Bruce B.

Bentzman Suburban Soliloquy

146. Some Thoughts on Who I Am
For a dozen years I have been writing these Soliloquies believing that I’ve painted a true picture of myself and my interests, but I’m not without doubts. People do pretend. Why should I be different? Others have mistaken me for being calm and sane, yet I am plagued by obsessive thoughts. I am a compulsive worrier, anxious about everything, and fearful about failing every endeavor. I don’t want to perform in front of people, not even to speak before a group, and find my only comfort of expression is in the written word and hiding behind the page.

In composing this Soliloquy, I thought I would be cunning. In an effort to capture an honest portrait of me, what better than to have the people who know me best to write it. Isn’t it often true that others know us better than we know ourselves? To that end, I contacted several people and asked if they would compose portraits of me in a hundred words or less. I would then collect them together, weave some of my thoughts around them, and hopefully craft a portrait of myself. I’ve made this request of Ms Keogh (my more significant other), my mother, my sister, my mother-in-law, my ex-wife, my son and daughter, my niece, my grandson, and a dear friend.

In reading the responses I’ve received, you will note references to my retirement. One thing I am not and that is a Communications Technician. I never wanted to be regarded as a Communications Technician. Aside from my heart having never been in that career of troubleshooting transmission lines, I am not a Communications Technician because on the 19th November the office where I worked was closed. We were considered surplus and I received an involuntary termination just fifteen days before what would have been 31 years with AT&T. I am soon to be formally retired and the joy is I won’t have to look back with hindsight and wonder if I made the right decision. It was made for me.

So, to get on with how others would describe me, we’ll begin with Ms Keogh, to whom I’ve been ecstatically married for over twenty-seven years. And it doesn’t surprise me that in asking for 100 words or less, Ms Keogh originally wrote over 800. I’ve had her cut it down multiple times until now it is just over 500 words. I submit them here uncensored and with considerable self-restraint:

So why do I love this cranky curmudgeon? Here's the thing. In spite of his negativity he is one of the few people I've met who can enjoy inclement weather with such gusto. It's raining? That's a sign of good luck. A good wind storm? Exciting! A hail storm with golf-ball sized chunks of ice? Hilariously funny! His ability to embrace the natural elements and to live in the moment is unsurpassed. He is also one of the most creative and productive people I know. He cannot go to bed at anytime of the day or night unless he has accomplished what he regards as a significant amount of creative output. He carries a notebook at all times in which to jot down notes, or doodle. When he was working at his boring but financially sensible job, he would experiment with various office supplies and equipment in order to produce "art".

Then there is his absolute devotion to me. When I was first on dialysis with an indwelling peritoneal catheter he still managed to make me feel attractive. When I had my multiple hospitalizations over the past 20 years he would work his night shift then come and sleep in a chair next to my bed every day. No matter how far away I've been at any time during our relationship, if I wanted him to come and get me, he'd drive to wherever I was. He supported me when I wanted to go to art school, or when I wanted to visit my family (even though he won't travel himself). When he drinks anything with alcohol he immediately loves me more, and if we're apart, he has to call me and tell me so. In all the years we've been together I've always supported his drinking.

He is steadfast with his friends and is very generous with gift giving, preferring to see things in his collection go to those who would truly appreciate them rather than sell them on eBay or give them to family members. He will travel great distances to visit friends in hospital, will provide words of comfort to those in need. His correspondence has grown from a few people who rarely wrote back to many "snailers" who answer one for one. He writes probably an average of 16 letters per week, and receives as many. Each letter is composed with great care as to the paper used, the choice of pen, the illustration selected, and then he makes his own beautiful envelopes out of auction catalogs or old calendars.

So in all I would say that Bruce Harris Bentzman is a great friend and husband, but not a good "family man". He is creative and generous while also intolerant of many people whose beliefs and opinions differ from his own. He is a wonderful man who is flawed and therefore very much "human". I feel fortunate to have met him and am completely baffled as to why he should put up with me, let alone love me so unreservedly. I suppose there's no accounting for taste!

