“Papy! Papy! Humboldt Standard. Read all about it. Noted journalist Dave Silverbrand is driving again.” In my perfect world, that is what 90-year-old Winfred Grisham would be calling as he sold newspapers in Old Town. Winfred did it for 45 years, becoming the news voice of his generation.
I remember his clarion call echoing through Old Town Eureka and wrote stories about him for television. Visiting him at Alder Bay Assisted Living last week, I fulfilled a promise to myself: Get back my driver’s license and I would make Winfred my first stop.
My doctor grounded me this summer because of health concerns, essentially putting my own journalism career at risk. He said that because of my heart condition, I would be unsafe on the road. It took a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my license reinstated. It would be “green lights” again. The next morning, I woke up to one more obstacle. My battery was dead. No, not my pacemaker battery. When that goes, I do too. No, it was my car battery. That was understandable since the car had not been running since June when I was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. Now, I am back in service.
First stop, St. Bernard’s Academy, and the first time this year I had been able to drive my daughter, Leticia, to school. In the passenger seat, she seemed taller and older than she did in June. Is that possible? She brought me back to earth: “You’re a terrible driver, you know,” she said, smiling.
Next, I headed to Alder Bay to keep my self-imposed promise to visit Winfred, the paper man. I’m my own boss now and I can do anything I want. It was as if he had been waiting for me — Winfred sitting in his wheelchair at the entrance to the building. He was full of spice, just as he was when I last interviewed him. After retirement, he worked for the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum. There, he was always willing to bring back his signature call: “Papy! Papy!”
His mind is as clear as it ever was, calling out the front-page news of the day. It seemed appropriate to me that I would make Winfred my first stop. We are, after all, kindred spirits, still holding the flame of journalism at a challenging time. We both still have that drive. Neither of us would ever let it go.
Still, times have changed and frankly, the media is a young person’s world now. A young man who began his career in television here is now working in Mississippi. There, through a live-shot, he described a fire in a vacant house with compelling detail right down to fire hose.
Passion counts for something. That’s why Winfred sits by the open door. He doesn’t want to miss anything. Neither do I. Truth be told, I almost missed it all this summer, including the opportunity to wake up.
Sometimes, those simple promises are enough to carry us through. I had promised Leticia I will stand by her no matter what, just as she did for me. She picked me up when I fell, hugged me when I lost my cat, Amadeus, and balanced me when I walked. I promised her the education she deserves. I promised myself that if I could drive, I would visit Winfred and celebrate our lives. Sure these stories are not newsworthy. What is the angle? What makes them the lead story?
Maybe that is the point. They are promises, beautiful in completion — voices from within our hearts.
Dave Silverbrand’s columns and other writings are available on his website, http://www.davespeople.com.