HEARTSTRINGS – THE COUSIN CONNECTION

She tugged at my heartstrings,

that little girl named Connie,

with chubby cheeks and dark brown eyes,

a warm smile that was Bonnie;

It was a miracle when I learned

She had found her sister, Peggy,

and the love they shared

makes me ever glad

I had helped bring the two together.

Now years have passed

But I can’t forget

that little girl named Connie,

with chubby cheeks and dark brown eyes,

and a warm smile that was Bonnie.

(For my cousins Connie & Peggy)

Sandra Lee Smith

posted January 12, 2015

THE COUSIN CONNECTION

When I was in the 5th or 6th grade at St Leo’s School in Cincinnati around 1951-52, I was at an age when most of the girls my age were off talking about boys, clothing, and lipstick during recess or lunch hour. This made me, a late bloomer, very uncomfortable, so I took it upon myself to organize circle games (Farmer in the Dell, London Bridges) with the first and second grade girls. Girls and boys played on separate playgrounds at St Leo’s.

Early on, the sweetest little girl caught my attention and my heart went out to her. I think I thought of her like a little sister. She went home for lunch and when she returned to the playground, she would break in on whose ever hand I was holding, so I would be holding HER hand. And I always let her. She was my favorite little girl.

At some point in time that year, my Grandma Beckman (my mother’s mother) was visiting us and before I left for school one morning, Grandma B pulled me aside and asked “Is there a girl named Connie Cleek at your school?”

“Why, yes!” I exclaimed “She’s one of my little girls!”

“She’s your cousin,” my grandmother responded. “She’s one of Uncle Tony’s daughters”.

Well, I knew Uncle Tony was my mother’s brother. I knew his wife had died and his children were in an orphanage. Several times a year my mother went to get his children and had them visit us for a few days. I don’t think I knew about Connie who had been adopted by another family. So, when I was in the playground that day, I asked Connie “Do you have a sister named Peggy? A sister named Josephine?” to which she replied yes, yes.

“I’m your cousin!” I cried. “Tell your mother you found your cousin!”

But Connie’s mother didn’t want her adopted daughter to be reminded of her first family—and I was too young myself to understand any of this. Connie’s mother told her I was lying. I was stunned. “No, I’m not lying! I AM your cousin!” I told Connie. “Your father was Tony and he and my mother are sister and brother. That makes us cousins.”   But after a while I began to suspect I had done something wrong – I didn’t discuss this with my mother or anyone else. But when my Beckman cousins were visiting, I told Peggy “I know your sister and I know where she lives” – and I took her to the street and pointed out the house. This was a piece of information we both kept in the back of our minds.

When Connie was old enough, Peggy had enough information – an address and an adoptive name – to find her sister. Fortunately, because the other siblings – Josephine, Jerry, and Patty, all died rather young. Peggy reunited with Connie when she knew Connie was old enough to be contacted, and decades later, through the internet, I reunited with Peggy.

In September 2011, I flew to Cincinnati for a few days and had a small reunion with Peggy, Connie, and another cousin, Renee—who has been tracing Beckman family genealogy and was instrumental in my finally locating Peggy.

“We often wondered,” Peggy mused aloud, “what the connection was – how I was able to find Connie – but it was YOU!”

Yes, I was the one. I kept the knowledge secret for so many years but when I learned that the two sisters had reunited, my joy was boundless. I knew, then, that there was a greater reason for my discovery.

Connie and I felt – God had a reason for bringing us together. I couldn’t imagine that the connection I felt with Connie, when she was a six year old little girl, was that we really were cousins. Connie now lives in Virginia. Peggy lives in Minnesota. I live in California.

We spent seven hours talking non-stop on a sunny fall day in Cincinnati, looking at old photographs and recalling old memories.

Connie and I held hands. “I want to hold your hand again” she wrote in an email to me when we were reconnected in Ohio.

The end of the story:

Constance M. Roddy(1945 – 2013)

Carrsville – Constance Marie “Connie” Roddy, 67, passed away July 1, 2013. Mrs. Roddy was born in Cincinnati, OH and was a daughter of the late Samuel and Melba Cleek. She was a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin and was retired Civil Service from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA. Survivors include her husband of 49 years, Jack Roddy; a daughter, Jennifer L. Nieves and husband Marcus of Carrsville, VA; two sons, Jeff Roddy and wife Heather of Fremont, NC and Joshua Roddy and wife Zoe of Antioch, TN; one grandson, Chance Nieves; a sister, Margaret Wierman of Minneapolis, MN. She was a military wife with her husband for 30 years, loved children and supported the American Military Missions.
A memorial service will be held at 4PM Friday, July 5, 2013 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Franklin with the Rev. Edmund Pickup, Jr. officiating. A reception will follow in the church fellowship hall. A visitation will be held from 2-4PM on Friday prior to the service at Wright Funeral Home, Franklin. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Military Missions, c/o Mrs. Sonya Hardison, 20215 Clark Circle, Zuni, VA

One thing I do believe, once I learned about Connie’s marriage and life with Jack Roddy – I think she had a more fruitful and blessed life than she might have had staying in Ohio or never being adopted. It’s been 5 years since she passed away and losing her still makes me cry.

This story may sound too incredible to believe, but it is the absolute truth, every word of it.

Sandra Lee Smith

July 14, 2018

 

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