In October 2010 on October 6, 2010 at 1:25 am

The Meeting

Claire Beck

Doberman Mix – Male, neutered, shots, excellent with kids and other dogs. 815-555-12XX.

He turned the page and wished he’d brought something to read. He got to the café a lot earlier than expected, so on an impulse he bought the local paper. Now he’d been here for over an hour and was reduced to reading the classifieds.

Jeremy travelled the 900 miles from Ossining, New York to Woodstock, Illinois to meet his birth father. He’d found him through Facebook and they’d been chatting online for about a year. It took all of that time to convince Steve to meet him face to face. Now Jeremy worried that he’d changed his mind and the long drive was for nothing.

Wanted: Portable dishwasher. Lake in the Hills area. 847-555-67XX.

Jeremy was raised by his mother. To her credit, she never said anything negative about his father. “It was the sixties,” she’d say, “and you were my love child.” That statement would often be delivered with a smile and followed by a squeeze and a kiss.

They’d met during a demonstration in 1962. The occasion was the opening of Indian Point reactor number 1 in Buchanan, New York. Sarah was 18. She and a small group of friends made the trip out to Buchanan in a beat up van with orange shag carpeting on the floor and the distinct smell of spilled bong water. At the rally, the van rolled along slowly at the back of the march. Footsore protesters took turns riding in the back. One such person was a 25-year-old carpenter named Steve Campbell – Jeremy’s dad.

They had a brief encounter the night of the rally and never saw each other again. When Sarah realized she was pregnant she had no way of contacting Steve.

Jeremy’s childhood was shaped by the many rallies and concerts he attended with his mother. At sixteen, he attended the No Nukes concert in Battery Park – the first concert his mother let him go to without her – and only if he agreed to get at least one hundred signatures on a petition to shut down Indian Point reactors 2 and 3 (reactor 1 was shut down five years earlier). Jeremy couldn’t help but look earnestly in the faces of the older attendees, searching for the slightest family resemblance.

His father was everywhere and nowhere. On every birthday, Jeremy would wonder what his father was like and how things would have been with two parents. He felt sorrow and anger in turns and jealousy when his friends talked about doing things with their dads. Father’s Day was another day of heavy thought.

At 46, Jeremy joined Facebook and was noodling around, looking for friends from high school. He typed in Steve’s name and got ten matches. Some had pictures and some didn’t. He narrowed it down to three and reached out to them with an exploratory query. His Steve responded.

Now Steve was half an hour late and Jeremy was almost out of newspaper. He turned to the obituaries, which went nicely with the growing lump in his throat. He found it mid-way down the left column.

Steven C. Campbell

Steven C. Campbell, 75, died Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010, at his farm in Woodstock, Illinois.

He was born Sept. 16, 1937, in New York.

Survivors include two daughters, Nicole A. Campbell and Samantha J. (Campbell) Walker.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Lynne J. (Parker) Campbell.

A memorial service will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Levy & Carter Funeral Home, Woodstock.

He wondered what the C was for. Charles? Conner?

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