Some of you may have heard this story. True story.
It starts with a 5th grader at St. Leo’s (me) and my discomfort hanging around the fifth grade girls who sat outside on the steps during recess and lunchtime talking about boys, makeup and getting their periods. It could have been Greek where I was concerned–so I did what I was comfortable doing; I herded together the first and second grade girls to play circle games (like Farmer in the Dell). There was a little chubby-cheeked first grader who stole my heart; she was like a little sister. She went home for lunch but when she got back, she would take my hand away from whoever was holding one of them – and it was ok, because all the little girls knew I loved Connie. She was my favorite.
At some point in time, my Grandma Beckman came to visit and one day when I was about to leave for school she asked me if I knew a little girl named Connie C. “Why yes!” I exclaimed “Connie is one of my little girls!”
“She’s your cousin” my grandmother said.
I didn’t know the story at that time – There had been 5 Beckman children born to my Uncle Tony, one of my mother’s brothers. Their mother died in an accident and their father, suffering from battle fatigue (from serving in World War II) that led to alcoholism, couldn’t care for them. They were being raised in an orphanage in Cincinnati; my mother would go get them for some holidays or during summer vacation. the youngest child, Connie, was put up for adoption. I never knew her.
I told Connie she was my cousin (adoption notwithstanding) and, innocently, told her she should tell her mother–I thought it was wonderful that she was my cousin. We walked around the school building telling the nuns she was my cousin. Connie’s mother told her I was lying and I began to wonder if I had done something wrong. I guess in time I stopped taking charge of the little girls and after graduating from St Leo’s, I lost contact with Connie even though her family lived right up the street from my sister Becky, on Trevor.
Once when my mother brought the Beckman cousins home for a holiday, I told Peggy – who was my age — that I knew where her sister lived and we walked over to Trevor Street so I could show the house to her.
Time passed and I lost contact with my cousin Peggy, who was living a really rough life for a teenager. She was living on her own by the time she was 15 and letters to and from each other stopped. Throughout my life, I never forgot Connie and was burdened with the guilt of having been the person who told her about a life her adoptive parents wanted her to forget. It always weighed heavily on my mind.
More years went by. My cousin (our cousin) Renee began getting into geneology and began tracking the Beckman family. Her mother and mine had been sisters–two sisters who married two best friends. There came a time- maybe 10 or 12 years ago–when someone emailed Renee asking about the Beckman family. She had a friend, she wrote, who was a Beckman. That friend was Peggy (now being called Margie). Renee responded but didn’t hear from the woman again. Then my curiosity was piqued–and I wrote to this woman, sending photographs and telling her I believed that her friend was my cousin Peggy. And so a broken thread was repaired.
But unbeknownst to me, when Connie turned 18, Peggy contacted her and the two sisters were reunited. They sometimes wondered how they managed to become reunited. Their other siblings, three of them, passed away at early ages. Now there were just the two sisters.
In September, 2011, just after Bob passed away, I flew to Cincinnati to meet with three of my cousins – Renee, Peggy, – and Connie. The two sisters had reunited and sometimes visited Cincinnati to see their mother’s sisters. We shared photographs and talked a mile a minute and took pictures of ourselves – they both said they couldn’t ever remember what the connection was, how they knew how to find each other. “YOU!” Peggy said, “YOU were the connection!”. I don’t think I was the connection. I think God was. He wanted those sisters to find each other.
Out of all the pictures we took that day, there is one special one, of me and Connie holding hands. That is what she remembers most about our meeting at St. Leo’s – she always wanted to hold my hand. And I always wanted to hold hers.
Well, Connie married and has a loving husband and children but as I write this, she is in a hospital in Virginia suffering from a heart condition. I can’t imagine Peggy not having Connie in her life. I can’t imagine me not having Connie in my life, either–not after so many years of not knowing.
I want to hold her hand again.
UPDATE: June 1, 2013 THIS JUST RECEIVED FROM MY COUSIN, PEGGY, CONNIE’S SISTER. JACK IS CONNIE’S HUSAND:
Today the doctors informed Jack that Connie had several strokes, and one massive one. There is no brain activity. As soon as all the children are assembled in Norfolk, they will take her off life support. There is no further information at this time regarding services, etc. Connie is an organ donor. I will send you and e mail when I know more. I will be leaving for Virginia as soon as I get the news from my niece Jenny about arrangements. Thank you for your prayers and please continue them for the family.