A Very Special Birthday
Hey everyone, it’s Paul. Today—April 26—marks a very special birthday in my life. It’s special because it used to be my birthday, but it no longer is.
To be more precise, April 26, 1964, is the day the real Paul Joseph Fronczak was born in Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. Just one day later—before he’d even had the chance to spend a full day on earth—Paul was taken out of his mother’s arms by a kidnapper dressed up like a nurse. He got to spend about 30 minutes in his mother’s arms, spread out over a few different sessions, before being returned to the hospital nursery. I can’t see how the real Paul possibly had a chance to bond with his mother, Dora Fronczak, in that short amount of time.
And then he was gone, and a year later Dora had to mark his first birthday without him. She had to mark his second birthday without him, too. I can only imagine how painful both of those birthdays had to be.
And then, in 1966, I was handed over to the Fronczaks after they identified me as their missing son. That is how my name became Paul Fronczak, and how April 26 became my birthday. I would celebrate my birthday on that day for the next 49 years.
Even after I learned I wasn’t the real Paul Fronczak and started the search for my true identity in 2012, I continued to celebrate my birthday on April 26. What else could I do? I knew it wasn’t really the date on which I was born, but I had no idea what the real date was. And so, just like I kept Paul Fronczak’s name, I kept his birthday, too.
Then, just a few weeks after what I thought was my 49th birthday, on April 26, 2015, I got the call from genealogist CeCe Moore telling me my real name, and my real date of birth. I wasn’t Paul, I was Jack. And I wasn’t a Taurus, I was a Scorpio. My actual birthday was October 27. I was born almost exactly six months before the real Paul.
That year, 2015, I celebrated my birthday twice—the first time on April 26, and the second time, after I’d learned the truth, on October 27. I got two cakes and two sets of presents. But the greatest gift of all was that I got to celebrate my actual birthday for the first time that I can remember—the first time since I’d been abandoned on a New Jersey street in 1965.
This year, however, I’ll only have one birthday, in about six months. But still, April 26 is a very important day for me. It’s important because it is the real Paul Fronczak’s birthday. I have no idea if the baby who went missing in 1964 ever learned that April 26 was his birthday, or if, like me, he spent his life believing his birthday was some other day. I do know that it remains my mission in life to make sure that, one day, he gets the chance to cut a cake and open gifts on April 26.
For now, I want to make a wish for the real Paul (above, in a composite photo of what he might look like today) on his birthday. I wish that, wherever he is, he is happy and healthy and doing okay. And I wish that I get to meet him some day. Later today, I will raise a beer and say a toast to him, because to me, the real Paul is like an old friend. He is with me on this incredible journey that I’ve been on. He is my partner in this adventure. I feel a very special kinship with him, and I always will.
So I hope you will join me in wishing the real Paul a very happy birthday, and many, many more.