The neighborhood kids all called him “Benny in the Window.” Everyday, with his little dog Milo, he would wave at anyone walking by. I was eight, too young to really understand he was different. Mrs. Johnson, who lived next door to Benny and his brother, confided that he was “feeble-minded, but a real sweet man.”
I asked my mother to explain what that meant, being feeble-minded. She explained that some people were born more childlike, and that their brains never completely matured. She went on to say they were usually very happy and good-natured, adding that many had jobs. She also suggested that I not use the term feeble-minded, since it wasn’t kind.
I was too young to really understand, but I knew in my heart Benny was a kind man. His face lit up when we waved back at him, and he always seemed so happy. It bothered us that we never saw him outside. Mrs. Martinez came every morning with groceries to spend the day with Benny, working as a housekeeper and fixing his meals, while his brother worked as a pharmacist in town. Once we asked her if Benny could come out and play, but she said he needed to stay inside.
“Isn’t he lonely?” I asked her. “Does he have friends?”
“I’m his friend,” she explained. “We do puzzles together and draw, and he likes me to read to him. He has his little Milo, too.”
That was a long time ago, when I was only eight. I’m glad he had a brother who loved him enough to care for him and protect him.
JHG Journal 2/2018