My friend Norm Benjamin died last week. I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. He was one of the first people I met when we moved to Simsbury, Connecticut 22 years ago. Norm was a husband, father, church sexton, owner of Cobblestone Landscaping and all-around good, kind person. I thought he would live well into his eighties, as his father did, but he died at age 67–too soon. It’s hard to believe.
His friendship meant a lot to me, and I wrote about him a few years ago in my blog about “Autumn Leaves and Leaving:” An excerpt:
In the autumn of 1996, Norm appeared at my kitchen door and told me he had come to say “goodbye.” Our family had moved to Connecticut from California six months earlier and Norm was one of my few friends. We had worked together fashioning a garden around the newly built house, planted trees, installed a raised bed for growing vegetables. It was Norm who taught me about frost heaves, the mud season, hardy perennials and Swamp Yankees—all new concepts for a West Coast native—and he was a good friend, besides, so I was distressed at his leaving.
” Are you moving away?” I asked.
He shook his head. I recognized the incredulity with which most locals greeted my cluelessness. “No. It’s the end of October. I’ll see you when winter’s over.”
Time passes, life changes. We sold the Simsbury house with its beautiful gardens that Norm and his wife, Pam, planned for and with me. Pam and I have sustained our friendship through various moves within the East Coast and then to California but it’s hard to keep up from long distance. I thought that everything was fine until I learned that Norm was very ill and then, only days later, that he died. Norm won’t be back when winter’s done. A modest man, I’m sure he had no idea how much he will be missed.
Goodbye, good friend.
*Photo by William C. Popik, MD