Sooner or later, we all get the letter.

“My dear friends,” it begins. “Sadly and with enormous trepidation, I must announce after (impressive number here) years, I’m leaving the (your company name here) family.”

A brief explanation follows, during which the letter writer will pretend he’s not gloating when — I mean, come on — he’s really rubbing your face in it.

That “great new opportunity” he mentions six or seven times means the lucky bum is taking on a gig that will double his salary right out of the gate.

Lines like “I feel the need to explore my potential” are just nice ways of saying he can’t believe it took him so long to find something else, and good luck to the rest of you moops.

And then wrap it all up with some nice sentiments that may or may not be true — it’s hard to say. You’re colleague was very drunk when he wrote this part.

“I am so proud of all the work we’ve done together,” he writes, stifling a beer burp. “I leave with nothing but happy memories and pride for our accomplishments.”

Ah, bite me, traitor.

Not that I’m bitter. I even wrote my own departure letter once — although since we didn’t have email back then, how did I pull it off? Did I copy my letter on the Xerox machine and scatter it across the newsroom like some kind of sad letter fairy? That sounds like a lot of work.

But my point is, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of these farewell letters lately and, while I believe those traitorous scoundrels and quisling shrews are sincere in their sentiments, I can’t help but feel a sense of abandonment.

And by “a sense of abandonment,” I mean ,”please hold me.”

You have to remember that here at the Sun Journal, people tend to stick around for decades, even if they didn’t intend to when they came aboard. They become like family — and when you’re family, you’re expected to stay on the farm. Like, forever. 

Lately, though, so many people are leaving the farm that it’s like a “Walking Dead” swarm all up in here.

Former sportswriter Kalle Oakes, who had been with the paper for somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 years, sent out his letter a few months ago and announced he wasn’t just leaving the Sun Journal, he was leaving the state. Leaving New England, even. That dude didn’t just vault the wall, he slingshotted out of here like some Looney Tunes character on a trip to Mars.

State House reporter Scott Thistle sent out his goodbye letter a few weeks ago, and Scott wasn’t merely leaving the family, he was leaving for ANOTHER family. It’s like he stood up during Thanksgiving dinner, threw down his napkin and said, “You know what? I like the Ditmeyers next door better. So long, suckers.”

Weasel.

Two years ago, hulking and surly sportswriter Randy Whitehouse did something similar, announcing to me in person that he was leaving for another newspaper after 20 years of listening to my long stories and lies in the smoking yard.

“Don’t try to follow me, kid,” he said, offering me a consolatory Lifesaver. “You’ve got to learn to make it on your own, see?”

Maybe he didn’t use those exact words, but I was sobbing at the time, so it was hard to hear.

Photographer Amber Waterman went and got herself married and had a baby, and like that, she was gone. What, hanging out at crime scenes and car wrecks with me night after night wasn’t fulfilling enough for you? 

Don’t answer that.

Terry Karkos, the wild man of Oxford County, hung up his notebook and beard, sending out his goodbye and then wandering off and taking a mile of character with him.

My own wife left the Sun Journal farm, sending out her professional Dear John letter and leaving me behind to fill out my own insurance forms and the like. She went on to work for three different employers, too, which may be some form of career adultery. 

Designer Christine Crockett, who was always like a mean kid sister to me, flew the Sun Journal coop the very same day my wife did. Executive Editor Rex Rhoades dashed off his letter in late winter and darted out the door come spring.

They went in a blizzard of farewell letters. What remains is a whittled-down version of the old gang and we tend to look at each other with tense suspicion when we pass in the newsroom.

“I’m not going anywhere. Why, are you going somewhere? Where are you going? Why won’t you tell me?”

Not that it’s only the Sun Journal, mind you. People seem to be slip-sliding away from workplaces everywhere. Bankers move on to other banks. Plumbers find new places in which to plumb. Police chiefs depart peaceful utopias like Lewiston for scary places like Dallas.

Every day when I open my email, I wonder which colleague this time is going to be riding the Kalle Oakes slingshot to greener pastures.

But expect no letter from me, my friends. I plan to stick around as long as I can — loyal, steadfast and true to the very end.

You know, unless one of my wife’s nine jobs turns out to be extremely lucrative, in which case, so long, suckers and moops! I’ll always cherish the time we spent and blah blah, explore my potential blah blah, keep in touch yada yada.

Say, that’s pretty good. I’ll want to make copies of that.

Where do we keep the Xerox machine these days?

Mark LaFlamme is and always will be a Sun Journal staff writer. Email him at [email protected] (but not with job offers).


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