people watching a horse race

Brother and Bestie of my Mom

Above: Probably my favorite picture of my Uncle Ben: Watching the Horses Run, Florida, 1968

It’s a tad awkward to choose between my uncle and my dad for whom I ultimately believe was my mom’s best friend. Still, I don’t think my dad would begrudge us this one: my mother’s brother Ben was one of the most influential and beloved persons in her long life. Today, he would have been 99 years old.

His sense of humor was both quick and, at the same time, completely accessible to a child. I won’t say that I really understood why his neighbor built an outhouse in his garage one Christmas Eve, but I knew it was funny.

That’s just one of a herd of unforgettable experiences that taught me, wordlessly, that I was a part of a very special family. I can still smell the clean laundry and see the perfect den of that house in Norfolk, Virginia. I can hear the resonating bass of the console TV and feel the new upholstery that enveloped me. I can taste the Charles Chips that were always on the wet bar in the corner by the piano. A wonderful, happy place to remember.

We looked forward to leaving the brutal cold of Northern Virginia for the tropical warmth of the Tidewater region. Just kidding. Pictured: Ruby shoveling snow.
Ben Massenburg checking out the gag gift in his garage with neighbor Jake Saunders.
The beloved house on Pallister Road in Norfolk. They never fenced in the yard. That says so much about my Aunt Margie and Uncle Ben. Anyone–and any dog–was welcome to drop by.