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How would you have handled this?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by huntsie, Sep 9, 2010.

  1. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    At the risk of outing myself...I had written a "slice of life" column on a weekly basis for 11 years. My wife and I have recently separated. One of the casualties, of course, was the weekly column. This is how I wound it down. I e-mailed copies to my wife and three children look at it before it ran and asked if they had any objections. The two youngest, 22 and 21, did not. My wife objected mildly saying "I thought you would just let it die." My oldest son didn't check his e-mail until the day it was published and hit the roof. I guess I could have called him on the phone, but he works long hours, goes to work early, the kids go to bed early...there are a thousand excuses here, I guess, but I didn't. When I didn't hear from him, I assumed he was OK with it. He and my daughter-in-law are embarrassed and though the column ran three weeks ago, they haven't spoken to me since and there's no sign of a thaw.
    It's hell. In hindsight, I probably should have written it differently, but my reasoning was that people had been reading the column for 11 years and you can't just yank it without an explanation. Plus, we live in a small town, and if word got around that I stopped it because we separated, it would have undermined the entire history of the column.
    Enough explaining, justifying, etc. I put it to a jury of my peers...how would you have handled this situation?

    Got this note, just out of the blue, from my darling daughter on Facebook the other day, and while I hesitate to share private correspondence; it does provide an answer to that age old question; “What does your family think when you write stuff in the paper?”
    Hey Dad,
    I'm just getting off work and Ben and I are reading your column from a few weeks back. Don Dickson's wife cut it out of the paper and gave it to Don to bring in for us (we had already read it though).
    I'm just thinking of how lucky I am to have such a great family. I love the fact that you write that column, even though it has caused some (minor) embarrassment over the fragile years, I can laugh now...
    I'm going to be very proud to read these to my kids one day; and I just wanted to tell you that I love you, and snapshots. I can't wait to look back on them when I'm older and remember all of these little details that have meant so much. Thank you.

    Lots of people have commented about this one! :)

    I love you,
    Seems like a high note on which to leave this space behind. And so, three months or so short of 12 years after she was born -- Snapshots was my millenium baby, born Jan. 1, 2000 -- and two graduations, a wedding, three or four proms, three kids, two faithful dogs, a daughter-in-law and three grandkids later -- the time has come to say goodbye to Snapshots. To put the photo album away, so to speak.
    Wait…I did say three grandkids, didn’t I? Well, you know of granddaughter Caylen, of course, who has had me wrapped around her finger for almost seven years now, and knows it. You know also of Andon, the grandson who calls me, not Grampy, but Bill.
    Still in development: another little boy, due around Christmas. I know what we’re calling him -- Caylen has spilled the beans, Mom, sorry. We’re not sure what he’s going to call me.
    There’s a little more to this story too, dear reader, as there always is. And since I have told you pretty much everything that has gone on in our lives for more than a decade, I share this too: After 25 years of marriage, Debbie -- aka, my wife, the bride, the love of my life -- are separating.
    There, I said it. I still can’t believe it, I have tears in my eyes -- again -- as I write it, but it’s true. I hope it’s temporary, I didn’t see it coming, but it’s happening. We are, in fact, the “other” couple in the “Every other couple we know seems to be breaking up,” scenario.
    I am probably not quite as shocked as you are right now, but I bet it’s close. I’d tell you it seems like a bad dream, but truth be known, I haven’t been sleeping much these nights. My wife and I have things to work out. I hope we can.
    But I wanted you, as faithful readers -- and Debbie, as my wife -- to know that every word I have written in this space since Jan. 1, 2000, has been true and has been honest and has been sincere.
    It’s important to me that you know that; that for the 11 plus years you have been following along at home -- and for the 14 years before that -- I have loved my life and loved my wife and loved my family. I still do. I have enjoyed sharing those moments with you. All those Snapshots -- and now this one -- are tucked away in a chest. Snapshots now surrenders to “Single Grey Male.”
    It’s been fun. A few thank yous before they play me off: to Steve Benteau, the former managing editor of this newspaper, who saw something in the three sample columns submitted all those years ago; to Kathy Jenkins and to Peter Haggert and to Cathie Metcalfe, who allowed it to continue; to editor Brookee LaPointe, who cared for it with a gentle hand from week to week; to cartoonist Ian Smith, who brought it to life; to the kids: Greg and Shannon and Kenny and then later Leah and Caylen and Andon; and to Debbie, who put up with me and this and us from week to week.
    Thank you all.
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    If that's the column in its entirety, I don't see why your son is pissed.
  3. MagillaGorilla

    MagillaGorilla New Member

    I see no reason -- none -- for anyone to be upset with you.
  4. Suicide Squeezer

    Suicide Squeezer Active Member

    It's great. Fantastic work. I don't see anything wrong with it. In the same situation, I would have done the exact same thing. We're writers. This is what we do.
  5. jlee

    jlee Active Member

    That was extremely touching, sensitive and must have taken a lot of guts to write. I applaud you. As an outside observer, I see no reason for your son to be upset, but I'm not your son.

    Don't worry about how you handled the column. If there's love, you and your son will mend things in time.
  6. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    I'm guessing your son is pissed because it makes you out to be a great guy, and thus, any woman (i.e. his mom) would be a fool to either break up with you or a witch to make you want to break up with her. He'll get over it.
  7. When I was a little kid, it was for some reason embarrassing to have to tell other kids my parents were divorced. If this is the first time this is happening in his immediate family, he might just feel like talking to all your readers about the divorce might reflect he has a dysfunctional family or there is something wrong with you or his mother. Maybe that's all it is, and it will pass if that's the case.
  8. I'll never tell

    I'll never tell Active Member

    Just tell him, like I try to tell high school parents, when Little Johnny scores a touchdown, I'm going to write that he scored a touchdown. And when he throws an interception, I'm going to write that too, with sensitivity, of course.

    Take the good with the bad and check your email more. Perhaps buy him a Blackberry so this won't happen again.
  9. I'll never tell

    I'll never tell Active Member

    oh, and helluva read.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Good column. So why are you stopping, huntsie? I bet the snapshots from here on would be especially compelling.
  11. Sports_Chick

    Sports_Chick New Member

    Very nice. I don't see anything wrong with it, but then again, we don't know the history behind the separation. Point of Order is right, you don't seem to take any blame, so people will naturally seek to blame the other party (your wife). You seem remorseful and saddened by the separation, which sounds like it wasn't your idea. Otherwise, there was nothing particularly offensive in it. Assuming you had the wife's permission (or got only a mild reaction, but no protest) then you did just fine.
  12. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    I guess that's my son's contention...that I made my wife (his mother) look bad, which was certainly not my intention. The history is brief -- we celebrated our 25th anniversary three months before. We'd had an argument, which involved a couple of days of silent treatment and when things began to thaw out, it came out that she's not happy, hasn't been for a while. And here we are.
    I move in to my daughter's place (as the third roommate with she and her boyfriend) tomorrow. I'm hoping a temporary separation will help and be a wakeup call for both of us.
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