Getting away from life
Getting away from Life
Benson James was a family man. They, his wife and three children, had Just recently moved into a new neighborhood. They had been there two weeks. On Monday, Benson had to take a trip to the east side of town, probably 20 miles from where he now lived. Taking the bus and having to exchange buses several times, would be all new to him. They had moved from 200 miles away, where they lived on a farm that belonged to his father. Benson had gone to college, receiving a business degree and although he enjoyed working the farm, all of his family knew he would be happier doing what he had gone to school for. They and he, felt he would do better in business in a large city. About two years after graduating, he had been offered a great job in the city. Of course, they were apprehensive, the city being so far away and different, from what they were used to, not knowing a soul, but felt that the job was too good to turn down
After An interview, his new employer was so impressed and insisted he take a little time and gave him two weeks paid, to get acquainted with the area.
“Come in on a Monday, later in the day, after most of the production is done and we will be able to show you around and introduce you to everyone.”
As it turned out, him and his wife, would use most of the time with the moving and setting up the house, school for the children, along with all the other moving things.
On Monday, directions in hand, he was off. Halfway across town, in the place where he would have to change to a different bus, Benson decided it was time for a cup of coffee. Maybe the fact that the coffee shop was right there in front of him, when he got off the bus or maybe you just want coffee this time of day. Anyway he had plenty of time and his new boss had insisted on, “later in the day.” The place was small, squeezed in between two, much larger buildings and had it not been for the location of the bus stop, he would probably have missed it.
Once inside, this was no ordinary coffee shop. This was one of those specialty coffee shops, where you could get just about anything you wanted in the way of coffee and mixes for coffee, teas, rolls, cakes and all those things, that bring one back to their childhood. Benson was a simple man and easy to please. Don’t complicate things that don’t need to be complicated. He ordered a regular coffee and picked up a newspaper, sat down at a table, away from most of the crowd.
Sitting at a table next to him was a woman folding papers. Not just any papers but colorful papers. He couldn’t help but watch, trying to figure out just exactly what she was doing. She naturally seen him watching and handed him one of the folded pieces of paper.
“There, have a free sample”.
It was a little house, not much bigger than a golf ball, made with the prettiest paper and inside were two gold foil wrapped pieces of candy. The roof was tied up with a little red ribbon bow.
Ben was a farmer, but he also was very critical of detail and appreciated small creations. He had worked as an apprentice machinist during his college years and had a curious mind for this kind of thing.
She pointed over to a display case in the coffee shop. The display case was packed full of various ornaments. Some had been made out of paper, some bits of cloth and all of them very colorful and very professionally put together. They looked as though they had been done on a machine but it was obvious she was the machine. One of those crafty people with a rare skill.
Of course, a conversation ensued, pictures were shown of her many creations and although Benson was tickled to show her pictures of his family, was humbled by the fact that he could not show her something to match her great skill.
She said her name was Sharon Price and her and her husband Tom, had also been farmers at one time moving to the city for similar reasons to Ben’s. They still owned the farm, which was quite some little ways north of the city. Now they lived just outside the city and about once a month she would come in and drop off her creations at various shops. The shops were glad to display and sell her creations as it brought in customers.
Sharon said that they were doing well enough with her husband’s job and it wasn’t for the money. What she did sell, she would use to buy more equipment and more materials to make and distribute her creations to hospitals and senior centers around the city.
Benson thought of Leonardo da Vinci’s first paper airplane. Many years after it had been long forgotten by most, people were dabbling with flight. Later, the two Wright brothers would actually build and fly a plane at kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He thought of Betsy Ross and the colorful flag she created, and how that simple creation came to represent so much. She had started by sewing clothes for her 16 brothers and sisters, had been one of the few to go to school and get an education, and eventually open the sewing shop with her husband. He thought of Joseph Frey and his son making the first candy bar. Something today we take so much for granted but how much pleasure it has meant to so many people.
Seeing Sharon’s colorful, fun, diverse creations, he thought of all the pleasure it must bring to so many people.
Sharon insisted that he take three of her creations to his children. Benson refused to take them for free and he insisted, on paying and she must take the money as it would go toward the hospital gifts she made.
Off he went, with more than enough time to catch the next bus, to his midafternoon introductions and tour of his new employment.
The next bus only took him a mile before he would have to change buses again. While waiting for the third bus, a man frantically called to him from just a short way away. Ben walked over and the man said there was somebody hurt, just a little way away. The person was suffering a great deal and needed help to get out here on the street. The man told him that the police and ambulance were on their way and they needed to get the person closer to the streets so they would be able to load him. Every second counted.
Benson ran, following the man, over some ways and down an alley, almost closed off with garbage and debris, far enough that much of the street noise was muffled.
Ben would not remember much if any part of this, sometime later.
