Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Daddy Ben

Years ago, at least seventeen years back, I worked with a stunningly regal and elegant woman named Marla Wilmore. She was tall and what the fellas back home would call "really put together." Marla was sophisticated and always looked runway-ready with flawless hair, makeup, jewelry and dressed to the nines. She told me about her beloved grandfather one time. They called him Daddy Ben. His name was Benjamin Davis and he lived in Burleston, Texas with his loving and devoted wife, Louella, whom the children all called Big Mama.

Marla talked about her time spent with her grandparents in Texas and of how Daddy Ben enjoyed hunting and fishing. She would recall images of him dressed in wadding boots when he would fish and it painted such a vivid picture of him in my mind. He kept hounds, beagles, and drove a 1957 Mango coloured Caddy with leather interior. When I asked her the colour of the interior Marla said, "It's colour slips my memory...black perhaps..." Daddy Ben rarely smoked cigarettes, but when he did, Marla remembered that he rolled his cigarettes.

I asked her what he looked like; could she describe him in detail and Marla said that Daddy Ben had light brown skin with light brown eyes. His hair was curly and kept short. It was a salt and pepper grey that was slightly balding in places. Daddy Ben was always clean shaven and usually dressed in coveralls, worn-in coveralls that were soft and aged. For a shirt, he would wear a plaid long sleeved button down, done to the second button. Marla spoke of his sweet disposition, of how he was born in Travis County, Texas and had a brother named Lornell, Jr.

I asked Marla about her grandmother. She told me that Big Mama loved Daddy Ben dearly and that after he passed away she never sought the company of another man. Marla told me, "She possessed that true frame of thought that 'til death do us part' continued on until her own death, not just his." Sometimes the grandchildren would take a train ride and Big Mama would pack huge lunches with chicken and cookies and homemade tea cakes. Another time, Daddy Ben took Marla and her cousins to the drive-in theatre in Austin to see The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I loved hearing Marla talk about her grandparents because her face lit up from the inside out as she clearly relived the stories she told. I am so glad that I made a photocopy of the picture she brought in for me to see. There they are, Ben and Louella. Just a random moment in their lives captured forever.

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