my visit with ben

“How’s Ben?” my brother will ask during one of our occasional coast-to-coast conversations. “I don’t know; as long as I see him on Facebook I assume he’s OK,” is my usual response. If it isn’t near Mothers Day or my birthday, I probably haven’t heard from Ben in several months. My answer doesn’t surprise my brother anymore because he’s long past worrying that my son and I are estranged. Clearly, I’m content with this arrangement, since I don’t call him either! We had, however, exchanged a few planning e-mails, so after my class reunion in Illinois I motored up to Michigan to soak in some “quality time” with my dear Ben.

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The directive voice in my phone’s GPS navigation app led me easily to his downtown Grand Rapids condo, part of this restored apartment building.

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I wonder how many days of the year he can actually enjoy this, being Michigan.

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Ben works for Johnson Controls in Holland.

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Not long ago I memorized what he does there so that I can do more than shrug when someone asks. “He oversees the North American footprint of the automotive interiors division…

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…which includes 25 plants that produce headliners, dashboards, door panels—everything except the seats—for most of the major car manufacturers.” Someone else is responsible for the seats.

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Finishing up his work for the day while his mama sits and takes his picture. It’s not easy being the son of a photomaniac.

Ben at desk 1989

It was as though he was posing for one of my series. (our first Mac setup circa 1988)

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Then we were off on an adventure to Grand Haven. I followed behind the Mercedes, one of Ben’s four vehicles. The apple does not fall far from the tree.


Case in point. You might assume we had a lot of company the day this picture was taken. It was not unusual to count six cars in our driveway—all ours!

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This is what waited at the marina—Ben’s latest splurge. It was only a matter of time. If he isn’t on or at the water, he’s dreaming of being or at the water.

yellow boat

The boat thing must be genetic too. Did we paint the garage? No, but we had a spiffy ski boat! Priorities.

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Ben gave me a tour; it wasn’t a good day to take it out on the water. Besides, when you measure gallons per mile rather than miles per gallon, you save the outings for cute girls in swim attire.

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But he let me make believe.

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I haven’t figured out why someone would leave the comfort of his home and drive an hour to the marina just to hunker down in his berth to stare at a big-screen TV. I just don’t get it.

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Maybe this has something to do with it.

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Our other big adventure was a walk around Grand Rapids’ fifth annual ArtPrize. Ben took the morning off to show me just the highlights, since we could barely scratch the surface in a few hours.

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“Earth Giant” was my favorite! His fishing line went out into the Grand River. The artist was still creating the fish out of twine. I have a literal brain, so abstract art is totally lost on me. But this laid-back giant, him I get.

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ArtPrize attracts art connoisseurs of all ages.

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The organization maintains this office year round. The contest attracts artists of all mediums and is judged by voters like me (I registered via phone app and even got to vote) and the grand prize is $200,000.

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We got there just before it opened for the day, so I sat down on that rock by Ben to wait. He said, “You know that’s not a real park.” I’ve never been accused of being observant, so of course I didn’t know it wasn’t a real park.

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If I were observant I might have wondered why there were parking meters where there were no parking spaces.

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I might have wondered why the street suddenly stopped and bark dust suddenly began.

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I might have wondered about a lot of things if only I were observant.

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If only I were more observant.

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But some things you just feel, right? My Ben has a good and full life in Michigan, and I have a good and full life in Oregon. We don’t need constant reminders of our love and care for each other. It just is. And I’m content with that.

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2 Responses to my visit with ben

  1. Donna says:

    “Love” of our busy kids…

  2. Janet Strokosch says:

    What a perfect visit…time, words, photos, and art! Oh, and this year is the fifth year for ArtPrize, but who’s counting. 8) I think you may have picked the winner this year, so in case you’re right, I have this in writing. Hope to see you next time you’re in MI! Hugs!!

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