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“Good, Very Good, Best” is my contribution to Chicken Soup for the Soul.
High school was difficult for me in the mid-1950s. My high school counselor told me that college wasn’t in my future. I would graduate in the middle of my class. And we were poor—my widowed mother often stretched a half-pound of hamburger to feed seven kids. He concluded our pre-graduation meeting with, “Benson, I believe the military would be a good fit for you.”
I did well in the Army, and my electronics training was a foundation for later things. The counselor’s advice was good, but it wasn’t the best advice I’ve ever heard.
My work in the Army qualified me for a manufacturing job with a small company in Minnesota. It was a low-paying position, but any job to support my wife and three kids during a Midwest winter was a good job.
The agency I’d been with in the Army recruited me to return to Virginia for an unposted civilian job. The government salary wasn’t significantly higher, but health benefits and other perks gave me the incentive to accept the offer. However, I still needed a part-time job to support my family once we settled in.
So, I worked evenings and some weekends as a clerk at one of the stores in a rapidly expanding drugstore chain. After less than a year, I was recruited into the company’s management program. Compensation in the training program was equal to government employment, so with the expectation of advancement, I changed jobs. Leadership skills I’d learned in the Army were a personal asset in my new occupation.
The day I was promoted from trainee to assistant manager, my district manager said, “You’re moving up faster than most, but remember this—while climbing the ladder of success, you might have to climb back down someday. In other words, always treat those you supervise with respect and fairness.” His advice was very good, but still not the best advice I’ve ever heard.
We were spending a summer afternoon with friends from church, and our conversation turned to our work and the future. Our friends were preparing to move back to their home state, where they were both certified to teach. My friend Lyle asked about my own work and what might be ahead for me.
I told Lyle that my previous boss, who had recruited and promoted me to manager, was moving up to the corporate office. He told me I was on the fast track for supervising one of the new districts. The increased pay and responsibility seemed like a good incentive to accept the position, but I lamented that the working hours and traveling time would increase.
When Lyle asked what I’d really like to do, I told him, “Teach.” I explained that my favorite job had been teaching operation and field maintenance of communications equipment to U.S. embassy personnel when I was in the Army.
He asked if I had a teaching degree, and I told him I had taken only a few college classes. When he suggested that I could enroll and maybe transfer my previously earned credits, I said, “I’m nearly thirty-three, with house payments and a family to support. Do you know how old I’d be if I went to college now?”
He countered, “How old will you be if you don’t go?” That was the best advice I’ve ever heard.
Three years later, I graduated with a teaching degree and started a satisfying thirty-five-year career as an education professional. I retired from teaching with an advanced degree, and now I can afford hamburger.
My high school counselor’s good advice was helpful. My district manager’s very good advice was practical. But the best advice I’ve ever heard, my friend’s question, was life-changing
Government action closed the doughnut shop. Who were those old men (and women) you saw at the back table there every morning until mid-March of 2020? Why aren’t they there now that it is reopened in 75% mode.
If Charles Dickens was writing today, he may well have looked back at 1961 and said, “It was the best of times, it was…” The well-read know the rest.
Historians have researched and exposed the facts, but military service persons and their families retain the memories and emotions of their life in 1961.
Rose, Rose, Rose is significant to my time when the East/West German border was suddenly closed.
But there are more stories for my grandchildren than 1961 in my Cold War era brushes with history.
Yes! I was a teenager and my grandchildren have asked me about those times.
This work for them is about the stupid things I did in those days.
Family Bible is an unpublished private story of the children of Bjorn and Josine Benson inspired by the flyleaf in Bjorn's Bible and continued from saved documents and data from verifiable internet sources.
This story is the basis for my recent publication, Iniquities of the Fathers: A Story of Illusions and Deceptions.
Steve McNally of Beaverton, OR, said, "I really enjoyed reading An Odyssey of Illusions. It was not a “feel good” story, but a story of real life, for so many people of that era, and even today for that mater. Seeing the world through the eyes and mind of young boy, trying to make sense of his world, that is often turned upside down by constant change and the selfish /harmful decisions of his father, is thought provoking. The ending begs a sequel; if one isn’t produced, I will have fun mulling over what it could be."
