A FRIEND LIKE BEN
by Joseph Walker
Andrea isn’t a wimp, exactly. She’s just . . . nervous. Cautious. Skittish. Easily frightened. And she screams a lot.
Let’s just say that my adult daughter has the characteristics of wimpishness without actually being one. Exactly.
She’s afraid of clowns (blame Stephen King’s "It"). She believes that any part of her body not covered by a blanket while she sleeps will be eaten by little green elves (I have no explanation for that one). She won’t sleep in the big bedroom downstairs because she’s nervous about sleeping down there alone. And to go outside – alone – after dark . . . well, that’s unthinkable.
Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Bad things can happen to beautiful young women who are alone outside after dark, so we humor her on that one. But sometimes it isn’t easy.
Take last night, for example. We were all elbow deep in a family project, one that involved brothers-in-law, uncles and cousins. It wasn’t fun, exactly, but it was as much fun as you can have moving refrigerators. With cold pizza, refrigerator parts and 19-month-old granddaughter Samantha all fecklessly flying every which way, the house was less "humble abode" and more "rock concert mosh pit."
Suddenly in the middle of all this, Andrea had to make
deliveries to several different neighbors – and it was after dark. She asked
Jon to go with her, but he didn’t want to go. Neither did
Finally Andrea put on a brave face and boldly announced that she would make the trip around the neighborhood unaccompanied. She looked around the room one last time, taking it all in just in case she was abducted by little green elves wearing clown masks. Then she heaved a heavy sigh, wrapped her jacket around her (actually, it was her mother’s jacket, which she could get away with because her mother was busy trying to get the duct tape out of Jon’s hair – and honestly, I have NO idea how it got there) and went out to face the cold, dark night – alone.
In less time than it took us to figure out that we needed to remove the hallway thermostat from the wall BEFORE we tried to squeeze the refrigerator past it, Andrea was home. Smiling.
"So you made it!" I said while rubbing what I was sure was the world’s first elbow hernia.
"Yep!" she said happily. "Ben took care of me!"
Ben is the big yellow dog who lives with one of our neighbors. Loveable, playful and gentle as a lamb, Ben is the neighborhood mascot, drifting from house to house to play in every game and sample every barbecue. He goes on walks with us and patiently allows pawing and petting from our granddaughters, all of whom could say "Ben" before they could say "Poppa."
"It was like he could tell I was nervous," Andrea said. "He’d go up to each door before me and then look back as if to say, `It’s OK.’ As long as Ben was there I knew I was fine."
Now, I can’t say that I really understand that. I mean, I like Ben and everything, but I’ve never really been a pet person. But millions of people are, and each one of them has a story like that. And the way I see it, there must be something to it if that big yellow dog could give Andrea all the courage she needed to face the cold, dark night.
Clowns and little green elves notwithstanding.
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