“Attic Salt” column for March 10, 2013

Newspaper columnists don’t retire. We “leave the paper.”

That makes retirement conform to our dramatic and romantic natures.

This is my last column in the People section. I’m retiring Friday.

Deciding to retire was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. It felt right.

After 41 years at The Advocate, I awoke one morning and told a sleeping cat, “It’s time to do something new.”

I grew up at 525 Lafayette St., home of the Morning Advocate when I went to work there in 1972.

I was 24 but felt much older. I’d been around the world twice on a ship that sailed to Vietnam from the East Coast. I was a young father, but I’d never gotten a telephone installed or the water hooked up.

My wife and I tried keeping a checkbook together. I was hopeless. I wrote a few bills over the next 40 years, but I wasn’t a reliable bill payer. My wife took over that duty, too.

I am a lucky man to have had a wife who tolerated the ridiculous hours of a reporter on a morning newspaper. I went in at 2 p.m. and got off at 11 p.m. unless there was a late-breaking story. I loved it.

When my children started school, I didn’t see them as much as I wanted. I was lucky to change jobs at The Advocate to get day hours.

I’ve been lucky to work at something that gave me pleasure and a sense of accomplishing something, though I can’t tell you anything big that I’ve accomplished as a newspaper reporter.

There has been a sweetness and a lightness about the last couple of weeks as I wandered the building saying goodbye.

I count myself lucky to have as many friends on other floors as I do in the newsroom. A newspaper takes many people to publish. Done right, it’s fun.

With the closing of the State-Times in 1991, the afternoon paper as well as the morning paper lost employees. When layoffs, dismissals really, came after we’d left downtown for Bluebonnet Boulevard, I lost more friends and colleagues.

As word got around that I was leaving, the phone would ring, an email pop up or an old friend appear at my desk.

As we talked about happy times and sad times, saying goodbye as though one of us were boarding a space ship, I felt lucky to have done something I loved for so long.

We’re told The Advocate could change hands before summer. Whatever happens, the paper should have more good years in it.

The biggest part of my long time at the paper has been sharing with readers whatever happened to pass through my head as I tapped out words on, first, a typewriter and, later, a computer’s keyboard.

One word describes best what I feel right now. Lucky.

People section columnist and writer Ed Cullen welcomes comments through Friday by email to ecullen@theadvocate.com.