Family together for the first time
Living nearly 40 years with a hole in his heart took a toll on Jody Hudson.
Sure, Hudson, now 44 and a Grand Junction Fire Department firefighter and paramedic, looks back on his childhood fondly and loves his wife and children dearly, but Hudson spent most of his life longing to meet, hug and talk to the siblings he knew he had but could never touch.
All that changed this week at the Hudson family ranch in Mack.
For the past several days, Hudson, the eldest of six, has been nothing but smiles as three of his sisters have joined him for a family reunion decades in the making.
The other two siblings, a sister and brother, didn’t come, but Hudson has talked to his brother. His sister hasn’t responded to emails.
The four siblings in town this week are overwhelmed that they are finally reunited in one place for the Fourth of July. It’s been a week of laughter, joking, tears and love.
“I’ve always had this empty hole,” Hudson said.
The story of how the six children ended up thousands of miles apart and out-of-touch for decades is complicated. Their biological mother, Bobby Diane, led a troubled life and gave most of her children up, starting with Jody.
He was adopted as a young boy by Bobby Diane’s father, Robert L. Hudson, and stepmother, Jodi Hudson, technically Jody’s grandparents.
He calls them his parents — Robert died in 2009 — but he has always been aware of the situation with his mother and that he had siblings. He just couldn’t reach out to anyone first because names and Social Security numbers changed and adoption papers can only be unsealed by the adoptee.
His sisters Jennifer B. Marconi, 41, and Amanda Hyskell, 34, have different stories. Jennifer, whose given name was Billy Joy, knew of no siblings on her mother’s side until she was in her 20s. It took having children to grasp the importance of family.
Amanda didn’t know anything about her biological mother until last year, and that’s where the pieces to this reunion puzzle begin to fall into place.
At the encouragement of her husband, Bradley Hyskell, Amanda contacted the state of Kansas to get paperwork for a search. All she had were names off adoption papers, but it was a start.
Amanda didn’t file the paperwork right away, telling herself, “I’m not ready,” she said. “It sat in a drawer for a while.”
She eventually finished it, and the state notified her months later it had found the obituary for her maternal grandfather, a Robert L. Hudson, in The Daily Sentinel.
Jody got a letter in 2013 from the state of Kansas. It was vague but the wording gave him a sense a sibling was looking for information about the family.
Phone calls were made. Internet searches were on. Jody’s wife, Tracey Hudson, said she stayed up for hours digging up anything she could find.
Fast forward to this week, where the siblings could be a family for the first time. There’s already talk of the next get-together.
Joining Jody, Jennifer and Amanda this week is Chelsea Roberts, 24, the youngest of the six, and the only child Bobby Diane kept. Chelsea also was the one who buried their mother.
That news hit Amanda the hardest. She holds regret that she didn’t seek out her biological mother sooner. She may have met her. She would have found her siblings sooner. All her life she’s wanted a family with love. Her adopted families didn’t fill the void. It brings tears to her eyes, but her sisters stop her crying.
Chelsea paraphrases Job 1:21 “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.”
Their mother was taken but a family has been given, Jennifer reminds Amanda.
“We’ve just really tried to feel each other out and get to know each other,” Jennifer said.
“As the days have gone by, I feel like I belong,” Amanda said. “They are the missing piece. Now, I know who I am.”