Living outside the lines

I have no home on this Earth.

I have an address – I’ve always had one of those – but there’s no place I call home any more.

Born in Cleveland, I moved to the Detroit area when I was 8 with my parents and sister. After six years there, we relocated to New Kensington, Pa., on the Allegheny River northeast of Pittsburgh.

We lived there four years. That’s where I graduated from high school.

I’d never been back to New Kensington until last month, when my high school class hosted an afternoon picnic at the local park. I remembered playing one year of Little League baseball at that park. It’s in a shady spot with newly redone pavilions, which came in handy during a five-minute downpour.

After high school my family moved to northern New Jersey, near New York City, where my sister graduated from high school. They made the move during the fall semester of my freshman year at Michigan State University, so at Christmas break, I went home to a house I’d never seen before.

Summer during my college years took place in three states – back in Pennsylvania as a camp counselor, one summer in New Jersey and then I stayed in East Lansing, Mich.

After graduating from MSU, I landed a job in my career field – journalism – with a weekly newspaper based in St. Ignace, Mich., on the northern side of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula. I was the reporter in the Cedarville office, 30 miles east and a long-distance phone call away from my boss in St. Ignace. I lived in Pickford, 11 miles north of Cedarville.

It’s nothing to drive 10 or 20 or 50 miles to attend a meeting or a social function in the U.P. There’s very few traffic lights, so you just jump in your car and go.

I basically learned how to drive up there – in a Chevette. Of course, it snowed in winter. A lot. And got very cold (40 below zero temperatures one time). I invested in an engine heater to keep the coolant circulating all night so it wouldn’t freeze. Just unplug the car from the wall outlet, and away I went. No problem.

They plow the roads. Snow wasn’t a problem for me; ice was. The Chevette was so light, it didn’t take much to get it sliding into a snowbank.

A year and a half after moving to Pickford, I got married and transferred to the main office in St. Ignace. That’s where we spent the first year of our married life.

My wife found a job in Saginaw, Mich., about three hours south along Interstate 75. So we moved there. I showed up at The Saginaw News and basically said, “Here I am, hire me.”

Little did I know that my boss in St. Ignace knew the news editor in Saginaw, and gave me a good recommendation.

We lived in Saginaw for 27 years, raising our three sons. That’s by far the longest I’ve lived anywhere.

As we all know, the newspaper industry has struggled mightily in recent years. The entire industry underestimated the power of the World Wide Web. Instead of embracing it, newspapers fought it as the enemy – and lost. Big time.

My job disappeared when our youngest son was in high school. I worked in a call center in Saginaw until he graduated, then started job-searching again. The Saginaw chapter of my life had ended.

We landed in Rockford, Ill., west of Chicago, and were there about 14 months. During that time, the company I worked for announced it was relocating to Austin, Texas. We decided that was too far from our sons, my parents and other family members, so I dusted off the resume again and landed in Elyria, Ohio.

That newspaper job lasted 13 months. I was an outsider. The newsroom management were (are) not. We never clicked. My St. Ignace-Saginaw-Rockford ideas did not mesh with their longstanding traditions. Both are valid, but we couldn’t reconcile. I was the odd man out.

We decided not to move again. I changed careers and found a job I enjoy here in Elyria.

Will we remain here for the rest of our lives? Possibly. But I thought we’d stay in Saginaw until we retired, and that didn’t happen.

During job interviews, the interviewer often asks, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I always tried to tell him what he wanted to hear. The truth is: I haven’t the vaguest idea. Maybe here. Maybe someplace I haven’t even thought of yet.

Even a year ago, did anyone foresee a Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump presidential race? Who can possibly predict the future with any accuracy?

In the Spring 2016 issue of the Pioneer Press, an Elyria Schools publication, Superintendent Tom Jama included this paragraph in his report:


We’re focused on hiring qualified residents and graduates of Elyria for vacancies in the district, because we have an “all-in” attitude and we believe that it matters when you’re rooted in your community.


That’s great, except that I’ll never be qualified to work there because I’m not “rooted in” my community. I’m not a graduate here. I’m an outsider and always will be, even though I live here now.

The Cleveland Cavaliers just won the NBA championship, breaking a 52-year spell that longsuffering fans endured. I wrote a blog about it:

I wrote that blog as an outsider. I did not live through that 52-year drought. This region deserves to celebrate. Let Northeast Ohio enjoy this moment.

Next year, the NBA will crown another champion (unless the Cavaliers repeat). Life goes on. Another city will raise the trophy and hold a parade.

That’s my perspective. I’ve seen champions everywhere I’ve lived:

  • The year we lived in Rockford, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup hockey championship (one of three they’ve won this decade).
  • We lived in Michigan when the Tigers won the World Series (1968 and 1984), the Pistons won the NBA championship (1989, 1990 and 2004) and the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008).
  • The Spartans won the NCAA basketball championship with Magic Johnson during my freshman year at MSU, and in 2000 when we lived in Saginaw.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in 1975 and 1978, during my high school years.

Champions come and go.

I hold on to life loosely. All of us will die someday; it surprises me that most of us don’t do more to prepare for the inevitable. Whenever my time comes, even if it’s not for another 40 years, no heroic measures for me. Let me go.

I’m ready to meet Jesus. I won’t get downsized from His home, fired from heaven, or relocated.

Nothing is guaranteed on Earth. Perhaps we take life too seriously.

Or not seriously enough.


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