Sharon Randall: Thanks to you, I’m back
I was standing at the sink peeling shrimp for dinner (and thinking how I like to eat shrimp more than I like to peel them) when I had a revelation.
It hit hard, like a punch in the gut. I heard myself whisper: “This had better be good.”
Not the shrimp. The shrimp would be fine. Even I can’t make good shrimp taste bad.
What prompted the whisper was a realization that I needed to write a column. Again. And I wanted to make it a good one.
In the past 25 years, I have written, give or take, 2,000 or so columns. Few were as daunting as the one I’m writing now.
In December, when I wrote my last column of 2015, I thought it might be my last ever. I had just learned that my syndication — the process that distributed my work to newspapers around the country — was ending.
The news took some getting used to. But I told myself, OK, maybe it was time to shut off my laptop and work on wrestling moves with my grandkids.
I knew I would miss hearing from readers. That’s the part of the job I loved most. That, and the paycheck. But I would not miss being on deadline.
Most people who live long enough get to retire someday. My husband retired recently after 40 years in the news business and he seemed fine with it. Maybe I’d be fine, too?
So I wrote that last column to say goodbye to readers who seemed like old friends. It pretty much broke my heart. But I hit “send” and went to the kitchen to eat something greasy.
Meanwhile, the Retiree tried to be helpful.
“You don’t have to quit unless you want to,” he said. “Just decide what you want to do.”
Mostly what I wanted to do was sit around in my pajamas feeling sorry for myself. I’m sure you never do that. But I can do it until the cows come home. Or until I call my brother.
Joe is blind. His great pleasure in life (besides eating) is pulling for the Clemson Tigers’ football team, who’d just lost a national championship to Alabama.
So I called him to offer condolences.
“I look at it like this,” Joe said, about the Tigers and life. “They gave it their best. That’s all you can do. I’m proud of ‘em.”
“Next year,” I told him.
“Yep,” he said. “I can’t wait.”
Joe has an eye for seeing perspective. He likes to make me see it, too. I felt better after talking to him. Not a lot, but some. Then a funny thing happened. Mail. Tons of it. Email, snail mail, messages on my website and Facebook.
I wish you could’ve read it. People said lovely things. It was like going to my own funeral without having to be dead.
I read mail for days. Finally, I stopped reading and started trying to figure out how to self-syndicate my column.
Imagine my surprise when almost every paper that had carried the column for years agreed to continue doing so.
Editors get more complaints than thanks. I know because I’ve worked with some of the best, and even married one of them. If you’re reading this in your local newspaper, it’s because editors at that paper said yes.
Don’t call them. They’re on deadline. But if you see them at the Piggly Wiggly or wherever, please give them a hug for me.
I said this in my last column and I want to say it again: Thank you for your friendship and encouragement; for your prayers and kind words; for your honesty and trust in telling me your stories; for making speaking gigs feel like family reunions without the fist fights; and most of all, for reading my words, hearing my heart and writing to tell me my stories are your stories, too. You have been, and continue to be, such a gift.
I don’t know how to write a “good” column. I just show up and try to give it my best. Like Joe says, that’s all we can do.
Next time we eat shrimp, the Retiree can peel them. Thanks to you, I’ll be on deadline.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.