OK, what can I say?
I mean, what do I mean?
What would you mean if somebody -- a lot of honest, smart newspaper somebodies -- said so many nice things about you just when you were beginning to think you should put on your hat and say goodbye that I knew they couldn't have been talking about me.
Nobody in my world, past or present, could be as good as they said I was. Why, all those wonderful words couldn't describe someone who consistently asked how to spell this word or that word that everybody else could spell because she couldn't find it in the dictionary and was convinced that the last story she ever wrote was terrible, and she couldn't stop worrying about it -- out loud, f'heaven's sake -- or running her mouth on something else entirely that everyone didn't need to hear but were too nice to just quietly walk away ...
But the days and weeks and months and years passed and it took a while for her to get old enough to believe it was really time to go.
Hadn't those 56 years gone faster than anybody could believe? And she just kept on hanging around and what could they do?
They put up with me.
Don't tell them I said so, but I know they put up with me longer than they had to, but I didn't want to stop and that probably made it a little hard for everybody. I didn't mean to, but that's how things are. Women just don't want to admit they're getting old, much less had already gotten old long ago. ...
Well, what can I say?
I can say this job gave me more than I could ever have believed possible.
It introduced me to all kinds of people -- white, black, old, young, educated and those who never saw the inside of a school but lived a life to be envied, as well as those who never took advantage of the education they got.
It let me inside people's homes and schools and colleges and not only hospitals but in the operating room. And everywhere else, including their hearts.
They let me feel the fear people were feeling when the color of their skin made blacks and whites look at each other with fear.
And feel the fear parents felt when their sons went to war and the pain when a son didn't come home -- as keenly as the joy when another came home intact.
And it almost let Post Photographer James Barringer and me go to the Gulf War.
We were able to make arrangements to go with one of our local military groups who were on their way, and we got the editor's permission and had all the shots and were worrying about what kind of clothes we needed to wear over there when Publisher Jim Hurley wanted to know how we were going to get home. The soldiers who would take us wouldn't be able to bring us back soon enough. We had to get our own transportation home.
Well, that was possible.
We'd get a regular commercial plane.
But James and I didn't have enough money in the bank to even think of paying for that ourselves.
And our wise publisher, bless his heart, said he paid enough already to get all the wire services that could tell our readers what was going on over there, and we'd better turn our attention to what was going on over here, and of course, we did.
But oh! we're dreaming yet at the Might Have Beens.
And working at this newspaper still sent us places that were unforgettable, like following Main Street North Carolina, probably better known as Highway 70, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Tennessee border to let home folks see what it looked like and meet the people along the way.
And there was more.
It let me be part of the joy at 60th wedding anniversaries and 100th birthdays, and it made me laugh when a man called to invite me to his house -- in a hurry -- because his boxer dog had adopted a litter of kittens when their mother abandoned them. My word! Those babies learned quickly where the loving came from.
I got to meet all kinds of people from all over the world who turned into friends and helped the newspaper feed the hungry and raise money to get operations a child had to have to live.
Working for a newspaper gives you the world and all that's in it and spreads that world to your husband and your children.
A story about dogs prompted us to get not one but two bassett hounds. Oh, pity that day. Another about a mynah bird led us to get our own mynah bird named Kid, who knew a wolf whistle inside out -- and thrilled every woman who walked in or out of our door.
The sale of several school buses for an inviting price prompted us to buy one, take out the seats, put in bunks and curtains and an electric stove and a bathroom and head west with four of our five children and my mother. David, the oldest, had made the same trip with friends several summers before, and we had to do it, too.
We got home just in time for Sammy and Jonny to play important tennis matches at Salisbury High.
Newspapers do more than give you the news and ads that will tell you where to get what you want.
They expand your mind and give you friends - and change your life.
Oldest daughter, Phyllis, says, "Having a mother working on a newspaper, covering schools and, at times, the Department of Social Services and the Health Department enriched us because we got to hear about a lot of things that went on in the community.
"As she told us about the stories she was working on, we learned so much about the different ways people lived. Whether we knew it at the time or not, that really expanded our view. We heard about men at war, people who were hungry, people who lost their children and that integration had to come so all children could get good educations."
And still there's more. Working in a newsroom turns all the people you meet into friends. I liked everything about the job from my first day in the newsroom when Managing Editor George Raynor started me off by putting a chair and a phone next to his desk and handed me a phone book.
"Call people up," he said, and find out what they're doing, "and that will be tomorrow's personals."
Where did the time go?
Finally, the time came to move on to something else, especially home, but I didn't want to believe it, even if it had to be. And the big issue then, as well as now, is how were they going to keep me out of the newsroom?
And how am I going to remember everybody's name when I can't remember anybody's name and never have been known for remembering names, including my own, and ...
Well, you can stop reading now because I never learned to keep any story as short as it should have been. And I'll be telling this one as long as I live.
So forget it all, honest or not, and just know that when a newspaper reporter can't remember names, it's time to go.
But I want you to remember me, even if you can't remember my name when we meet on the street, and I'll remember you.
"Hello!" we'll say, and that will sound a lot better than "Goodbye" the next time we run into each other and can't pull up our real names. But we can laugh about it, and what could be better?
And if you want to talk some day or want to know how to get a story in the paper but don't know what to do, call me at home (704-636-1955) and I'll tell you how.