Direction

"Keep looking up.” - Dick Damrow

All of us have a mid-life crisis at some point in our lives. Some of us have it later in life, others have it early on. I was lucky. My mid-life crisis happened in my early thirties.

Several years before then, I had returned home after grad school to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, when I discovered that my family’s printing business was in deep trouble. As an only child with a great sense of responsibility, I chose to help my family with the business rather than pursue my own interests. At first, I thought I was helping to save the business and turn it around, but after ten years of trying to turn it around, I recognized I was there to help my dad close the business. As we struggled to keep that business alive, we had created a new business in an attempt to save the family business. It is quite an experience to have one business that is dying and another that is prospering all in the same moment and I found it easy to lose my way.

Both situations have many moments of uncertainty, but one carries a feeling of great sadness and the other carries a sense of hope and optimism.

During this time, my relationship with my dad became strained and I sorely needed a wise friend and mentor who could help me during those moments when I felt uncertain about what to do next. I needed someone removed from the situation who could keep my best interests at heart and give me advice and direction. I can’t even remember how it all came about as everything during that time period is a blur, but somehow I ended up with just the mentor I needed.

Dick was a wise and caring mentor and treated me as a daughter. He gave me advice—some of which I actually took, and gave me the reassurance I so needed during that time of confusion. Since that time and over the years, Dick remained a dear friend and mentor. We stayed in touch throughout my many moves across the country and I could always count on him to provide me with just one more bit of advice or just a few more reassuring words. Whenever I faced a crossroads or needed to make an important decision, I’d call Dick to ask him what he thought.

In the most recent years, Dick rarely gave me advice, but just having him listen to me talk through my thinking was all the reassurance and affirmation I needed to go forward with a decision. Just a few months ago, I went home to work with him on some planning for my book. It was a change in our relationship because for the first time, he wasn’t my mentor, offering free advice or counsel, but my consultant, who allowed me to pay him for the work he normally charged only to his clients. I felt liberated in a funny way. Like an adult. And, I think he looked at me in an new way, too. It was a beginning and an end.

About a month ago, I got a call from a mutual friend of ours from home one evening. She called to tell me that Dick had fallen down the stairs at home the night before. He had hit his head and had undergone surgery to relieve the pressure his skull was causing on his swollen brain. He was in ICU under constant watch, and though everyone was hopeful he’d make a full recovery, he had not yet regained consciousness.

Dick passed away within a week.

Those moments during that time were perhaps the saddest moments in my memory. Before his celebration of life ceremony, one of his friends posted a profile on Facebook for everyone to post their comments about Dick. More than forty pages of comments were posted. The first few posts talked about how Dick was their mentor, but as more people posted, the more we each began to realize that we were not the only protégé! There were hundreds of us!

Talk about making a difference in the lives of others.

I think about Dick a lot and miss our conversations. Sometimes I wish I could hear his voice just one more time. Tonight, as I was home alone, contemplating a few decisions I need to make, I felt an ache to call Dick and ask him for his advice. Knowing I should be quiet and still, instead I searched for something to do. I got on the computer, opened my inbox and saw Dick’s name attached to the emails he had sent to me in the last year. Emails I can’t bring myself to delete from my inbox. And in that instant, I remembered how he started to sign his emails to me when he began to stop giving me advice, and I realized that he had left me with the best advice of all “keep looking up.”

In memory of my dear friend and mentor, Dick Damrow (2/19/49 - 2/24/09). I miss you.

© 2009 Lisa Edwards