Ask any reasonable columnist and they’ll tell you, there are editors and then there are editors. Like anything else in this imperfect world, you’ve got the good, the bad, and the ugly. And despite the lack of certainty this existence unmercifully thrusts upon us, I can say with certainty that Tim West was the good.
You see, editing an op-ed page ain’t a science, it’s an art borne of balance. Not only do the words have to fit the page, but you have to give all the devils their due while setting your own aside. Because if you let your own pride and prejudices get in the way, then you become part of the problem and not the solution.
And just when you think you’ve done it by pulling off the impossible (again) – along comes one of your bleepin’ know-it-all opinion columnists to tell you exactly where you went wrong.
And they’re always so gracious about it too!
The sad truth is, opinion columnists are the biggest pains in the ass on this planet and I should know because I was the king pain.
Oh did we fight! “You cut my column again.” “Why can’t I use ‘grow a pair’ – they say it on TV.” “I don’t want to rewrite the fifth graff, it’s fine the way it is.” “Whaddaya mean I’ve written about Chairman McConnaughay too much?” “Oh c’mon! that Tea Bagger joke was fricken’ hilarious!”
But in the end, we’d always find some sort of compromise. He knew I had something to say and I knew he ran all sorts of interference for me. We were like brothers who implicitly understood that all the silly fighting only made us stronger. When it was time to face the politicians and the public, we had each others backs.
We knew some things were far more important than either one of us.
I suppose one could say that editing an op-ed page is the art off pissing off the most people the least. Thankless, doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Now, add to that onerous burden having to endure regular surgeries while you’re doing your best to fight off a rather persistent cancer. There were some phone calls where I didn’t think Tim was going to make it through the day, but he always did.
And in this era of incessant whining, he never complained about it – not once.
In fact, if I didn’t pry it out of someone else, he never would’ve told me he had cancer. On rare occasion I could get him to talk about it, but he was always convinced that the latest surgery would do the trick and a cure was just around the corner.
Even when it became clear the cancer wasn’t going anywhere and he was toiling for a fading enterprise, Tim went to work every day, he did his job, and he persevered. And as hard as I tried, I still couldn’t slip anything past him.
But on May 14, the cancer finally accomplished something I never could, it got the best of Tim West. He peacefully passed away at Edward Hospital in Naperville.
Getting back to those too-rare certainties. I can, with certainty, say, I’m a better person for knowing Tim, a better writer for his unrelenting editorial persistence, and that I’ll miss him.