challenges that didn't quite think in until later. I think I must have been asking questions and just sort of like because I had pictures of her and we look very similar. And I knew from her letters to the basic stuff, she really liked animals, she became a lawyer, things like that.
06:59 But I don't remember asking more detailed information than that. And as I'm kind of talking about it and as you asked me that, I think something that I can attribute to it is just this feeling of like this is just part of my life. This is sort of who I am. And I didn't really feel like I was the want of anything or lack of anything or.
07:29 I don't know, it was just sort of like just part of my story. I think, again, as I sort of started to get older and realize I'm quite different from my mother, but that happens in biological families anyway. Starting to get to know myself a little bit more. That's when I really started to get curious. But I was older, I was kind of past 18, and it was very just in the back of my mind.
07:56 Like, again, I know I have this opportunity, maybe I'll just wait to meet her and just sort of ask for myself those kinds of things. But I was given a fair amount of information about both of my parents, the nature of the adoption, the nature of their relationship, just sort of my mother's impressions of them as they met while my birth mother was pregnant. And the adoption kind of going forward because it was arranged before I was born.
08:24 So it was almost like that was enough for me until I was kind of ready to take on a little bit more interesting. I didn't know that they had met and that it was kind of okay. Wow. Yeah. I feel like I need to get a little bit more information about this part of it, but it seems like in comparison to today, for example, where people are on lists and there's just these Hoops to jump through and like psychological exams and things like that.
08:58 My mom didn't go through any of that. She just kind of hooked up with an agency, and it was a little bit of a matching process in terms of the parents decide they meet a couple of prospective adoptive parents and people. And it's almost like an interview process, but it was very vibe based is what it felt like. And that was that my mom did remark how seamlessly and kind of quickly she wasn't even with that agency for very long.
09:29 And then it just sort of happened really very different from today is what it seems like very also kind of different kind of a story in terms of just how smoothly it seemed to go. So a couple of years ago, when you decided to pursue things a little bit further, was there like an experience, an incident, a revelation? What was it that made you decide this is time?
09:58 Oh, 1000%, yes. So looking back, it was like there were definite stepping stones that I don't think I realized at the time were the path forward. So, like, the transparency around me being adopted, the kind of conversations I had as I was younger, the fact that I was able to have that as part of my identity as I went out into the world and interacted with others and lived my life.
10:26 But then it was really the kind of invention of 23 and me, that was the final kind of step stone that happened. So my mom saw that and she was just like, but she got it for me as a present. She was like, let's do it, you know, like, let's see. Because again, we knew kind of verbally what my genetic background was, but it was always something of a mystery because we just didn't really know for sure and couldn't trace it back.
10:59 And so it was cool. We were both really excited to do it, but this was like, right when it came out. So the registry was much smaller and it was like once I got my results back, everything was basically confirmed, at least genetics wise. Like half Mexican, part Spanish, part English. All of those things were sort of verified, but there was a matching feature where it was just like, you have a genetic relative and here's a match.
11:31 It was like fifth cousins and third twice removed. And I just wasn't as interested in that. So I let that account sit and I'm trying to think if I had the account for almost ten years. I'm not sure when 23 of me came out, but quite some time, quite some time just kind of let it laugh. I was like, yeah, just sort of told me info I already knew. Kind of cool to see some percentages and parts of the world that my DNA is from, but like, whatever.
12:00 And what really kind of brought it home was when I went to graduate school, and I went to graduate school to become a social worker. One of my classes was family therapy. And one of the exercises that we had was doing a genogram. And I guess for anybody that doesn't know a genogram is basically a family history of tracing back all of your relatives through marriage and through just like, family of origin, like siblings, cousins.
12:30 And it's this mapped out, visual kind of thing. And I had done family trees before. I mean, that's very much a part of just like being a kid. It was always super traumatic for me. It caused me a lot of anxiety because even though my adoption stories was very transparent. There's a lot of love it otherwise me. I mean, other children don't necessarily understand that it's not the norm.
