When one of my good friends, the last of a dying breed — a committed bachelor — decides to take that plunge into the matrimonial waters, I promised I would be there for his happy day.
I thought I was going to get there, at a little church just north of Statesboro, early. I was 20 minutes early. But by the time I got there, almost all the seats were taken. I looked around. There were a ton of unfamiliar faces.
A few minutes later, I saw a guy and his young teenage son walk in. It was the groom’s onetime roommate and the same guy who gave me my first job in this business as a snot-nosed kid reporter at the Statesboro Herald, getting to cover Erk Russell, Frank Kerns and Jack Stallings.
Afterward, we got to talking in the parking lot, waiting for the line to get into the reception to die down. We get a lot of newspapers here, mostly in trade. I read the Blackshear Times often, and not just because Effingham County native Robert Williams is the head honcho, though that is a reason.
Not long ago I read an obituary in there that caught my attention and stole my breath. It was the obit for my friend’s wife.
I asked him how he was doing and softened the blow by telling him, “I get the Blackshear paper.” That was my way of telling him I knew what had happened.
He and his son had left to go play golf at 7 that morning, and he had left his wife asleep in bed. Four hours later, her daughter had gone in to try to wake her, but to no avail.
They had worked together at the prison in Folkston, where she was a nurse and he ran the recreation programs. But now, he can’t go back there, and the long drive and the fuel he’s burning is only a small part of it.
So, after a long time away from it, he’s getting back into the business, heading to the paper in Waycross. And I’m glad.
He’ll be covering Pierce County, his alma mater and where his son plays, and where a friend of mine is the head coach. His son got some quarterbacking tutelage from Raymond Gross, another friend, earlier this summer.
Twenty years later, I don’t know whether to thank him or curse him for leading me into this business. But I’m glad to know our business is getting back a good man.