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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Goodbye Old Friend

Nine years ago last month, I was 22 years old, taking a break from college and hating the job I had. Everyday at lunch, I checked the newspaper to see if I could find another job.

One day, the job of my dreams was listed in the paper. The newspaper itself was looking for a general assignments reporter. I had been the editor of the high school paper and worked on the college paper staff. I submitted my resume and a Mr. Bob Kyer called me to do an interview.

Bob was old enough to be my grandfather, but we hit it off really well. Instead of feeling like I was talking to an intimidating stranger, I felt like I speaking to a relative or an old friend. He told me that in order for me to get the job, I had to take a writing and spelling test. When I finished, he said, "I knew I liked you. You're the only person who has ever spelled all the words correctly." He also said I did a good job on the writing test, told me what I could do to correct it. He then told me to call him the next day, and he would tell me if I had the job.

I could hardly control my excitement the next day. When I left work that day, I stopped by a pay phone (I think I was one of the only people even then who didn't have a cell) and called him. He told me I had the job. I said, "Oh, Mr. Kyer, you don't know how much this means to me."

He laughed and said, "I'm not Mr. Kyer, I'm just plain old Bob."

So, even though it felt funny to call him Bob, I did it because he asked me to. And, it really was my dream job. Two years later, I was made Lifestyles editor, becoming the youngest one the paper had ever had. Bob gave me top reviews every year. When I went into his office for him to look my pages over, we often talked about his daddy, who was a Southern Baptist preacher, or about his dogs (including his beloved Pekinese, Cricket), or his children and grandchildren (He had a granddaughter he thought the world of who he called "Allie-Oop"). He become more than just an editor to me. As someone who grew up without a grandfather or much of a male influence, he became a surrogate one for me.

Bob always went to bat for his newsroom staff. At one point when the asshole publisher who fired me wanted to write me up, Bob refused to do it, because he said I didn't deserve it. I was so afraid he would be fired over it, but he told me not to worry. He was just that way.

About two years ago, he suffered a heart attack while sitting in his office on a Saturday morning. They almost lost him in the parking lot out front, but he made it over to the hospital. His doctor told his wife that he was brain dead and to turn off the machines. She wouldn't do it and by the next morning, he was sitting up in bed, eating his breakfast and talking to her and their children. We didn't know if he would come back, but we hoped he could.

However, that decision was taken out of his hands. The asshole publisher went into Bob's office and cleaned it out. He threw away an old typewriter that Bob wrote his first story on. He threw away books and anything personal Bob had in there. One of my co-workers went to the dumpster and rescued as much of Bob's things as he could. Asshole threw a retirement party for Bob and told him he could do freelance work and a column out of his home, so he could keep his insurance. But, about six months later, asshole fired him. I know the asshole did me very dirty in firing me, but the way Bob was treated broke my heart. When I wrote to asshole after he fired me, he commented that I never treated him with respect. How could I treat him with respect when I lost every bit I had for him after the way he treated a man I cared deeply about?

I got word last week that he was in the hospital. I wanted to go see him but came down with a bit of the flu. I didn't want to make him worse. Last night, my friend Rita called me and said he wasn't doing well at all. She said if I wanted to see him, I needed to go today.

I did, and it brought back memories of my granny last year. The doctor had been giving him morphine to keep him comfortable. I talked with his wife for a while and shared my memories of him. I told her that I thought the world of him. I don't know if he could hear me or not, but I talked to him and said, "Bob, it's Tamara. I had to come and see you and let you know that I love you. All of us in the newsroom did." I hope he knew how I felt and heard me.

I got a call tonight, saying he had passed away. I feel so bad for his wife. They had been married for almost 24 years. Last November, she lost her son, and this November, she loses her husband.
I'm going to share a quote from Charlotte's Web that sums up how I felt about Bob, "It's not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer."

Bob was both.


Never forgetting Gregory said...

Wow. You are just losing so many people who are close to you. I want to punch that A-hole publisher. I am sure that he heard you and appreciated you being there. My thoughts are with you and his family.

jenfnolf said...

I'm so sorry for your loss of a good friend and mentor. Hugs to you my dear. I'll say a special prayer for you and his family.

Megan said...

I am so sorry to learn of another loss in your life. My thoughts and prayers continuously go out to your and your loved ones.