12:58 It is a marginalized kind of way to grow up. And so I had some feels around it. Right. But when I had to do the assignments, I always did my adopted family, I would do my mom side. I wouldn't have a dad side because she adopted me as a single woman, and I grew up as a single child, single parent dynamic. And so, yeah, I do both grandparents, my mom's sister and my cousins, and that was that.
13:29 But this time, when I was presented with the opportunity to do another sort of family history genogram, I decided to do everybody. So I did my biological dad side to the best of my ability, my biological mom side to the best of my ability, and my adoptive family. So I had these three parts of myself visually. I'm actually looking at it right now because it was really this moment where I was just like, Whoa, there's so much that's out there.
14:04 I don't know, explore about this. But then and this is sort of like I don't even know what to call it. The miracle piece universe. Talking back, I'm not entirely sure. Within the same month. And I believe it was like the month of April on 23. And me, I was contacted by a first cousin on my biological mother side of the family.
14:32 And I found I was matched with a first cousin on my biological dad's side of the family. Within a week or two of each other, I started talking to both of them. I was like, you'll never believe it. I was just starting to work on this project for school. Can I ask you things like, Is it okay? Do you want to meet? Wow. And it was just so meant to be. I can't think of another way to describe it. It felt right.
15:02 The timing was right for me. I was curious. I felt like I had a really good, solid sense of self where I could just be like, okay, let's explore. And it was amazing. It was quite literally an amazing kind of moment. Like to say BA magic, one of the things that we use. I love that. Yes.
15:29 So I'm curious, did your biological cousins know that you existed on my mother's side? I think she did, but it was vague. It was in the back or both sides. Both families are quite large, too. So I think she kind of knew, but she didn't really know my mother. I think she was a cousin. Maybe not on even that side, like cousin by marriage.
15:59 But as soon as I started saying the names and kind of the players involved, she was like, oh, yeah, I know exactly where you kind of fit in. I don't think that she knew that my mother gave me up for adoption. I don't think that she knew that story. And there was some sort of, like, navigating on my end where it's just like the fact that I'm making contact with a cousin first and not my birth mother first. I definitely felt some type of way of that.
16:28 I felt like, oh, my careful. Don't step on any toes. Go to kind of pace and kind of feel it out. My cousin on my father's side kind of similarly, her father is my father's brother. Yes, cousins. That's right. That track. But her father had moved away from Texas, where all of our family had been when he was quite young.
16:56 And I don't exactly know the details around that, but I do think that part of it was just like he didn't want to be close to family anymore. So I don't know that she knew about me specifically, but she knew about my dad, and she knew about my dad's kind of Rolling Stone tendencies. And just like he had his own sort of legend in the family of being this kind of very powerful, prominent, sort of Lasario type figure.
17:31 So I don't think that she was surprised by any means, but she could kind of trace it back to and be like, yeah, okay, I never met your father, but I know of your father. And, like, our fathers and brothers. Go ahead. Not at all. I'm just realizing that she put me in touch with my half sister on my father's side, which really kind of broke open everything because my sister could tell me more.
18:02 My sister didn't know about me. I learned that I have seven siblings, at least that we know of. I have an older sister. She, I think, knew about me. And then I learned that my aunt I had two aunts, and my grandma knew about me. They had pictures of me. My grandma, when I was able to Zoom with her, actually, during pandemic, Unfortunately, I was going to go out there, but the vid just got to fall, right?
18:31 So when I zoomed with her, she was like, I prayed for you to come back to us. I prayed to meet you. And I was just Lord, because my dad opened adoption, right? My dad never kept in touch. My birth mom did, but my birth dad never kept in touch. And yet he kept pictures of me. He had a scrapbook of me. He told family about me. It was just like this whole sort of whole thing.
19:00 And I haven't met him either, so I don't know quite what that's about. I haven't met either of my birth parents yet, but there's definitely some stuff there. Yeah, there's some stuff to unpack, as you think. So did you know much about his reputation as althario before you okay. All right, I did. So my mom. Oh, my gosh.
