Wineka column: A life filled with loving what she did

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SALISBURY — I couldn’t sleep Wednesday night. I watched an old Deborah Kerr movie, “Tea and Sympathy,” until 2 a.m. and finally forced myself to walk upstairs to bed.
But I just lay there for another hour, knowing that my friend — everyone’s friend — Rose Post was probably in her last hours.
Several weeks ago, I had accompanied Salisbury Post co-worker Jeana Spry to the facility on N.C. 150 where Rose was living. You couldn’t really call it living. The ravages of Alzheimer’s had long ago stolen Rose and transported her who knows where.
I hoped it was a place where she was meeting all the people she had interviewed in her life, just to listen to their stories one more time.
I hoped she was presiding over a large family meal back at her sprawling house on East Corriher Avenue.
I hoped she was riding shotgun with photographers James Barringer or Wayne Hinshaw on the way to a scoop. You said things to Rose Post you would not confess to a priest.
I hoped her husband, Eddie, was with her.
I hoped she was mothering all the young reporters again.
I hoped I was in there, somewhere, young again.
Rose couldn’t speak and had to be fed and bathed like a baby. She seemed so tiny in her bed. A baby bird, I thought. This was not, of course, the Rose I remembered. She wasn’t even wearing her trademark spectacles.
Rose made a little peep of what seemed like recognition when Jeana, who visited her frequently, walked to the side of the bed, bent down and gave her a kiss.
I swear her eyes twinkled as Jeana spoke to her, and they stayed fixed on Jeana, then me, as I took her place and held Rose’s hand and felt her paper-thin skin.
I stammered out a greeting but knew the words were not penetrating. Still, Rose’s eyes would not leave me.
In the years before Rose retired in 2007, we shared a corner of the newsroom we laughingly called Shady Rest — a place, I guess, where old reporters go out to pasture. (Plus, the fluorescent light above us was always out, thus putting us in the shade.)
From Shady Rest, I had a front-row seat to this spectacle that was Rose Post’s life:
• The people waiting at her desk, like patients in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.
• The telephone interviews that went for an hour or more.
• The high negotiations she had with family members, who always used her as a sounding board.
• The constant tap-tap-tap of her keyboard.
• Her pogo-stick days of standing up, greeting old friends, giving them hugs, then sitting them down to hear their stories.
But my favorite times of the day were when she looked over the cubicle wall that separated us and said so sincerely, “Mark, can you believe our jobs? Don’t you just love what we do?”
She would sigh and return to her keyboard or the telephone receiver.
I probably fell asleep Thursday morning about the time Rose Post left this world. My wife woke me later with a pat on the shoulder, telling me we had just received a telephone call with the news.
On the way to work, I started humming the stanza from a Joan Baez song, “Hello in There”:
Me and Loretta, we don’t talk much more.
She sits and stares through the back-door screen.
And all the news just repeats itself
Like some forgotten dream, that we’ve both seen.
All day I kept holding Rose’s hand and looking into those eyes.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or