Closing Chapters

Closing Chapters

They apparently are making their move to begin the official gutting and what many of us can only assume will be a total demolition of the Tampa Tribune building over at 202 Parker St.  My former colleagues have been sharing the latest photos or video of the scene. It is always sad to see a place that held a special meaning to you be changed in any way let alone be obliterated altogether. When a childhood home or our favorite restaurants are leveled, we cannot help but feel part of us has been bulldozed in the process.

 

I had only worked on the property for four years before my time with the Tampa Tribune operation came to an end but I did become a dedicated reader 13 years before that. I’ve shared before the significance of my time working for a metropolitan newspaper in the different capacities I served in a previous blog, one in which I joined my former co-workers in mourning the paper’s death following the official news of its stoppage last spring. Last year marked the end of a lot of things, not just the place of my most impactful career decision I ever made, but also the end of a 45-year run of never having been hospitalized beyond tonsils as a kid, and the farewell of many childhood heroes in TV, music and movies.  It also marked the end of a mystery I had not solved — that is, up until this past December when another chapter of my life closed unexpectedly.

 

When you end a relationship, for many of us it is a period at the end of a sentence not an ellipsis. If you have children or animals with that person, or you work with them, they may never leave your orbit. It is simply a matter of restructuring that interaction with each other. But when you don’t and you do not have a long extended divorce because there isn’t a home or kids or finances to fight over, you typically go your way and he goes his, and that is, well, THAT.  If he moves out of state, you don’t expect to see them again. And in my case, that was my situation. A short marriage, a fairly quick and easy divorce, and see ya never for forever.

 

Somewhere along the way, you learn about Google Alert and decide that it might be a wise move to set up an alert on his name just to keep an eye on any news headlines that may involve him. So you do. You’ve seen 48 hours and Dateline, and heard about crazy stalker ex-husbands. Better to keep one eye open at least. And then one day in 2011, an obituary alert comes through and your breath catches. It is his father of the same name. You aren’t quite sure why you had that reaction, that alarm or sudden fear that this man you wanted to get away from might have passed, but you can’t help where your emotions take you. Time passes, and you get a strange call from a union office reaching out to you to confirm HIS employment. How the hell would he or them even know where you are? You don’t even have the same last name anymore. But you learn he has moved. To the Pacific Northwest. Hmm, you think to yourself. He always wanted to move to Oregon or Washington state. At least he got what he wanted. Good for him.

 

So you forget about him, that person who you once fell in love with, once took a leap and married and once came to the conclusion that it had all been a big mistake and you were never made for each other.  And another alert arrives in your inbox. This time, it’s not completely clear but you see a city, state and the words “This month’s deaths.”  The month the web link refers to is March. March 2016. Of course, 2016. Everything pretty awful happened in 2016, and as far as deaths go, well, 2016 brought loads of them.

 

But why were you getting this alert? So you open it up and you still see nothing to answer that question, continue to scroll down past March 10, March, 11, March 12… March 15. And then you see it. His name. Not his father’s. Your ex-husband, the man you once asked to pack his bags and move out; that guy you filed divorce papers against; that person who left you with so much baggage you could fill the bottom of a half-dozen Greyhound buses. That guy who despite hurting you so much, you actually blogged a letter to once before telling him that you had come to peace with the damage done and forgave him though you never actually saw him ever again since that odd July day in 1993 when you parted ways, nor had you been in any other kind of communication.  That man who was only three years older than you and who you thought maybe one day you would see or talk to again to get that total closure regarding the pain left behind — now that man was dead. And any time speculating what he might be doing or where he ended up or whether he was even around anymore, all of that wondering was over. That time was over. That chapter was closed. Permanently. Like a big bulldozer came along and tore down the past, taking all of those lingering questions to be answered with it.

 

When I learned about the Tampa Tribune closing, I felt my heart sink, my stomach turn and yes, in time I found myself crying.  I thought about my friends who were still working there and how distraught they must feel. And I felt for all of the others like me who had left involuntarily and others who saw the writing on the wall and left on their own terms. They still were connected to this place and to each other. A history had been constructed that connected all of us. I had some of the best professional moments of my life and met some incredible people who changed my life for good. I have friends who worked there fresh out of college for the next several decades of their life. I can’t begin to imagine the sorrow they felt when they learned of the news and I know this impending gutting of the building and subsequent destruction of the place they called home for much of their day for so long has to be only poking at the wounds from last spring’s closing.  I wasn’t surprised by my reaction last spring or this week. Seeing the photos is hard when you know how much happened behind those doors and at those desks — it was like magic to those of us who always dreamed of being in the presence of the daily news gathering and distribution process. Even if I wasn’t doling out the front page story or making that news come to life on the page, I had my roles in other departments and working for a sister publication onsite, and I accepted every one of them as if I was as important a spoke on the wheel as the editor on the other side or the skilled journalist out in the field investigating stories. A newspaper organization is its own entity – a being that is alive. Seeing photos of it being gutted reminds us that the heart of the organization beats no more.

 

My reaction to the news of my ex-husband’s death last March threw me. I thought about it constantly on my long commutes, I caught myself looking it up again and re-reading it, as if I expected the name to not be listed upon a later perusal. And I cried. This man who I hated when he walked out the door of our apartment and had rarely thought about until recent years (which I attribute to the contemplation that arrives with reaching our 40s) — I was crying over news of his death.  I eventually shared the information with my husband and as I expected from this sweet, thoughtful man I married, he wasn’t surprised at all by my reaction. ‘You loved him enough to marry him, of course you are going to be sad to learn that,’  he said.  Sigh.  He’s right, I know. But I never expected to experience sorrow for someone who left me with so much pain during our brief time together.

 

I suppose that time in my life has been leveled now, too, much like the building on 202 Parker St. will be in the future. I live somewhere else now, embarked in a different line of work compared to way back then and lost track of most people from that period in my life when my ex-husband was still in my orbit. And now, HE is gone, too.

The bulldozer may roll. That time has passed. And life does goes on. But I am thankful of the knowledge and the chance to remember a past period of time and grieve at its passing.

 

 

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