THROUGH A LENS DIMLY
I SALUTE THE PASSING PARADE
I read my old newspaper everyday. I had worked there for forty two years. I may have spent as many waking hours there as I did at home, if you count all the overtime and days off that I worked. I loved my job. I loved my family as well. But, my marriage didn't survive until my retirement. Thank God I still have a wonderful relationship with my kids and grandchildren. And, there is a magnificent woman now in my life. But, the marriage didn't make it. There were many factors involved, but, I'd have to say that my chosen profession played a big part. Too many marriages are broken by the demands of the job.
There were too many family events that I couldn't get to; school meetings with my kids' teachers; my daughters' ballet recitals; my sons' scout campouts. I had to work every holiday for years until I worked my way up the seniority ladder. It was the price one paid to be a part of a journalistic career. Late breaking news; trips out of town. They all intruded upon a normal family life.
My ex tried to be understanding. But, year after year, the empty chair at the family Thanksgiving meal; her having to be the "father" at the cub scout Father and Son Night eventually got to her.
When the phone would ring in the middle of the night and I would get up and get dressed to go cover some catastrophe, she would ask, "Why you?"
I would answer, "Why not me? If not me, who?"
Go try to explain that while there were other shooters on staff, who knows how many times they had to answer such a call, and in fact, may also have been dispatched to cover this very same story.
We aren't supposed to question such calls. It's like being in the military. You're given an order; you go, like it or not. It's the nature of the beast. It's what is expected of everyone who enlists.
While there is a lot of glory in doing what we do, there are certainly many items on the downside list. Not everyone is cut out for this kind of career.
My associate, Eileen Douglas has a wonderful piece in this month's Assignment Sheet called "On Deadline." which speaks about the fact that many journalists die early because their devotion to the story precludes taking time to take care of themselves. Too many missed meals. Too little sleep. Too much pressure. Too much stress. Too much guilt for not being able to be with your family. People die before their time.
Some, like myself, were able to heed the warning signs. Marital strife; constant indigestion; irritability; agida; heart attacks.
Two heart attacks resulting in a triple by-pass finally awoke me to the fact that I needed to take some time to attend to my aging body. At the urging of my cardiologist, I gave up smoking my beloved pipe. I took time at least three times a week to take power walks for the benefit of my cardiovascular system. Believe it or not, it still left me time to be a news photographer. I never turned down any assignment, but I was able to give up the notion that the newspaper wouldn't be able to publish the next day if I walked fast instead of running to the assignment.
It didn't save my marriage, but, it probably saved my life. I lived to retire at age 70. I'm going to be 76 next week. I meet with a bunch of dinosaurs, who, like myself, worked long hours for many years as photographers, reporters and editors for most of the large papers and tv stations in the area. We meet once a month for brunch and try not to complain about our arthritic joints and the huge amount of pills we all must ingest to stay alive. And, we reminisce about the glory of past assignments that we covered and we remember those who are no longer around to join us.
The list grows longer. I read my old newspaper every day and frequently there are wonderful obits about people we knew and worked with.
I suppose that's the price of growing old.
But, when you consider the alternative, it ain't so bad. And, I salute the passing parade like any other old veteran on Memorial Day.
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