He found himself in a bed, lights, everything antiseptically clean and . Curtains, tubes, bottles and plastic bags of fluid were hanging on shinny hooks.
“How are you doing, sunshine? You been out for a long time”
Someone was talking but what was this all about.
“Do you know your name?” “Do you have any idea where you are?”
Of course, he did, but then,,,,,,,,,,,,, not really. What was this all about? He really wasn’t ready to say anything and not sure if he was even able,,,,,,, to say anything.
“You have been in an accident. When you came to us, you were almost naked. You had very few clothes, no identification and so far, we have not been able to find any information for or about you. You have had a terrible head injury and it might be some time before these things come back to you.”
All he could do was stare. Day after day, week after week, went by gradually eliminating IV tubes, feeding tubes, patches and bandages. He seemed content to just lay there, sleeping often. The TV in the room barked out various stories, information, events but nothing that really held his attention.
After a while the hospital people insisted he get out of bed and start walking. Walking at first, was very difficult but there was something in him, that seemed to want to progress. On many days he would be cautioned to take it easy and not try to do so much all at once
Beside the many doctors, he was also interviewed by a therapist. The doctors and therapist felt he should leave the hospital. Clothes were provided and he was sent to a nursing home. A therapist would visit him on a regular basis and always encourage him to go through magazines and newspapers or anything else that might trigger some memory. Months and months went by and he was encouraged to slowly move out on to the street, taking short walks and maybe, longer walks after a while.
Various donations had been provided to the nursing home for cases such as this. Besides his clothes, he would be given small amounts of money. He was told to just stop at restaurants or other places and talk with people, read menus, talk to the wait staff, and be open to tell people of his situation. Somewhere, someone out there must know of him and would be able to give him a little information about his identity.
More than a year after he had started out on the streets he decided to try a different restaurant. He had been in most of them in the area and so this time he walked just a little bit further, being careful to watch for things that would help him find his way, back to the home.
In the middle of a long block, he found a small restaurant. No one seemed to be going in but he thought it might be the kind of quiet place he liked. He walked in and found it to be well lit and very well decorated. Inside it turned out that it was, although narrow by restaurant standards, quite long and obviously had a rear entrance. The rear entrance would explain where all the people were coming from, as it was very busy.
He found a seat in a small booth, and when the waitress came, he asked for today’s special. It was always much easier to order today’s special as he really didn’t know what he liked or didn’t like and he sure didn’t understand a lot of the things that were on the menu. He sat there looking around various printings on the wall, funny sayings, pictures of historical things but nothing that would really give him the information he was hoping for. A bit of anxiety started but he decided to stay and enjoy his order.
His meal came and he slowly ate, having more time on his hands then needed. He did a lot of things slow these days. Looking around and just a little bit behind him, across the aisle was a cabinet full of colorful things. The cabinet caught his attention. He stared at the cabinet like he could pierce it with his eyes. Suddenly jumped up, knocking most of his meal to the floor, running to the cabinet loudly repeating, “I know that, I know that, I know that, I know that, I know that, I know that”.
Everyone in the restaurant heard him and started looking up. Two city police officers who had been eating near the back of the restaurant, came running up, officer Greg grabbing him and pushing him back into his seat. They had seen this so many times before, people drunk or on drugs or maybe mentally ill and hopefully they would get over it, or they would be taken in to the jail, locked up for a while, at least, until they could come around. Not a fun thing to do but what else was there? While one of the police officers was making the call for a vehicle, the other officer held him in the seat.
Ben’s brain was working so fast he didn’t know what to do. All he knew, he had seen something that he recognized and didn’t know why or how to tell anyone. The policeman wouldn’t allow him to move and he wanted to get at a piece of paper that was in his pocket. “Please” he said please “the paper in my pocket”.
“Yes,” the officer said “we know you’ve probably a paper in your pocket and you can get that later.” Quickly the other officer returned and said the car is on the way to take him in.
Once again, Ben said,
“I need to get to the paper in my pocket”.
The second officer asked him,
” Just which pocket is it in?
“The paper, it’s in my shirt pocket.”
The officer slowly lifted his jacket and reached into his shirt pocket, pulling out a neatly folded envelope. The envelope was from St. Joseph’s nursing home.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the officer asked if it was all right for him to open the envelope and read the letter inside. Getting the okay, the officer read. “
“This gentleman stays at St. Joseph’s nursing home. He was in a terrible accident, assaulted and beaten badly. This was more than two years ago and has lost most of his memory. He has amnesia and does not know his own name.”
At this point, the officer started to read the letter out loud, maybe realizing the mistake that he almost made or maybe to appease the anxious crowd from the rest of the restaurant.
“If for any reason he starts to act out, that is, if he starts to recognize or appear that he recognizes someone or something, please do everything you can to contact us and please, collect for us, any information that might eventually help in recovering his memory.