19:31 My mom mom is a total character. She's a really interesting person, and I bet I'll throw it out there. I bet that she would love to be interviewed or be a part of this process. I think that she can really bring some more colors to my story.
19:49 But yeah, I think, again, this interview process really intrigues me because from it either he was really forthcoming or they were really forthcoming or they really got along or it was a completely different adoption process because my dad was just like, yeah, this isn't my only child.
20:18 This isn't my only partner. What did he say? He mentioned something about not selling weed per se, but like drug dealing, like being involved in certain things to the point where my mom, as I got older, my mom would kind of tell me this stuff. And I was just like, oh, okay, yeah, interesting.
20:43 But as an adult, I'm just like, oh, who would reveal that kind of information during, I don't know, during an adoption process, during a place where a baby is being placed or even for your ads yourself, like, this is the self that you're presenting. So I think he just owned it and he just like was an interesting person. And there's much more that I learned from my sister, too.
21:15 Oh, that what sorry, that didn't scare your mom off from the adoption. She's a character. She's a character. She's a character. Did they reveal when your mom went to the interview process, were they still together as a couple or. No, they were.
21:34 They were actually met my maternal grandma, she's the only member of my family Besides my cousin and my sister that I've actually been able to physically meet, which has been just incredible. That's a whole other story. But she told me a little bit more about their relationship because I was curious about that.
22:01 I knew that they weren't married, that I was a surprise. My mother was in undergrad at Cal, just being a student. And I think becoming involved in politics. I learned from an aunt that my aunt thinks that they met at a Jerry Brown, like, fundraiser or campaigning event, which again, just blows my mind. I'm like, I don't understand.
22:29 Anyway, that's what my mom was up to. She was like 2021 at the time. My father was significantly older. He was in his early thirty s, thirty s, something like that. And doing whatever he was doing at the time and place. It's a Jerry Brown campaign with his whole situation. When my mother found out that she was pregnant, at first, the idea was that they were going to get married.
23:00 And I'm kind of filling in the blanks here, but I am assuming that that's why she maybe went ahead with the pregnancy. There's also I know that she was raised Catholic. I don't know if that came into play. I haven't been able to kind of stuff out that part of it. But well into the pregnancy, I would imagine at least six months, something like that. My dad told my mom that he was already married and had a child in San Diego and cannot go through with this relationship, but that he would stay with her until I was born.
23:36 My grandmother confirmed because she had met him and seen them together that there was love there. There was something real that was there that was kind of binding them together. It was maybe just like a not meant to be situation, obviously. But at that point, my mother being so young, finishing school, probably feeling incredibly betrayed and brokenhearted by the entire thing, like, okay, what's the best decision for me and what's the best decision for this baby?
24:07 And he stayed with her, and they stayed together for a little while afterwards. But that was really me being born. And I think going through that experience for them and being married was the final end of their affair. And I think that he moved either back to San Diego or to Texas after that. He wasn't in California anymore. At least Papa's Rolling Stone didn't take him before you were born, right?
24:38 Yes. So let me dig a little bit into your father's side. So the half sister that she met, is that the older sister or is it one of the younger sisters? Yeah. So she is my younger sister. She's the third of the seven, as it were. Like, I'm sure there's more. Right? But I'll just say the seven that I'm aware of, my older sister and I just recently connected to 23.
25:09 But the sister that I have met and I have a relationship with now is my younger sister by a couple of years. Okay. And what was her relationship like with your father? From what I understand, very troubles, toxic, abusive, negotiate.
25:36 She and my brother, they're the only siblings that are full blood siblings of his. And they were same woman, same mother. And they are the only two that he really, I think, raised for a prolonged period of time. But when I say raised, it was like because he was involved with I don't know if it was drug trafficking or what his role was exactly.
26:05 But I can't confirm that he was involved with a Mexican drug cartel. And so my sister grew up in town in Texas that was kind of close to the border. My father's family comes from the region in Monterey, Mexico. I don't even know if it was like a cartel that was sort of based out of there or if she was involved with something else. But I think it was not a safe environment.
