Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mentor Ted

Just before The Child came into my life, I had a mentor named Ted. He was the Father I Never Had. He was introduced to me by my friend K who said his advice had changed- no, actually saved- her life. I could see that she had placed him on a pedestal. I was fascinated.

I wondered if I too could win over Ted. Would he even bid me the time of day? He was a "rock star," so to speak. My friend K was the type of woman who easily attracted men. She was born to attract men. Ted was not a romantic interest for either of us, though- he was a mentor, a Father. He was a motivational speaker- that's how K discovered him.

When I first called him and introduced myself, he reacted exactly the way I wanted him to. He took me under his wing. I became an instant daughter. He invited me to call him daily. He lived in LA. I ran up huge phone bills talking to him, but it was worth it. He told me how to live my life. He gave me a solution to every problem. He began a process which should have occurred during my childhood: the growth of my self-esteem.

Clearly, Ted liked me. He was very impressed with what I do for a living and with the fact that I was extremely independent and good at handling my finances and other affairs. I thrived on Ted's approval and appreciation. My own father had never voiced the approval that I was now receiving from Ted. My own father had never spoken to me with the affection that I now heard in Ted's voice.

On a daily basis, he helped me examine the way I was living my life. He gave me logical solutions to whatever problems cropped up at work or in personal relationships. He taught me about boundaries- a hitherto unknown concept for me. He taught me how to serve others while still being true to myself. He taught me to be reasonable. He always said that he tried to teach people to "live comfortably with unresolved problems." In other words, he taught people how to live in peace, despite whatever issues presented themselves.

Probably the most valuable gift he gave me was a kind, loving, yet honest reality check on my biological family, my place in it, and the limitation on what I could expect from it. He taught me how to "clean up my side of the street" and leave it at that. He taught me how to make meaningful amends without selling out. He taught me an unbelievably powerful method of making amends to a person who has died, and I have passed this technique on to many other people who have also used it successfully. Ted was the wisest person I have ever met. His advice was sound; in some cases, I didn't find out until years later how sound it was. He never charged a dime for his advice- I only paid the long distance phone charges, which I totally controlled because I was the one calling him.

K and I nearly fainted when we found out that Ted was coming to our city to speak!!! We fought over which one of us would pick him up at the airport. She won because of my work schedule. She was so nervous about meeting Ted face-to-face that she wrecked her car on the way to the airport!

I understood, because I too was a nervous wreck about meeting Ted (although fortunately it didn't show in my driving!). What if he was disappointed by the way I looked?! Surely he had conjured up an image of me in his mind. Would I disappoint him? I donned my best outfit, topped by the leather coat which I rarely wore and spent lots of extra time trying to look my best. My friend K always looked fantastic, like a model- I had to attempt to compete with that standard.

Then, when I was finished with work, I went to the hotel to meet Ted. It was an earth-shaking event. Really, it was like meeting my father for the first time! Ted showed far more enthusiasm for me than my father ever had. And I heaved a silent sigh of relief when Ted whispered, "I just knew you were gorgeous- I could tell over the phone!" Was I ever glad I had spent all that time fussing with my hair.....

You might be thinking that this story is going to take a slimy turn for the worst, but it didn't. Ted remained My Father. In fact, he wanted to meet the guy I had been going out with. When we failed to co-ordinate their schedules, Ted insisted on talking to him on the phone! I listened in on the conversation during which Ted had the guy jump through hoop after hoop, like any caring father would. I was touched that Ted warned him to proceed slowly with me, thinking of me as a deer in the headlights....(My own father never would have done this.)

It never works well to place a human being on a pedestal, as we all know. Humans are fallible. Shortly after his visit to my city, I faced a life-changing decision- the decision of my lifetime. Ted had a very strong opinion about which choice I should make. Although I understood his concerns all too well, I disagreed with him. I stopped calling Ted. He was worried, and started calling me when I stopped calling him. I didn't return his calls.

Nine months later The Child was born.


Nancy said...

But he did guide you well ...well enough for you to take your own reins and make the best decision for yourself ... and indeed, you made the right choice.

Super post!

Betty said...

Dear Nancy,

Yes, he did guide me well. Better than he'll ever know. It's unbelievable how frequently I think of him and remember his words.

Ted had heart problems, and he died shortly after The Child was born. He was a great man and our conflict at the end does not diminish that fact.


Lynilu said...

Nancy said it well. Sometimes the teacher doesn't recognize when it is time to let the pupil go. I'd bet that Ted knows that your decision was the right one for you and that in his own way, he helped you to make it.

And you definitely made the right decision. :)

Anonymous said...

