If any of you remember Andrea Muirragui Davis, there is news that is both sad and life-affirming. Andrea grew up in Fort Wayne, then came to The News-Sentinel as a reporter and eventually became assistant metro editor. She then left us for greater job opportunities and is now associate editor of the Indianapolis Business Journal. She recently learned that she has breast cancer:
I'm sure it sounds cliché, but it's also reality. Cancer has changed my perspective-on everything from modesty (Anyone want to see my boobs? C'mon, everyone else has!) to marriage (Does it really matter who unloads the dishwasher?). And I'm not sure I would go back in time if I could.
Things I took for granted before have never seemed more significant. I'm a word person, and I can't find ones powerful enough to describe the love and support I've been getting from my husband, my parents, my siblings and my dear friends who are like family to me. It's humbling.
Then there's my extended network of friends-people I met through work or the neighborhood association or volunteer service-who've heard the news and reached out to let me know they've been there or know someone who has and that it's going to be OK. I'm counting on that.
I went to our archives and found the last story Andrea wrote for us, which covered the subject of leaving Fort Wayne, which she grew up wanting to leave, then discovered is "not such a bad place after all." That's life for you -- always a challenge just when you're getting too comfortable. Our system won't let me link to the article, so I'm just going to include the whole thing here. It's from July 31, 1998. I've included a photo of what she looked like about a dozen years ago.
Growing up in Fort Wayne, I had but one ambition - to leave Fort Wayne.
I didn't know whether I'd be a teacher or writer or garbage collector, but I knew that I wouldn't be doing it in what I considered a nothing Hoosier city.
As soon as I graduated, I thought, I'd hit the highway and never look back. How things change. Now I'm moving and looking back is all I can seem to do.
When I graduated from college six years ago, I jumped at a job offer here to avoid a lifetime at McDonald's or living with my parents. But it was just for a year or two, I told myself, then I'd make my break.
Somewhere along the line - while I was getting married, buying a house, building a career and making a life for myself - I forgot to leave.
And I got comfortable. Once a week I took my grandma out to eat. On Thursdays I cheered on my husband's softball team. Saturdays were bonding with Mom. Sundays I went to family dinners and plotted to duck dish duty.
Life here was more than bearable. I grew to enjoy a peaceful life of family, friends and work. (OK, work seldom has been peaceful, but it always has been satisfying.)
My high school friends already had started carrying through on our youthful threats of desertion by the time I finished my first post-college year. Sara moved to New Jersey; Marty to Texas; Kathy to Iowa.
Then the newspaper friends I made to take their places cruised on to bigger and better lives in Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. One even shipped off to Egypt.
But I still didn't seriously consider leaving.
Even now, on my last day of work before I feverishly prepare for our mid-August move to Jacksonville, Fla., I'm not sure how or why that changed.
Just a few months ago, I thought I'd never leave. If I eventually needed new professional challenges, I would try teaching or public relations. I would start a family, get free baby-sitting from the new grandma and live happily ever after.
Then something snapped. A newspaper in another city called and asked me to send my resume. I said yes. While I was at it, I applied to a couple of other papers.
Two weeks ago, I had dueling job offers and again had to decide whether I really wanted to leave the only personal and professional life I've ever known. It was the most difficult choice I have faced.
But now my lifetime in Fort Wayne is days away from being packed into cardboard boxes.
I'm excited about learning a new job and living just minutes from the beach, but I am also a bit sad about what I'm leaving behind:
* My childhood home and the Father's- Day-gift pine tree out front, which I still drive by and inspect whenever I'm in the neighborhood.
* The Foster Park golf course and suspension bridge over the St. Marys River, where my then-husband-to-be and I sat and plotted our future.
* The Baskin Robbins, Scott's Foods and McDonald's outlets where I cut my professional teeth, and The News-Sentinel, where I sharpened them.
* The Coney Island Weiner Stand and the boys there, who taught me about a lot more than hot dogs.
* Saturday afternoon movie-and-junk-food binges with my best friend.
* The traditional holiday margarita on Christmas Eve at my parents'.
* My first house, unconquered crab grass and all.
And then there are the precious intangibles such as the comfortable silence of spending time with a really good friend and the security of knowing my family is within a stone's throw (which comes in handy during those occasional feuds).
No, leaving's not easy. But somehow it just feels right.
So I'll pack up my memories along with my household and start a new life. I'll find new favorite restaurants, make new friends and look forward to visits from the Hoosier contingent.
And when the hometown bashing starts, I'll remember the lesson it took me 28 years to learn: Fort Wayne's not such a bad place after all.
If you want to wish her well, her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org