Mr. Fixit Guy

Shared by Karen Bensen on September 5, 2020
Our Dad was an engineer through and through.  He never met something broken he couldn’t fix. We counted on it, in fact. I remember the first time I really noticed his simple genius when he fixed my alarm clock. It turns out that the battery was not connecting to the clock tightly enough to send the charge, so he folded up a little piece of tissue and tucked it behind the connector (what do you call those things?!) to apply just the right amount of pressure for the battery to make the necessary connection to run the clock. Voila! Fixed! It worked for many more years.  It was a simple yet genius solution. That’s the way his brain worked.

After he and Mom moved to Denver to live closer to me, I had him over one day to look at my sprinkler manifold (is that what you call it?) that had burst in a hard freeze overnight. I watched as he held all the pieces in his hands and stared at them for what seemed like a long time. Total silence while he stared. Nothing moved, not his body, not the parts. Finally, he spoke, “Ok, I got it.” Like doing a math problem without pencil and paper, he had fixed my sprinkler in his head.

Life went along like this for Dad. One problem solved after another. One could say it was his life purpose. As Dad aged, though, he was faced with a new kind of problem, his health. He treated each bodily problem that arose as an engineer would. He researched it online, he talked with his Dr. about it, and he tried one possible solution at a time as if running an experiment. He wanted to be sure he knew if it worked or not, so he would not try more than one thing at a time. It wasn’t good science to do so. His genius didn’t work for him on his own body. Medicine didn’t have answers for Dad’s ailments and they didn’t get fixed. While his physical ailments were not life threatening, they were debilitating and not being able to fix them in the way that he was used to doing was soul crushing. I have to wonder if Dad left us because he no longer felt he could fulfill his life purpose as a fixit guy.

The Fixit Guy lives on through his children, however. As Dad declined and Louise and I took care of more and more things and solved more and more of the household issues that popped up in their lives, Dad often commented in amazement at our capabilities and creative problem solving. We reminded him over and over that we had learned those skills from him. And we see them play out in Chris and Bruce and trickle down to the grandkids. The Fixit Guy left a legacy, and a humbled acceptance that none of us could fix the ailing body of a life well lived.

Karen - (youngest daughter) - Thank you to Louise for story edits and suggestions.

Sunrise over Denver

Shared by Michael Baier on September 1, 2020
He and I connected over photography and he loved showing me his own Camera - still analogue - and telling me stories about the pictures he took with it. On my holiday trips, I always carried my DSLR Camera everywhere and hunted for the most interesting pictures around Colorado. On my first trip to Denver, he made sure to drive us to all the bautiful peaks around Denver. We spent so many hours in the car, and we were so excited! On my second trip to Denver in 2013, during the time that Juliane and I were still at University, I read online about the beautiful sunrise pictures from the Denver Skyline and as we talked about it, Ken immediately had a place in mind, where we could have a good view and was very willing to take me there. This meant getting up at 5am to still have enough time to scope out the place to see, where we would have the best view, driving to the place about 30 Minutes and - since it was November - waiting in the cold morning air for the sun to rise and warm up our fingers :-) we had a lot of fun!! You can see one of the best pictures we took that morning.
This is just one of the moments, that show how Ken has welcomed me into the family and enjoyed getting to know me. I am very grateful for the wonderful times I've had with Ken and I will always carry (more than) his "picture" with me in my heart.

Michael Baier, Julianes (granddaughter) husband

Story from Maude Carpenter

Shared by Louise Bensen on August 31, 2020
Thank you so much for sharing this with me. Your Dad and Mom projected a picture of enduring love so well.

I remember in particular two conversations your dad shared with me  - one of which showed me the kind of father you describe. He was talking about his decision not to take leadership part in many volunteer activities. He said something to this effect, “ I feel my first responsibility is to be there for my children.” Indeed, he was.
The second humbled me as I admired him so much. We were talking about a book that was very popular at the time. I said I had not really liked it, to which he replied, “ If you didn’t like it, I don’t think I would.” What an honor!
I know that you will always treasure your memories of your dad.
Maude Carpenter (long time friend at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Manchester)

