Birmingham woman spends a weekend catching up on a lifetime
April 12, 2007
BY CASSANDRA SPRATLING
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Questions nudged Patricia Moody's mind since childhood, having grown up knowing she'd been adopted in infancy.
Who was her biological mother? Were there people anywhere in the world who looked like her? Could she be walking past relatives and not even know?
But she didn't seek answers because she didn't want to hurt the parents she loved. Vaughn and Jean Seeley Greene had provided a wonderful life for her growing up in Birmingham.
She didn't want them to think they hadn't done enough.
But they both died by 1998, and as she aged the questions became more pressing.
"I'll be 60 years old this year; you learn you're mortal," Patricia says. "I began to think if I did have anybody out there I wanted to meet them before I die."
Patricia was also driven by health concerns. She has diabetes. She wondered what other health issues might be embedded in her family tree. She owed it to her only child, Samantha, 30, to find out.
And so she began her search with an inquiry last summer to the agency from which she'd been adopted -- a search that resulted in her meeting four half-sisters this past weekend. She also has another half-sister and half-brother that didn't make the trip
Still, it was a weekend to remember.
The four sisters arrived from Milwaukee on Friday night to spend the weekend with their sister.
The sisters grew up believing another sister named Patricia -- Patricia Czarnecki, 51 -- was the oldest girl among five children. Joining the Patricia from Milwaukee to meet the Patricia from Michigan were Carol Paulson, 49, and 40-year-old twins Sara Hmielewski, and Ginny Czarnecki.
They didn't plan to meet at a designated spot at Flint's Bishop Airport on Friday night. "The minute we saw each other, we knew. I said, 'There's my sister,' " says Carol who looks most like Patricia Moody.
Patricia and Carol even have colored their hair almost the same shade of red.
And, when the sisters saw Samantha, they saw an even stronger resemblance to their mother, JoAnne Tolle Czarnecki, who died in 2001.
"Her smile, the shape of her face; it's like our mom's," Carol says.
On Saturday, the five sisters crowded into the cozy living room of Patricia's Birmingham home. They talked nonstop about their lives and similarities. They all love to read, and talk, and learned they have the same political leanings. They all love animals. Patricia and her husband, Robert Moody, have four dogs and four cats.
"I was afraid they'd all be tall and blond and thin" says Patricia. "We all have similar features. I tell people Raquel Welch doesn't have anything I don't have at least twice as much of."
They looked at family photos the Milwaukee sisters brought and drank Bloody Marys and Margaritas.
Samantha joked that while she likes having a larger family it hurts her inheritance because her mother is spending money buying gifts for her newfound siblings and their children. "Thanks a lot, aunties. I got a lot less gifts at Christmas,'" she says. Then she adds, "Really, I'm very glad about it."
Each of the Milwaukee sisters had a bracelet made of beads from a favorite necklace belonging to their mother. A few leftover beads were put in a drawer. Patricia Czarnecki strung the remaining beads together. There were just enough for one more bracelet. She gave it to Patricia Moody on Saturday morning.
"It means a lot to me that it came from JoAnne, but it means even more that the girls gave it to me to help me feel included," Patricia says. "It means a lot to me to be a part of the family."
She knows little about her biological father and doesn't care to know more. Moody thinks she was the product of a relationship between her mother and a considerably older man who took advantage of her mother.
Almost two years after Patricia's birth, JoAnne gave birth to a second daughter she also put up for adoption. That daughter, Jean Wubker, 58, of Albuquerque, N.M., connected with the Milwaukee family in 2000.
An outsider would never know Patricia hasn't always shared their lives.
Except for the tears sparked by seemingly harmless questions.
Like when someone asked how they felt when they learned of Patricia's existence from a letter.
"I felt badly for my mom, that she felt she had to keep her secret," says Sara, as she dabbed away tears.
"She was ashamed. She must have been because back then it just wasn't an acceptable thing to have happen," says Patricia Czarnecki.
"It might explain why she was so protective of us," Sara continues. "We couldn't go to sleepovers. She wanted to know where her children were all the time."
"It must have been difficult for her to give up her daughters because she was such a devoted mom," Patricia Czarnecki says.
JoAnne and her husband, Daniel Czarnecki Sr., who died in 1979, raised the four girls and an older brother with no hint of other children.
But Patricia Czarnecki and Carol recall that around Christmas their mother seemed particularly tense, sad and anxious. Both older daughters were born around Christmas.
Late last summer Patricia Moody called a social worker at the Cradle adoption agency in Evanston, Ill. Within days the social worker called her back.
There was bad news and good news.
Bad news: Her biological mother had passed.
Good news: She has five sisters and a brother, including Jean, who was given up for adoption, though she had the same father as the others.
"I was amazed," Patricia recalls. But she couldn't contact them right away. The social worker had to send information about Patricia to her siblings to see if they wanted contact.
In October they sent Patricia photos, a newspaper obituary of their mother and their phone numbers.
She called and since then the siblings have been in almost constant contact.
The Milwaukee sisters proposed coming to Birmingham to spend part of their spring break. Sara and Patricia Czarnecki are teachers who have the week off.
Patricia Moody is a homemaker, and a fine cook as her sisters discovered. The sisters say they had absolutely no reservations about meeting her.
"We feel blessed because we could have gone our whole lives and not known," Ginny says.
"I just wish we'd known her sooner; we're not exactly spring chickens," Patricia Czarnecki says.
They're looking forward to a bigger reunion this summer with more of the extended family at the Moodys' home on Houghton Lake in northern Michigan.
"I'm glad we went. I hope this is the start of building a relationship and seeing more of each other," says Ginny.
Days after they've departed, Moody says she still can hardly believe it. "I thought I was alone," she says. "I have five sisters and a brother. I can't believe it. And they're the sweetest sisters you can have. We had such fun. It was wonderful. It's nice to see someone who looks like you."
Contact CASSANDRA SPRATLING at 313-223-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.