I’ve seen the lifetime movies that are based on true life stories, but never did I imagine being apart of a made for television story. I’m normally a private person but this is a story that needs to be told.
I met my husband Dendrius “Psycho” Rucker (some people call him Den for short) in 1996 on the campus of Mississippi Valley State University and by October 1997 we had our first son Jeremiah. We tied the knot on November 10, 1997. I met Den’s mother and siblings for the first time when I was pregnant with Jeremiah. At that point, I only knew Den was raised by his grandparents, his Mom lived in Iowa and he didn’t know his biological father. Den told me that when he was young, his grandmother Ruth and other family members always told him that his step-father wasn’t his biological father and his real father’s name is Charles. After meeting his family I said to Den, okay you definitely have a different father! He said I know, but my Mom won’t tell me anything about my real dad. Den is a black man that has naturally soft wavy curly hair which is the first sign that something other than black blood was running through his veins. Not saying that’s the case all of the time, but it’s definitely majority of the time…ijs.
Den was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Holly Springs, Mississippi. He was raised by his mother’s parents J.D. and Ruth Rucker.
I started searching for Den’s biological father around 2001 or 2002. At this time I had two more children, Zechariah and Shemaiah. I knew that it was time to start searching for my children’s biological grandfather. I’ve always believed that everyone has the right to know where they come from and I thought it was unfair that Den didn’t know his biological family on his father’s side.
I begin the search by asking his Mom what she knew about Den’s biological father. Her initial response was, “why does he want to know about him” I thought, that’s a weird response. After being taken back for a second, I replied “because he’s his father”. I immediately felt that she was uncomfortable with this conversation. If you know me, you know that didn’t stop me from digging deeper. I asked several questions, and the only useful information she gave me was his name Charles F. Wright Jr.
I didn’t mention to her all the things that Den was told about how she handled the situation with his father growing up at that time. I used to tell Den to ask his Mom about his father and why he left and he would always say it was pointless because she’s not going to tell me anything. I remember when his Mom and her husband I.C. came to visit us years ago and I said to Den, your “stepfather” is looking for you. I.C. became very angry at me for calling him stepfather! I asked his Mom why did he get so upset at me for calling him stepfather and she said he considers him his son and he doesn’t like to be called stepfather. I said but he’s his stepfather and I don’t understand why that made him so angry. The title stepfather isn’t a bad thing and in some cases that’s the only father some people know.
Years passed and his Mom was still a closed book.
Fast forward to the present……
I started hearing about people finding long lost family members through DNA sites like 23 and Me and Ancestry. I asked Den if he wanted to take a DNA test and he agreed. I went to ancestry.com and I was lucky because the test was on sale for $59.99! The test at the time was regularly priced at $99.99. I ordered the DNA test August 17, 2020 and that was when I opened the box to the complicated puzzle. The test arrived about a week later and I knew deep down that this was how I was going to find his father and I knew it was about to get real. He completed the test, I packed it up and shipped it off. Then nearly 6 weeks later, the results were in!
I receive the email informing me that Den’s DNA results where back. I logged into his ancestry.com account and clicked on DNA matches. The first name that I saw was Pauline Zurwalski-Pena and she matched him very closely according to their DNA. At this point I needed to understand how DNA actually works, how accurate Ancestry DNA is and how Pauline was related to Den.
I immediately reached out to Pauline through Ancestry.com. I could see that she hadn’t been active for 3 months but I sent her a message anyway. I explained that I was searching for my husband’s biological father and I told her his name. I went to Facebook to search for her and I found her page but after looking through her photos we came to the conclusion that she couldn’t be related. I decided not to contact her on Facebook and wait for her to respond through Ancestry. Months passed and we finally received a message from Pauline and she said Charles was her Mom’s brother! I felt a big relief but nervous at the same time. We exchanged phone numbers and set up a time to talk.
Here are the results of the DNA:
Den and Pauline Zurwalski
Shared DNA: 1,760 cM across 45 segments
Unweighted shared DNA: 1,760 cM
Longest segment: 102 cM
What does Shared DNA mean? Shared DNA is the amount of identical DNA that you and a match inherited from one or more recent common ancestors. Ancestry filters out DNA not connected to a recent common ancestor giving you a more accurate estimated relationship. Ancestry does this using an algorithm called TIMBER.
