SIOUX CITY -- It was 40 years ago this week that I carried my tools of the trade into a relatively new building at Sixth and Pavonia, unloading them into the desk to which I was assigned as the new sports editor of The Sioux City Journal.
That desk is long gone and I work these days from my home. This is where I planned a retirement that allowed me to still do a little writing while paying back some of the time my job stole from the incredible woman who allowed me to live this crazy lifestyle.
We didn’t quite make it two full years before fate intervened and took her away on Nov. 19. Now, after the chaos in my life allowed The Journal to use this space for other subjects the last couple of weeks, I’m climbing back on my horse, as it were.
Someone asked me a few years ago if I knew how many columns I’ve written for this newspaper. I couldn’t give them a precise number, but I’ve since arrived at a reasonable estimate of somewhere over 4,000. Two or three times a week prior to the weekly contributions as a retiree definitely adds up.
Out of 4,000-plus, I’ve strayed off topic -- namely sports -- fewer than half a dozen times. And, I hope you’ll indulge me again because my mind and my heart aren’t really honed in on the games I’ve loved writing about since landing my first full-time job in 1971 at the old Cedar Falls Record.
I’m not totally oblivious to some of the stories going on in the sports world.
I know the Iowa football team that crushed Ohio State and then struggled for two games was able to put things back together impressively in a blowout win over Nebraska last Friday.
I know Iowa State lost 20-19 on a last-second touchdown Saturday at Kansas State. I’ve also watched replays a number of times and realize the Cyclones wouldn’t have lost without a dubious decision by the officiating crew, waiving off what sure seemed to be a blatant pass interference penalty.
Morningside’s impressive national quarterfinal win Saturday over Saint Xavier held my attention for another big chunk of Saturday afternoon. And, I suffered through my Chicago Bears’ embarrassing 31-3 loss to the Eagles, the NFC’s best team, on Sunday. Zero first downs in an entire half?
But I’ve already said too much without getting to the point. Her name was Linda Tewes (rhymes with Reese) and she grew up on a farm near Royal, Iowa, a 13-mile drive from Spencer, before enrolling at the University of Northern Iowa.
That’s where we met on May 2, 1969, and the best writing I’ve ever done came the following day, when I scribbled out a lengthy letter aimed at winning her heart. I slipped it into the campus mail and agonized over what sort of reply this might bring. To my amazement, she wrote back to say she had most of the same feelings.
Yes, for me, it was love at first sight. Now, I’m inching my way through a process that starts with more recent images, trying to get beyond those in order to savor all the good times -- the times she wasn’t fighting for the life she lived so elegantly.
So many of you have been here, too, I realize. I’m definitely not a rookie, having lost three siblings and my mother since June 2011. I loved every one of them, but there’s just something different about that person you choose for a lifelong partner. There was absolutely nothing we didn’t know about one another and she would often roll her eyes when I launched into another one of my “long stories,’’ all of which she’d heard too many times.
Linda wouldn’t have felt comfortable with me writing about her like this. She wouldn’t have approved because she was a totally unassuming, loving, caring and beautiful person who thought real life should be like “Ozzie and Harriet,’’ a TV show we both watched as kids.
After more than 30 years as an elementary school teacher here, former students often stop me to share the major impact she’d had on their lives. I’d have been astonished to hear anything else, frankly.
She had an even bigger impact on our two sons, Jason and Jim, who have both made us enormously proud as hard-working husbands and fathers. Those guys are suffering much the same as me and so are their terrific wives, Stephanie and Chrissy. I feel worst, though, for the kids who are losing a grandmother that loved them all to the moon and back, one of her favorite expressions.
There are five grandchildren now and another due to arrive in January. Linda dearly wanted to be here for that and I’m choosing to believe that in some way she will be.
In the meantime, part of my particular grieving process was this. So, I thank everyone that didn’t simply turn the page. Down the road, knock on wood, I’ll get back to writing about the less emotional topics you expect to find here.