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Success does not come without a price, and the cost for Ben Englander in 1992 was the onset of Albers-Schonberg disease, commonly known as osteoporosis, couple shortly afterward with a second diagnosis, that of the crippling effects of hypertrophic arthritis. The doctors played their which-came-first game - the chicken or the egg? It really didn't matter. He had acquired both. He accepted both. The diseases would certainly curtail his photographic activities in time, but for now he could navigate without the assistance of crutches on most days. The use of a wheelchair would not be required for a while.

Ben's parents tended to him frequently, their hearts breaking, but both remained stoic in his presence. Not only did they love the home he'd provided for them, but they also loved him and how selflessly he had achieved the move with them seven years before.

***

In the spring of 1997, members of the Symposium of Art and Photography would hardly allow a quarter-century of Ben's work to pass without notice. They decided May would be a perfect time to bestow upon him their Eye of the Beholder Award for a lifetime of superior achievements. They'd known, from rare interviews given, he had always indicated that spring date when he'd bolted home to retrieve his Kodak so that he could shoot street scenes in his former Brooklyn neighborhood.

On Saturday evening of the Memorial Day weekend, patrons of the arts, Ben's peers, fans and well-wishers filled the main hall of Lincoln Center in tribute. A retrospective slide show of his photographs was projected overhead on a continuous basis, accompanied by the evocative melodies of Pachelbel's "Canon in D" and Chopin's "Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66," among several other timeless classics.

After a stirring, heartfelt introduction by the Symposium president, Benjamin Englander hobbled across the stage with the assistance of aluminum hand-held wrist crutches. He paused in front of the podium's microphone, wiped something from the corner of his eye and smiled at his parents in the first row while gently clearing his throat.

"Distinguished members, mother, father, and all my dear friends, if you were to assume that a lifelong case of shyness would disappear from my life at this point, you'd be...so very wrong."

Laughter and love filled the hall.

"Thank you very much for being here and for the kind words already said. Everything I've achieved I owe first and foremost to a Power far greater than mere mortals, and also to one man in particular, a most talented man, who passed on before I graduated from elementary school. The renowned artist Edward Hopper died before I knew the man even existed.

"It has been proven to me time and again that death does not end a life. Death does not cut short one's ability to influence. Death does not rob us of works of art, be they music, literature, photography or paintings, created and left to us by others more skilled and talented than we. Death cannot usurp the beauty of the world's treasures, legacies so richly needed by the human race.

"I must admit to you that it was never my intent to imitate, or even worse, to copy Hopper's distinctive style. What I believe did happen is that, through some ironic twist or intervention of fate, I developed an ability to see the city and the world through the eyes of a deceased artist. Edward Hopper was showing me his world, but did so from beyond. In that way, he...was guiding...me."

His voice lowered. "If not for that, I have no suitable explanation."

The sound of silence within the hall was deafening.

"To all of you here tonight, to you who have so honored me this evening, I make one promise and will do my utmost to keep it: I shall continue in my chosen field, my life's work, as long as I am physically able. If I can retain the ability to open an eyelid, to be able to focus, if I can depress a shutter with a prosthetic hand or finger, then so be it."

His parents wept. A standing ovation with thunderous applause echoed in Ben's ears. Despite the pain, despite the knowledge that his condition would continue to degenerate, effectively putting an end to his creative days, this moment provided him with the finest healing medicine one could hope to attain, and at any price.

***

[NEXT: The conclusion of "LEGACY."]

Copyright 2010 James D. Young


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Comments

The following comments are for "LEGACY (6)"
by JamesYoung

hah!
You know that google search I was referring to? Well .. type in ben englander photographer and see what comes up on the first page ...

woooo!

( Posted by: Pen [Member] On: April 17, 2011 )

Plastered All Over FaceBook
Might as well have called my character John Smith, eh? Durante was right: everybody wants to get in on the act. As I don't access FaceBook or MySpace, is this real-life "Ben Englander" a photographer, too? LOL if he is. Perhaps we could have him be the "walking billboard" for the story. It'd be his day in the sun - Warhol's 15 minutes of fame.

Thx for sharing that info, Pen! Gave me a good couple of laffs. - Jim

( Posted by: JamesYoung [Member] On: April 18, 2011 )

Jim!
That's a great idea .. I'm going to flag one of the Ben Englanders on Facebook with this link .. too funny.

( Posted by: Pen [Member] On: April 18, 2011 )





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