Take care, and watch for deer

I’m a sucker for a sappy on-screen goodbye.

Bogey telling Bergman, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” while the propellers on the plane that will take her away from him forever spin in the background. Her one single tear, rolling down her cheek, everything that’s unsaid being said in her eyes—that shot gets me in the heart every time I watch Casablanca.

Or, how about the final shot of the Mary Tyler Moore Show? The cast members, in their teary huddle, shuffling for the Kleenex box on the desk, because no one wanted to break the group hug for something so trivial as a snot bubble from crying. I always appreciated that moment of absurd humor in the face of heartbreak.

Maybe the most brilliant writing wasn’t in a scrap of dialogue, though, but in the visuals. Think about how B.J. Honeycutt spelled it out for Hawkeye Pierce in stones on the helicopter pad at the end of M*A*S*H.  It was the goodbye that’s too difficult to put into words because how do you tell someone who’s seen you through hell and back “goodbye?” Nothing seems adequate.

There are all sorts of ways we say goodbye in our lives. My grandma would tell me she loved me, and then kiss my cheek and tell me to “take care and watch for deer.” When I first left home for college, it was difficult for my dad to tell me goodbye. Instead, he always made sure my gas tank was full, my tires had air and there was a $20 bill in the glove box, “just in case.” And I had a friend who never said the words “goodbye” but rather always said, “I’ll be seeing you.”

Life is all about hellos and goodbyes. Twenty years ago former publisher Duane Ross shook my hand and offered me a byline in this publication. My first editor Galen Hubbs encouraged me to introduce myself to the readers of High Plains Journal and to my quirky family in these columns. The funny, the sad, the pensive and the sweet—you made my folks your folks.

You invited me into your homes every week, and looked for something funny or something meaningful in this space. You trusted me to give you the unvarnished truth in the articles I wrote for the rest of the paper. Up and down the roads of the High Plains I enjoyed every farmyard “hello” from a friendly cow dog, and “come on in and sit a spell” from a farm family.

Just meeting so many of you and telling your stories has been the most fun a writer could ask for in her career. And the stories you shared with me were priceless. I got such a kick out of hearing from many of you over the years about how something I wrote struck a chord with you or your family. And even how you might wish that your wife would wait to cut out my column until after you had an opportunity to read the paper. (Avis, you let Pat read this before you clip it now.)

Every time I picked up the phone to say, “High Plains Journal, Jennifer Latzke speaking,” I wondered what the story was on the other end of the line. And sure enough, there was usually a doozy of a tale sure to make me grin.

But, for every hello, there is a goodbye. And that time has come for me now.

I’m moving on to a new opportunity, and this is my last Common Ground.

I’m lousy at goodbyes. Heaven knows I’m no Hollywood screenwriter, and I’m sure no Ingrid Bergman. But, I’ll give it a try anyway.

Thank you for the best 20 years of my life so far. Thank you for reading my words on the page, and yes even those words that fired you up. Thank you for every hello. And, taking a page from my grandma—you all be safe, and take care of each other, and watch for deer.

I’ll see you on the trail.

Contact Jennifer M. Latzke at [email protected].