26:36 It was not a healthy environment. And when she was quite young, I don't even know if she was 18 at the time. She told me that she had a new baby in tow, and she got herself to a Greyhound station pretty much just like closed her eyes, picked a place, bought a one way ticket, and ended up in Oregon and just sort of started a new life there. And that's where she's been ever since. She is an amazing person, probably the strongest person, I think that I know.
27:06 And I know that kind of talking about this sort of stuff is difficult for her. So I just have kind of like, you know, the bits and pieces. But it definitely verified some of the other kind of question Mark information that I was given, where it was like Popstone is kind of something. I don't really know what's going on here, but it was interesting.
27:32 She filled in some other details or it was just like he's incredibly intelligent, taught himself four languages, survived a tour in Vietnam later in the war when it was just like a complete disaster, but survived, came back, was different for sure, and was into, like, plant medicine, which I think is what the weed talk with my mom might have been.
28:05 My sister kind of described him as this visionary person where it was just like, we will be legalized at some point. It does have medicinal properties. Like, I'm growing it. I use it in this way, but also incredibly problematic person, incredibly flawed, dangerous, problematic person. And the way that she sort of she gave me that information, and then she was like, I would never tell you not to meet him because he is your father.
28:34 He is our father. But I will say, be careful. I will say, just understand that you're kind of dealing with somebody that has really deep issues. And I was like, okay, all right, fair enough. Your knowledge, do any of your siblings on your dad side have a relationship with them? Yes. So I found my youngest brother.
29:02 My youngest brother lives with him right now at this point. I actually heard my sister told me that he recently went into the hospital. And I'm not sure why. She doesn't really have details. I haven't really asked my aunts about it because they, too, have a complicated relationship with him. So I don't know it's again, with this, like, not stepping on toes, kind of trying to figure out my place, navigate my role in all of this. But yes, my younger brother was living with him.
29:32 And I think kind of like asking caretaker just like person with him. But I think that's the only child that was really having anything to do with him. And I also think that's because he's young, I don't know if he's 18 yet. Okay. Is your father aware that you've been in touch with some family? Yes.
30:02 And I found this out, so my aunts are a little more protective. My sister obviously is protective and just like not in touch. But Grandma, of course, this is her son. This is her baby. As soon as she found out that I was around in the picture and trying to make contact, I think she called him pretty much right away and was just like, she's here and gave him my phone number.
30:30 And on my birthday a couple of years ago, I get this text from a random number I didn't see with pictures of myself, which is how I know he has pictures of me. And because I didn't recognize the number, I immediately thought to my adoptive aunt, for some reason, who was just like, hey, sweet. I forget he didn't say, sweetie, but it was just like, Happy birthday. So grateful for you. Or it was something effusive. It was something personal. And I was like, Auntie?
31:01 Like, what? You never text me. I don't understand. And then I was like, who is this? And this is your father. And I was just like, oh, shit. And I immediately was just like, I'm not ready. All of that stuff of just like, reading a letter from my mom and kind of gathering this more information about my dad. The exact same feeling of just, like, being shy and kind of coming up and like, no, not yet.
31:28 And so I texted him back, and I was just like, wow, thank you for this. Yes, I'm talking to grandma. I'm talking with auntie's. And maybe one day soon we can think about connecting. I'm just not ready yet. And he's honored it, which I think I was a little surprised about, given what I learned. I didn't really know what to expect, but I haven't heard back from him since that.
31:59 Well, let's switch gears to your birth mother's side now. Did she have any other children? No, I was the only one. Okay. And you've met her mother's? You've met your grandma on her mother's side? Yeah. What was that? Oh, my gosh. The phrase that comes to mind really is like coming home. She actually reminded me of my Godmother, which was really funny and kind of interesting.
