I have been fortunate enough to have many mentors throughout my life. The first one I ever had was Carter Blankenship, and he taught me most of what I know about shoes and a little about workwear. He passed away two weeks ago. He was one of the first people to ever believe in me, and he called me his protégé. He looked out for me, taught me certain tricks of the trade with people, and he was proud of me. Always.
I have been thinking about him periodically in the past few months, and how much I wanted to get in contact with him. I just didn’t know how. When I find out he passed away, it hit me like a two-foot wave in the ocean. I felt a sense of loss and shock that I hadn’t felt since my Nana passed away. I am not comparing the two; please do not misunderstand me.
His family had a celebration of life ceremony today that I went to. Truth be told, I really didn’t want to go. I knew I needed to go, I owed him that much. I didn’t really know how much the man had meant to me until today when I was headed there. The emotions were like the waves during an outgoing storm at the ocean. Violent, but subdued. Periodic but all-consuming. It was a tough ending to a tough week.
I hadn’t met his family, except once in passing years ago, but he talked about them consistently. He was always proud of them, as well. I looked for people who may be able to help direct me to the family members to introduce myself. The first person I met was Bridget, and is an old family friend. A very lovely, no-nonsense woman who was helping to clean up, and she introduced me to Melissa (his daughter) and later Adrienne his wife. Adrienne knew exactly who I was as soon as I said my name. I was slightly taken aback by this because I hadn’t seen Carter in at least seven years, and probably closer to ten. He talked about me to his family, which he didn’t do often apparently. He also called me his protégé to his family. It was one of several moments of gratitude and humbled pride. I spent several years getting to work with and learn from him, but still.
Some of us went back to the house to help bring in everything, and to relax. There were stories upon stories, laughter, and bonding. From what I knew about Carter, it was exactly what he would have wanted. Laid-back, relaxed, and people having a good time while remembering the man we all loved. He was always a bit of a trickster, and helping to carry everything back to the house was his way of getting me there.
I went not knowing what to expect, and left with a lighter sense of spirit. I also left with new friends, and a deep down belief that he was proud of me. Even still after all these years. I am not sure what the point of this entry was other than a sense of gratitude of the people I have and have had in my life.