Hello everyone, it’s Paul.
Today, I just want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you are or who you’re celebrating with.
Thanksgiving is a time for families, and for counting the blessings that our loved ones give us. But as my story demonstrates, all families are different, and some are more complicated than others.
For me, my concept of family got upended when I was 10 and found a box of newspaper clippings about the kidnapping of a baby in 1964. I also found articles that said I was the kidnapped boy, Paul Fronczak, and that I’d been found and returned to my family. For nearly the first fifty years of my life, this was the accepted truth about who I was, and who my parents were.
But as you know, it wasn’t true. I wasn’t the kidnapped boy. And Dora and Chester Fronczak, who raised me as their own child, were not my biological parents.
Discovering the truth changed my whole world. It launched me on a mission to learn who I really was, and to find the real Paul Fronczak. It also put tremendous and destructive pressure on my family and relationships. For three years, my parents and my brother did not even speak to me. I wound up getting a divorce.
Why was it so important for me to know the truth of who I was, and the truth about my biological family? And was learning the truth worth all the pain and disruption?
These are hard questions to answer. But one thing I am sure of is that knowing the truth is always better than living a lie. A life lived in secrecy and lies is not a real, authentic life.
But there is something else I learned along my journey. I learned that a “family” can mean many different things.
The Fronczaks were not my biological parents, but no one can tell me that they weren’t my parents, because they were. They took me in, gave me a home, sacrificed for me and loved me. If that doesn’t define a family, I don’t know what does.
Over the last few years I’ve received hundreds of letters from people with complicated family situations. People who recently learned their parents aren’t their biological parents. People who were lost or given away or deceived. People who are desperate for the affection and security that a family brings. People who, like me, have lives that are like puzzles, and who are always searching for the missing pieces.
This Thanksgiving, I want to tell all of these people one thing—You are not alone. You have me, and everyone out there who is like me. We are all part of the same strange, confused, searching family. You are my family.
I also want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to the real Paul Fronczak, who I believe is still out there. The real Paul and I are not related in any biological way. There is no blood between us. But to me, I have always thought of the real Paul as my family. As my brother. And there is no test or certificate in the world that can convince me otherwise.
Sometimes, we make our own families. Sometimes, what defines family is love. I am very, very lucky in that regard. I have many people in my life who I love, and who love me, including my remarkable daughter Emma. This Thanksgiving, I want to tell Emma how much I love her, and how happy I am that she is part of my family.
Today, I give heartfelt thanks to all of you who have supported me along every step of my messy journey, and given me so much encouragement and inspiration to keep going. Today, I want you to know that you are all part of my family, too.