Until we meet again
July 31, 2019
The Saratoga Sun lost a member of the family early Sunday morning and we are all grieving. For the foreseeable future, things will be in a little bit of chaos as we struggle with how to move forward.
There are no puns today. No jokes.
That, I think, is the hardest part about all of this. For nearly 10 years, and it would have been 10 years on August 9, the puns and jokes of Keith McLendon filled the newsroom. They also were printed in the pages of this paper. Sometimes his humor got a few laughs while, other times, it elicited groans. Still, one had to admit he was very skilled in punography.
Now, that humor is gone, save for his columns.
As I’m writing this, part of me does not want to admit he’s gone. I don’t want it to be real. I’m angry. I’m sad. I am feeling everything and nothing, all at the same time. From the time I first heard, time seemed to slow to a crawl and speed up all at once. The usual thoughts began to surface as the day progressed.
Why didn’t he reach out?
How come I couldn’t see the signs?
What could I have done?
There are many questions that will probably remain unanswered, which only adds to the struggle we are currently going through and will continue to go through. While we have our memories of him, they are a paltry substitute for the real thing. I, for one, would rather be able to go back to seeing him through the office window as he approached the building, cigarette in one hand and office mail in the other.
Unfortunately, that is not our reality now. The reality, as much as it pains me to think it, let alone write it, is Keith has left us for good. He won’t be asking me if I’ve seen the newest Marvel movie nor will he excitedly show me his most recent geeky purchase—of which there were many. We won’t be asking each other if we had seen the newest trailer for whatever movie we geek out together.
Keith was not a native to Saratoga, though he might as well have been. Like many who came before him, and after him, he found his way up here and fell in love with the area. He talked often about floating the river, though I never had the pleasure of going on a float with him. One of the last conversations I had with him was about the Platte Valley, about how, once you come to the Valley, it is so hard to leave.
We had our clashes. Keith was not one to expect people just accept whatever he said as gospel and he encouraged debate within the office. The two of us had some healthy debate, with raised voices from time-to-time, both before and after something was published. At the end of any of these vigorous discussions, he would always ask the same thing; “We’re okay, right?”
And we were. While I was still a little frustrated or upset, we would move forward.
I’m not okay now.
It will be a long time before I am okay and it is difficult to think about moving forward without him in the office. Whether we want to or not, we have to move forward and we have to do it while we are grieving. We, of course, want our time to be able to mourn the loss of a man who was not just our boss, but our friend. We also still have had to work on putting a paper out.
Keith wouldn’t have had it any other way. He put his trust in us when he was gone to work together and get a paper out. It may not be the prettiest thing that’s ever come from the Saratoga Sun, but I hope you’ll understand.
It’s hard not to think about the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Md. in 2018. While the two are dissimilar, we are a newsroom that no longer has one of its members and that member was ripped from our lives through a violent act. Despite this, the surviving staff worked to put out a newspaper the very next day.
Finally, I am asking for anyone who knew Keith, whether they knew him personally or professionally, to write down and send us memories or to send us photos. If you have any, please email them to [email protected].