What does cM stand for? cM (centimorgans): The total amount of DNA you share with your matches is measured in centimorgans (cMs). The higher the number, the more closely you are related.
What are segments? The DNA you share with your matches is distributed across segments – short segments, long segments, or some combination of both. The length of the longest segment you and a DNA match have in common can help determine your relationship. Often, sharing fewer, longer segments indicates a closer relationship.
What’s unweighted shared DNA? Unweighted shared DNA is the total amount of identical DNA two people share, including DNA that is shared for reasons other than a recent common ancestor, such as being from the same ethnicity or community. Because of that, unweighted shared DNA will almost always be larger than shared DNA for distant relationships that share 90 cM or less.
What does longest segment mean? Sometimes, for more distant relationships, the longest segment will be longer than the amount of shared DNA. This is because we measure the longest shared segment including all unweighted DNA , while the shared DNA filters out DNA that is shared for reasons other than a recent common ancestor.
This table shows the percentage of the time people sharing 1,760 cM have the following relationships:
Den and Stacy Jones
Shared DNA: 415 cM across 14 segments
Unweighted shared DNA: 415 cM
Longest segment: 84 cM
This table shows the percentage of the time people sharing 415 cM have the following relationships:
|87%||1st cousin 1x removed|
Half 1st cousin
1st cousin 2x removed
Half 1st cousin 1x removed
I called Pauline and I could instantly feel that something was off. The tone of her voice didn’t scream excitement. I asked her how was she related to the Wright family again. She started explaining how she was related. She said I don’t think Den wants to meet Charles. She said Charles always ignored her existence as his niece and he barely said two words to her whenever they were in the same place. Pauline’s mother Annette was Charles’s older sister from their grandmother’s first marriage. I told her that it was Den’s decision if he wanted to meet his biological father and his decision alone. She apologized and agreed that it was Den’s decision.
Pauline didn’t know how to get in touch with Charles, but she said she could connect me with a family member who could possibly get in touch with Charles. Pauline said that the reason it took her so long to respond back was because the DNA test revealed a dark family secret. Pauline said the ethnicity report revealed that she wasn’t all white and that alone told her that the conversation that she had with her grandmother Betty was true.
Pauline said her grandmother Betty told her that her Uncle Charles was actually her biological father! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! She said her Uncle George’s wife also told her the same thing at the hospital the days leading up to his passing but this was not the first time her aunt told her this. The DNA results revealed to Pauline something that she wished was a lie but at the same time she knew deep down that her grandmother would never tell her a lie about something like this. Can you imagine finding out that you have a half sister who’s also your half-first cousin or finding out your uncle is your biological father and you have a half brother that was also kept a secret?
Here’s how Pauline feels in her own words:
It’s 3 in the morning and I can’t sleep thinking about everything. All my life I wanted a father, but I never really had one because my step father molested me most of my childhood and that isn’t a father. I hated my real father because he never stood up as a man to love and take care of me. As the years went by, I learned how to survive and not give a fuck who my father was and I really had given up on ever knowing who he really is.
I was told things about who he might be but I couldn’t believe that could happen or even that I was the outcome of the disaster. Here it is 50 something years later when I have pretty much given up on who my father is. I am showed who he is but again not only am I ignored and denied as his child, I am told it isn’t possible for him to be my father and it has to be someone else. I have always been pushed away to some point by most of this family. I am done. They all know of me, but no one knows me. I have tried to be a part of this family. If it’s not to ask for money, no one knows who I am. There are only a few that I talk to and that’s how it is and that’s how it will always be. I am done looking for approval or to even be loved or wanted. I have always been the outcast of this family and from the looks I always will be. I had to learn to love myself because no one else did. My life has always been hard but I made it and I am a good person and I don’t need anyone to accept me anymore. God has made me good and to know when to move on and close a chapter in my hell life.
