In an idle moment this morning, I went searching for names from my past. I didn’t expect what I found.
I served with Connie’s dad in the Philippines in 1966. He was my Communications Officer at the San Miguel Naval Communications Station. I was a Marine on Temporary Assigned Duty from Viet Nam to learn how to service some new electronic equipment that we were supposed to get but never did.
Connie was his 14 year old daughter, living on the base as a Naval dependent. I’m not sure how, but Connie and I became fast friends. Her real name was Connie Jean, but she hated it, so I called her Constance. Outside of work hours, we were near-constant companions for the duration of my TAD. We stayed in touch when I went back to ‘Nam, and after our separate returns to CONUS. I visited her in the D.C. area in the summer of 1967, and she came up to Maine in 1972 (I think) while on a winter break from school. We maintained sporadic contact over the years, and if there were lapses, it was because I was never very good at staying in touch with people. One December in the mid-’90s I finally sent her a bunch of birthday letters I owed her and wrote something like, “There, I’m all caught up.”
I never heard from her again. She had told me about the botched surgery and HIV-infected transfusion, but I kept hoping that she was just pissed at me for missing so many birthdays. Despite never being able to find her through directory assistance or internet search engines, I always expected to see her again someday, or pick up the phone and hear her voice, or get a birthday letter from her. She was a Constant in my life, a small part of me, even though I hadn’t heard from her in over a decade and a half. This morning I learned that I’ll have to wait for the next life to see her again. But that wasn’t the unexpected thing I found; that was just confirmation of what I suspected was the case.
Here’s the unexpected thing I found this morning: emotion. Nearing the end of my seventh decade on this planet, I’ve had a lot of people circulate through my life. Family, a lot of friends, a lot of acquaintances, some enemies. A bunch of them have died. I can’t recall feeling much when they departed, including my mother and father. Connie’s loss makes me feel sad. I’ve had friends and family die of drug and alcohol abuse; I’ve had friends and family die from accidents and bodies that have run down; I’ve had friends die from the aftereffects of Viet Nam, and the aftereffects of the aftereffects of Viet Nam. This is the one that got past my armor, and I don’t know why. I guess the not knowing is why I had to write this out. It’s disjointed and doesn’t do her memory justice, but it’s what my feeble brain can produce.
I’m seventeen years late with this: Goodbye, Constance. Godspeed.