Ray LePoidevin of Vancouver, WA, said, "
Even though a work of fiction, in ECHOES OF NAM, John Benson does a superb job in articulating the mental and physical pain, confusion and suffering that many survivors of war deal with daily. Even as a combat vet, this story has affected the way I look at homelessness among veterans. While the V.A. has come a long way in dealing with PTSD and other disorders facing our soldiers, sadly there are many who still "slip through the cracks." For that reason alone, this could be a true story."
CJ Bear said, "Nescient Decoy was very interesting - slow for me to get into, but after the first chapter, I couldn't put it down. Great ending left me wondering what the next book will bring."
An Odyssey of Illusions was published in 2012 and was an Eric Hoffer Award finalist in 2013. The book is out of print but is being revised as Iniquities of the Fathers.
Echoes of Nam: Absence from war is not the same as peace of the soul
Reading the 2017 obituary of Brandon Wosk gives Hacker Lee Goor echoes of Vietnam. Later, after a routine mental health checkup, he briefly meets Adam Brax and his wife Annie whom he’d seen at the VFW memorial.
Wosk and Goor shared an ambush at Dak Bla Bridge 4 days after the start of TET-1968. They met again when both were homeless on the streets of Portland, OR.
Goor said, “The many times we talked and shared mind and memory altering street product, I probed and gave details, but he couldn’t remember me, the flight to Nam, the ambush at Dak Bla Bridge, the guys with us, or what he’d told me about his life before Nam.”
Goor seeks answers about why the Braxes were at the memorial. After discovery, he proposes the story to an editor with whom he’d worked. Ironically, that editor had a previous connection with navy nurse Annemarie (Sanders) Brax. Thus, Goor was able to put an ironic element into Echoes of Nam.
The two men (Wosk and Brax) were raised differently but were significantly changed by similar experiences and one common event in Vietnam. One of their shared consequential experiences wouldn’t be known to the other until one was dead.
Jason Carter Finn never thought he’d feel like he was watching himself in one of his grandfather’s generation black and white movies, but that’s how he felt during much of 2016 and 2017. A note on a photograph he discovered in the late summer of 2017 gives personal meaning to something his grandfather said about decoys the last Saturday of the 2000 water-fowl hunting season.
Twenty-five- year-old Finn uses his personal diary and declassified CIA notes to write a travelogue of curiosity, intrigue, mystery, and confusing relationships during 2016 and 2017.
He hopes for another assignment and perhaps more time with Camellia Bletchley whom he believes to be in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. His field assignments become confusing, frustrating, and meaningless to him.
Realizing there are few opportunities for satisfying personal relationships as a document reader, the young agent resigns from the CIA and returns to rural Oregon.
Like his change of duties from the mundane reading room to the mysterious field assignments, some of his after-career events are unpredictable.
Driving away from an ideal location for viewing the 2017 solar eclipse in totality over southeast Oregon is just one of the things he doesn’t anticipate.
Before Grandpa was Thirteen: Stories I told my Grandchildren
One grandkid said, “I’ve heard that one at least once Grandpa, but you should write it down in case you or one of us forgets what you said.”
Actual memories of things that happened ‘way-back’ in the 1940s are difficult for me to recall with any measure of precision. These short stories about when I was young are true or nearly true. Some have been modified to protect the guilty (me) or embellished a little to fill in details that may have been or could have been.
Parts of my stories might be thoroughly debunked by the questioning of witnesses if they could be found or are willing to testify against themselves or me.
If you weren’t there, what difference does it make? After all, these are just my stories, not testimony under oath in court or in a congressional hearing.
Iniquities of the Fathers is a not for children story about a boy’s illusions and deceptions while growing to young adulthood.
Levi Reising’s life from 6 to 18 is riddled with truth, half-truth, and mysteries of adults impacting his life.
Illusions and confusion about his father shadow his life until a week before his 10th birthday in 1946 when his father’s biplane is shot down.
Levi often dwells on his grandmother’s partially quoted Bible verse, “…visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children …”
He carries out a plan to escape depressing circumstances but escaping leads to deceptions.
Guilt and fear of discovery haunt him until he’s given the opportunity to reveal his major deception.
Then he realizes the rest of the verse.