Sometime after my career and I decided to get married, we learned that we would be unable to have children together. So we ended up adopting. That’s how I wound up with an extended family full of newspaper people.
I always knew deep down that I could not do newspaper work at the level I hungered to do it without pouring every ounce of my life, ego and mental energy into it. In other words, I didn’t think I was good enough to be as good as I really wanted to be and still have enough of my soul left over for too many other things, especially time to properly attend to a family. That sounds like a pretty lazy and selfish attitude, I realize. And I envied those who could do both. But short of that, newspaper people make pretty good family. It’s not like we literally have to live together under the same roof, or even talk on the phone more than once or twice a year. It’s just more like we’re part of a tribe that sticks together forever.
Friends that I made, was mentored by and whom I mentored during more than 25 years working in newspapers have reached out to me from everywhere since learning of my sudden hospitilization, surgery and follow-up treatment for brain cancer. Many are still among my closest friends. But even people from way back — folks that I’d lost touch with — made the effort to contact me and express their concern and support. In every case, all time and distance vanished the moment I heard their voices on my phone or answering machine, or read their e-mails or opened my mailbox to find their cards written in handwriting I still instantly recognized without even having to look at the return address.
The newsroom at the Orlando Sentinel — a place I have not set foot in since I left it more than two years ago — took up a collection and bought me an Amazon Kindle and a nice gift certificate to go with it. A big group stopped by to deliver it to me personally a couple days after I got home from the hospital. Other friends and colleagues from my newsroom days have trooped over to my house to check in on me, bring me food, take me or meet me for lunch or just come sit and talk for a couple hours. They’ve offered to give me rides to and from treatments. I am extremely grateful.
I have already written about my appreciation for the level of care and attention that I received from paramedics, nurses and other health-care workers while I was in the hospital. All of them belong to the so-called “giving” professions, hence their generosity. Newspaper people, though, would never pretend to be part of a giving profession.
Generally speaking, newspaper people belong to more of a “taking” profession (ie., taking money from readers, taking money from advertisers and taking a lot of crap from pretty much everyone else). But when one of their own needs help — even a member of the tribe who has wandered off — newspaper people can give, too.