32:29 Just this very sharp as attack. Kind of salty, kind of like, sarcastic, just like, fiery, kind of spicy person. Don't take any shit. I'll tell you what. This next generation farmer from Yuba County, like, farm family. Very kind of like blue collar, hardworking ethics, but also just, like, a ton of curiosity.
33:01 Just, like, so intellectually curious and just reading constantly and very civically involved. And like, her and my grandpa were fixtures in their community. Really well known fixtures. It was my cousin. It was my cousin on my mom's side who set us up together or gave me her information. So I reached out to her, and she also was like, I've been hoping, I've been waiting. I've been wondering.
33:29 But I always wanted it to be your mom's kind of thing. Her decision. But I'm just so glad. I'm just so glad that you reached out. When can we meet? Basically. So it was very quick from there. I went up there. We spent the whole afternoon together. It was like we fell into a group. Tell me where your interests and tell me about your life. But it was also just like.
33:57 It was as if we had known each other, maybe not forever, but there was ease. There was a sympathico, there was a sort of just, like, superiority. Wow. So when you were with your grandmother, did you talk about the possibility of meeting your birth mother? Yeah, we both.
34:27 And again, it's like nature. I don't know if this is just, like how my family is. I don't know. But we approached it in a very similar kind of, like, sideways way where it wasn't very direct. It wasn't just like, Where's my mom? What's going on? It was, oh, you know, I should back up. I should back up.
34:52 I think part of the reason why we were kind of being careful about the topic of my mother and just sort of, like, waiting in too much information about her is I actually did reach out to my mother first, before the 23 and me stuff, because I had her address. I had that letter. It was the same time frame as when, I don't know, not too long before the 23 and me, like, dual miracle DNA connections that happened.
35:21 But I reached out via mail, I wrote a letter back, and I was like, I'm ready when you are. Here's my email, here's my phone number. And I didn't hear back. And I tried again, and I didn't hear back. It was a surprise. I think, if anything, now that I'm saying it, that kind of spurred my curiosity even more to sort of figure out the rest of the story. You have the letter, right?
35:50 The letter was an invitation. Yes, the letter was an invitation, but it was an invitation that was from very long ago. And also, it was like I had this sort of like, I'm surprised, but I want to know more. Like, I'm not going to let this sort of stop me. So there was that sort of motivation, that permission I almost gave myself to go meet my grandma and not feel guilty or weird or just like, stop.
36:18 So kind of bringing it back to meeting grandma and touching on the subject of mom, I told her that much. I was like, I want you to know that I did reach out to her, and I want you to know that because I want to be respectful of this whole process. Like, this obviously, is a life changing, incredibly difficult, incredibly personal thing for me, for everybody involved.
36:47 And if there was this invitation and she didn't get back to me, I'm sure there's a reason for it. And my grandma kind of went into some detail, which is that my mom is suffering from some pretty serious health issues, like, enough where she had to quit her job. She was a public defender down in Orange County, which I'm sorry, that can't be just as it is. She was on this actual trajectory to becoming a judge and then kind of being groomed to become a state supreme court justice.
37:21 Like, she was on this incredible career path and then some health stuff happened and she had to kind of quietly step away. And I think it was almost like she was right there towards this kind of monumental life goal. And so I don't know, that's just kind of where she's at right now. But I think the way my grandma kind of left, it was like she's going to do her that's okay, but we're going to do us.
37:50 And I for sure want to keep getting to know you and talking to you and having a relationship with you and you're welcome here anytime and that kind of thing. So as I mentioned before, this is all still unfolding. Where are you today? How are you feeling today about this experience and getting to both sides of the family? I remain incredibly excited and just grateful and humbled, I think, by the whole thing that doesn't even encompass it.
38:25 Those are just like it really is like, especially approaching 43rd and 40 this year, and I'm Super excited about it. But it's like there's almost like a second act of my life at least that's going to start unfolding. And I can get to know all of these amazing members of my family. And large part of that is I've just been so incredibly lucky that the connectivity between us has been effortless. We get in a room together.
