The beard I grew during COVID isolation and the recent Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary series on Ernest Hemingway led to some thinking about similarities and differences, and how some things outweigh others.
We each started our career journeys as nearsighted journalists writing for our high school newspapers and graduating to the grind of daily deadlines.
At 18 he left The Kansas City Star for Europe, where he drove ambulances for the Red Cross in Italy. At 19 my early reporting made it to NPR, which was then a new network.
I worked briefly for the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. He wrote extensively for the North American Newspaper Alliance.
He quickly embraced writing short stories, novels and nonfiction as an eyewitness to war, romance and bullfighting. I slowly shifted from broadcast news to marketing technology to public relations.
He wrote best-sellers that became motion pictures. I wrote grants that funded social media interviews.
He won Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. I won a bicycle in a coloring contest and a couple of journalism scholarships.
He shot big game in Africa. I shot video on my smartphone.
He forever changed the landscape of writing. I changed the landscape of my backyard.
He married four times, fathered three sons and had 12 grandchildren. I married once, fathered three daughters and two sons and have 17 grandchildren.
We faced the dual demons of anxiety and depression and coped with various liquids. He drank and captained his 38-foot fishing boat. I found solace swimming laps in a 50-meter pool and bingeing content on liquid crystal displays. Briefly we both enjoyed water polo.
He suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries as a war correspondent, outdoorsman and frequent world traveler. I suffered multiple minor wounds as a mountain biker and novice triathlete in northern Utah.
He had access to many prescribed and borrowed pharmaceuticals. He underwent multiple rounds of electroconvulsive therapy at the Mayo Clinic. I underwent decades of counseling and have access to pharmaceuticals and geriatric expertise unknown in his lifetime.
He died from suicide at age 61. I lived to write these words on my 67th birthday in late May, which coincidentally is Mental Health Awareness Month.
He is a legend. I wear a mass-market hoodie that says, “Grandpa: the man, the myth, the legend.”
I’m no Hemingway. He’s no Finlinson. Still, should we meet at some hereafter watering hole, I think our similarities and differences would lead to a fine conversation.
He may not agree.
Rich Finlinson, Salt Lake City, is author of “How to Capture Ideas and Create Compelling Content.” He is an associate director for the Utah Education and Telehealth Network and a communications volunteer at SC21: The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis.