Tuesday, March 27, 2012
My Son's Name
Tell me a story about your dad! I know everything about King Benjamin (Benjamin is for the Book of Mormon king, right?); but I don't know much at all about your dad. I only remember that he hit you all on the head with a knife and it hurt a lot.
I'll tell you the origin of your name, Benjamin Bruce Yocum, and along the way tell you why you were named after your grandfather.
There are two Benjamins in the scriptures, King Benjamin and one of the sons of Jacob whose name was later changed to Israel. We know about the Book of Mormon king and how great he was; Benjamin in the Old Testament was faithful enough that his descendants hewed close to the tribe of Judah and escaped being taken captive with the other ten tribes, who were punished because of their extreme wickedness. They eventually disappeared from history; the tribe of Benjamin continued. The apostle Paul was a descendant of Benjamin.
Truth be told, as I recall we chose that name for you not because of any special connotations but because the name seemed to fit; it felt good for you. Spiritual guidance, I believe. It certainly was a name of honor.
My father Bruce grew up in Ohio. He had a rough family life and joined the Navy early to escape the problems. He served on an aircraft carrier in the Korean war. His job had some similarities to what Isaac is training for. Although he wasn't a fireman per se, when aircraft hit the deck and exploded, every sailor on board became a fireman.
He married my mother while he was still in the Navy, I believe, and stayed with her until her death from cancer at age 41. They brought the family into the church when I was 9. He later married Joyce Burke, to whom he is still married.
Although he never had what you would call a glamorous life, he really loved and supported his family. He worked for Sears most of his life as an appliance repairman. Most of the children were born in Tacoma, Washington. We lived near Tacoma's baseball stadium until moving to our farm near Eatonville, Washington. He then opened Yocum's Grocery and Appliance in nearby Graham, Washington, where Dad tried his hand at running his own business. Failing there, he rejoined Sears and transferred to Ketchikan, Alaska where we spent a year, the first few months in two tents and a trailer on the shore of Ward Lake. We then moved into a double-wide mobile home that he shipped from the "lower 48" for us. I was in 9th grade.
A year later we moved to Eugene, Oregon so my mother could be near her extended family while she was being treated for her recently-diagnosed lung cancer. Even though she enjoyed a short recovery, her return to cigarette smoking helped precipitate a downward spiral that ended with her death at home three years later. I was 16 at the time.
My father had always had a powerful physique, developed through years of farm work and hauling refrigerators and freezers and other large appliances into many homes over many years, including up and down the very extensive networks of long, wooden staircases in the Ketchikan hills. He was impeccably honest and very fun-loving. Our family was marvelously rowdy; when we would get too much out of line at the dinner table he would lean over and thump one of us on the top of the head with the handle of our very solid Navy-issue table knives. Yowch! He didn't have to do it very often. The noise was astoundingly loud. There would be a moment of shock, the offender would rub his head, and then we would burst out laughing and continue eating, albeit quite a bit more calmly.
Dad retired from Sears and the US Naval Reserves. He always loved electronics and fixing things; in his later life he ran for office and became a city councilman of a small town in southern Oregon. Completely honest and value-driven, he avoided the uglier political taints, going fishing instead of campaigning and still being re-elected.
He now lives outside Portland, Oregon with Joyce. He is 82 and very frail. We don't know how much longer he will live. I plan on seeing him this August and will be there for his funeral, whenever it is.
Dad always struggled with self-esteem issues, always thinking first about his failings instead of celebrating his successes. I inherited some of that tendency, and you may have as well. But I think we are overcoming it.
His children, however, adore him. So do those grandchildren lucky enough to know him. I do especially, and lavish praise and fond memories on him whenever I call him. He modestly brushes it aside, but I believe he appreciates it. He gave us a life of fun and adventure and variety and love, and contributed massively to who I am today. In my eyes he is a great man, a very great success, and we pray for his comfort and joy wherever he is. And we are very grateful to Joyce for sustaining and loving him after Mom's death and over these many years.
I hope this helps you understand a bit more about who he is so that you can pattern your life from the best he offers. To some degree I am a reflection of him. There are many more stories to tell and even a collection of videos which you may remember and see when you return from your mission in Guatemala. He is a very good man. I love him very much.
I love you too, son. Thanks for asking.