The first column I ever wrote for The Republic appeared in 1990. The guy in the headshot accompanying the column had a dark moustache and a full head of even darker hair.
The column was about taking my daughters, Katie, then 12, and Kelly, then 8, to a New Kids On The Block concert at Market Square Arena.
A whole lot of life has been lived in the 22 years since that first column appeared. Today Katie has two daughters, ages 13 and 6, and Kelly is due to deliver my first grandson in October.
Market Square Arena is long gone. I’ve ditched the moustache and am slowing shedding the hair, which is now gray. I’ve gotten divorced and remarried. I’ve lost my parents, two dogs and a cat.
But I’ve gained four beautiful and amazing granddaughters, two stepsons, two sons-in-law and a stepdaughter-in-law.
Around 1994 I was given the great honor of writing this column every week for the Sunday Republic. Some columns have been good; some I’d just as soon forget. In fact, MOST of them I have forgotten, whether I wanted to or not.
Some have prompted kind notes from readers; others have prompted hate mail. Fortunately, the former have far outnumbered the latter.
Over the years, I’ve shared much about my life and the lives of my loved ones. Daughter Kelly will remember one occasion where I shared way too much about her life. Oops.
But she used this space the following week to set me straight, giving her the distinction of being my only guest columnist in 22 years.
Many of you have sent me letters and emails, left me voice mails or approached me on the street to say nice things about my ramblings. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of you and the tremendous support you have given me.
That support is what has kept me coming back to the keyboard week after week.
But perhaps what I enjoy hearing the most is, “It’s like you’re sitting in our living room,” or some variation of that. I’m certainly not special, and neither is my family (well, they are to me). But I love it when readers see themselves reflected in this column, because that’s always been my only goal … well, hopefully I make you laugh once in a while, too.
But all good things must come to an end, and today I’m taking my final bow.
While writing this column has always been the most enjoyable aspect of my job at The Republic, it’s also always been just a small part of my job. I can write a column in about an hour. It’s the countless hours spent thinking of something to write about that wear me down.
After all these years it’s very difficult to come up with an idea I haven’t already done. I remember the day in 1973 when I watched an aging Willie Mays limp down the first base line, wearing a New York Mets uniform no less. Sad.
I don’t want to stay past my expiration date like Willie did.
But I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still be here at The Republic, where I’ll continue to produce special publications and lose my hair.
And while stopping our weekly visits is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it’s also liberating in a way. Now I can use all those hours spent thinking of column ideas to pursue some of my other writing goals.
For example, I’d like to make my late mother happy and publish a book before I die.
So thank you all so much for sticking with me all these years, through the ups and downs, the laughter and the tears, the good columns and the stinkers. You’ve been the greatest audience a guy could ask for.
And speaking of the greatest, a special thank you to Kathy Smith, my copy editor for the last 22 years. She is simply the best in the business and has saved my sorry rear end more times than I can count.
I am eternally grateful for our 22 years of Sunday visits, and I will miss you all. But this is not “goodbye,” just “see you around.”
Doug Showalter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.