Web Site: Patricia C. Behnke
The Stranger Sitting Next to Me Just Might Have my Back
My father’s family criticized my parents when they had a fourth and then a fifth child, despite dire financial straits as a result of my father’s loss of a job.
One of my aunts — my father’s sister — even offered to adopt my second oldest brother. She thought her offer generous; my mother thought her offer rude. My brother stayed with us.
When my father died in 1981, five children and six grandchildren rallied around my mother, and my aunts and uncles understood the value of my parents' choices.
“I never understood your father,” my uncle said. “He never cared about money, but look at all of his riches.” My uncle swept his arm around the reception after my father’s funeral.
So many people have come into my life by accident. Some I know immediately are there for some purpose, whether I like it or not. With others it takes the perspective of time to realize their importance.
“I know you have come into my life for a reason,” a friend told me recently. “I don’t know what that reason is, but I felt it the moment I met you.”
We have only known each other two years. This fresh, new friendship has allowed me to see myself with fresh, new eyes. She never knew me as a married woman and mother, which seems odd to me since for half my life if someone asked me to identify myself with tags those would be my leads.
Not any longer. My life has taken so many twists and turns in the last five years that I feel like a mountain road on some days.
Me, who for 25 years had the same address and phone number; for nearly two decades worked the same job; and through all of that time lived with the same people.
I turned my life upside down, and I think it is just now that I am coming to terms with it all. And as the dust settles, and I move into my second year living on the coast, I look around and am grateful to those who have accepted my new life and I am grateful to those who have entered my new life for whatever purpose. Those who disappeared in the mists have gone their way into their own clouds of dust and journeys, and we all served a purpose for one another.
I saw a man recently who I have not seen in eight years, but I talk about him often when giving speeches about becoming a freelance writer. I told him the impact he had on my life because he is the one who told a group of us if we wanted to write we just needed to do it and stop talking about it.
Others may have been offended, but I went home and began working on my first novel. He had no idea his words spoken in frustration spoke volumes — quite literally — to me. Within a year I had not only finished the novel, but I became a full-fledged writer.
The aunts and uncles who thought my parents should have stopped having children after two as planned could never have predicted what happened later in their lives. Two of the aunts moved to Florida, as did the uncle. The uncle died leaving his sister in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and his wife weak with palsy in an assisted living facility. No other family lived nearby — except for my parent’s fifth and final child: Me.
I ended up caring for those aunts in their final days, which lasted from 1993 to 1997. I protected them and watched over their money so they could live in the best facilities possible.
I, who they thought should never have been born, became the person they all depended upon in the end.
I wander through my days fully aware that I may be sitting next to someone who might change or save my life one day. §
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|Reviewed by LadyJtalks LadyJzTalkZone
|A wonderful write and so much heart of yours there. You do never know. Good write here. Lady J|
|Reviewed by Richard Orey
|O, my, Patricia, what a wonderful and stirring story, all the more so because it came not from your imagination but from the reality of your own life.
I am reminded of my Aunt Maxine. She lived alone in a small house in a little town in Oregon, all by herself from 1938 to 2003. Her choice. I hadn't seen her for fifty years, though I talked with her by telephone two or three times a year. One day I sensed things had changed for the worse for her. Believing she might need some assistance, I traveled nearly a thousand miles to visit her and found her suffering from cancer with only weeks to live. On the bed she had not risen from for eight years, she clutched me, sobbing her gratitude that I had come to see her when she was sure that even God had forsaken her.
On my Den site under the poem Be Still and Hear My Voice, there is a picture of me coming in from an early morning lake-paddle in my bright red canoe named Mickey II. "Mickey" was the childhood name of my dear aunt. The woman I thought was destitute and needing help died, leaving me an astounding inheritance. When she was alive, I went to visit her. In her passing, I remember her now by naming my little boat in her honor.
This event was the lead story on the front page of the newspaper in Salem, Oregon, complete with pictures and bold captions.
What drew me to her is because I heard the admonition: Be Still and Hear My Voice. I did and I acted upon it. And that's what generated my poem.
Patricia, in your attention and care for your aunts in their final days, I believe you were indeed a messenger from God, just as I believe that I was in coming to visit my lonely and dying aunt.
As I explained in my review of your short story Acts of Kindness, God works one person at a time. I suggested one reader at a time visit a nursing home and a lonely, forgotten person there. And I believe such an act of kindness does not go unnoticed by God.
Your acts of kindness have not gone unnoticed, Patricia. Bless you.
And bless you for bringing us this wonderful, personal story from your own life. Kindness is its own reward.