Friday, May 31, 2013

Not Left Alone

He is survived by his wife, Marilyn.

With all the losses that befell the Bean family in 1955, it seemed the family was dwindling to nothing. Yet even though it seemed, with Earle Raymond Bean’s obituary yesterday, that his wife Marilyn was now left alone, that is not entirely so.

For once, I’m rather thankful that newspapers make editorial mistakes. In this case, it was an error by omission: Earle and Marilyn had two small children.

To think that this would be good news—considering those small children in question were then aged four years and fourteen months—is not quite what I mean. Rather, that Marilyn was not left entirely alone was one form of comfort. Yes, it was a difficult future that faced the small family. But as hard as it seemed, they had each other to pull into that future.

On the other hand, tracing the trajectory of the Woodworth family’s health tendencies owing to Marfan syndrome, that future had its dark side, too. Considering that Earle had lost his mother, Maud, when she was barely thirty five—and even his own brother, who was thirty four at the time of his death—Earle himself had not even made it that far. He was only twenty nine when he passed away.

If Earle’s son Gregory had had the same level of medical care that had been available during Earle’s generation, he would have made it only to his twenty fourth year. Thankfully, by the 1970s, things were different. What at that time was called “open heart” surgery became the new game-changer for victims of Marfan syndrome.

In Greg’s case, the moment of his own health crisis came on the afternoon of October 1, 1974. How well I remember that day—and that miracle. Though it became only the first of several such cardiovascular surgeries, the blessing was that it hadn’t been the last. As Greg often commented, himself, despite the health struggles he faced, he was so appreciative of the opportunity to have a life. And with the heritage he had in his great-grandparents on both the Bean and Woodworth sides, passed down through his grandparents and their family, he had a lot of life to live—and to give. Thankfully, after that heart-stopping moment in 1974, he had the opportunity to extend that full life another fourteen years.

Of course, you would expect, after that point, to see me post yet another obituary in this long tale of life that all of us eventually share. I’d like to say I’m not going to post that obituary in deference to the privacy of those who still remain. But I can’t really say that now. You see, the only one left whose mention would violate that respect of privacy would be the one writing this post.

A while back, a reader—Intense Guy, dubbed online as “Iggy”—asked for a recap on all the relationships. In answer to his comment, “I’ve lost the thread; how are you related to these folks?” I deferred the answer until later. Strangely, I found myself having such a hard time keeping that promise.

It wasn’t because I didn’t know the answer. On the contrary: I know the answer all too well.

Perhaps what caused it to be so difficult to say has something to do with the very same reason why Sam Bean could only comment, “I had a swell wife.” Coming to Sam’s defense at the time, some of you were so perceptive to pick up on that possibility on his behalf. Iggy had mentioned,
I suspect his brevity when speaking of his wife was due to pain of loss—my grandfather would only say "she was a saint" of my grandmother after she passed away.
Agreeing with that sentiment, reader Far Side commented,
I have met people who will not speak of the dearly departed. It is too painful for them.
While I couldn’t see it at the time—until you all had put words to it—I was still going through the same process, myself. Oh, I had alluded to it in places. Like when that “fourteen month old baby” passed away last November, triggering the idea in my mind to work on this series. And again, with the official first post, “Starting This Story at the End,” where I introduced Earle’s son, Greg.

Now that you’ve mentioned it, yes, I can heartily agree with the explanation for the way Sam put it about his own wife. It is too hard to put into words.

Even after all these years.


  1. Hugs. I understand.

    I also release you from the promise you made me. It's okay.

    And even though you say, "it is too hard to put to words," this post is one of your top 5 as far as power and communicating.

    1. Thank you, Iggy. It did take me by surprise, going through this series. Sometimes, it is much easier, talking about things that are farther removed from us, than those things that are up close and so personal.

  2. Oh, Jacqi! You've paid tribute to your Bean family in such a loving and dignified way. I remember your first posts in this series in which you mentioned they had all been taken too soon by Marfan's and that there were no more left to carry on the family name. Thanks to your loving posts, the Beans will live on.

    We've gotten to know them over the past five months, and we've been touched by their strength of spirit and passion for life. Their experiences and character have enriched us and made them unforgettable - an enviable achievement for any life, let alone so many.

    I feel deeply for your loss. You may have not joined the Beans by blood, but you have their spirit. Thank you for this brilliant series (and please forgive the lengthy post).

    1. Linda, thank you for your kind words. I have to smile when I remember that, if it weren't for coming to the Bay area to research Leon Bean, I wouldn't have had the chance to meet you for coffee--a most enjoyable time!

  3. I went back to read the first story again. I can't believe the story began in January! I feel as if my favorite tv series has shown the season finale and I'm waiting for the summer hiatus to end.

    1. Wow, Wendy...I'm speechless...

      Hopefully, at some point, I'll get a chance to return to the Bay area and complete more research on Sam's school years in Berkeley, as well as his son's Ice Follies stories and his grandfather's years in Redwood City. And maybe even follow those roots back to Maine...

      Bit by bit, these stories get pieced together...

  4. You have come Full Circle now. The story is written..I can imagine a few tears flowed at those last words. "Even after all these years."
    You did good! Told a story that needed to be told. I applaud you for telling it! :)

    1. Far Side, you are quite simpatico. Yes, even after all these years...

  5. Jacqi, now I understand. I went back and read your earlier posts. You have been writing a eulogy, a memorial, a beautiful work of mourning. By tracing and understanding the past with such loving care, you have added dignity and weight to this whole generations-long unfolding tragedy. I really admire what you have done. By holding back what can't be expressed, you have expressed it more deeply than ever. In Tennyson's words, these are "thoughts that lie too deep for tears."


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