Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

Ron emailed a couple of days ago. Ron is my cousin Bea’s husband and ranks high on the all-time, good guy list.

“Hello Herb,

“I am cleaning out my office and came across this letter, and wanted to make sure I could shred it. I assume, I no longer have to take care of your children. They can now take care of me.


I had written Ron and Bea the following letter. It was dated Jan. 23, 1994. This was one week after the Northridge earthquake, which happened on Jan. 17, 1994.

“Dear Ron and Bea,

“Naturally after 6.6 earthquakes one thinks of these things but we've been meaning to do this for a while.

“There is no graceful way to get into this so I'll just plunge in. How would you feel about taking our children in the event of Sue’s and my tragic, simultaneous demise.

“Some people might be happy at the news but probably not our children unless perhaps we didn't let them watch the 'Aladdin' video that day.

“Why are we asking you, you are in the middle of Earthquake Central? For one, we feel like we share your family raising values. Our children love you and the Benham/Perez kids would be a good mix.

“For various reasons, we prefer you to our own families. To this end, we have life insurance that adds up to__, savings accounts, 401(k)s and that add up to__, plus a couple of old cars that you will immediately want to sell.

“Nonetheless, I realize even with the aforementioned monies, taking four additional children would probably bankrupt you and cause you to move into a series of cardboard boxes in Tent City. We hope you will consider this anyway because we think you are fine people and parents.

“Four kids are a lot but these are good kids unless you take 'Aladdin' away from them for a day. Think about it and let us know because we'd like to make a will.

“Love Herb III”

This was 25 years ago. Katie was 11, Herbie was 9, Sam 7 and Thomas was 3.

I think Ron and Bea’s may have said yes. “Yes,” with their fingers crossed. “Yes,” but not in a big hurry to find out what “yes” meant.

We snuck through and, as it turned out, the only chance of us cratering simultaneously might have been from potential heart attacks during the kids’ teenage years that were looming on the horizon like Arctic storm clouds.

Either that or dying of smugness for how great of parents we thought we were of children who were not yet teenagers.

Those were good days, innocent days and interesting ones too. Fortunate as we have been, we’ve had many since.

We’ve had front-row seats. Front row for watching the children, their friends and the great swath of nieces and nephews grow up. Front row for careers, marriages and now grandchildren. Front row for their relationship with Dad who sidestepped his first head-on with mortality.

More than interesting, educational and character building, it’s been a blast.

I told Ron to shred the letter. He was off the hook. When he does, I hope the earth doesn’t move. One earthquake in life is enough.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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