2007.07.29 We're down to two toothbrushes

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I knew long ago that it’s all set up backward. Young parents are hard at work to make ends meet when their children are young. Then, as their careers settle down and they have more time on their hands, their children are grown and soon gone.

That’s not right. It shouldn’t work that way.

I haven’t thought about it so much recently with two kids gone and the third having worked her way through high school and becoming more self-sufficient through the years.

But it all came back earlier this month when Morenci’s basketball coach Jim Bauer resigned. He used the time-honored phrase: To spend more time with his family.

Every coach has his or her method of running a program. In Jim’s case, it’s pretty much total immersion. He’s not drowning in basketball; he’s having the time of his life trying out new strokes. He loves coaching.

He knew his “total immersion” approach was a problem when his seven-year-old son was overjoyed with Morenci’s loss in the tournament last March.

But it got worse. He and his son were driving home from Morenci over the summer and Jim was deep in thought about the defense he would be running for a summer tournament game.

Suddenly he got a punch on the shoulder. His son was upset and said something like, “Dad, I’ve been talking to you and you weren’t even listening.”

That was it. Jim soon drafted his resignation letter.

I’m sure there are people who think he’s crazy to quit, but I knew just what he was saying. To do the job of coach and father correctly, something had to go.

I think most people in that situation would have made a pledge to spend more time with the kids and then try to ignore the fact that it was slowly sliding back to normal before too many weeks passed. I was impressed that Jim was able to give up something he loves so much for someone he loves so much.

So where is this column leading? Am I about to announce my resignation in order to spend more time with my family?

It’s a little late for that. We’re down to two toothbrushes in our bathroom. Maddie has gone off to college.

Running a weekly newspaper—doing it right, as Jim Bauer would say—is pretty much total immersion. When people ask if a fourth generation of Greens will take over the paper, I answer that I hope not. I wouldn’t wish that on any of my children.

I think Ben got the best of my life as a newspaper editor. I was plenty busy from the start, but not as much back then. Plenty of swimming, but far from immersion.

I used to frequently take him on the job. I still remember him standing alone in an empty boxcar in Weston as I took a night photo of the chemical plant that had just been sold. On another occasion, we trudged through a swamp in search of the copper-bellied water snake—knee-deep for me, waist deep for him.

I’m sure Rozee had fewer of the off-with-dad adventures than Ben, but Maddie probably got cheated the most. As Ben got older, the things he could do with me often excluded someone six years younger. Maddie began spending a lot of time with her sister while I was getting busier as I learned how to do this newspaper thing right—or at least how to do it in a way that I think makes a good weekly gift to subscribers.

So Ben is living in Miami and Maddie is at the University of Michigan for her second day. Rozee has packed the last few boxes into her car for the trip back to Berea College in Kentucky, her final year there.

After Maddie’s high school graduation in May, I heard a lot of remarks from people about the empty nest coming up. In a few minutes it’s going to be reality, although it’s not quite an accurate assessment. There are still two people living here. Two rather busy people.

And now that all the kids are gone off on their post-high school endeavors, the backward life kicks in—I have all the time I need to work.

Too bad I don’t know more about basketball.

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