The Story of Ben was updated on 8.15.21
Do you go out of your way to show your significant other you care? Do you demonstrate how much you appreciate your love? And do you celebrate good things when they happen? Are you supportive when things are going right? Do you show appreciation every day by doing little things? If you apply this great saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” then you are a person who knows how to celebrate your relationships.
There are so many types of love. Long-lasting love for a mate, motherly love for one’s child, universal love of country, wholesome love for girlfriends, material love for one’s possessions, self-love, and May and December love…
The Pond, The Koi, and Ben
Fast forward a few days ago I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory. I had been looking forward to this outing for over a month because I wanted to see a permanent glass exhibit by the famous glass artist, Dale Chihuly (called Persian Pool), as well as spending an afternoon in the huge conservatory that had magnificent vegetation from around the world. I had no idea the Chihuly exhibit would be floating in a kidney-shaped pond with Koi fish dancing in rhythm. The pond was framed by stunning vegetation. I sat down on the wood bench in front of the small pond to admire Chihuly’s work. Out of nowhere, my mind drifted back to loving and sad memories of my past life in Honolulu, Hawaii.
In those memories several years ago, I was in the ‘spring’ of my life when I met a man named Ben, who was in the ‘winter’ of his life.
The pond I sat staring at reminded me of the pond and Koi fish I looked down on from my 4th-floor lani. The scene also reminded me of Ben because he lived in the same building and played an important role in my life.
This is the story of Ben…
Different Expressions of Love
I have deeply loved four men in my life, my father, two husbands, and a man named Ben. As I look back on his life, I believe Ben’s greatest joys were his books, his dog, and me.
Our family had just moved to Honolulu. Wanting to meet people, my husband and I decided to attend a large charity affair. Who did I meet? A man named Ben. His impact on my life rests in the depth of my soul and my heart knows our meeting was not an accident.
He was tall, lean, and grey-bearded. His speech was clipped with an air of authority. When people mentioned his name, it was always accompanied by, “Did you hear what Ben had to say lately?” He was a maverick. His gait had a purpose. Ben oozed with drive. He looked like the Russian czar, Lenin. He had been a labor attorney in Washington. His brilliant mind was his strength. He was not held hostage by conventions. He lived his life as he saw fit; never succumbing to the pressure of others. Ben was his own man. That was his essence. And that was a great lesson he taught me.
He moved to Honolulu because of his wife Esther’s health. He had no children. Ben was a law professor at the University of Hawaii until he opened his own private labor law practice. He was an avid reader, an exercise buff, he was a man for all seasons.
During cocktail hour at the affair, we happened to be standing next to one another.
The Conversation That Started It All
Ben uttered, “I have not seen you before.”
“My family and I just moved to Honolulu,” I said.
“Where are you living?”
“On Kahala Ave.”
“I live on the same street and walk past your home every day. I do a four-mile walk to stay fit.”
“Oh, I have just started walking in the last few weeks.”
“Would you like to walk together?” he asked.
“Meet you tomorrow in front of your home at 6:00 a.m.?”
And that was the beginning of a deep love. I forgot to mention–I was in my thirties. Ben was in his sixties.
For the next ten years, Ben and I walked every day unless one of us happened to be off of the island. Ben was my teacher and my advisor. He made me laugh and think and he exposed my mind to important issues. Our family became Ben’s family. We all loved Ben. And Ben loved us.
As The Years Went By…..
Several years later I had two big emotional shocks: my late husband, Michael, died instantly of a massive heart attack. And Ben told me, “I am in love with you!”
When Michael passed away, Ben never left my side. He handled the estate. He attended to all my family’s needs. And, he advised me.
And then a few months later on our daily walk, Ben turned to me and said, “If Esther passes away, I am going to pursue you! I am in love with you.” I stopped dead in my tracks and looked him in the eye and said, “I love you too but in a different way. If I were older or you were younger, I would never pass by a catch like you, Ben. And I am honored you feel as you do.” At this time I was 45 and Ben was 76.
Love Has Responsibilities
Esther was sick and passed away and as a result, Ben was alone. At that time I had made the decision to move with my daughters back to Illinois to be close to family. Naturally, I asked Ben to come with us. We would be his family.
Ben said, “No, it is too late in the game. The Chicago weather will be hard on me and my roots are embedded in Honolulu.”
So with that darling, I made up my mind…I would find Ben a wife because I could not bear to leave him alone at his age on the island.
When You Seek, You Will Find
One afternoon, I was standing in a long line at the local drug store. A woman I casually knew was in front of me.
“Hi Frieda,” I said. “How are you?”
“Not great,” she replied.
“What happened?” I asked.
“My husband died a few months ago!”
Well, darling, a light bulb went off! I was intrigued because she would make the perfect wife for “my Ben!” Her husband had been a professor at the University of Hawaii. She had a great personality and was smart. Ben needed someone smart.
“Frieda, I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but would you be interested in going out with Ben?”
“Oh yes,” she said and her face lit up in a huge smile. My face lit up, too, and I felt my little heart go pitter-patter.
Ben and Frieda
I set up their first date. Ben did not want to go. Frieda couldn’t wait; he was a catch. I knew Ben would not be easy to hook. He had to be caught! And, I knew Frieda would persist. Ben didn’t stand a chance.
On our walk a few months later Ben said, “Since I cannot marry you, I will marry Frieda.” We both laughed, hooked our arms together, and continued our walk. I was so happy for a thousand reasons.
They had a black-tie wedding at the Kahala Hilton Hotel, in the same ballroom Ben and I had met eleven years earlier! “Full circle,” I thought to myself. I had just married my Ultimate Concierge, Sheldon Good, and we flew to Honolulu for their wedding.
For the next several years Ben and I saw each other every year. He and Frieda came to the mainland. Shelly and I flew to Hawaii. Ben and I continued our walks and our talks. As the years went by, his pace became slower. His balance was faltering so we now walked arm and arm. He loved that! So did I.
And then one day, I received a call from a friend telling me Ben was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Frieda had put him in a home. I was devastated. I had to visit “my Ben.” Shelly and I flew to Hawaii. That is love.
My Last Visit With Ben
We walked into his room and he was sitting in a chair. On his food tray were The Wall Street Journal, scattered papers, and a small pile of books. Ben was still trying to be Ben. That was his essence.
The nurse had dressed him in his wedding aloha white shirt, with a maile lei around his neck, prior to our arrival. I rushed up to him and hugged him. There was little recognition. Tears poured down my face.
Then Shelly said, “Ben, it’s Suzi!” Ben replied, “I don’t think I know her but I sure would like to!” I knew deep within him, he knew it was his Suzi. Uncontrollable tears washed my face because I knew this would be our final goodbye. I would not see Ben again. There were no words to describe my feeling of loss. To this day I miss my Ben. However, his lasting gift to me is my loving memories.