All of the customers in the place seemed stunned. After all, how many times had they thought about how easy it would be for this to happen to them or to a loved one. What must it be like not knowing who you are or where you came from. Suddenly everybody wanted to help making suggestion after suggestion.
While the nursing home was being called he was allowed to point out what had caught his attention. It was a small paper house, no bigger than a golf ball, filled with pretty wrapped little candies. The cabinet held several paper creations but there was only one like this. The little house he had seen was taken out of the cabinet and given to him and he held it like it might’ve been a small injured bird. So, caught up in it and still, his eyes wandered back to the cabinet and more of the creations.
“I don’t know what this is,” he said, “but it means something to me.” “Somehow they all mean something to me but this one especially.”
Someone in the group suggested that they call the manufacturer of the product. The restaurant manager said, “it came from a single individual who created these things,” a phone number was found and she was called.
“Prices creations” came the answer on the phone. She was informed of the situation. The letter had been read to her and a description of the man given to her. By now, this nameless man, didn’t look anything like the Jim Benson she would’ve known for only a few minutes so long ago. Not only had his hair changed considerably, he had been beaten quite bad with many facial injuries. It would’ve been difficult for even someone close to him, to recognize him.
She was so sorry and wished that she could be of more help. She lived more than 2 Hours’ drive away and would have been glad to come by but her family had made vacation plans, flying out in a couple of hours, and would not be able to get there. She was sorry she could be of no help. They thanked her and hung up.
Shortly after that, the therapist from the nursing home showed up. All was explained and with the greatest of detail, notes were taken. The importance of this little discovery was reiterated and all were encouraged to forward any kind of information, they might come unto later on.
Karen the therapist, said, “we have a car just outback so we need to get you back and you can get some rest. This has been quite traumatic and quite hard on you but at least we have a start.”
Just as they were about to leave, the phone rang and a waitress answered.
“This is Sharon Price and this is probably a long shot. I just couldn’t get this man out of my mind.”
The phone was given to Karen. “Yes, my name is Sharon Price. What a terrible situation to be in. To be lost in the world and yet it’s like everybody else and everything else is lost. Over and over I kept thinking about it. You see, there was this man a long time ago. Probably two years at least. I just happen to run into him in a coffee shop, one day and I gave him some of my creations to take home to his family. I haven’t made many of that one particular creation since. The little house they described was one of the creations I gave to him.”
Sharon asked if Karen could give her any idea about where he was found and when Karen told her, everything took on a whole new face. Sharon said that he sounded an awful lot like the gentleman that she had met. She knew he had a family but other than that knew very little about him.
She went on,
“I have never seen him again, but of course didn’t expect to as we live in different areas and there is no reason for our paths to cross.”
“I believe his name is Benson James.”
Karen with pen in hand repeated, “did you say Benson James?”
Hearing that, Benson, very excited, said, “I know that name, I know that name, “I think it’s my name.”
Sharon, hearing him on the phone insisted on talking to him. Although a bit apprehensive, Karen handed the phone to Ben. Sharon introduced herself and slowly gave what little information she could. Ben listened and gradually melted down to a bit of a lethargic, yet euphoric mood, crying and laughing at the same time almost as if he had lost all of what little was left. He handed the phone back to Karen.
Karen took the phone back, feeling a little down because it appeared, there was going to be no connection.
Sharon asked, “do you have time to do just one thing? Can you give me just fifteen minutes to call you back?”
Karen said they would stay there as the police would have to fill out some papers and one more coffee would work fine.
In not more than five minutes, Sharon called back. “My family had been listening to our conversation on the speaker phone and almost before I was through, had all voteed to cancel the vacation. We are all coming down to see the man I am sure is Benson James! My little conversation with him made me even more sure than just the little paper house. This kind of thing is, what one only reads about and everyone wants to help.”
The next day, Sharon and her family showed up at the nursing home. They had left the evening before, staying at a hotel, close to the nursing home.
An aid escorted them to a large enclosed porch area, where they could meet with Therapist Karen and Ben and have a bit of privacy.
Ben was already there and when Sharon first seen him was shocked. “Was this the man, oh my, what if I made a mistake?”
“Hello Sharon”, came the recognizable voice. With tears bursting out, Sharon ran over and hugged Ben as if he were a brother going off to war. Soon all of the family was in tears and slowly after sharing long hugs, backed up settling in to a soft couch.
Sitting across from this man they had given up their vacation for and who they knew would be a new friend as well as friend for a long time, they waited. No one wanted to be the first to speak.
Slowly Ben started. “I am not going to be so good at this but things are coming back much faster than Karen thinks they should or maybe thought they wood. I find I need to listen a lot more than talk. I would be grateful if you would just talk and treat me like a person who would not have gone through what I have gone through. I believe I will catch up after a while.”
