Jacob and Gabe circa 2003, age 5 or so.
Jacob and Gabe Friday night. 12/3/2010

Gabriel Benson had his bar mitzvah yesterday. He and Jacob have been best of friends since they were six months old and being cared for at the South Mountain YMCA inside the temporary trailer. We have found journals from these days where the teacher says things like, “Jacob enjoyed playing with his friend Gabriel today.” They were literally six or seven months old.

I’ll never forget the first time we ran into Gabe and his parents, Laura and Greg, at Memorial Park. We barely knew one another, just saying hello at pickups and drop-offs. The boys were not much older than one but lit up when they saw each other, ran off together and sprinted around, playing in the dirt for as long as we would let them. This was at an age where the books all say kids are engaging only in “parallel play” and have no friendships, they don’t care who they are with, etc. What a load of bull.

The two have always had a wonderful bond and watching them grow up together, support each other, stick together, has taught me a lot about friendship and loyalty. It’s really been a pleasure to watch. Last year, when Jacob’s baseball team lost a brutal playoff game they had been winning and he (wrongly) blamed himself for the team’s total collapse, he held it together until we got in the car. Then, a tear tickling down his cheek, he only had one request: “Can I please talk to Gabe on the phone.”

So I took great joy in watching Gabe this weekend. I wasn’t surprised that he was so poised and did such a great job. He’s serious, studious, committed. And I was as proud of him as I have been of any relative I’ve watched do the same thing, but I really wouldn’t have cared if he messed up every other line. I just felt so happy to see him looking and acting like a fine young man.I don’t really know how to write about this kind of thing without sounding corny or clichéd and I don’t really care. In an age of irony or false emotion, sometimes you just have to pause, wonder and admit you’re overwhelmed

I hear people all the time complain about getting older, and I get it. I really do. But given the opportunity to reflect and to look at Jacob and Gabe together over the past few days, I just felt so happy to see them grow, and it made me really reflect on what a gift it is, and how much it shouldn’t be taken for granted. At such times, I always, always think of Cathy Davis, my dear friend from Beijing, who died before her 40th birthday and never got to even see her two girls hit their sixth or seventh birthdays. So I say, share the joy, embrace the pain when it comes, and be happy you’re here and for everything you’ve got. Nothing else matters.

6 replies
  1. Greg Benson
    Greg Benson says:

    Thank you, Alan.
    Laura and I are in tears reading this. We remember well that day in the park and so many wonderful days since. We thought it so fitting how the Rabbi's story brought Jacob into the service. It said to me how real friendship fosters courage and compassion.

    You are all family to us, and we can't wait for Jacob's turn to shine, when we will surely being crying with you.

  2. alanpaul
    alanpaul says:

    You're welcome Greg.

    Meant it all from my heart.

    This parenting stuff can be hard and there are times when we get to pause and say, "hay, we've done a pretty good job."

    Mazel tov.

  3. allen stjohn
    allen stjohn says:

    Well said. Pete Townsend was just a kid looking for attention when he wrote My Generation.

    I read the piece about Cathy and it reminded me of Ken Clare's wife Jessica. I didn't know her that well, but I think about her–and him–pretty often.

    When the morning's "Emma Dilemma" concerns pencils not fitting in a pencil case, it's a pretty good day.


  4. alanpaul
    alanpaul says:

    Thanks Allen. Too many good comparisons between Davis and Clare situations. I never knew Jessica. She was already sadly departed when I started working at the Reporter, but I thought of Ken often with that situation as well.

    Has anyone heard from him?

  5. allen stjohn
    allen stjohn says:

    I remember one day I was driving past to take Ken somewhere and I was double parked and rang the doorbell. Jessica stuck her head out the second floor window of that brownstone on a kind of cold gray day like today and said that Ken would be right down or something.
    I can still conjure up that image like it was yesterday.
    Don't know why.

    No, I haven't heard from Ken in a long while, but I did visit him when I was stopping through Seattle in like 1993. He had a house, a lovely new girlfriend, and even a car IRRC. He barbecued and we had a nice evening. He seemed to be doing pretty well.

    I've tried Googling him but no luck. I miss talking about the Knicks with him, and watching his contact sheets come out of that darkroom in the basement.


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