Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beni Lewis Hawkins at 68

Today is Beni’s 68th birthday.  68!!!!  Sixty–eight!!!!  LXVIII!!!!  She’s getting old!!!!!

I met Beni on December 24, 1975.  She was about 3 months shy of her 33rd birthday.  She has known me for more than half her life.  She has been married to me for close to half her life.

We have had four daughters together.  We have done a lot of traveling together all over the USA and Europe.  We’ve lived in Virginia, Southern California, and West Virginia.  We have one son–in–law and one granddaughter.  We’ve rented one house and we’ve “owned” six houses, including the house we have now in Martinsburg and the condo we currently have (are stuck with) in Florida.  We’ve had 15 cars, 3 of them bought new, and some of them bought for the kids.  We’ve seen three of the girls get bachelor’s degrees, and are looking forward to Annie getting her Master’s Degree on May 21, 2011.

Beni has delivered four kids without anesthetic, including the twins, Annie and Beni.  We’ve been through Annie’s near–fatal neonatal heart problems.  We’ve been through my pericarditis in 1988 and pancreatitis in 2007.  We watched poor Sarah dehydrate with the flu when she was 2 years old.  We’ve been with the girls through the terrible two’s and the horrible teens which, for some of the kids, were really more than horrible for them and for us.  We’ve lived long enough to see all the girls turn back into human beings in their early 20's and become delightful adults whose company is our greatest delight.

In addition to corralling the kids at home for all those years, Beni has worked as a school bus driver, a substitute school teacher, a salesperson in a fabric store, a manufacturer of Tiny T Shirts, a doll maker, and a dental technician.  Her work as a dental tech was amazing.  She assisted the dentist several times while the dentist worked on my teeth.  She was fantastic!!!  She had the ability to put people at ease and to poke around in peoples’ mouths.  People actually asked for her when they went to the dentist for help.  She retired from her dental tech career in 2005.  Since then, she has helped our daughter, Sarah, and our son–in–law, Matt, take care of Casey, our only grandchild.  She spends several hours a day during the school year taking care of Case.

Beni was a competitive race walker in California in the1960's.  She set a world record back then, but, because women weren’t considered eligible athletes in the sport back then, the record never was acknowledged.  She ran a marathon in San Diego also in the 1960's with a finish time of 4 hours and a few minutes.  She has recently taken to running again and, in 2009, completed the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C.  She will run the Shamrock Half–Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 20, 2011.

Beni, in my mother’s words, is a “professional seamstress.”  She once sewed drapes for a window in less than 3 hours and the resulting drapes put the rest of our window treatments to shame.  She has sewn dresses, coats, shirts, hats, and pants for our kids.  She made an elegant shirt for me to wear at our wedding.  She made me a full–length terrycloth bathrobe by looking at an older bathrobe for a pattern.  I use that bathrobe to this day.  In the past several years she has started knitting again and she is an excellent and compulsive knitter.  The picture is of a sweater she knitted for herself, one of her first efforts.  I think it’s beautiful.

More than anything else, Beni has been my best friend.  She encouraged me throughout my career, helping me get to the highest grade, GS–15, in the federal general schedule.  She supported me beyond any expectation when I came out of the closet when I was 40.  She encourages me constantly to find a boyfriend (yes, a boyfriend at my age!!!!), and, with a perfectly–functioning gaydar, constantly points out possible boyfriends on the street, in restaurants, and anywhere else she sees them.

Happy Birthday, Beni!!!  I hope you live another 68 years!!!  If anyone can do it, you can.  I love you!

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