‘Happy birthday, Fred!’

A collage of possible hairstyles for this columnist, thanks to The Voice’s own Michelle Owchar.

I work with some very special people here at The Chatham Voice; they take good care of me.

I celebrated a birthday last week. Well, I’m at the age when I have no problem not celebrating the fact I’m a year older, but the folks at work don’t operate that way.

Instead, as I was about to head out to drop off some papers, I was called into the back part of the office to ostensibly look over a bookkeeping issue.

I was greeted by the singing of “Happy Birthday.”

They spoiled me with beverages, snacks and a gift card for Lenovers to fuel my Big Green Egg with succulent meat.

But they also gave me a birthday card.

At The Voice, we don’t get birthday cards from the store. Not with Michelle, our graphic designer on hand.

I received a card complete with no fewer than seven hairstyle suggestions, none of which remotely resemble my hair these days.

There was the mullet on the front page of the card, with my headshot Photoshopped under a head of hair that would have placed me as the lead character in the movie “Joe Dirt.”

Inside, I was a punk rocker with ridiculously spiked hair. I sported a blue Mohawk in another, looked like the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls in one, appeared as a member of a New Wave ’80s band in one, as Bruce Bon Jovi in yet another, and as another ’80s rocker with hair teased up in another.

Thanks, folks! In actuality, we had created these photos earlier this year as part of my planned pledge to Festival of Giving to let people donate to the Children’s Treatment Centre of Chatham-Kent in order to vote for which style I’d adapt for the event.

Unfortunately, COVID killed the face-to-face FoG this year, along with our fundraising idea (But their online auction is underway!).

Michelle didn’t forget about the photos, and the staff took great joy in creating the card.

On top of that, I received such lovely notes as:

“Happy 80th birthday, Fred! Have a great day. Thanks for taking the abuse from us.”

That was from none other than Sarah, one of the sweetest people I know.

By the way, my first name is “Frederick,” after my late father.

Fatima, a big Bon Jovi fan, questioned if I could pull off the Bon Jovi look. Yeah, I don’t have his body, nor do I have the mega hair from the photo.

The fun ribbing is always appreciated. I work with some very special folks.

As strong as my Voice family is, my crew at home remains my collective rock. My wife and daughter, Mary Beth and Brenna, help me de-stress after some crazy days at work over the course of the pandemic, or the stress of layout days (trust me, such days at weekly newspapers can be rather hectic, even under the most controlled circumstances, as the challenges of deadlines are both thrilling, and frustrating).

My work bubble on layout days is small, or at least that’s how I’d like it to be. Each call is a distraction (and many are necessary as we’re chasing stories and finalizing advertising). As I age, my attention span is seemingly suffering, so each time I get pulled away from finalizing what I’m working on, it takes me a second to get back on track.

So by the end of a layout day, I’m mentally spent. Mary and Brenna are great at being supportive at home, but they also don’t let me get away with anything, holding me to task.

After the good-natured ribbing at work, I arrived home to a wonderful lasagna dinner (my request), salad, garlic bread and cake.

I’m spoiled.


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