I am starting a new monthly series entitled, 'Heritage', in which I write about a person who has impacted my life in a positive way. Too many times those who have influenced us get lost as time goes on, but I want to keep the stories alive by sharing them. If you want to join in feel free to leave a comment with a link to your blog. I would be honored to read about your heritage and those who were part of it.
Uncle Benny was my great uncle, my grandmothers brother. He was the youngest of ten children and he grew up in East Hartford, Connecticut on a tobacco farm. Uncle Benny had special needs, I'm not exactly sure what his diagnosis was but his speech was slurred and he could not read or write. My grandmother said that he had a traumatic head injury as a child, but she was not sure what happened.
Uncle Benny was a jolly fellow, he was like a big soft teddy bear. His kindness was extended to everyone he met, not just family. My mother was a single mom and money was always tight, Uncle Benny bought our winter coats every year. Even when my sister and I moved in with our grandmother, he still bought our winter coats. He wanted to make sure that we were warm. Apparently he knew what it was like to be cold, poor, and have to wear ragged clothes and he did not want that for us. I remember vividly going to the store with him and picking out any coat I wanted. It was like Christmas! Then when we would get up to the cash register, he would sign his name on the check and have the cashier fill it out. He never appeared to be embarrassed or ashamed that he could not write, and he was not too proud to ask for help.
Every morning Uncle Benny would come to my grandmothers house and have tea and toast. Then he would drive my sister to school, he did this every day until she graduated. He would come by at least three times a week for supper and stay well into the evening. I never remember my grandmother getting annoyed or even saying she was too busy, she would patiently serve and talk to him.
Uncle Benny loved to hear about our life. He was truly interested in what we were learning, who our friends were, where we were going, and what were doing. I never felt like I was talking to an adult who was asking for information to be kind, but really didn't care. He looked me in the eye and let me know I was important and what I had to say was important.
He had an overwhelming love for the Lord, and he was honestly my first example of a life well lived. He was Catholic and he attended Mass every morning and he blessed himself every time he went by a Catholic Church. I know that some Christians believe you cannot be a Catholic and be saved, but I totally disagree. Uncle Benny had a child like faith, that was pure and simple. He believed, he accepted, and he walked out his faith.
After I got married and moved away, I didn't see Uncle Benny as much. When I did the visits were all too short, but they were filled with much talk and laughter. He only got to see two of my children and when he saw them he picked them up ever so gingerly.
In 1994 Uncle Benny died from an embolism in his leg. I remember my mother calling and telling me, even though he was in his 70's it was a huge loss for the family. Today I recall stories of Uncle Benny, who he was, what he did, and how he was the first person to really show the love of Christ to me. I want to remember to pass on the stories, so that way the next generations will know about him as well.