Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dear Readers ...

As you might well guess, thoughts on Father's Day lead me back to remembrances of Ben Z'L who was the very first person in all the world to call me "daddy"! I should also like to point out that my son Zac and his sister Kimberly joined me for dinner tonight at my home and presented me with a special Three Stooges DVD 8 pack and two fine cigars.

By now faithful readers of Ben's story should have a truer sense of the inner strength of Ben. He was most assuredly a "gibor"-a person characterized not solely by physical strength as much as an enduring inner constitutional fiber that enables one such as Ben to overcome adversity not merely once, twice, thrice but repeatedly throughout the length of his days.

Please if you will take a few minutes to read these two related chapters, they will, I hope, at the very least remind you to hug your first born and call your dad before it's too late.

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For Ben ... as always

My mind’s eye can still see the pole-vaulting pit on the athletic field of West Ladue Junior High where I attended the seventh-grade thirty-nine years ago. As a boy I'd look up at the height of the bar and I remember feeling awestruck that someone of my age could possess the requisite qualities of focus, daring and strength to overcome such a formidable height.

That memory has proven itself invaluable to me throughout the years whenever I incorporated its lesson into both my teaching and parenting-not only with Ben but my two other children, Kimberly and Zac, as well. My teaching, however, began with Ben-my first student as it were-to whom I would often say:

"Raise up the bar, son! Never lower it!"

It was always my hope that that reminder would inspire and enable him to overcome his many personal challenges: to reach in, out and beyond.

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Reaching in ...

Ben's physical strength was awesome, but it is not that to which I refer here but rather to his “inner strength”, his strength of character.

However, as an aside, if ever he skated toward you at full speed as he once did for me as I stood watching just outside the entranceway onto the ice, I gleaned a fairly good appreciation for what it must feel like to stand in front of an oncoming train! A fabulous ice skater, Ben worked as an "ice guard" for a winter's season at the park district’s ice rink-and whose responsibility was to monitor the safety of the kids on the ice during open skating, picking up the little ones who had fallen and setting them aright.

My indecision …

Ben's personal strength of character remarkably manifested itself following the surgical repair of his infected appendectomy. Soon released from the hospital with a surgical wound deliberately un-sutured, Ben, in order to insure that the wound would heal properly, had to fully pack it twice daily with cotton gauze, tape it shut and maintain the sanitary hygiene of the entire site. He continued having to do this on a daily basis for several weeks.

There was one occasion when I sat across from him in his bedroom and watched him do this self-procedure, but within moments I became so overwhelmed that the choice whether to laugh or cry left me indecisive. I compromised with myself by laughing through my tears of joy!

As crucial for the pole-vaulter as both strength and technical skill are, he, much like Ben, must possess, an inner strength that fills him with a passionate desire to vault formidable heights with ease and grace.

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