Friday, June 2, 2023

When it’s time to bid farewell to ladders...

Written by By Jim Heffernan for the Duluth NewsTribune/6-3-23                            A newspaper ad for those gizmos that promise to keep the falling autumn leaves out of your roof gutters proclaims, “Say goodbye to your ladder.” The ad features a portly man with very little hair hugging his ladder, apparently trying to say goodbye and feeling mighty bad about it.

Is this really the message the gutter cover people want to convey? I would feel terrible saying goodbye to my current ladder (a seven-foot folding step jobby) but, of course, at my age I have parted with several ladders. I had a big aluminum extension ladder back when I had a two-story house but I think I failed to actually say goodbye when we parted.


Goodbyes are always hard. I said goodbye to my youth several years ago, I’m afraid. Can’t recall exactly what the words were or if there were words at all. You wake up one morning and it’s gone, along with more hair than you’d care to part with. (No pun there.)


I have said goodbye to a couple of revered cars, especially my first little pre-war (that’d be World War II) coupe, but the memory of it will always be in my heart.


If you are thinking about getting a Gutter Helmet (that’s the actual brand name of the product in the farewell to my ladder ad, but there are others too), you should be prepared to properly say goodbye to your ladder.


You can come up with your own words, of course, as you stand in the yard hugging your ladder goodbye, but there are many heartfelt goodbyes in the world of literature and pop culture, even in the Good Book, that might come in handy and make both you and the ladder feel better about parting.


Perhaps the most famous parting comes from Shakespeare that I think would make your ladder feel better about being shunned. It’s from “Romeo and Juliet” when Juliet says in parting from her lover, “Goodbye, goodbye, parting is such sweet sorrow.” How could a ladder resist such an endearing farewell?


There are others too, just as poignant. Like in “A Tale of Two Cities” when Sydney Carton is about to say goodbye to his head on the guillotine: “It is a far better thing that I do than I have ever done.” That might be a little heavy for your ladder but it’s sincere.


Then there’s the famous film “Casablanca” when Rick talks to Ilsa at the end as they are parting and she resists. He says she won’t regret leaving, “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.” I wonder if my old extension ladder got over our parting. I have and will for the rest of my life.


But enough of this nonsense. Well, not quite. What if you are glad to get rid of your old ladder, rungs and all? When it comes time to say goodbye, there’s the penultimate scene in “Gone With the Wind” when Scarlett pleads with Rhett not to leave, and he says, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”


Be careful, though. There’s that most famous ladder in the Holy Bible, called Jacob’s Ladder, that shows up in a dream Jacob of Genesis had. That ladder goes all the way up to heaven. Pretty tough to say goodbye to that one.


Still, there’s a goodbye in an old song that sums this all up quite well, I think, with the correct sentiment in saying goodbye to your ladder because you won’t need it to climb up and scoop the leaves out of your gutter. Just tell the ladder, “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again, some rainy day.”


And finally, the classic song “Autumn Leaves” has a line that couldn’t fail to capture the moment of saying goodbye to your ladder: “…I’ll miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall.”


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

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