I never really knew my grandparents. My parents were nearing their mid-40s when I was born, so my grandfather Benner had already passed away. Through my life, I have often wondered what he was like. Was he really as stern as my dad and siblings tell me? Some say he never laughed. Well, recently when my uncle passed away, a picture resurfaced that I’d never seen before.
At the center with a big smile is my Grammy Benner, the woman that I supposedly resemble in appearance and demeanor. She looks very happy in this 1950’s picture. She looks like I remembered her…a small, rather tiny woman with a long narrow face. I was six when she died, but I remember her tight squeezes that took my breath away and the Blockhead game and cheese pretzels I enjoyed in her dining room. If I think hard, I can even faintly see this room where my relatives are gathered that is bedecked with round ivy on the window sill. It’s the dining room which is close to the adjoining kitchen. In this picture, my grammy appears to be reading a letter. I like to think it was a letter from Irene who attended Eastern Mennonite School /College to get a teaching degree. Whatever it is she is reading, she is laughing about it or about someone’s comments.
But there is Grandpop Benner, the man I never met, in the side lines, close to Grammy with a big smile on his face. Okay it might be more like a grin, but he looks noticeably amused. Everyone on the picture is amused by the action. I love the expression on Uncle Kermit’s face. The thing that sparked his humor must have been good. Behind him are my cousin Beatrice, my Aunt Margaret and I presume my Uncle Marvin. It’s kind of an odd assortment of people because they represent 3 different families, but they are all related to Benners. And at the moment, enjoying it.
This picture is now on my computer desktop and I can’t stop staring at it and enjoying it throughout the day. It’s like a glimpse of time that is long gone but shows so much more than a row of lined up people facing the camera. It shows fun and laughter. It shows my Grammy in very plain Mennonite attire, complete with black covering strings and white apron. Compared to her simple gray dress, my Grandpop is dressed impeccably and quite fashionably in his metal armbands and white dress shirt. His sense of style comes through even if sublimated in white and black. Yet there he is, resembling my dad in his well-manicured appearance and his ruddy skin. There he is in the flesh. And he’s laughing…what they said he never did.