Ben Shepard

THE EARLY EVENING’S PLAYFUL WINDSTORM had turned evil, and now ripped trees and branches to the ground with ferocious abandon. In desperate, off-balance surprise, trees clutched at power lines for support, severing society’s nerves. Shortly after 9:30 p.m. the computer screen collapsed with a snap and the house went dark, while below my hillside window a blanket of sparkling lights blinked a few times as it became a quilt of black patches.

One of the disconnects was my home, and another the magazine’s office. At home, where electric pumps push water up the hill to the house, the loss was more than a mere inconvenience: it encouraged evacuation. The office, in a black patch of its own, would be closed and lie helpless for days. Local hotels with power were instantly booked for the duration, so for the first time in almost 50 years I returned to sleep in my childhood bed at Mom’s now-uninhabited house not far away. My arrival took the sleeping bungalow by surprise. At first it resisted the body’s fumbling attempts with keys, but recognizing the mind as it entered, the house began to wag its tail. There were embraces. The house had been loyal during my absence. Only a thin layer of dust betrayed its lonesomeness since the night Mom dialed 911 for help.

My childhood home and I did a sort of dance together for a while. Without a sound the house led me to the hall closet where I could gaze into my childhood toy box, still half full of almost-forgotten friends, happy to see me despite their partial dismemberment by children, nephews and grandchildren. I followed the house’s lead to my own bedroom closet where great R&B artists await their 78-rpm cue. A few steps later we were in the living room, where the music of laughter echoed from the walls and woodwork to join the celebration.

We saved our last dance for the kitchen, the little room that remembers all the heartfelt conversations and all the important decisions. It even provides a convenient, fold-from-the-wall ironing board that once kept Mom in one place long enough for the big questions. The family’s aromas are there. The kitchen was Where It’s At, and that makes the kitchen the most intimate room in the house. Sometimes meals were prepared there while the important work of living went on.

Then the house and I rested and took stock of each other. The bungalow was so familiar. It was I who had changed. I had forgotten the joys of its scale; how effortlessly compact it is. Now, towering above familiar surroundings, as though seeing the place for the first time from the air, I recognized the essence of the little house looking back at me, confident and organized, letting me know I would find anything I might need on the first try—scolding me in a loving way for thinking I ever needed more. Our love reunited, home and I slept soundly that night in each other’s arms.

Looking forward to hearing from you,




My family and I are deeply saddened at the loss of our lifelong friend, Ben Shepherd. Our hearts go out to his wife, Nancy, whom I have known since kindergarten, and to his entire family. Few of you knew Ben, but all of you would have felt your lives enriched with him as a friend.

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