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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Friday, May 03, 2013

My Mentor

On this date in 1903, a special little baby girl was born. This child grew into an amazing woman who, unbeknownst to me at the time, drastically impacted my life. I met Mary Sheffer when I was preparing for my freshman year in college. The meeting turned into a working and personal relationship until she passed away five years later. Although I only knew Mrs. Sheffer for five years, I still feel her presence and benefit from the lessons she taught me.

To say that Mrs. Sheffer was unique would be an understatement. She was an eccentric, well-to-do woman who felt that she had earned the right to be opinionated by virtue of turning 90 years old. She was totally blind, the result of an injury (which by her own omission) she sustained due to being stubborn. Ignoring her husband's directive, she decided to load some wrought iron rods onto a truck. One of the rods slipped and went through her eye socket, severing the optic nerve.

She lost her vision when she was in her 70's and lacking any rehabilitation training, she adjusted well. She lived with her housekeeper (who was 86 at the time of our meeting) and ran small philanthropic ventures. I met her when I applied for a scholarship that she was sponsoring. Her committee did not choose me for the award which angered her and prompted the invitation to her home.

Several times a week during every college break, I worked for Mrs. Sheffer. Lacking any secretarial skills (I couldn't even type at the time), I struggled with the duties that I was assigned. Thankfully she was patient as I fumbled my way through the filing, typing and organizing that she relished.  I enjoyed spending time with her, but I hated the work!

During our visits Mrs. Sheffer and I forged a unique relationship. Slowly, she became a mentor. She was quick to remind me that answering "yeah" was incorrect and unacceptable. She loved reviewing parliamentary procedures and insisted that I speak with correct diction at all times. Without ever seeing me, she managed to shape me into a poised young woman.

Typically it is easy to look at somebody who has passed with rose colored glasses. Mrs. Sheffer dramatically shaped my life, but she was not always an easy person. She has been gone now for 17 years, but I don't think I'll ever meet another woman who was more cantankerous or opinionated. Two examples leap to mind when I remember her.

One Thanksgiving I made an apple pie and surprised her. She called me later that evening and, after politely commending my efforts, informed me that she was arranging for me to take pie making courses because my pie was not good. I obediently attended pie school, only to have her fire the master pie maker because she thought her crusts were too tough as well!

When I was a senior in college I was dating a foreign exchange student from England. During break I took him over to introduce him. Later that afternoon she phoned and asked to speak with him. She proceeded to yell at him for five minutes because she found his accent offensive and difficult to understand.

Mrs. Sheffer, with all of her opinions, did not mean any harm. She was well-intended, even if her approach was socially unconventional. Insisting that age had given her the right to speak mind, she was unapologetic about her comments and her decisions. She exuded confidence.

Today is Mrs. Sheffer's birthday. She frustrated me and one more than one occasion brought me to tears. She also taught me how to remain confident when you feel like falling apart. I wish she had lived long enough for me to realize this lesson, and for me to thank her for taking me under her wing.

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