A year ago today, I was walking atop the Great Wall of China with my son, Garrett. And while we were marveling at this ancient feat of engineering, my father quietly passed away in California.
Today I am sitting in a holiday apartment in Dublin, Ireland – again many miles from home. But again, I am not far from family – or my father.
Ed Bentley was both a simple and a complex man. He was raised in a harsh and almost primitive environment in northern Idaho. The log house he shared with a huge gaggle of siblings had neither electricity nor running water and much of the technology the builders of that Great Wall used would have been familiar to him.
Perhaps that ever-present sense of necessity drove his lifelong love of history and the way things work.
Even though he was terminally ill, Dad insisted I go through with a planned trip to China last year. He marveled at photos we sent him through the Internet and my son, my wife and I all recalled his many stories of how amazing it must have been to watch a people with only horsepower, elbow grease and ingenuity construct the massive wall.
I thought of Dad again yesterday when we toured the Neolithic structures on The Burrens in western Ireland with our daughter Gillian. In many ways, the crude structures like the wedge tomb at Poulnabrone were even more amazing. In my mind’s ear, I could hear Dad extolling the wonder as his eyes traced the outlines of the huge stone slabs. “ And they didn’t even have metal tools! Can you imagine it?”
He could. And thanks to Dad, I can. His legacy is an appreciation for the ability of the human mind and agility of the human hand that I believe passed to my son and daughter and now to my grandson. Though not quite 3, Briton reflected my dad’s unabated sense of wonder as he pointed to a flower he found among the limestone rocks.
“Look! Look, Papa, look!”