What he gave you as a mentor was precious - and what you took from him, is just what *you* needed, no more no less.

It's good to remember such people even when they aren't around, whatever be the reason they are away - be it a disagreement, distance or even death.

Betty said...

Dear Lynilu,

Yes, I bet you're right. When I think back- how could such an incredibly wise man not know?


Betty said...

Dear Shankari,

You're right, and your wisdom applies to all relationships: take what applies and leave the rest. And Ted gave me the tools to make the distinction.

And you're so right about people like Ted deserving to be remembered despite our disagreement. When I think of him now, I remember the gifts he gave me.


Big Dave T said...

Sounds like Ted is one of those life coaches that I read about. I don't really take advice that well. I think I'm one of those kinds of guys who has to live by experience. I know that's not the best way to live life but life's full of bumps along the way anyhow so they might as well be bumps of your own choosing.

Betty said...

Dear Big Dave,

It's funny- I never thought of it, but Ted was a Life Coach, I suppose. He seemed too old- fashioned for that title, but it really could apply. The difference between Ted and a real Life Coach was the price!


Kel-Bell said...

What a fine story...and I am sure Ted would look back and realize you did well by listening to your own inner voice.

Laurie said...

Oh Betty....It's never easy to
put someone on a pedestal.....
Does they know about each other...

You have a beautiful child out of
it all though....But you already
know that...


Betty said...

Dear Kelley,

I bet you're right- he must have known he couldn't guide me forever!


Betty said...

Dera Laurie,

I have told The Child about Ted many times (excluding certain details!) but Ted doesn't know The Child- he died shortly after our disagreement. Then again- you never know- maybe he does know.....


Priyamvada_K said...

Dear Betty,
Ted seems to have been quite the father figure for you, and this is a nice tribute. Touched to read about him grilling your boyfriend in that paternal way. How nice of him to adopt the don't-mess-with-my-daughter stance!

Quoting from one of your comments here:

"It's funny- I never thought of it, but Ted was a Life Coach, I suppose. He seemed too old- fashioned for that title, but it really could apply. "

Old-fashioned people give that balance in life, and keep us grounded. Liberal, forward-thinking people allow us to fly. Too much flying and one may spin out of the groundedness can be a good thing :)

Sometimes I wonder at my Republican friends (and I have several, whom I don't agree with on politics) - and realize that it is their old-fashionedness that attracted me to them. There is a reassuring quality to it: you know what to expect, and know that it won't be off-the-walls-crazy, though it can be restrictive in some aspects. It is the nest a bird returns to, when it is tired of flying.

I'm sure that even though you both disagreed, Ted thought of you with love in his heart.


Betty said...

Dear Priya,

Thank you for your insightful comment. I, too have many Republican friends and your theory rings true for me. My mother was even Republican! Your nest theory definitely applies.


Swishy said...

Wowwww ...

I have goosebumps!

Betty said...

Dear Swishy,

Yeah- it's not often that I can dredge up material like this. I guess that's good, though.....


Monogram Queen said...

I'm so glad you have child, that boy is something special!
Sounds like Ted was too, and I firmly believe that people come into our lives for a reason.... sometimes just a season....

Betty said...

Dear Patti,

I like your way of thinking- that Ted was there for a reason- just for a season....and it really is OK that way.


Loving Annie said...

Ted sounds like he was a wonderful man, friend and influence in your life, Betty.

It appears that as a life coach of sorts he did a lot of good for a lot of people, and they will remember him for that even though he has passed away.

Communication is everything. I'm sorry that you two could not see eye to eye at the end.

Would you still refuse to take his calls today if he were alive and reached out ?

Sometimes we have relationships to learn things, and when that lesson is done, so is the relationship.

But there are so few people that are truly precious, sometimes it's worth making the additional effort to try to hear where they are coming from and if their intentions are genuine and loving -- and if not, even the former best of things is better off ending.

Only you know that with him and whatever he said that left your heart so angry/hurt/cold...

I am glad that you remember what was good about him.


Betty said...

Dear Annie,

Absolutely, yes! I'd definitely talk to Ted now if I had the chance.

At the end, I was not angry with him. I totally understood where he was coming from, but once I made my decision I couldn't continue discussing the alternative. He cared about me and he knew how difiicult my life would become. My mother, had she been alive, probably would have sided with Ted.

I like to think that if he had lived longer, we would have resumed our regular conversations.

I vividly remember his voice. He still speaks to me.


surjit said...

I really admire your far sightedness and wisdom.
God bless.

Betty said...

Dear Surjit,

Thank you for the kind compliment.


Anonymous said...