My father, Jim Bennett

I tell this story because my father loved to tell it.

         44 years ago a young couple fell in love in college, and created a new life together. Carol Siebert was the young woman, full of passion for life, incredible courage, a brilliant mind, gifted in art and music, according to everyone that knew her, especially the young man, Jim Bennett. They were well suited. I was the life they created together, their daughter. As times and fate would have it, I had the great and rare fortune of having not one but two sets of brilliant and wonderful parents. Bertille and Roy Black raised me and my two adoptive brothers in a rich, loving environment full of the same ideals, education, music and spirit that my birth parents had in mind for me. I was performing music with my adoptive father, Roy, at the age of 2 and 1/2, and my mother Bertille taught me to read at that age as well.  I have wondered often if there was more than chance at play, to have been taken in by a family so similar to the one that gave birth to me. Roy, I have been told, would often mention my father in his prayers when I was a child, because there was a Daddy somewhere out there who loved and missed me.

         25 years later, I learned from the adoption agency that my father Jim Bennett had indeed been trying to find me for 7 years. Papers that should have been used to put us in contact with one another had been buried in a file. So, at the age of 25, I opened my front door to the second person I had ever met who looked like me. My son Thomas, a good-hearted and very gifted young man, was the first. The shock of seeing my own face before me, albeit a man sporting a full red beard, is something I will never forget.
         He would say how happy he was that he found his daughter and became a grandfather all in one day.
         I remember my friends remarking about the resemblance after meeting him for the first time. They were fascinated by the similar features, but they were amazed at the gesticulations and facial expressions that before were unique to me, and apparently memorable to some. Who knew that such specific conversational expressions and intonations could have a genetic origin?
         The first song we wrote together was in 1993, "Smooth Running". I wrote the lyrics and melody, and sang it over the phone from North Carolina, into his answering machine in Rhode Island. From my voice on his machine he wrote and played the entire guitar accompaniment.
         The story continued as my father Jim Bennett met my adoptive mother Bertille, or Bertie as her friends call her. (My adoptive father Roy, one of the greatest men I have ever known, Rest In Peace, passed on Father's Day in 1976, when I was 8 years old.) Jim and Bertie hit if off right away, and became a couple a few years later, to my surprise. They have been devoted to one another ever since. My father often spoke of how happy and loved he felt being with Bertie, and that she helped make his heart feel at peace. They seemed to come together from opposite ends of a spectrum, meeting in the middle and sharing their unique gifts and life lessons with each other. There was great happiness in their togetherness; it filled the house with a sunshine that I will surely miss.
         My father and I found that we had a great deal in common. Neither of us had ever known blood relatives growing up, and our connection was quite comforting, to me anyway, having found another adult who shared nearly all of my passions, and the level of intensity for them as well. Music, writing, language, science, art, social science, academic studies of spirituality and cultures, and of course a deep affinity for science fiction. I have not known any other who could or would discuss the history, message, merits, or lack thereof, of a particular science fiction piece, for hours on end, (during and after watching or reading it), and only stop because we could no longer keep our eyes open.
         Thomas, Jim's only grandchild, also found a great connection with his grandfather, sharing much interest in common with my Dad, as well as his sharp and astute intellect, his generous, caring, grateful heart, his intense focus and love of learning. The gift of music was obvious before Tom could walk. He kept perfect time naturally with his small hands on the tray of his high chair, and was singing and playing tunes on his small piano and xylophone before he could talk. Tom's first time behind a drumset was at 16 months, and his first piano recital was at the age of five. He found a passion for rhythm and time and is now a gifted and accomplished drummer and songwriter. He and his grandfather found a deeper connection in the last few years, their long discussions about life, academics, politics, the future, history, and the big picture were profoundly important to both of them. 
         My father had a whole lifetime of adulthood before I met him, and mine had only just begun a few years before. We joked about how our musical careers were almost the same amount of years, because I had been onstage since I was 2. He had a great vault of stories about his life, adventures, friends and career, of which I never tired of hearing. My favorite, I think, is still the one about a gig in NY and some journalism, a van, and some Vipers ~
         His musical talent was, as anyone who knew him would agree, on a level that few have reached. He played "pretty much anything with strings" as he would humbly say, and he held himself above no one, although others would most assuredly argue the point of his station. His knowledge of anything that held his interest, especially music, was unparalleled. He was the one who knew whatever song you thought of, no matter how obscure, and probably the chords, changes, lyrics, composer, and history behind the song. His career spanned genres and many bands and projects. From what his close friends have told me, and my own experience working with him, he has been an invaluable asset to every project he has been a part of. And he sure knew how to play.
         Jim Bennett's talents spanned a very broad spectrum, from his obvious and well-known musical gifts, to composing, writing, computers and programming, anything to do with electronics, art, animals, and science. His interests were limitless. He had an incredible memory and knew more about literature than anyone I've ever met, and loved it intensely. He had an enormous mental library. When he was a child he had memorized and copied every poem of J.R.R. Tolkien. His gift for etymology was supported by his knowledge of Latin and other languages. If I mentioned a scrap of a line from a poem or classical literature, he would recite it often on the spot, and tell something about the author. He loved classical music and hymns, and of course Christmas music; when we attended church together, of course we would focus on the music. I was always amazed at how he would know all the verses whether there was a hymnal in front of him or not. One of our last discussions was regarding the words to A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, and how, as he intimated, that perhaps Martin Luther might have lightened up on his description of "our foe"; the conversation was memorable. We also shared a fascination with physics, especially quantum physics and mechanics, and I was grateful for his grasp on the subject, and his openness to hypotheses and speculation.
          Jim Bennett and I had many long discussions, especially in the last few years. I learned much about this brilliant and wonderful man who was my father. He came into my life as a stranger who looked like my son and I, but he became my Dad, and my son's Grandpapa. My family became his family; my brothers as sons, their children his grandchildren, my extended family, his.  He had great love and affection for his siblings and their spouses, for his nieces and nephews, and great love and admiration for his parents. He spoke of them often and with much esteem. (I do not post their names here in regard for their privacy, which was important to my Dad.) His childhood and his family was a source of fond memories, and he was very proud of all of them.  His regard for his friends was immense. His love for my son was endless. His devotion to my mother, like a fairytale. The compassion in his heart for others was unmatched, and quite possibly not known to many, he did not seem to wear his heart on his sleeve in front of most, but he was one of the kindest, most giving, forgiving, and open-hearted human beings I have ever known, and that I mean from the bottom of my heart.
         I will miss you greatly, Papa, thank you for being a part of our lives.