Saturday, October 22, 2005

Like Father ... Like Son

My favorite time to reflect upon things is in the wee hours of the morning when all is still, when you can gaze out the window just close enough to touch a berry tree branch being gently tossed about in the dark breeze, when you can see a cloud passing before a brightly lit moon, see the "red-eye" flights making their way through the early morning sky, when ... it invariably happens-in these wonderfully serene moments-that my thoughts turn to Ben-and I recall how amazingly much he was like me ... for better or worse.

Ben was already in his late teens or very early twenties when he and I started spending time ... smoking cigars together! Yes ... smoking cigars! Allow me to explain ... as much as I knew that Ben needed cigar smoking like a 'loch in kup' (hole in the head) or I for that matter, I rationalized it away by saying: "Well, after all, it is time spent TOGETHER!" In those days, my primary objective was to pursue 'togetherness' with Ben. He was, after all, quite realistically way too old for me to change; the hour was late and somehow, someway I just knew that. It had always been thus but as a young adult, Ben was ... well, like the rest of us, pretty much set in his ways. There was yet another dimension to this phase of our relationship; something else that I did back then; in an attempt, I suppose, to involve myself in those very activities that Ben liked so much of which I so adamantly disapproved: smoking and hanging out in unsavory places, such as the local cigar den. Now, truth be told, I too had smoked as a boy and young man and-in fact-I even recall two incidents when I deliberately hid cigarettes and lied to my mother about smoking.

As a matter of fact, Ben had been smoking since his mid-teens and, as his mom and I discovered, there was simply no way that we could stop him. On one occasion when we found cigarettes in his room, it was out of sheer frustration and fatigue that we asked him from whom he had acquired them. Ironically numbing was his response that the cigarettes, packaged as a "gift pack", had been bought by a friend. When further probed from whom the "gift" had been purchased, we learned that the corner gas station was the culprit whereupon Ben's mom and I strode over, "gift" in hand! The hapless attendant behind the counter was aghast as I rather violently shoved the 'gift pack" under and through the little change space, scraping the skin off my knuckles in the process! Imagine! Here we were with a chronically sick son and my "neighbor" was selling cigarettes to kids under age!

Looking back though, I cannot honestly be angry with Ben for smoking as he was so frightfully a copy of me. Toward the end of Ben's twenty-two years, when I was pretty much reconciled with all that had befallen him, when- I guess one could truthfully say- I had given up the fight against an unalterable reality. Bottom line ... I wanted to be with Ben where he chose to be; I could then say-though I might have disapproved of his choice-it was done under my parental supervision-not unlike monitoring the tv programs that your children are watching or filtering the type of internet content that comes into your home. So that is where we ended up perhaps twice a week; he and I ... playing pocket billiards and smoking fine cigars in the local cigar den-the kind of place where one doesn't ever see any mothers but on occasion an errant but well-meaning father or two.

Ben so very much liked wearing an English style cap as he chalked up his cue, looking for that next shot, whilst both he and I puffed away contentedly. When I looked at him, I saw a young man to whom life had not been so kind! Might he have been dealt a worse hand? Yes! Of course! So noteworthy is what I believe to have been Ben's most admirable quality ... the sheer depth of zeal with which he lived his life, as only he chose-by which I mean ... much like my feelings about him- Ben had come to terms with himself, and just maybe it was that acceptance, that shared acceptance which knit us so closely together


chuck said...

My 93 y.o. MOM and I really enjoyed your

She says, "Tell him I enjoyed the sharing." Me, too.

Jan said...

Alan..I can't tell you how much I love these little "glimpses" into your life with Ben...they are precious!

Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Chuck,

Many thanks to you and your mom for your kind words. I appreciate both your time and interest.



Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Jan,

I am very flattered that you like them so much. Thank you!



With Love said...

Yes, every memory of every moment you spent with Ben is indeed precious - even if you were being "naughty" together. May these memories continue to light up your life and help you hold Ben in your heart. The love the two of your shared is his most lasting legacy.

Chag Sameach and final G'mar Chatimah Tovah,