Brad Ewell

Brad Ewell 2250 1500 wordadmin

Brad Ewell is adopted. + While this story began in 1970, it didn’t start for me until March 15, 2019.  My wife, Pam, and I were out for a lunch date.  She had been talking with a woman who had reached out through Ancestry trying to figure out how I was related to her.  I had paid very little attention to Ancestry after seeing the map of where I had come from. So when this woman reached out I told my wife they were welcome to try to figure it out but I wasn’t that interested, because I knew who all my close relatives were.  Pam’s phone dinged with a message while we were sitting at a restaurant.  When she read it her face scrunched up.  I asked her what the message was and she said it was the woman she had been talking with from Ancestry and she wasn’t sure what I was going to think of what she was saying.  The woman had explained that her sister had a baby boy in Dallas on my birthday that was given up for adoption and she believed I was that child and no one had ever told me I was adopted.  It took less than a minute for us to blow off this idea with a decision to go home and look at my birth certificate to help this poor woman get back on the right track of whoever she was looking for.

My plan had been simple enough, I had Pam ask the woman what hospital she thought I was born in and I would check that against my birth certificate and that would settle for her that I wasn’t who she was looking for.  But when I got home things weren’t that simple.  When I looked at my birth certificate instead of a hospital name or address for place of birth there was just a dash.  I looked at Pam’s birth certificate and the two papers couldn’t have looked more different.  Still I was sure there was an explanation for that, my parents probably lost mine and this is what a 1970’s birth certificate copy looked like.  But things got more complicated as I racked my brain for any memory of my mom talking about being pregnant with me or seeing pictures of her pregnant and came up empty.

To make matters worse, when the woman couldn’t remember the name of the hospital I was born in but she was able to give Pam a description and general location.  I knew exactly where it was.  It was a place my parents took me to visit a family friend, who was a doctor, when we visited my grandparents.

With zero answers and more questions than I had started with I reached out to a friend who had known she was adopted for as long as she could remember and see what advice she had.  I explained to her my strange looking birth certificate and she asked me to send her a picture of it and she would go get hers.  When she got back on the phone, her tone while still friendly had taken a concerned tone.  She then explained to me that she had done some research because my birth certificate looked exactly like hers and she found that this was an early 1970’s altered (adoption) birth certificates looked like.  I knew she had gone through the steps of having her records unsealed and asked her about that process because I couldn’t imagine asking my parents (even though I was 48 years old) if I was adopted.  Unfortunately in the end, the best option we could come up with was having that conversation with my parents.

I chose to have that conversation with my dad over lunch or coffee.  We had a close relationship and often talked away from my mom because she worried about everything.  So it wasn’t out of the ordinary to ask him if the two of us could get together for lunch without raising any red flags.  I concocted my plan, I was going to call him on his cell phone in the afternoon because he turned it off when he was at home and leave a message.  That way he could call back when he was alone and we could make plans. I was sitting at my desk at work when I made the call.

My plan went in the toilet when I heard his familiar voice say, “Hey Bradley, what’s up?” I gathered my thoughts quickly and went along with the plan just in person instead of a message.  I asked if we could get together when he had time so I could bounce a couple ideas off of him.  Nothing new there so we should be good.  Instead I got the answer of, “sure I’d love to meet you, but what do you want to talk about?”  This was new and I did my best to deflect, explaining that every possible bad scenario wasn’t in play.  He replied with, “that’s great, but what did you want to talk about?”  I explained that I didn’t think it was a good phone conversation but by this time he was locked in.  So I eased into things.  A few years before this my dad had told me that my mom might have been adopted but she wasn’t sure.  It was based on something her mom had told her shortly before her death.  So I began with that.

“Dad, do you remember telling me that mom might be adopted?”


“Well do you remember that Pam and I did Ancestry DNA a while back?”

“Ya, that was pretty neat.”

“Well a lady reached out to us online that is related to me by DNA and we THOUGHT she might be mom’s half sister or relative based on her age.”

“Wow, that’s crazy, I didn’t know they could do stuff like that.”

“Ya, well it turns out it’s not that.  This lady thinks I’m her sister’s baby and y’all adopted me and never told me.”

“Huh.” Followed by the longest awkward silence of my life.

Finally I broke the silence, “Dad, I don’t want to be an ass, and I already know the answer.  But I’m going to need you to say it out loud or I’ll still wonder.”

“Well Bradley, you’re adopted and we’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell you.”

At that moment my identity crumbled away.

We talked for a few more minutes, mainly him reassuring me that “nothing had changed” and me agreeing with tears running down my face thinking, “maybe not for you, but everything has changed for me.”

Since that day, I have gained an entirely new extended family.  Unfortunately finding out so late in life I was never able to meet my biological mother, I’ve lost an aunt I got extremely close to, and my new found sister passed away this year.  On the flip side I have two bio-aunts that are still living, an uncle, and two brothers.  I also got to meet my biological father who had been in prison since 1972.

When I met my bio-dad in March of 2020 it didn’t go at all how I expected.  I had been a police officer for 25 years and had a pretty negative image of the man I was going to meet based on past experiences.  

What I had not prepared myself for was a genuine, open, and honest man who bared his soul to me in our first meeting and won me over by simply being honest about who he was and who he had been.  That relationship started a two year journey to try to help him become eligible for parole because he was currently serving an LWOP sentence.  With the help of a wonderful group called The Parole Project and several of his friends, that dream became a reality in November of 2022 when he walked out the prison gates and into my arms as free man for the first time in over 50 years.  We still keep in contact and I’ve been able to accompany him as he’s experienced many firsts in his life.

That’s about the best I can abbreviate my story.  If you’ve made it this far I hope you’ll indulge me and read on for some thoughts on adoption.

First to adoptive parents, some of these things will be hard to read but worth it.  Adoption involves trauma.  It’s not your fault, it’s just a fact.  An infant cannot be taken away from it’s biological family without introducing trauma.  In my case I was going to be relinquished for many reasons that I fully understand.  I was either going to a foster home or be adopted.

So either way for me that trauma was in my future.  But there are some things you can do to help as the adoptive parents.  First be open about the adoption, not just telling your child they’re adopted, even though you HAVE to do this.

 I learned about this openness from my friend @lavluz , in short, be open to the range of emotions your adoptee needs to experience and express even when they aren’t positive.  Not growing up around your biological family is extremely difficult even if you’re not aware of it.  Second, it’s your responsibility to learn everything you can about the biological family.  People need to understand their roots and no matter what you may have heard babies are not blank slates.  What you can’t learn, be ready to help your child explore. They will likely be different from you in interests and talents.  Help them see that they don’t have to emulate you to be a success.

For my adoptee friends, find community, you will heal so much better in community.  Second, lean into your curiosity.  As adoptees we learn to please our family or risk another relinquishment.  This doesn’t always come from our adoptive family, mostly it comes from our own preverbal experiences.  Allow yourself to be different, try to understand where you came from.  Finally and most importantly, find therapy, let a professional help you unpack this experience.  I know some people, especially men, hate this suggestion.  All I can say is that it has helped me beyond measure and I think it will do the same for you.

If after reading this you have any questions or just want to talk, just reach out on instagram to @a_late_discovery

#innocentpeople #adopteestories #adoptee