Namesake

I’m shaking. Literally shaking.

What are the odds?

Seriously what are the odds? I can’t even begin to figure out how to calculate them.

I’ve been thinking about someone often. And it is NOT an obvious person AND he shares a namesake with my son.

I have an hour “off.” I’m doing my daily hospital constitutional where I walk to sit on the FDR on a bench facing the water. I like water as you know. 

And on my walk there he is. I don’t even think he lives in New York. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him even walk! Shuttled in cars possibly, but walking not so much. And it’s been YEARS since I’ve seen him or even thought about him…until recently.

The man is Benno Schmidt (junior). 

And I shouted “Benno?!” That can’t be him right?

And he turned around! AHHHHH!

I wish I could tell you he was as excited to see me as I was of him.

I wish he was like “Abby Brody! I’ve been thinking of you! I’m so happy to see you!”

That did not happen. He didn’t seem that interested in me, but this is okay. This was about me. About confirming some ideas in my head. His presence was enough.

Question: Did I make him appear? I honestly at this point think that may be possible. I just can’t figure out how this man that I have not thought of in over ten years just materializes out of nowhere. Why would he be on York Avenue during the one hour I get free? AND when I had a question to ask him. 

Background: Benno Schmidt is one of the founders of Avenues, prior to that he was the President of Yale University. I had little run-ins with Benno at Avenues. He was always globe trotting around with Chris, but the only interaction I had during that time was a bit awkward.

I interviewed with Avenues when I was 7.5 months pregnant. I was BIG. I gained 60lbs with Benno and clocked in at a much healthier weight with Jacob at 56lbs. During my interview process, I knew that I was naming my son Benno. He was named after a former student of mine.

Already a bit much for most humans to handle, I was worried about getting this job. I wanted to be part of building the future. I really wanted it and I can come on strong.  I was concerned that the leadership team would think I’m the biggest kiss ass in the world to name my child Benno. I was seriously concerned that this would stop me from getting my job. That would be weird right?! It’s not a normal choice in name. That was a real concern right?

So I announced it in my interview. I announced my future child’s name and made it clear it has no association with THE Benno in the office. I even went on to say that I had never even heard of another Benno, other than my student, prior to my interview process with Avenues. 

It was awkward to say the least. They were like “okay.” Silence….and then I spent the rest of those weeks worried I might have offended them by not knowing the great Benno Schmidt. He is an education icon, I should have known him. Now I look unprepared! ugh.

But recently Mr. Schmidt is everywhere in my thoughts and world. First off, his Grandson by RANDOM chance is interning with my husband’s company. They had no idea the connection until weeks in. And I had a phone call with his mother who is doing innovation in education. Neither share the Schmidt name. This was all discovered by chance.

And then there he is in MY BOOK. One of my many cancer books. 

It turns out Benno Schmidt (senior) plays a large role in cancer. A proud role where he was a communicator. He helped do the impossible. He got people to speak. He brought together government, scientists, etc. to fight cancer. He was a close advisor to Nixon at the time. When Benno was asked if the country could afford the equivalent of the NASA of cancer he said:

“Not only can we afford the effort we cannot afford not to do it.”

Damn straight brother!

He played a large role in passing legislation that gave cancer equal footing to war. He recognized that war isn’t the only life killer out there and in this case in our nation’s history, it was the Vietnam war. And on December 23, 1971, Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, which had a budget of $400 million and would go up by $100 million yearly.

After Nixon signed the bill, he gave his pen to Benno Schmidt.

And oddly I’ve been stuck on this pen.

I asked Steve to ask his grandson who had his last day before returning to school recently, but he forgot.

But there he was!! Right on York Avenue. 

It was another awkward run-in.

I was bursting with enthusiasm and it was clear he had no clue who I was. I dropped name after name. All his family members basically who I’ve spoken to. But he kept saying “so nice to see you.” (Code for, I’m going to carry on my way now).

“But wait! I have a question for you. What happened to the pen? Where is the pen?!”

He didn’t know. Darn.

But still! The playa provided. I got an answer and just maybe he will go look for that pen now. I would love to see it. I like what it represents.

And maybe this was the Benno I named my Benno after the whole time. Maybe this is why I chose such an unusual name. There is someone up there with plans for me. That seems for freaking sure.

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