Moving through life

 Being in the newspaper business is a little like being in the Army – two things I know something about.

I first came to the South 41 years ago as a private in the Army. My job was as a tour guide at the missile museum at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. As I recall, the museum was several Quonset huts and wooden buildings, with a display of metal-shell missiles out front.

I was only in Huntsville six months and went back for the first time about four years ago. Things had certainly changed. The museum has fancy buildings, a theater and costs a bunch of money to visit. The metal-shell missiles are still outside; they’ve just gotten larger, with the addition of bigger missiles, the Space Shuttle and such.

In two years in the military, I was in Texas, Alabama and Vietnam. New assignments in the newspaper business have not been as rapid, but I have lived in eight communities in Missouri, New York, California, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi in the past 41 years.

Both professions can be hard on marriages and families, as spouses and children are uprooted from jobs and schools along the way. That’s why we are trying to live in two places until our son Joe graduates from high school at the end of May.

These days I spend the weeknights in an apartment in New Albany, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in Florence, Ala., where Joe is a senior in high school and Jenny is a teacher in nearby Muscle Shoals.

But the transition is under way and on Veterans Day (a school holiday in Alabama), Jenny and Joe will be in New Albany to scope out a house we think will become our new address.

The thought of moving always is hard. It’s made more difficult because by August, when Joe leaves for college, it will just be the two of us. We’ve already concluded we need fewer rooms with not as many bathrooms to clean.

What we haven’t decided is which half of our stuff we want to get rid of. (I’ve already discovered that “Jenny’s half” was not a good answer. More stress.)

Because my wife and I had to leave our hometowns for our jobs, our grown children have taken the same path. They live far way and we don’t see our grandchildren as often as we’d like. We’ve missed out on the tradition of Sunday dinners with all the family gathered around.

My son, Jonathan, and his wife, Mary, and their three children live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.  It used to be a 13-hour drive. New Albany will add two more. And my daughter, Morgan, and her husband, Ryan, live in Pittsburgh with their son. It’s a little closer, but not much.

The only real numbers we need to worry about is the number of minutes it takes to reach the Memphis airport and how much the tickets will cost. I’ve never been there, but I have a feeling we’re going to become acquainted.

That’s life in the newspaper business and the military.


T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at