January 23, 2011

'I just talked to my dad; he has cancer'


I'd worked 23 hours over a two-day span; four blank news and sports pages  glared at me from my computer screen.

And like an unruly child, the front page was refusing to come together as it should. 

Deadline was looming like the Grim Reaper.

Then my cellphone rang.

"Julie Wray," the caller ID showed. My wife.

And, so as I usually do when I'm overworked, frustrated, and pressured, I answered the phone with ... let's say, agitation in my voice. 

"Hi, I know you'll be home later," my wife said, "but I wanted to let you know, I just talked to my dad. He has prostate cancer."

Perspective is a funny thing, isn't it?

I was worried about ink on paper, while my father-in-law – perhaps the most influencial person in my wife's life – was considering the very real possibility of death.

The call came last Wednesday. About 6 p.m. Unfortunately, I was by myself. I have a staff of four. One was out sick, another was on what we euphemistically call a Recession Day. And the other two were treading too closely to the dreaded Overtime Zone to call back to work. 

In the daily newspaper business, you can't put off to tomorrow what must be done today.

Front pages don't wait. You can't say, "My father-in-law has cancer. I'll go check on my wife – and pick back up on that front page tomorrow morning."

It was a long, difficult hour and a half. I can't tell you of the thousands of thoughts that went through my mind during that 90 minutes. 

I thought of the first time I met him. In 30 minutes I was as comfortable being around him as I had ever been with anyone in my life.

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