Mentors and Father Figures

Don’t tick this guy off…

It’s almost sad to have to write this.  Ideally, the first (and most positive influence) should come from our parents.  Give Guidance. Direction. Encouragement.   It’s a lovely idea, isn’t it?  Wonder if such an idea ever really existed, or am I dreaming out loud?

There’s an old saying that goes, “You don’t miss what you never had.”    Not true.  People…kids in particular, miss any sense of stability they lacked. If a child lacks a proper example by way of a father/mother-figure, they will spend the rest of their lives searching for a way to fill that void. This could work out for well or ill, depending on what the person wants. Everyone wants a sense of security, and yet, many end up  finding that ‘security’ in someone who will ‘give’ them things, and yet not the love they need.

For me, my need was for a pro-active ‘father figure’ .  A need which would have to wait a while for its fulfillment.   In the meantime, I would at least have a mentor.

    Winslow Leach  (Phantom of the Paradise © 1974)  would teach me a great deal about the ethics of my chosen hobby of writing.  Much of what I learned from Winslow, though,  was through  his mistakes.  Not backing up his work.   Giving away  the original body of his work.  In the creative community this is a monumental NO-NO!  But Winslow was naive and hopeful;  believing the words of his would-be tormentor’s right hand swindler, when, in fact, neither Philbin or the creature he spoke for could be trusted as far as Winslow could throw either of them.  

If you know the story then you’re aware that, through one misadventure and tragedy after another, the young hopefully naive  musician Winslow Leach once was would be lost to an avenging ‘angel’; who would, like a shark, circle his prey,  picking off Swan’s associates one by one, until (cue theme from Jaws) he closes in for the kill. 

In fact, I think I learned as much from what Winslow SHOULD have done as I did through what he eventually accomplished. Above all, though, I learned the importance of standing up for a a cause. For yourself.  BUT, even more vital….the importance of preventing the need for having to do what might need to be done, in standing up for one’s self and work.  Mind you, if Winslow had done what he should have, in the first place, there wouldn’t have been a movie.  OY! What to wish for?!  Do I want my mentor to have had the decent music career he worked for and  dreamed of for years, or do I prefer the kick ass mentor who brings down an evil record producer? Well, the first would have been nice, but the latter is what happened.  And he wouldn’t have become my mentor if all went well.  Heck, he wouldn’t have even gotten a movie.

As ironies go, this one was interesting.  Singers of the 70’s (or any decade) come and go.  Winslow’s legacy lasted three decades longer because he didn’t get what he wanted.


  And now, to my….. father figure.  I reiterate, that parents need to be the their child’s/ children’s first example. That’s the way it should be, in the best of all possible scenarios.    Sadly, this is not the reality, far-too-often.   And no matter how old the ‘fatherless’ child is,  by way of not having a proper-male role model in their lives, the desire to fill this void never seems to abate.  Even if the father is lost in death,  when the child is too young to really remember, the loss is always there.  Worse, though, for those whose biological male parent was either not in the picture… or the father was physically ‘in the picture’,  but didn’t care to take an active part in their kids’ lives.  Regardless of the reason, the end result is the same. The child(ren) in this scenario is/are without counsel and  guidance so desperate needed in the formative years.  Boys need an example. Girls need to know they are safe. protected.

Apart from my creative mentor, though, I didn’t have that very necessary  protective presence. Not that I noticed.  It wasn’t til recently that I found the very sort of  person I’d been lacking and would have loved to have had.  And, of course,  I found him when I wasn’t even looking.  I find most of my valuables that way.

In this case, my discovery began with just wanting to find something to listen to while I was cleaning, and I discovered BBC  dramatized radio productions of Poirot, on Youtube,  with John Moffatt . I don’t know how many episodes I listened to, but I liked it. The shows got me through the big clean and some writing chores.  Eventually, though, I wanted to SEE the character I was hearing, which lead me to the Poirot series and David Suchet.  I was introduced to David through the Focus on the Family dramatic audio production of the Chronicles of Narnia and wanted to find out what other work he’d done.