After an hour or so, Karen came in. “I need you to come with me, Ben. We will be about a half hour and we can come back. It would be good, if you people wouldn’t mind staying. I have a lunch coming for you and feel free to ask for whatever you need.”
Sharon and her family were treated like important people, waited on, conversed with, questions asked and made more comfortable than they could ever had expected.
Eventually the hall door opened, Karen leading, Ben following and a large group of people behind him.
As they filed in, Ben very slowly introduced them. Most in tears, this is my wife Carol, my daughters Francien and Marcy and my son Augustus.
Introductions were made all around, including friends and relations who had insisted on coming.
“It wasn’t enough to see Ben but we also wanted to see the wonderful woman who put all this together.”
Ben was still a bit shook for lack of a better word, insisting that all sit and just enjoy each other’s time. All were anxious but all waited their turn to ask or tell stories. It was a pleasant time everyone relishing the moment and just amazed at this outcome.
The police had called in Ben’s name, to the missing persons people, along with other information Sharon was able to give, “date and time of day, location of the coffee shop, bus he had been on and was going on and it was short work. His family had been notified, in shock at first but so thankful.
“All of us went to church as it was open, and prayed before we left. We asked God to be sure it was really you and to help us to put things back together as best we could. I don’t know what we were thinking but wanted to get here quick but on the other hand, couldn’t stand the thought of being disappointed.”
“If it was you, we didn’t know how you would treat us and maybe think we hadn’t tried to find you. We just didn’t know.”
They had looked at missing person after missing person. They had talked to so many people who had ideas.
His brother told of all the newspaper adds, they had run and the story at the time of his disappearance. They told of all the speculations and suggestions on the radio and TV. They had gone through interrogations themselves, as if they had done something to cause his disappearance.
In a couple of days Ben was taken home. He recovered quickly and within three months, was able to take the job he had been headed for, at the time of his attack. Everywhere he went, Ben was looked at as a miracle and all wanted to talk with him.
For Ben, it was a whole new life, moving in and out with a little more grace. Taking things slowly and taking what ever came along as a gift to learn from.
Sharon’s family would join them often, sometimes meeting at their farm or Ben’s father’s farm. Everyone enjoyed, everyone else’s company and the farms allowed them room to be together while giving their children a chance to ride horses and learn farm things.
Sharon’s husband Tom had his own machine shop on the farm and both he and Ben would dream up important repairs needed, just for an excuse to spend time on the farms.
The combination of events, knowledge, and desires was bound to lead in a direction. What had started as a care visit by Sharon to the nursing homes and the senior centers, turned out to be a cooperative for both families. The poor and the needy were addressed, and services provided.
Sharon kept up her crafts employing Ben’s wife Carol who enjoyed it just as much and bringing in some of her own recipes for fancy cakes and candies. The men would find wheel chairs to build parts for, house repairs and ramps to build for poor families, while the older children provided transportation for those in need. Even the youngest would find their spot, pushing the elderly around in wheel chairs, when they visited the nursing homes. Soon more and more people, hearing their story, wanted to help and large groups of volunteers were organized to help care for those in need.
Some years later, Sharon scoured all the craft shops she could, looking for the same paper she had made Ben’s gift from. Finding the paper and making a match, arranged to have the little house put in a small glass case.
There was to be a grand get together at Sharon and Tom’s farm, celebrating all that had gone on and she would present it to Ben than. Ben on the other hand had similar ideas, and made a small house from steel, decorating and polishing it, till it gleamed.
Of course, news people heard of the celebration, announced it in the papers and showed up. Karen was there with many of the nursing home staff. Hospital people were there. The two police officers who had been at the restaurant at the time were there. The owner and workers of the restaurant showed up, and many more.
Large tables were set up outside and someone had provided a very large tent.
Food was brought in and set up by friends and family. It was a get-together that wouldn’t be forgotten.
Sharon presented her glass enclosed paper house to Ben, with a note,
“This is to remind you of all the treasures, you have brought to us. A house is a shelter, but a home is a life.”
Ben gave his little steel house to Sharon, with an engraving,
“A single small action, a drop of rain is the beginning of feeding a nation.”
As they were gathered saying their thanks for the meal and so much more, a little girl hollered.
“Look, look, The light on the pole”.
Everyone stopped to see a beam of sunlight coming in from the side of the open tent to hit the gleaming little houses which were sitting on the side table. From the two shining gifts the light bounced to a Cross which had been hung on a side pole.
“Jesus says it’s ok” said the little girl.
All just looked on silently as the sunbeam slowly faded away. Without being said, everyone knew it was one of those “think what you will.”
The prayer for the meal continued but much slower this time.