As 2013 comes to a close I’m not much different from most in wanting to reflect on what I’ve learned over the last year and what I would love to do better in the coming year. I know that as I approach the memorial service for my mom and dad in a week that it isn’t easy to know how to express a big thanks for lives lived well that have impacted many lives, mine included. It is sad to think that many won’t really understand what they had in a spouse, parent or sibling until they are gone. I’m blessed to have had two amazing parents who each in their own separate and very different ways made me who I am today.
Yes, I admit that it is rather painful and teary eyed to actually sit down and put pen to paper or actually finger to keyboard to list the many traits and experiences that have shaped my life through my mom and dad. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to appreciate and better understand a person’s choices in life. I will attempt in a few paragraphs to share the life lessons both my parents have given to my brothers, my family and me. I again can’t fathom expressing in a short blog the life story of the two that brought me into the world, walked with me in my youth, guided me in my adolescence and then supported me through marriage, adulthood and parenting over the last 60 years of my life.
My mom, born Bernice, but known as Peggy, was your go-getter military officer’s wife who understood the dynamic of always moving and having a husband always in harm’s way. I got use to my mom’s tactic of taking us around our new neighborhood and imposing us on our neighbors. I never lacked for friends and in the bigger context I learned quickly how to adjust to new circumstances. My mom was someone who spoke her mind, was always quick to help anyone in need, didn’t make excuses and didn’t tolerate anyone who didn’t say thanks. I never really understood some of my mom’s issues until after she died. She was one who could face any pain she experienced, the worst with her chemo, and use it as a positive life lesson. My mom taught me how to be a people person that loved God and was a willing servant leader.
My dad was the by product of a broken home where he in many ways got the leftovers but you would never know that from how he chose to live. My dad went out of his way to never allow his past to determine his future. I know that at a young age he had envisioned his path to be in the Air Force, which would be his opportunity to see the world, do college and raise a family. My mom and dad were both raised around the race wars in the 50’s & 60’s but never allowed this to bias their thinking that all people should be treated equally. My dad, very different from my mom, was a bookworm that had a penchant for collecting books. One of the ongoing wars between my parents was what to do with all of dad’s books every time we moved. It was my dad who gave me a passion for learning, education and music. My dad would seldom share much of his youth with me so it wasn’t until after my mom’s death that he opened up more about his youth with the stark reality that he pursued his athletic goals, which got him into college and eventually into the Air Force to be away from painful memories.
I admit that my dad was always great at starting projects but for some reason got sidetracked when it came to finishing in a timely fashion. (I have to be honest in that a good portion of my youth my dad was away on missions for months at a time.) This would drive my mom crazy at times but ultimately he would finish. I have great memories of us building a Vox Combo Organ together that had numerous circuit boards that each had to have different diodes soldered into place. This became the hit of my rock band, which my dad seemed to secretly love whether or not our decibel level was ear splitting. My parents were both very generous and quick to help out with finances or special needs. They were the perfect grandparents who knew how to be there and do babysitting but also knew how to draw boundaries so we didn’t take advantage of them.
The end of anyone’s life usually isn’t, as one would expect. I never fathomed that my mom would battle cancer for 10 years and suffer the last 2 years in a way that hurt me as I watched her suffer. I’m thankful for my dad’s incredible care of his lady over this period of time. I’m thankful that my mom was able to attend my brother’s graduation when he received his PhD in Santa Barbara. I had a sense as my mom’s life was coming to an end that my dad had memory loss issues. Here was someone that had flown literally all over the world and never gotten lost but now has issues with getting back from the Dominos Pizza around the corner. I’m blessed to have been my dad’s special friend the last 3 years of his life. Little did I know or understand how gentle, sweet and kind my dad really was as a person. Yes, he was an officer at heart who demanded respect but one that would go out of his way to help.
The picture I remember best of my mom and dad is them together just after they got married with my dad in his military best and my mom dressed to the max with pearl earrings and a pearl necklace. Words will never express the gratitude I have towards two of the most amazing people that understood grace and forgiveness that have impacted my life and those around me. I love you mom and dad! I miss not having you around to cook dinner, clean up or have grandpa recite another poem that he had memorized. My life will never be the same because of Ed and Peggy Bennett.