So for all the people who think that I need them can go fuck themselves. I didn’t have this family before and I don’t have them now. It’s funny when all this happened everyone called Den to tell him how happy they were to get to know him and I get one call and it was just to get the scoop of how it was found out and why didn’t I let Charles know first before I posted it. The funny part is people ask for my number talking about how they were going to call me but till this day I haven’t gotten a call from all the good people who was going to call and check on me. Again they just wanted to make themselves look good. I am sure Den will get more calls and invites than I ever did and will because again I have never been part of the Wright family and I am not going to try to be ~ Pauline
DNA Doesn’t Lie
I listed definitions before I shared Den and Stacy’s results intentionally. I want you to have a clear understanding of how DNA works. Stacy is the daughter Stan Zurwalski and Stan is the half brother of Charles Wright Jr. Stan is from their grandmother’s first marriage. Charles is biracial. His mother was white (Betty Jane Wright) and his father was black (Charles Wright Sr.). (They’re both deceased) Den and Pauline’s DNA results should have been similar to Den’s match with Stacy. Pauline is the closest relative to Den after our son Jeremiah who also took a DNA test through Ancestry.
Betty was Betty Jane Crelin-Zurwalski before she became Betty Jane Wright. She was previously married and had 2 (?) children with her ex-husband Mr. Zurwalski. Betty was disowned by the Crelin family for her relationship with Charles Sr. She gave up her family for the sake of love.
Reaching out to Charles
I received a phone call from Charles’s niece Elora and Den’s first cousin. I connected with her instantly! We had the most heartfelt conversation. I asked her if she would reach out to her Uncle for us but I could tell she was kind of hesitant. Elora was also told by the same person that Pauline is Charles’s daughter but she agreed to give Charles a call. Elora called back a few days later after calling Charles. The response wasn’t what we were expecting. Elora said there was a long pause after she told him the reason for her call. She told him that she was giving him a heads up.
Charles said he didn’t know anything about “IT” and people will try to scam. He knew at that moment his secret was revealed. He knew that he would have to answer questions but he’s decided to pretend that Den doesn’t exist. We were told by another family member that he actually said he didn’t give a fuck. I thought, how cruel! Why would he choose not to meet his first born son? I’ve been told by several family members that he kept his family away from his own family. His children weren’t allowed to get to know their cousins. Maybe he was afraid that those skeletons would fall out of the closet one day at a relatives house.
It was time to tell my Mother-in-law
I called Dorothy, Den’s mother and told her what I found out. She said that she didn’t believe what Pauline was saying and that’s not the Charles she once knew. I said you never know who people really are. She said Charles has always known exactly where Den was because he moved to Holly Springs to be with her. We started doing the math. Dorothy had to be underaged at the time Den was conceived and Charles was in his early twenties. Dorothy said she met Charles in Maywood Illinois when she was living with her oldest sister Christine. Dorothy said she can’t believe how Charles reacted to this situation because he knows Den is his son. I find it strange that after nearly 50 years of being a closed book about Charles, now the book is wide open and being read out loud.
l told her what Den grew up believing and what I had been told. I told her that Den grew up hearing about how she sent Charles away and told him Den wasn’t his son. She said that it wasn’t true. She said that Charles left before Den was born and he returned once after Den was born to bring Den a crib and other items and when he left he never came back. The sad part to me is that two people made a baby and neither parents thought about how Den’s life could have been affected in the long run. Dorothy said that her parents wouldn’t allow her to take Den out of the state and he didn’t want to leave his grandparents but Den said he was a child and that decision should have been left up to his mother and her alone.
Here it is nearly fifty years later and my husband finds out that his half sister is his half cousin too. His biological father has chosen not to meet him because apparently he’s associating both situations as one. Den has never searched for his father, I did. It’s sad that a man in his seventy’s can’t man up and face his past. A real man doesn’t bury his problems in the sand, he faces them head on! Charles isn’t man enough to face Den and tell him why he left and never returned. He isn’t man enough to apologize to Pauline and tell her the truth. Charles Wright Jr. may be a superhero to some but he’s a coward to us! To the family members that attacked Pauline asking her why didn’t she let Charles know, how about you guys call Charles and ask him why he had a child with his sister and hid it for nearly 60 years and then after being sent away he started a relationship with an underaged girl, got her pregnant and vanished. The only person that needs to be questioned is Charles and he’s not talking. Don’t attack the victims in this situation because Den nor Pauline asked to be in this situation.
This is actually a short story! I broke this story down to the shortest version that I could. Now Den and Pauline can close this chapter in their lives. They both found out the truth and they found each other and that’s what matters the most. Thank you to the family members that reached out and welcomed Den you are greatly appreciated and we can’t wait to meet you all soon.