   I found out.

Poirot ‘family’ collage

Leave it up to me to be ‘late to the party’ as it were.  By the time I decided I liked the series and wanted to start watching,  it was already four years over and Poirot has gone to ‘Aslan’s Country’  . Narnian for Heaven, I think.  Thankfully, there were enough episodes on Youtube, early into the series and towards the end to give me a fair perspective of the title character and, well, I liked him.  And the further into the show I went, (or, was able to go, ) the more layers I discovered.   A personal favorite may always be ‘Dumb Witness’  where Poirot finds himself trusting a wire-haired fox terrier named Bob for the main clue to a murder case.  What’s  more adorable (and somewhat bitter-sweet) is that, at the end of the episode,  Bob is sitting on the lawn, with his new ‘family’  when Poirot and Hastings have to take a boat to the other side of the lake and the mainland,  it’s Poirot who turns to face his canine friend and valuable helper.  Hey! I’d like to see Hastings do that same ball trick! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.  😂)  .

That episode, while light in terms of tension, was helpful in delving into the heart of Poirot.  There is much more to the man than the habits and eccentricities he became so well-known for.  For starters, he had an amazing work ethic.  To a fault, really.  that guy could have a cold,  (Mystery at Hunter’s Lodge) . His doctor could tell him he was run down and even his ‘Little Grey Cells’  needed down time for refueling (Jewel Theft at the Grand Metropolitan), OR…to the very Nth degree,  feel compelled to catch a killer, even at the expense of his own life. (Curtain).  And the odd upshot to that story is,  Poirot was not hired to look for said killer, so he didn’t make a Schilling on it. AND, he was retired.  Two theoretically ‘good’ reasons why the great (retired) Belgian detective should have lived out his last weeks or months in the comfort of a place like Claridges.

This SHOULD HAVE BEEN Poirot’s home for the last weeks of his life.

So why didn’t he? Pride? Ego? No. Decidedly, NO.  In fact, Pride and Ego would have been the reason for Poirot to spend the last weeks of his life in comfort and ease.  After all, Norton’s death would have been ruled a suicide and no one, apart from Hastings, would know what Norton had done. So, no bragging rights there.  Quite the contrary. Even with the evidence he possessed, and knowing that Norton could not be legally dealt with,  Poirot’s conscience did not acquit him. Ironic, since he killed a man who possessed no conscience in the double murders of any number of people;  both the puppet and his/her victim. How many more bodies would Stephen Norton have racked up if he hadn’t been stopped?  And yet it’s Poirot who wonders, “Do you think God will forgive me?”   whereas you have to wonder if Norton gave the idea of eternity or eternal judgement the first thought.CherAmipapaPoirot

I had seen a dozen episodes or so of Poirot before I screwed up enough courage to watch Curtain for the first time, and I made the odd discovery that it will be WAY more difficult (if not IMPOSSIBLE) for those who have been through the whole series and ( favorite episodes multiple times) to get through even the first two minutes! By the time I got through it, I had to throw a pillow and my Pinky plushie in the dryer!
I’ve since re-watched  The Third Girl,  After The Funeral,  Appointment with Death,  Taken at the Flood and  Mystery of the Blue Train, (among others) that gave me a better insight into this man and not only realized that I  like him but found myself wishing that he could have been the example I would have had.  Poirot, at the end of the day,  had a strong work ethic .Choose what you want to do with your life and do it WELL. Not out of some sense of perfectionism, but because what you do is  part of  a legacy vastly more important than money or mansions.  After all, Norma Resterick had a home, in a physical sense. She had a place where she lived. On the other hand, when she needed somewhere to go where she felt safe, she showed up at Poirot’s doorstep.

That story speaks volumes about the man Agatha Christie didn’t seem to care about. Well, her daughter cared, her son-in-law cared and they got David Suchet interested enough to care. And it shows!

TheThird Girl pic




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