My Dad, My Hero

Raymond Benkowski

My Dad will always be my hero. He had so many admirable traits that I can only try to live up to his very high standards.

It started with honesty. My dad was absolutely B. S. proof. He looked you in the eye and told you what he thought-and sometimes it came out rough. But you always knew where you stood. If he was really mad at something and you fixed it – he was immediately OK. He was not a grudge guy. My Dad had a few altercations with his brothers -in-law over the years,but in recent weeks when discussing prayers, he revealed that he prays for his sisters’ husbands every night. To prove it he rattled off their last names- Lopez,LoChirco,Pluzycki,Kendzierski,Holubek, Candos and Weaver.

Actually, our talk about prayers confirmed what I had not thought about lately-my Dad’s spirituality. My Mom died in 1985, but to this day he honored her wish of not using God’s name in vain–when angry he says Gosh dammit.

My Dad was a great protector. On my uncle’s farm when I was 6 years old, an angry cow began chasing me, my Dad and my two cousins. As the cow got closer and we were running for our lives, my Dad threw me and my little cousin over the fence and he and my older cousin flipped the fence just before the cow crashed headfirst into it.

While we laid on the ground with our hearts beating out of our chests and wood splinters flying everywhere,the cow just stopped and stared at us. My Dad had literally saved our lives. And I never remember him telling the story. I wrote it for first grade-how I spent my summer vacation. The teacher said I had a great imagination. I said something like I cant make that shit up.

My Dad was a hard worker. I would hear him getting ready for work between 6 and 6:30 am every day. No matter how sick he was, he never missed work. He had this amazing system of eating soup and sleeping 12 hours and healing. I know he prayed;and it worked. My Dad also did big projects on weekends –installing air conditioning, tiling the basement and kitchen, putting up paneling with no formal training in any of those areas. He would watch his tradesman friends do a project and REMEMBER what they did. It was amazing. It also cost less-which leads to-

Money Saver. The best 2 items about thrift involve other Benkowskis. My Dad bought discount cans of soup from my uncle. These dented cans were perfectly tasty, but we got them for super cheap. We always had an amazing variety of soup growing up and it was a good feeling. The not so good feeling came when my Dad brought home some brightly colored t-shirts one summer. They looked good-EXCEPT they had AUDY HOME stamped in permanent ink on the bottom. For those who do not know-it’s where bad kids used to go. I told my Dad my worry about people seeing AUDY HOME on my shirts. He told me not to worry-just tuck it in my pants. About the second day of wearing it, the shirt came out of my pants while playing baseball. My friends start saying “delinquent” and “criminal”. I said that they did not realize my aunt was ripping off these shirts from the AUDY HOME. They said ” yeah, right.”

My Dad liked to have fun. He was always singing songs, doing dances, and teasing people that he beat in pool or cards. My Dad was skilled at sports. He earned the nickname “Zeke” for White Sox star of the 30s Zeke Bonura. One day my Dad broke a window witha batted ball the same day that Bonura did something good. My Dad had the nickname for 80 years. We would sing along with his discs when I visited him at Franciscan Village the last 2 years. In fact, the day before he died, October 11th, we sang Happy Birthday on a phone machine to his grandson-my nephew. I hope they save that recording.

I could go on and on, but I’ll just wrap it up by saying I got a lot to do to live up to Raymond Benkowski’s great legacy. Real quick- he was a great husband-36 years with my Mom and 26 years with my step-mom. They were great for him and greatly responsible for him making 89 years.

Love ya, Pops-give me a sign now and then when you see something good.