Sometimes we don’t recognize the mentors we’ve had until we grow up and look back over our lives. At the time, they may have been someone we saw on a regular basis because of school or church schedules, odd jobs around the neighborhood, going to piano lessons. The main character of Bridge to Haven, Abra, has several mentors, but one in particular has a warm spot in my heart. She’s a non-conformist, embarrasses her family on a regular basis, speaks truth even when it’s uncomfortable and doesn’t give a hoot what other people think about her. She’s old, has a lot of life behind her, and knows the opinion of One is all that really matters. She’s ditzy, too, with an interesting past. So I gave her a name to fit, and you’ll know her when (if) you meet her.
My mother was my mentor. She was a constant in my life, always ready to listen and only dispensed advice in short doses. Dad tended to lecture. I loved him, but he made me grind my teeth. I never lectured my children. I piled them into the car, locked the doors and drove them hither and yon (T-ball, baseball, soccer practice) and talked. When I wasn’t talking or asking general questions from The Question Book or the Book of Questions on Business, Politics and Ethics. This was during my B.C. and A.D. years. Hopefully, they heard a difference. I’d forgotten about the birdsong tapes until they reminded me.
I should apologize. But I’m not sorry. One child nicknamed me “Buana” after John Wayne in “Hatari”. I mean, really. Another called me “O Weird One”. Lovingly, of course. And they also called me “Mommy”, my favorite. Too bad they grow up so fast and feel it’s more dignified to call one’s mother “Mom”.
Besides my mother, I had a Sunday school teacher I admired. Marion Bonde mentored me by being a good example, and the mother of one of Rick and my dearest friends. He’s the same one that bears scars on his shins from our days in elementary school. I put them there. It was his fault, of course. Someone had to nail his hide to the wall. Why not me? After one bout, his mom asked me up to dinner. Surprised and honored, I went and this boy and I glared at one another like siblings over a nice dinner with nice parents and siblings. How can you not make peace with a boy who invites his enemy into the house for dinner? That boy (David) grew up (as did I) and became Rick’s best man at our wedding and Godfather to our children. He’s my second brother.
Another mentor was my high school counselor, Mrs. Vardon. She was an awesome teacher. My only regret is she quit teaching senior English the year I turned a senior, and I had to spend months writing a journal and reading Ode to a Grecian Urn instead of Ivanhoe for the new one. She was my French teacher for four years, and had the patience of Job. She also got me into college. Most of my friends were going to Cal or some other equally prestigious place of learning, but I hadn’t made the grades or the SAT scores. She got me into the University of Nevada, Reno, where I was able to take creative writing from Walter Van Tilburg Clark (Oxbow Incident and Track of the Cat – and he was another awesome teacher).
I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors over the years, some older and some younger than I. And I’ve been able to mentor others as well. It’s one of the great pleasures of life: to build friendships, to encourage and learn from one another. It is especially sweet when the Lord is part or center of every conversation.