Nearly four years into retirement, I suddenly got an opportunity to do what I loved most about my job: interviewing people and then turning my notes and observations into stories. The designer I worked with for nine years offered me a freelance job helping to write an annual report for a senior services organization in Jacksonville, Florida and I jumped at the chance. I've always preferred to conduct interviews in person, and my daughter Hannah generously offered some of her Southwest Airline points so I could fly south.
My designer friend Susan and I have had a rather unusual working relationship. Although I was based in Wilmington, Delaware and she in Jacksonville, we created dozens of publications. Chief among those was Together magazine, a twice-yearly publication of the Nemours Fund for Children's Health. After a staff meeting to glean suggestions, I'd interview patients and their families, write the articles and send them along to Susan to fit into the layout. Then it was time to supervise photography by the pros we worked with me handling north and Susan south. After photos were placed and a few rounds of edits completed, PDFs flew back and forth amid many phone calls and emails before sending the publication to the printer. Although this process may sound painless, producing each issue was akin to having a baby and sometimes just as painful!
I'd almost forgotten both the pleasures and rigors of business travel. While enjoying an overpriced cheeseburger in an airport cafe, I saw harried business travelers with phones held to their ears, couples on vacation, families juggling babies, diaper bags and strollers and excited teenagers on their way to a basketball tourney. However, both there and back, I was wedged in the middle seat to read my novel, and the flights were delayed by 30 minutes. I sank gratefully into my comfortable hotel bed after an Uber ride to the hotel.
Next morning, after a happy reunion with my designer friend, we were off to River Garden (a lovely place set among palm trees and live oaks dripping with Spanish moss) to interview residents and staff. In addition to hearing praise for the services they received, the elderly residents often told us the fascinating stories of their lives. As an interviewer, you strain to hear every detail while writing copious notes and simultaneously thinking of the next question you might ask. Now that I've returned home, I'll complete the familiar process of making those stories come alive on the printed page, just like the old days.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.