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Ben Stoker (b.1984), held by his father
[The Oxford Project]
"I think about my dad every day. I remember feeling his beard against my face. I remember his hands they were soft and warm."
When I was ten, my dad died. He had renal failure. He used to take me to his office on Saturdays, and in the afternoon we'd catch a Kernels game. Pretty much I think about my dad every day. I remember feeling his beard against my face. I remember his hands they were soft and warm.
Two years ago when I was nineteen, my mother died of cancer. She was my guiding light.
I was very angry with God. He came and took my father and then he took the other person I loved most in the world. I'd be a liar if I said everything is all right. I know I'll spend an eternity with both my parents. Two sayings come back to me: "He's not going to put you through something you can't handle," and "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."
I have dreams, mostly of my mother. I dream that my family is in Disney World and we're going from ride to ride, but my mother's the only one not talking.
I started at Luther College two months after my mother died. It was too soon. I turned into a party animal. I needed to fix my life, so I came back to Oxford. I used to want to study pre-med, but lately I've been thinking of becoming a teacher. My mother was a teacher.
I want to have a family. I could care less if I make a mark on the world. I just want to be the best father I can be.
A lot of people don't like small towns because they're so tight-knit. But that's what makes this place so great. You know who's sleeping with whom, but when your mother dies, you also know there'll be twenty-eight people at your door with casseroles.
From The Oxford Project. Welcome Books. Photographs © 2008 Peter Feldstein.
Text © 2008 Stephen G. Bloom. www.theoxfordproject.com