I miss you. I wish I could still have your example to ponder and appreciate. I wish I could emulate your direct, organized, no-nonsense, matter-of-fact leadership. I wish I could find the combination of language, persona, and demeanor that would convey calm cool and collected while also stealthily wrapping people in your love. If you were still alive, I would have called you at least ten times by now.
I would have been too proud to ask you to come visit, and I wouldn’t have wanted to show you how scared I am. I am I think. Somewhere deep down where I don’t look ever, I think I’m scared the whole thing is going to come crashing down around me and I’ll not be able to recover.
I remember how, no matter what the reason for entering your office, I always felt like I was in the principal’s office – not necessarily in a bad way, but like a young student who knows the principal only as a figure of respect and dignity. Like a visit to the White House or something. I would always ask if you had a moment. (I loved that we both did that since we both couldn’t stand thoughtless interruptions when on a roll at work.) You almost always had a moment for me immediately. I didn’t recognize that then. It makes me cry a little now, looking back.
I remember your routine whenever anyone entered your office. You would turn your chair around, put your back to your computer screen, cross your legs, and place your arms casually on your armrests so that your hands draped over the ends. It was a pose that said we had your undivided attention, and you were so comfortable in that position that we could have been at a family barbecue. Still, I always felt a little tinge of nervousness during those visits. I wanted to make you proud and I didn’t even know it.
I must remember that I’m above it all now. I must remember your example and not get stuck in the mire of pettiness or competition. I must follow your lead and be silent more than not, speaking only when necessary and only when I can make the right and worthy point heard and felt. I must hold the line and drive forward with a force of proper and tough, but still maintain that which somehow makes me feminine and thoughtful. I still want so badly to make you proud.
With love and respect,
Your stubborn, hot-tempered, intelligent and capable mentee
P.S. here’s a link to one of your favorites.