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Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Danke and auf wiedersehen

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Published:   |   Updated: August 13, 2014 at 07:06 AM

Thank you for hanging in there this past week as I reminisced on 45 years at the Type and Gripe factory. There was a lot of rambling. I forget who it was who said you're getting old when you talk more about the past than the future, but it's true.

So this is it.

My old friend Charlie Robins was a longtime columnist for the afternoon Tampa Times. Somebody asked him upon his retirement what had been his favorite column and Charlie said, “This one.” He claimed he looked at column writing as more a form of personal therapy than an occupation.

I can relate to that, but don't feel that way about this one. It can't be. It's too soon. It's going to take a while to reconfigure things.

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I do want to get one thing out of the way, if you'll allow. I need to introduce and thank the cast members who have filled this column's often-personal account of life at the Otto household. I dragged them in, probably too often, as a way to write about issues we all deal with in our confusing world.

The long-suffering Frau and now retired schoolmarm is Diane. She's actually more New York Irish than German, but “Colleen” didn't fit in a headline years ago so I made her a German “Frau.” For years she has kept her poise in restaurants and grocery stores when people would come up and speak to her in German. All she can do is smile and say, “Danke.”

Matt, Nick and Alex are the three boys. They might have had it tougher than most as their early lives in Scouts, Little League and school were chronicled by their old man.

Each one would have to walk into class after having their dad write about the bungled science project the family scrambled to assemble at the last moment, or the camping trips where it was the dads who seemed to enjoy the campfire songs and ghost stories more than the boys did.

Sometimes, Dad was a little too personal.

One of the boys developed a strange affection for — or at least a fascination with — the vacuum cleaner. One day I found him just sitting in the closet, leaning against the vacuum.

Writing about this kid's fetish was a little overwhelming until several dozen of you told me similar stories. It helped me, and maybe you, to realize we are more alike than different.

I don't write about them much anymore because they are all bigger and smarter than me.

Diane and I are three times blessed.

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Finally, there was you in the role of yourselves. A little peculiar, a little wacky, often sincere, almost always well-meaning, you're what made this thing work.

Your stories, your feelings and your willingness to share often personally difficult times meant a lot.

I have seen changes through the years in all of us.

We've become more uptight, less inclined to laugh at ourselves and to open our doors and minds to things.

We need a few more kumbaya moments where we are less critical and more open to looking for solutions instead of pointing fingers.

If you want to make me happy today, go out and make a friend or find an old one and reconnect.

Or, better still, take the first step toward someone you swore you never would speak to again.

It's days like this that I appreciate how quickly things pass and realize we should live them to the fullest.

So get out there and do just that.

I'll be back now and then to chew the fat — although the Frau would prefer it was a salad.

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