Got the word today that my grad school advisor died from pneuomnia, the old man’s best friend. I talked to his wife and have spent the night talking to all the people I knew in grad school. We’re all just devastated.
Other than my dad and my CO from the military, he was one of the most important men in my life. He was flawed, as we all are, but I learned so much from him. He was a gruff man with an imposing demeanor. As my advisor, he was in his 60’s, but he was 6’4″, and a lot of people were afraid of him. I never was, and loved him from the time I met him.
In actuality, the three most important men in my life have been my dad, Jim my advisor, and my CO while I was on active. They all shared many of the same traits- gruff exteriors, lots of knowledge, fierce loyalty, and a sense that bullshit walks.
From each of them I learned different things. From my dad, I learned to defend those who can not defend themselves, and to help those who can not help themselves. I remember when he was still teaching before he retired, and there were other faculty members causing a fuss and attacking the women in the department, my dad said “fuck this” and went all in in their defense. He did everything he could to defend people who otherwise would have been alone. I’m not suggesting women are defenseless, so please do not flame me, but this was a different time. He always stood up when people were being attacked unfairly, and made sure the bullshit was directed at him. Why? Because he could take it. As a young teen, I watched him do that, and that is why whenever one of my friends is being attacked, I will go after the attacker like a pit bull and try to get the focus on me, because this honey badger doesn’t give a fuck. He also did everything he could for people in need, but this is another story.
My CO, Captain Franchek, was also one of the greatest men I have ever met. I’m still friends with him on facebook, and while he hates my politics, he knows I still love him. While I was on his tank, he gave me book after book after book to read, and wanted me to go green to gold and attend West Point. I read About Face and hundreds of other books because of him. I was an ignorant PFC/Spec 4, but he took his time and saw potential and made me read. He also wrote me the greatest letter of recommendation I have ever had, which I still keep in my safety deposit box. I used it to get into grad school, saying “this is what people thought of me six years ago, compare it to the recommendations you got from last week, and you will notice a consistency.”
Once in grad school, I met Jim. Don’t get me wrong, he was an asshole. And we are/were so very much alike. He was one part drill sergeant, one part teddy bear, one part Don Rickles, and all machine. We would hit happy hour on a Friday, drink until midnight, and at 7 am the next morning he was calling me to see if I had put the research proprosal together that we had talked about 8 hours ago. He was a beast, but at the same time he was the most generous man I have ever known. He took me under his wing, was a great friend and mentor, and I have spent the night crying and laughing.
Rest in peace, Jim, and FSM bless all the wonderful men and women out there who serve as mentors like the men I have described above.