WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT.
I’ve been thinking lately about my mentors. What’s funny is how different each of them is (was) from me and how different they are (were) from each other.
My first mentor was my Grandfather Davies (my mother’s father). He was an upwardly mobile, politically conservative, Welsh coal miner turned steel worker. He died on Groundhog Day, a week before I turned five, so I had a short time to learn a lot of stuff. From him I learned that flowers are important (he lived in a shotgun house in a not-too-affluent neighborhood, which he decorated with flowers…wild and otherwise). I also learned to make something out of nothing (he was known around town as a scavenger…and his house was full of cool and beautiful treasures made from other men’s trash). He taught me that digging is good and relaxing (I am not much good at physical tasks, but I sure enough can dig…it’s like poor people’s Pilates). Also, my grandfather taught me to love the Pittsburgh Pirates…and all kinds of music.
My dad taught me how to stick with a problem until I have it solved. How to keep my eyes open and my mouth shut in the woods. Why flashlights are a bad thing if you really want to see in the dark. How to tie a bow tie or a long tie without a mirror. How to tie about fifty other kinds of knots (and why none of them is as good as a plain old square knot most of the time). How to keep your word—even if it means holding the hand of the woman you love every day for twenty years, as she fades away because of Altzheimers. I have, by the way, learned to hate Alzheimers, but not from him. He doesn’t hate things. He endures them.
My uncle, the newspaper man with ink in his veins, taught me to hate prepositions, semicolons, idiosyncratic adverbs (if you need an adverb, you got the wrong verb), and the passive voice.
Steve Czajkowski taught me to think like a consumer. Who are we talking to? What do we want them to do? What do they have to think in order to do that? How can we help them think that?
Mr. Bruce taught me how to marshal resources. He used to hook up a team of some of the biggest egos I have ever encountered (mine included), and get us to pull the sled in the same direction. Amazing. And he did it by backing his own ego out of it. Masterful.
Walter taught me to hold yourself to higher standards than you hold others. I know the concept. But I’m not very good at it.
Mildred taught me one thing. The end of the story is at the end. In other words, if you think Manasseh is the worst, look it up in Chronicles.
I’m still learning. But what a wonderful thing, to have this parade of teachers. Carolyn. Al. John. Sue. Larry. Babe. Alan. Look around. Who are your mentors?