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Of giant frogs and farewells

It’s been ages since I read “The World According to Garp.”

I don’t remember much about the book except for a story one of the characters told about going to the ocean when he was a little boy.

His mother always warned him to watch out for the undertow, but he didn’t quite understand what she meant.

So he kept a watch out for the Undertoad. He had a clear image of a giant frog lurking below the surface of the water, ready to snatch over-inquisitive little boys who might stray too far from the shore.

Like I said, I don’t remember much about the book, but that image has stuck with me ever since.

I told my husband about it, and throughout the years, whenever something bad unexpectedly happened, I’d blame it on the Undertoad.

Maybe I liked the image so much because it fit my understanding of life. Whenever I worried about confessing some childish escapade to my mother, it would always be all right. She would understand; I would be forgiven, and life would go on.

But, you see, it was the things I didn’t worry about that would get me into trouble. Still is, to be honest. Things I think are just fine often turn around to bite me when I least expect it.

Now I know it’s the Undertoad that got me.

It’s been almost 12 years that I’ve been writing for the BCR. I remember when word of the job first came up. I said to my husband, “I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than writing for the newspaper!”

Well, I got the job, and while it hasn’t been all wonderful, it’s been an amazing experience.

I like to think I’ve made a couple of politicians squirm over a carefully-phrased question. I hope my presence – and that of all of us local governmental beat reporters – has helped keep proceedings up front and honest.

But the real wonder of this job has been all of the people I’ve met.

I’ve gotten to meet the famous and the infamous, the powerful, and those who have no voice.

I’ve met people who try their best to avoid talking to me, but I’ve met so many more who are happy to share their time and thoughts and energy with me.

I’ve had the honor of both laughing and crying with many of you.

But this is my last column, and this part of my life came to an end on Friday.

I ran into the Undertoad last year, and he tried his best to knock my feet out from under me. But with the help of family and friends, I’ve come up out of the water. The sand is once again firm, and the view up yonder is looking mighty pretty ... but I discovered my path along the shore has changed.

I’m moving ahead, and that means saying good-bye.

I will miss you and the challenges of telling your stories, but you’ll be coming with me in my heart. And I look forward to all the opportunities and new horizons that lie ahead of me.

It’s been an amusing game for many years to imagine – in five words or less – what you would like to have written on your tombstone someday. I’ve liked reading some of the other answers, but I could never come up with anything for myself.

But now I’ve figured it out.

I’d like my tombstone to read “The Undertoad never got her.”

Thanks for everything ... and good-bye.

BCR Staff Writer Barb Kromphardt can be reached at bkromphardt@bcrnews.com.

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