This is one of those times where something so moves me (yes, tears in my eyes) that I head right over here and put forth my thoughts, not really caring if they make sense to anyone else, if there are typos, or what others think, but just feeling the intense need to put them out there.
I’d been battling with the IRS today which has emotions on a high level already, so opted to get my mind off things by catching up with email, Twitter, etc. Finally decided to truly chill and turn off the computer to relax with the poochie. No sooner had I done so than I get a call from my mom letting me know my “boyfriend” had died. That “boyfriend” being the incredible Walter Cronkite. (My “boyfriends” were the likes of Walter, Charles Kuralt, and Tim Russert. These were men of intelligence, compassion, wit, and humor. Men I had an “intelligence crush” on, not the other type.)
Walter Cronkite was such a huge part of my life, as he was for so many others, with all of us growing up as I did, sitting in front off the TV with his nightly sign off “And that’s the way it is.” This is a man I trusted, a man whose every word I believed, a man who was right up there with my grampa Nick. Yes, I idolized them both. These were men who you felt would protect you, be honest with you, NEVER lie to you, and would always help guide you. While that sounds like something someone would naturally expect from a grandfather, is it something you’d expect someone to feel about a man she only knew from the television?
What was it about Walter that made me trust him so? Is it just that as someone born in 1962, he WAS the man I knew as the purveyor of news, when in those years news equaled truth? When doctors, teachers, and government officials were all people you automatically respected? (Remember I was young then, and didn’t know any better.) Was it the calm, measured, yet heartfelt way in which he shared the news with us that somehow comforted me? And why is it that there is so much from those younger years I don’t necessarily remember in detail, but I do remember the overwhelming feeling of “comfort” and “safety” when Walter was involved? I’m not sure the answers to those questions, although I’m sure someone could psychoanalyze them for me…please don’t. I’ll choose to keep them, since so many of our childhood memories are discarded to the “here’s what the reality was” box as we grow older.
I had the good fortune to actually meet Mr. Cronkite when I lived in Los Angeles, circa 1997, at a book signing for “A Reporter’s Life”. I remember standing in line outside the bookstore and wondering if I’d have enough nerve to actually speak to Mr. Cronkite, or if I’d chicken out. There’s that possibility that someone you look up to so much, might somehow fall short and tumble ever-so-quickly off that pedestal upon which you’ve placed him. And what on earth could I say that countless others hadn’t already said before, time and time again. But that didn’t matter, as I physically got closer and closer to the man. There he was, just around the line and in the actual same breathing space as me. That WAS Walter Cronkite just feet from me. I just about chickened out and opted to just buy the books (one for me and one for my gram in Washington who devoured books like I devour Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) and leave, but next thing you knew it was my turn. Gulp.
Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I rambled about at first, but what I do vividly recall was eventually telling him how I’d grown up sitting in front of the TV for that evening newscast, not complete until he closed with “And that’s the way it is.” I told him after now having met him, I would be able to retell the story to my friends and family and say “And that’s the way it is (was).” It was then that this icon, this man with the kindest eyes, the most gentle looking wrinkles in his skin, with the perfect white hair, took my hand in his unbelievably soft hands (I honestly have never forgotten how soft his hands were!), looked right into my eyes and said, “And I’ll remember this as the night I met you.” Walter ‘freaking’ Cronkite said that to ME! Suddenly time stopped, and actually went backward; I became that little girl from my youth, looking into the face of the man on TV, telling me of the happenings of the world. But for that moment, on that particular night, I was the news Walter was talking about and I was “the way it is” for Walter Cronkite and me.
Thank you for that moment, Mr. Cronkite. For the memory that has never left my heart or my mind, and for the important part you played in my life and the lives of so many others. For that we are eternally thankful and immensely grateful for having grown up in a time where we had a man such as yourself, to guide us as a beacon of truth and integrity; a man who carried on those traits his entire life. I cannot imagine us ever having such a role model again. RIP Mr. Cronkite.
ADDED: CBS Special News Report
Cronkite: In His Own Words
BBC: US TV News Legend Cronkite Dies
CBS: CBS Legend Walter Cronkite Dies
CNN: Former CBS anchor ‘Uncle Walter’ Cronkite dead at 92
Los Angeles Times: OBITUARIES
Walter Cronkite, longtime CBS anchorman, dies at 92
MSNBC: Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite dies
Journalist reported moon landing, assassinations of JFK and MLK
The Daily Beast: Walter Cronkite 1916-2009
The Nation: Walter Cronkite: Definitional Journalist Saw Big Media’s Flaws