I guess this is the way I grieve. In a way, it makes sense. I am a writer, after all.
And I am a writer because of a woman named Tina Lane, who passed away on Monday...way too soon. So all I can do to honor and remember Ms. Lane is sit here this morning at my computer... and write.
I was telling an old friend this morning that I believe, 100 percent, that I could've worked my way through the ranks of my profession to my current position as a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine without a day of college. That's no knock on the UNC School of Journalism, which was fine, but more a knock on myself for being a slacker in college.
But it's also a credit to Ms. Lane, who taught journalism in High School.
I cannot name a single college professor who influenced my life. And, though it's 27 years since I graduated from West Essex High School, I can still recite Ms. Lane's aphorisms rapid-fire.
"Show don't tell."
"Maximize content, minimize words."
"If that's all you've got..."
"You've done the reporting. Now do some more."
And, I'm guessing, an expression that was probably more Jeff Bradley-specific.
"You want to put your name on that?"
Let it be known, that I was no prized pupil in Ms. Lane's journalism and creative writing classes. I was way more into playing baseball and soccer (which is funny, considering what a sub-mediocre player I was) than writing, but I was always captivated by Ms. Lane's teaching style.
OK, I confess, I was also captivated by Ms. Lane. She looked like a movie star and carried herself with more pure confidence than any teacher I'd ever laid my eyes on. I know I wasn't alone, having a little boy crush on Ms. Lane. Guys may not talk a lot about these things. But they talk.
It helped that Ms. Lane, back in the early 80s, was dating the coolest (and best) male teacher at West Essex, Mr. Montgomery, who taught history and political science. He was the male equivalent to Ms. Lane. Way cool, full of swagger, not afraid to tell you when you weren't getting the job done. Most of us figured T-Lane and Monty (nicknames you could call them to their faces) would get married some day. They did not.
Ms. Lane had a way of pushing me. At times, she used guilt to motivate me. "Look this over again, please, Jeffrey." Other times, she'd praise me, probably too much. "You have a gift, Jeffrey."
As my senior year was coming to an end, and we put the finishing touches on our final "Wessex Wire" -- I think it was some corny, Salute to Seniors thing that we passed out with everyone's yearbook -- I had the last of many heart-to-heart conversations I'd had with Ms. Lane in three long years at ol' W.E. "Not many people can make a living as a writer," I remember telling her. "Those who do, they're the gifted ones...not me."
While I can't remember exactly what Ms. Lane told me, I do recall she went back to the guilt theme. She said something like, "How dare you not believe me? I'm telling you, Jeffrey, you have the talent..."
To this day, I don't really think the word "talent" applies to me.
But how wonderful to know someone thought of me that way.