Can’t Complain

Guest Post by Tom Benjey

“Can’t complain.  No one would listen if I did,” recalled Glen’s second son as his father’s stock response to “How’re you doing?”  Having known Glen and worked with him on Civic Association projects in our Norman Rockwell-like village and occasionally sending customers to his B&B since the late-1970s, I had heard him say that a number of times.  But when the minster said that red was the only color Glen could see due to having an unusual type of color blindness, I learned something new about him.  This seems to be happening a lot at funerals and memorial services I attend all too often these days.  This little tidbit brought into focus why his home was so garishly decorated—even for a Victorian house.  It wasn’t that he wanted to live in an 1880s brothel, red was the only color Glen could see, so he used a lot of it.  I did know that Pippie wasn’t his wife’s real name and that he gave her that name on their first date, but there was lot more about them I didn’t know.

Gertrude (Pippie’s real name) was abandoned by her parents and was raised in a convent by nuns.  At age 15, she was sent out in the world to live with an uncle and work in his dry cleaning business.  That was where Glen met her, when he was just 18.  At what was intended to be the end of their first date, Pippie was standing on her front porch probably wondering if he was going to kiss her good night when the front door flew open and her not exactly happy uncle stomped out.  He grabbed her arm and told her to get in the house saying, “You belong to me.”  Sensing that something evil could happen to Pippie, he pulled her away from the uncle and took her home with him.  His parents took her in and treated her like a daughter.  Glen gave up his bedroom and slept on the couch.  When she was 18 and he was 21 they married.  He died last week four months shy of his 80th birthday.

Late last year although ill with cancer, Glen rallied enough to take Pippie to a Christmas party.  She wore his favorite red dress to please him.  When they were dancing, Glen told Pippie that she was still the prettiest woman in the room.  She flippantly responded, “Your hearing is shot.  Now, it looks like your vision is going.”  Knowing that he was nearing the end of his run, Glen met with the minister and Pippie to discuss arrangements for his memorial service.  One of his requests was for Pippie to wear the favorite red dress to the memorial service.  Another was that she hold a reception for him in one of the picturesque buildings at a local resort that had hosted weddings, anniversaries and other important celebrations for their family—and hire a bluegrass band to entertain the guests.  Glen had few other requests as he was a man of few words.

His second son provided another example of that in his eulogy.  Some years back, he was despondent when going through a divorce to the point that he had stopped going to work and communicating with people.  His father arrived unannounced one day, walked in and sat down on the floor near his son—the soon-to-be former daughter-in-law had taken all the furniture with her—pulled out a bottle of wine, two glasses and two cigars.  They drank and smoked silently as he continued refilling the glasses until the bottle was finished and the cigars were ashes.  Then, Glen got up to leave.  Just before getting to the door, he turned and said, “Life goes on,” followed up with “Call your mother.  She’s worried about you.”

The luncheon was exactly what Glen wanted.  It was a celebration of his life attended by his friends and neighbors from this tight-knit community in everyone’s favorite at the resort the Carriage Room, a former stable repurposed years ago into a spacious but cozy dining room with a large, quarried limestone fireplace at the gable end.  The band was great—especially considering  it was booked on short notice—and played the standard bluegrass, Hank Williams and John Prine hits.  I imagined Glen smiling when they played Hey Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’?  The saddest part of the entire event was realizing how little we actually knew Glen.  This has been happening a lot lately.

 

About the author

After completing a tour of the Far East courtesy of the taxpayers in the 1960s, Tom Benjey obtained a B.S. in Mathematics on the G. I. Bill and worked in the computer field for some decades.  Along the way, he taught at the college level for a few years and earned a Ph. D. in Mathematics Education at Indiana University.  After renovating their Pennsylvania German limestone farm house, Dr. Benjey shifted to writing as a career.  His first book was Keep A-goin: the life of Lone Star Dietz.  Researching Carlisle Indian School for that book led to his second book, Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs: Jim Thorpe & Pop Warner’s Carlisle Indian School football immortals tackle socialites, bootleggers, students, moguls, prejudice, the government, ghouls, tooth decay and rum.  Health challenges last year diverted him from his current project to write Prostate Cancer and the Veteran.  Now he is back to working on a book about the Craighead Naturalists.  Dr. Benjey blogs twice weekly on topics (sometimes loosely) connected to the Carlisle Indian School football program or his books at http://www.TomBenjey.com.

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Posted on May 15, 2012, in Short Stories. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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