38:55 I met my sister and my cousin on my dad's side same day. We all were just like, let's be at a coffee shop. Let's just see how it goes in a public place. We ended up spending the entire day together. We were talking about getting, like, a hotel room, spending even more time together. We were sick as we were in a lift car together. And the driver was like, oh, is this you all doing a family reunion? We all started crying. We were like, we are. Yeah, that's exactly what we're doing.
39:26 How did you know? And this just keeps happening. And I don't think that's everyone's experience per se. It might not be that way with other members of my family as I keep going, but it's just been so incredibly encouraging. And I was trying to go out to Texas to meet my grandma and meet my aunt in 2020 when COVID came around. So I feel like I've just been waiting and waiting. I'm so grateful to be in touch with my grandma.
39:54 I can go physically see my grandma, but I'm just at the beginning and I am just so excited, so excited about it. Well, we're thrilled that you're willing to share your experience, because I think that there are, as we tell Kendall's story and your other stories, there's a lot of people out there that have something going on and maybe they haven't done the 23 and me or Ancestry. That's another thing.
40:21 You could do Ancestry now, too, and see if others pop up on there, because some people do 23 of me, and some people do ancestry. But part of the reason we're doing this is to really help other people kind of like, get to some sort of comfort level and open up to asking questions and kind of like taking baby steps and doing it the right way for them. But I think just you sharing your story and other people sharing their story is only going to help people be able to do that.
40:51 So thank you. Oh, my God. Thank you. I think that this is just such echoing what you're saying. This is such necessary work that you're doing to just kind of make this more and more known, make these conversations happen more. Everyone is an individual with this, and yet we are all kind of in the same boat. I was just like, Whoa. And family is so powerful. Family is so powerful.
41:21 I've learned anything from this experience is that absolutely, you can have a family of choice, and you can make that happen. And also there's something incredibly powerful about blood family. And there is, like, certain truths there. There are other things there. And it's really made me think about nature versus nurture and just life in general. It's become a very cool and interesting thing to talk about. And I love the fact that you're starting these conversations.
41:52 I love it. I think it's so important. So thank you. Oh, you're welcome. We're learning something every day as we go through this journey. It's just been incredible. And so I don't think this is going to be the last time we have you on the podcast, because I think there's going to be so much to talk about. And certainly if your mom wants to come on, if your siblings want to come on, your cousin, your aunties, your grandmas, that would be so cool, because I think people need to hear the good stuff, too.
42:23 There's always going to be not everything is going to be perfect, but I think people really need to hear the good stuff, too. Oh, absolutely. And I'm happy to share them with you and with everyone if they're willing to. And I'm also happy to kind of dive into it wasn't all Sunshine and roses for me, right? There were other parts of it that were incredibly difficult and I think led to me needing to take decades in order to be ready to kind of do this.
42:54 So I definitely want to, like, I'm open to talking about that as well. And just maybe it will spark something for someone else out there that's kind of having this, for lack of a better word, like germination moment, this kind of cocoon moment with themselves and wondering if that's okay. It's like I'm here to tell you it's completely okay. Listen to your heart for sure, if it's worth it. But I'm happy to talk more about that, too. Perfect. Well, we'll wrap this up here. Will you do me a big favor and give our love to Oaktown because we miss it always.
43:27 I'll be there in June. I'm looking forward to visiting and catching up with folks. Yes, that sounds great. And that's when my birthday is too, so I don't know if that's going to coincide, but that would be awesome. We will connect offline for sure. Well, Sarah, thank you again for joining us and we're looking forward to talking to you again very soon. Thanks so much. Corey Kendall, I can't thank you. I said it before, but I'll say it again. Thank you for doing this work.
43:56 Truly thank you. Bye. Bye. Bye. This is the Family Twist podcast hosted by Kendall and Corey Stalks with original music by Cosmic Afterthoughts and produced by Outpost production and presented by Savawafair Marketing Communications. Have a story you want to share? Visit family Twistpodcast.com all our social media links are there as well.