Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Angels

Can you recall that one special teacher or mentor who believed in you? The one who spent one-on-one time with you? The one who, in essence, changed your life?

Maybe there was more than one.

I like to think of them as angels, sent from Heaven to help us and guide us. During my school years, there were two:

When I was eleven, Robert Jarret started coaching me on the snare drum. He taught for an hour at the elementary school I attended, and then went to his main job as band director at a nearby Jr. High. Many days he was late to his main job. Because of me. After the other elementary students had left the room, he would stand beside me and guide me through pieces of sheet music. Just him and me and a drum. He was the first African American I'd ever known (this was 1971 when Louisville, Kentucky was still fairly segregated), and I grew to love him. For the first time in my life, I had someone telling me I was good at something. The next year I went to the Jr. High where he taught, and I was the only 7th grader he allowed into the advanced band. By mid-year, I'd claimed the #1 spot in the drum line. For the first time in my life, I was not only good at something--I was the best. I stuck with the drums--my first real passion--and eventually played professionally as an adult. I still play. It will always be a part of my life. Thank you, Mr. Jarret, for believing in me.

In my third semester as an undergraduate at the University of Louisville, I took an introductory creative writing class thinking it would be an easy credit. The MFA student teaching that class (her name was Bonnie) recommended me for a graduate-level creative writing class to start the following semester, taught by Leon V. Driskell. Two visiting poets--Maxine Kumin (a Pulitzer winner) and Stephen Spender (one of Auden's pals)--were scheduled to assist with the course, and seating was limited to thirty or so students. I can still remember waiting outside Leon's office, meeting him for the first time, him saying, "If Bonnie recommended you, you're in." He was tall and thin, with shoulder-length gray hair and a beard, and usually wore a flannel shirt with the tails out. Not exactly the typical picture of a tenured professor at a major university, huh? But the guy was brilliant. Over the next two years, I spent many hours outside that same office with Leon. He took me under his wing, took whatever raw talent he saw in me and helped me polish it. I can still hear his voice sometimes when I write. I can still imagine his editing notes on the page. Leon died in 1995, having published only one book-length work of fiction, a beautiful literary novel called Passing Through. I'm sure he could have written many more novels, but he spent much of his time helping others. Including me. Thank you, Leon, for believing in me. And thank you, Bonnie, for the introduction.

Now, twenty some years after graduating from the University of Louisville, I'm back trying to write again. Like the drums, writing will always be a part of me. Another angel has entered my life, a friend and mentor helping me find my way. She knows who she is. Thank you, my love.

Is there anyone special in your life, now or from the past, who you'd like to thank for their guidance? Now's the time. Now is always the time. Tell me about your angels.

4 Comments:

Blogger Erica Orloff said...

This post made me weepy. :-) For many reasons.

My angel is Ed. He came along when I was 22 and in the worst relationship of my life (until the NEXT one, which was even worse!). I was this totally lost girl-woman who wanted to write, and he was the smartest man I had ever met. He was also a solid 20+ years older than I was, a college professor of economics, divorced and with a child. Over the next year, as I struggled with the severe illness of the one person who loved me unconditionally (my grandmother), the break-up with said abusive older boyfriend, and more troubles than I could shake a stick at, Ed taught me about art by taking me on his motorcycle to the Met, and he taught me what he knew about writing. He was BRILLIANT. A Vietnam-era vet with a lot of issues, but BRILLIANT and just this amazing writer. Sometimes, he really hurt my feelings--a lot--because he was a tough teacher in many respects. Then I think he fell in love with me and the age difference terrified me . . . and our friendship kind of fractured. A decade later I tracked him down. And I realized all I aspired to be as a writer was as good as he was. And that was an amazing goal I still have. :-) He never published. Lives in a church building. But he's still my angel.

E

8:37 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Your angel sounds wonderful, Erica. Thank you for sharing that.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Bugwit Homilies said...

Wow! That's a good topic.

I would love to have someone like like Leon, but no luck so far. I'm taking an eight-week writer's workshop now, but not getting a lot of feedback from the leader. Oh, well.

The closest I can come is Judy Clark, who hired me as an accountant in a manufacturing firm right out of college. She, and to a lesser extent, the Plant Manager, made sure that I was exposed to all aspects of the business, and they let me take on any responsibility in which I had an interest.

She was professional and scrupulous in insisting on fact-based decision-making and documentation. But, I got to do so much more than accounting. I had my hands in marketing, production scheduling, new product development and strategic planning.
She really set me up for a great career.

I never had a better boss.

Thanks causing me to remember her.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Bugwit,

Your first boss sounds great. It's always nice to have someone like that, willing to share their wisdom. I've had good bosses and bad ones, and it really does make all the difference.

Good luck with your writing! What kind of stuff are you working on?

8:45 PM  

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