My mother, Mrs Esther Bentzman, writes:

I feel he's a caring person. At least he seems that way to me. You can reason with him, he'll listen whether he agrees or not. I'm surprised at how smart he is and how many subjects he knows considering he did so badly at school. Also how good his vocabulary is. I thought he was slow because I was comparing him to his sister. I probably should have known based on his choice of friends they were all good students, the people he associated with. I think he's a very loyal person and trustworthy. He's like a great big bear and he's a good hugger.

Bette, my devoted sister, who preceded me into this world and sought to guide and protect me, writes:

Somewhere, among the thousands of black & white photos our father took of us, is one that stands out in my mind. My brother, Bruce, maybe 5, with a beautiful smile on his face, has a parakeet sitting on top of his head. Sad to say, this is the image of my “little” brother that I always carry with me. I know he’s an adult man now - he’s even beaten me into retirement -- but I lovingly think of him, from our growing-up-in-the Bronx days, as that little boy with the parakeet on top of his head.

My mother-in-law was good enough to write a contribution, but as of this moment, when I am up against a deadline for this essay, her contribution is yet making its way across the Atlantic from Wales to Pennsylvania in an envelope.

My ex-wife, a remarkable, hard-working, and insightful individual with a passionate temperament that I would have thought uncommon among the Japanese, surprisingly declined this opportunity. I inquired about why she would find it so difficult to describe me. All I learned from that exchange is how we each blame ourselves for the failed marriage. The fault is obviously shared.

Ms Keogh had predicted to me that our son and daughter, and my niece, would also declined this opportunity. Because one is lazy, another has bad time management skills, and the third doesn't like hurting people's feelings.

My grandson, Mr Beckles, a charismatic fourteen-year-old with an obsession for video games and a natural immunity to school work, had no reluctance. He writes:

He, of all people has been many things to me. An inspiration, an example, he’s reliable, and even an annoyance. But most of all he has been a grandfather, but at the same time not a really good one. Besides the fact he used to scare me when I was a child, he has taught me a lot about life and the way things work. I’m glad to know that he is now retired, so now I can annoy him as he annoyed me.

I am blessed with many friends and felt by asking any one of them, I could insult many of the rest. Still, the decision was easy, I picked a friend who has known me the longest and would be first alphabetically anyway. Alan writes:

For fifty years, Bruce Bentzman’s tastes and preferences would not have been out of place in an Edwardian gentleman, minus the smoking jacket and pipe. This is all the more remarkable in that it also comes without that gentleman’s trust fund. He has long favored items of craft – vintage Port (preferably Croft), Italian hand-made paper, fountain pens which must be loaded with liquid ink. To this day he writes down his thoughts and observations, on actual paper in a bound journal, an ironic trope for someone whose most visible public presence is a series of Internet-published essays.

And with regard to my Internet-published essays, I’ve asked George, Snakeskin’s editor, to contribute:

1. Obsessed by the finer points of fountain-pen technology, yet unable to boil an egg, Bruce Bentzman has gradually revealed a richly comic character over his 145 soliloquies. Always curious, usually opinionated, sometimes a little self-important, the persona communicated in these writings is likeable, observant and wry. We have been given hints of sadness and missed opportunities in his life, but also success and happiness. His best writing comes when he looks around him, observes the strangeness of the modern world and counts his blessings. And he is never boring, except possibly on the subject of cheesecake.

That is the Bruce that readers see, but there is another Bruce, for whom his editor is grateful.

2. In twelve years, Bruce has never missed a deadline. He always comes up with the goods, leaving his editor with at most a little tweaking and snipping to do. In addition, he has an eagle eye for proof-reading that spots many things that a hurried editor has missed. He is invaluable.

I have also asked David Graham, who inspired me to write on this subject, to also contribute. David is a friend I’ve never seen face-to-face. We met in the virtual Café Blue on the internet and there we’ve hung out together with other friends for over a dozen years. We know each other only through the written word. His submission reads:

Bruce Bentzman is a holy fool, except that he's not a fool, and denies that he is holy.

That concludes this endeavor. It’s like the old story from India about the blind men and the elephant. I’m the elephant.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is the most recent in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"