Ages ago as a cub reporter I would affix “ —30 —” below the final paragraph of my stories.
The marker communicated a simple message: “I’m done.”
Then, with a flourish, I’d swipe the sheet from my Royal Typewriter’s cylindrical roller, proofread it and pass it on to my editor.
Long before the Confederate Army’s bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, North American newspaper reporters used —30 — to signal editors that the story was complete. But, for decades now, the idiosyncratic icon has been absent from newsrooms.
Still, I bow to tradition.
This “scriptura” represents my final column with the Daily Pilot. The past decade has been an adventure, but it’s time for me to “retire” and check off several more life boxes.
Time’s a wastin’. I’ll turn 74 in a matter days.
In 10 years of writing for the Pilot I’ve produced 500 columns and have loved every minute of it. Being responsible for a weekly commentary has kept me on my toes and provided me with a host of rich experiences.
I was Orange Coast College’s director of community relations for 37 years until my official retirement in 2008. I completed a host of writing projects at that institution, but never authored an ongoing newspaper column. It was an itch I hadn’t scratched.
Following my time at Coast, the Pilot offered me weekly space for a column. Had I not pursued my deeply satisfying career at OCC, I’m now convinced I’d have become a columnist for some broadsheet located somewhere between Lompoc and Little Rock. In my heart, I had wanted to be a columnist since the fourth grade.
Dream now realized. It’s time to move on.
I’ve had Parkinson’s disease for 13 years and am not willing to be constrained by its vagaries. Still, it takes energy to write a column, and evidencing energy today is a heavier lift for me than it was 10 years ago.
“Fatigue,” Vince Lombardi once said, “makes cowards of us all.”
As one who appreciates Coach Lombardi’s musings, I state staunchly that I’ve never fumbled a Daily Pilot writing assignment. In fact, I rather like facing an existential and unrelenting deadline. It gets my stomach to churning … for more coffee.
I must now, however, pay closer attention to my health. I’m also occupied at the moment with a project concerning my eight grandchildren — ages 5 to 19.
Hedy and I belong to a Bible study that meets one morning a week. The eight of us are well into our “golden years” and are presently discussing a book titled “Pilgrimage Into the Last Third of Life,” by gerontologist Jane Marie Thibault and aging and dementia expert Richard L. Morgan.
One chapter is titled, “Leaving a Legacy.” Morgan cites a passage from Paul’s second letter to Timothy: “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Can I make such a claim? Not even close.
Yet there is something I can do. Morgan suggests that seniors consider giving their grandchildren a precious gift — a personal letter. Our love and wisdom can outlive us by decades.
At 74, I’d be thrilled to recover today an artifact left me by a grandparent. Think what I might learn about my family and myself. How inspirational to know the thoughts, struggles and history of one’s grandparents — in their own words.
My memories of my grandparents are fragmented and shallow. My paternal grandfather died four decades ago when I was in my early 30s. I saw him maybe a dozen times. My maternal grandfather died in 1945 at the age of 42. I was 8 months old. I’m told he doted on me.
My paternal grandmother died when my father was 10. My touchstone to her is a sepia-hued photograph of her sitting in a chair. My maternal grandmother died when I was 40. She was the only grandparent I knew. We laughed for hours when we played “Old Maid.”
Can you imagine how meaningful it would be for me to discover a letter from a grandparent addressed to me? Doors of my life long closed might suddenly be ajar.
At the outset, I have no idea what format my project will take. It’s certain to be much longer than a letter and will contain many excerpts from my Daily Pilot columns.
So, what I’ll be doing for the immediate future is addressing my Parkinson’s issues, writing a tome to my grandchildren, taking selected trips and spending quality time with Hedy.
This has been more than fulfilling.
— 30 —
Jim Carnett, who lives in Costa Mesa, worked for Orange Coast College for 37 years.