The men who make a difference

Published 6:40 pm Saturday, June 16, 2012

One of my first mentors in the business world was a man named Richie. He had several advanced degrees. He knew more about how to read a person and their personality type than anyone I have ever met. When he spoke to you, you were his equal. He could easily converse on any topic from Quantum Physics to the best way to make a strawberry pie. He made me, and everyone else, believe while you were in his presence, that you were the most important person in the world. He taught me that if I was going to deal in “it” I would be “dealt” with. He taught me the pros of seeing the glass as “half full” and that “half empty” was a waste of my time. Richie was a bartender.

Growing up, I had a wonderful man who woke me up three times a week, every week for about five years. He would call out “howdy” from the top of his lungs with a lilt in his voice and a smile across his face. We all called him Captain Jack. He wore a red bandana and a wonderful big mustache. Captain Jack drove up the street at 7 a.m. and would call out to the neighborhood and awaken those who slept in. He laughed with the children, helped the ladies take their forgotten trash bins out and helped men rescue their snow-buried cars. He was always there and always reliable. Captain Jack was our garbage man.

John felt bad for me when my parents got divorced. He was afraid I would hate men and think they were all like my Dad. So, he took it upon himself to take me to baseball games, camp and the movies, and just was my friend. He stood up with me in church and proofed my college essays. He didn’t owe me anything, but he was everything to me. John was the husband of my mother’s best friend.

Elmer John “Bap” Tangerman cannot be captured here in but a few words. He was a true genius, master of everything and the light and first real love of my life. He made certain I knew right from wrong. I learned how to take a good old-fashioned tongue lashing from this very strong man of German decent. He made me who I am today by encouraging my strengths and teaching me how to use my voice. Bap was my grandfather.

Jay is a man who has the best sounding voice I ever heard in my life. His British accent definitely gives him extra brownie points in my world, but it certainly isn’t the only reason I write about him today. I cannot tell you why, but when he reads on Sunday mornings from the Bible, I know he is speaking God’s words. I don’t look around the room marveling at the hair do’s and don’ts, I don’t scan the bulletin or even talk with my neighbor. I sit, I watch and I listen to God’s words as only Jay can speak them. He understands what he reads and genuinely cares about the stories, the trials and tribulations of the people he reads about. He brings me closer to God. For that, I cannot ever thank him enough. Jay is a lay reader in my church.

I met Robert many years ago, way before I ever thought about him as marriage material, or boyfriend or even casual acquaintance. Over time, he became my best friend. He gave me the greatest gifts in my life, my children. He taught me how to share, how to trust and how to be a partner. I love him to the end of this earth and for the rest of my lifetime. Robert is my husband (obviously).

These are but a few of the men I have known, the ones who jumped into the front of my mind and rolled off my fingertips onto the keys. They are the men who I consider role models and who I respect and admire. For one reason or another, they have made me a better person today.

So on this Father’s Day, I salute them all. I bow my head in the deepest, most reverent thanks I can give, to all those men and fathers in this world who have and do make a difference.

A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.