Uncle Edward and the BenGay Joke


Memories always have a way of fading with the passage of time. Some memories may be forgotten entirely, while others are seen through the fog of time. There are those which are ingrained into a consciousness and will never fade or dim no matter how long.

One such memory is the infamous BenGay incident. My Uncle Edward used to organize and run road races in his home area. I never was much of a jogger, but back in my 20s, I ran on occasion to keep in some sort of physical condition. Though, I only went at most for a two mile run on a good day. Mom and Dad talked me, along with my two brothers, into running a five mile charity race in honor of my Aunt Alyce.

My Aunt Alyce was a special lady, and I loved her dearly. It was with great sadness that I learned she was sick and eventually passing away well before her time. Since this race was named in her honor, we all agreed to run. I never ran that length at one time, but I loved Aunt Alyce and thought I would run in her name. I did well, at least by my standards, and only had to walk briefly about the four mile mark, but was able to run to the finish line. I was wore out, but quite happy at being able to finish. Later that night, after taking a shower, my muscles were tightening up and sore, but I planned ahead and brought along some BenGay pain relief cream. I applied a generous amount on my legs, and soon the warm, tingling sensation was working and it felt so good, but the smell was not very discreet.

Uncle Edward was walking through the living room (we were staying at his house) and stopped to ask what the small was. Nobody was sure where it was coming from, and without thought I mentioned I had put on some because my legs were a little sore and stiff. I inadvertently launched a joke that went on for a few years.

It generally went something like this. Uncle Edward would call my dad, and I may be walking around the house and answered the phone:

“Hello,” I would say.

“This be Ben? Ben be speaking?” Uncle Edward would usually joke around speak in short, direct sentences. “Ben be gay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I would usually respond.

Both laughing and smiling at these exchanges, whether it was over the phone, or in person. I think it was his voice that made it so funny. My mom told me on several occasions that it may have been at a perfect time because Aunt Alyce had died not long before the race, and it was giving Uncle Edward something to joke and smile about. The BenGay joke took place many years ago, yet I still can remember the start of it with crystal clarity.

It’s been years since I heard it, and when I think of these jokes, I always smile. Always take the time to reflect on these similar moments in your life. It seems like I rubbed the infamous Ben-Gay on my sore legs yesterday, but when I reflect, I realize how long ago it was. A blink of an eye, and a decade passes. Many people may move into the New Year with resolutions on their mind. Maybe to exercise more, or perhaps drop a bad habit or two. I say the best resolutions are to reflect more on your life and those around you.

Mom and Dad named me after my Uncle Edward, because we share the same birthday, and I cannot think of a better individual to be named after. It’s an honor I’ve always felt. He is a well-respected individual, and is a pillar of the family and his community. His impact is felt on the many people he’s interacted with over the years. Most call me Tom or Thomas. Select family members may still call me Tommy, and I’ll allow them that honor as they have called me that all my life since I was a born. Uncle Edward, you can call me Ben any time you wish. You created a memory and a cause to smile in my life, and I thank you for it.

After Mom and Dad, you set such a beautiful role model for all to follow. The last couple of years have been challenging for you and your wonderful family, and I always pray for your well-being and your spirits. You may not realize it at times, but the life you have lived has affected so many people. For that, I could never thank you enough.

If everyone strives to be the best person they can be, think of how much better the world would be. If more people strive to be like my Uncle Edward, this would be the case. Take the time to reflect on memories for this New Year.



2 thoughts on “Uncle Edward and the BenGay Joke

  1. Tom, everything you said about my brother, Edward is so, so true. I remember that day about the Ben Gay. So funny. He is a great example to all the family and to all that he has come in contact with. He is a very kind and generous man and we are blessed to have him in our lives. GREAT ARTICLE TOM, You are a fantastic writer. Maybe you can do the “Vince & Lillian Family HISTORY” book. I think you are the one to do this. Love Ya, Aunt Jeanie

  2. Tom, those were excellent thoughts of Uncle Edward. He was so full of energy and organization. For sure he always was so kind and would do things and help just anyone. He lived with us in McLean, Va. for 3 yrs while he attended Georgetown Univ. He lived very frugally and did the best he could with what little he had. His favourite food at the end of every dinner was bread with peanut butter and jam! I wonder if he still likes it.

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