C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Memories pervade the pre-dawn hours

The clock at the bedside said 10 minutes past 4 o’clock. Somewhere at the far, dark edge of hearing, a barred owl called out the announcement of his territory, or perhaps his loneliness for a mate.

The only other sounds were the snoring of the old bird dog, Cyrus, and the occasional jingle of the beagle’s collar as he scratched an ear.

It would be another two hours, at least, before the first hint of morning in the eastern sky. For with the suddenness of a turned page, the season had surely changed. And the breeze that blew through the half-open window had a hint of November in it.

I enjoy sleeping chilly. But the lady with whom I share the nights has a thermostat set differently than mine, and our bedmates, the cats, had expropriated some of the blanket, which I retrieved to be sure she was covered. The far-off owl stopped hooting, his cries replaced by the song of a distant train.

That’s a troubling hour to lie awake. There’s too much time for uninterrupted reflection – nothing to shield one from the memory of losses and old regrets. For me, such hollow spells of sleeplessness are rare. But when I happen to be so afflicted, it is mainly people that fill my thoughts.

I think of my parents, and wonder if enough of the important things got said before age claimed them. And of my wife’s parents, whom I did not have the chance to know as fully as I’d have liked to.

I think of the teachers who gave me the essential understandings that I’ve carried through a life, and by which I’ve managed to make a career. And friends, lost to distance or to time.

Often, especially in recent years, I think of the craft of newspapering as it used to be, before it was overtaken by an alien technology – the Internet – and by economic and demographic changes.

In memory, then, I’m again in the newsroom of The Star as it used to be.

There was no other place as exciting. On Saturdays, with a hundred or possibly more writers and editors in that one great open room, the energy was amazing.

Nearly all those colleagues whose talents I admired and whose example I tried to follow are gone – gone to other places, or to retirement, or gone in a much more final sense. There’s a new generation now, no less gifted. But their numbers are fewer, the paper is leaner. And I cannot help missing the faces that used to fill that room.

I feel incredibly lucky to have come to journalism – a youngster untrained and largely unqualified – and to have found my way and my working home in what I think of now as the golden period of the craft.

Mercifully, then, that recent 4 a.m. dark spell passed. The sky outside the window began to lighten, And the memories, though not lost –neverreally lost – gave way to thoughts of the chances and the challenges of a new day.