Today is the second anniversary of my release from the Star-Telegram, the end of my newspaper career and the beginning of my freelance career.
I’ve been trying to think of what to say. So far, it’s “ .”
It’s not the first time I’ve been at a loss for words.
I didn’t know what to say in 1964 when that chunky Marine recruiter told me: “Son, we can’t take you.” Why, sir? Epilepsy from a baseball head injury. Line drive between the eyes left a scar on my brain. Caused epilepsy. I grew out of it but not before the Marines rejected me, I’d also failed a physical to be a commercial pilot (my other great dream) and, later, a physical for the Dallas Police Department. No one wanted me, not even the U.S. Army postal operations. “Epilepsy” frightened everyone back then. Still does, I'd guess.
But the injury steered me to journalism, thanks to my columnist mom who got me my first job. Newspapers. They took me. And I had a great career. Dallas, Denver, St. Petersburg, Corpus Christi (to help rebuild that wonderful Gulf Coast daily through the '90s). And some other places. Couldn’t imagine my career ever ending but knew it would someday. Just not the way it happened. I became part of the Fourth Estate’s 21st-century rubble. Kills me to see newspapers withering. But then I see journalism blossoming on the Web, and I’m up again. (Check out the Texas Tribune.) There are awesome possibilities for bona fide journalism on the Web. Let's pray that it overcomes all the uninformed, self-serving garbage opinion that's filling cyberspace.
But I have been so blessed these past two years. Overcame a goodly amount of humiliating experiences such as that awful process of applying for state unemployment benefits (oxymoron) and sending out around 70 resumes, only one of which drew a thank-you-but response (from Concussion ad agency in Fort Worth … thank you, Concussion). Age matters. Anyone who says otherwise is full of crap. Not having a master’s degree also matters. I couldn’t teach even at TCC because I hadn’t paid my way through a f*****g research degree. Galling. Exec editor earlier, but I couldn’t teach freshmen how to write a spot news story? How does that square?
Still, I have done some pretty good work for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce (bless you, Marilyn Gilbert and Andra Bennett), Tarrant County College (bless you, Donna Darovich), NewsCorp (bless you, Scott Norvell) and some other folks (bless you all). I’m pretty much proud of the work, and who could ask for anything better than to feel reasonably good about their next-stage work that had been reduced to zilch in the newspaper industry?
But that’s all about work. Real stuff is home and family, and I’ve been incredibly blessed by my wife, Andra, who I never expected to be my wife or much in my life. I thought I was on my way to seminary in Milwaukee. Late-life vocation to the priesthood after losing my wife, Dale, to breast cancer. God had a better idea: Andra. And there’s our wonderful home, the gardens I plant and tend, the anoles and other critters I chat with daily when it's warm enough for them to be out and about, our home office that can rock as much as any newsroom on some high-pressure days. My daughters and grandchildren.
And there’s tomorrow. I still have that sense of “tomorrow,” thank God. I’m still here because I still have something to do, I believe. What would that be? God, literally, knows. But, hey, Lord, give me the assignment. And bless all journalists everywhere.