Childhood Snuggles

Shared by Karen Bensen on August 30, 2020
I have a sweet memory from my early childhood of climbing into bed with my parents on weekend mornings to snuggle. Mom was not an early riser, so the memory is with Dad. I crawled in between them and Dad would rub my back gently. It felt so good! I'm sure he was trying to get me back to sleep so he could catch a few extra winks himself, so when he thought I was asleep, he stopped the back rub at which point I would jiggle my body to communicate that "no, I am not asleep and please do not stop rubbing my back". He would resume and this would go on for a while until it was time to get up. He sure had some stamina! We also had a tradition of family "huggles". Usually these happened in the kitchen and often when Dad got home from work. Any family member around would join in on a group hug. These were comforting and made me feel loved and like I belonged. 
The afternoon before Dad passed, we got to visit him and Mom in their Assisted Living apt. I instinctively crawled into his bed next to him to be close and snuggle one more time. He got the sweetest most blissful look on his face. We were both simultaneously transported back in time I think and I heard him giggle. This was my goodbye to my Dad. It was perfect.

Karen - youngest daughter

Music with Dad

Shared by Louise Bensen on August 30, 2020
Dad and I shared a deep love of music. He was the musician who could play the cornet and piano so well. I was not as gifted in that area, though I enjoyed my years of organ lessons (yes, in-home Hammond organs were a thing in the 60s) as a child. But music fed us both in a similar way. He and I each reached to music for enjoyment, celebration, solace, and to process big emotions. A stirring piece of music brought tears to our eyes. When I took a classical music class in collage (maybe high school??), I was excited to better understand the mechanics of music that my dad knew so well and to be able to more deeply discuss a piece. In high school I became obsessed with a pop group called “Renaissance” whose music was based on and inspired by many classical pieces. The family can certainly attest to my endless playing of their albums. Dad didn’t have much to say about the group back then, but years later Renaissance was part of one of my most cherished music memories with Dad. He was visiting me in Oregon and, as often happened, our discussion turned to music. We ended up sitting on my couch listening to Renaissance (over and over) as I explained what I liked about their music and he joined me in analyzing and appreciating this group. I remember being so touched that he was so attentive to the music, listened so deeply to my feelings about it, and ended up liking their music, too.

Louise (aka Carol) Bensen - middle daughter 

Seeing me

Shared by Louise Bensen on August 30, 2020
As I have been reflecting on and mourning my dad and all the things I am grateful for, one aspect stands out. My dad saw me. He understood what my interests, skills and drives were and unconditionally supported them and me as they grew, changed and developed. In retrospect, some of the ways in which he supported me now seem extraordinary given the era in which I grew up. While the role of women was beginning to change during my childhood, roles were still mostly very traditional. Despite this, when I showed an interest in building car models – one of his loves – he showed me how and bought me kits. I liked to make and build things, and while there was plenty of sewing, paper doll clothes making, and arts & crafts – Dad also taught me woodworking. Dad taught me things that helped build confidence, competence and independence. I was not the son, yet he taught me to mow the lawn, change my car oil, and fix things. When I left home I discovered an adventurer within me. Dad never balked when I announced the latest adventure I was planning – a year in Norway, being a nanny in Egypt, a solo bike trip in Vermont, a bike trip in Kenya, two years in China, and on and on. The response that sticks with me the most was when I announced I was taking mountain climbing classes in Oregon and intended to climb several glaciated peaks that summer. My protective Mom responded with, “Oh, honey please don’t. It’s so dangerous.” To which my dad responded, “That’s why she is taking the class.” Dad knew that part of me that needed to adventure and he knew he had raised me to have the confidence, competence and thoughtfulness to do so safely. I think a part of him joined me on each of my adventures and I will take him with me on any future ones.

Louise (aka Carol) Bensen - middle daughter 

My Dad and his work and my homework

Shared by Karen Bensen on August 29, 2020
As a child and even as an adult I did not understand my father's work as an aeronautical engineer. He worked hard and often brought home things to read at night. I can see him sitting in the rocker in the family room doing this while I worked on homework at the kitchen table. But he always made time for me, especially when I was doing math and science homework and got stuck. All he had to do was come into the kitchen and stand next to me. Usually his presence alone gave me the confidence I needed to figure it out. He was gifted in math and science. It was the night that I had a poetry project for my 8th grade English class due the next day that he really stepped up. Poetry was not really his thing (although he has written many beautiful loving words on greeting cards over the years). But this man, my Dad, stayed up past midnight with me as I struggled to pull poetry out of my being. We laughed and composed and laughed. Here is the poem Dad wrote that night in January, 44 years ago. You gotta love it!
Little green inch worms
   are flying by
attached to a silk thread
   hanging from the sky.
Why must they always
   hit me in the eye
as I go running by?
                                                                      by Ken Bensen

Karen - youngest daughter

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