I always wanted to learn to play the piano. I took lessons when I was 35 for about a year. Then again at 40 for another year. Then I tried again a third time in my 50s. I still can't play.

As a singer, I did learn how to read music on an elementary level and pick out the soprano notes on a sheet of music.

But play, no.

I have this long-held fantasy to step up in the absence of a musician and play beautifully, but first I must take more lessons.

So the opportunity is here again.

After nearly 37 years at The Post and Courier, I am retiring as assistant features editor.

That means Tuesday will be a bittersweet day of goodbyes.

Farewell, friends

It's been a great experience. Most of my adult life has been spent in the newsroom. I have made lifelong friends here.

Over the years, as we put out a daily newspaper, we have weathered good times and bad. In the past five years we saw the economy nosedive and the newspaper business itself morph and change before our eyes. Like many across the nation, we endured the tough times, and sometimes watched friends walk away.

But we survived; and we put out a newspaper.

Hurricane Hugo is etched in our collective memories. We all mourned the Charleston Nine, and no one is afraid to cross the Cooper River Bridge anymore.

We endured the tragic deaths of many on our staff. An editor, Grace Kutkus, and years later a young reporter, Jasiri Whipper, shook us to the core. They were family.

Still we put out a newspaper.

The newspaper culture has evolved over the years. Now, we not only put out a newspaper but feed the ever-hungry beast called the Internet.

When I started in 1977 as a reporter, we wrote stories on electric typewriters. We carried beepers, not cellphones.

I covered multiple beats, including schools, government and police. I dashed out to many fires, fatal wrecks, murders, robberies and burglaries. The worst were those involving children.

I reported on Reuben Greenberg's hiring as the city's first and only black police chief.

I have served in several editing positions I was North Area bureau editor, when the Challenger exploded, taking one of our state's native sons, Ron McNair. I was assistant city editor during 9/11.

We huddled in front of the newsroom TV when Barack Obama made his acceptance speech as the first black president of the United States. I quietly tried to hold back a tear of joy. It did not work.

I am a lifelong Lowcountry resident and graduate of Winthrop College. I grew up modestly on Wadmalaw Island, one of 10 children. My mother still lives there.

My class of 1970 was the last graduating class of Haut Gap High School on Johns Island when schools became desegregated. I have lived in West Ashley for more than 30 years.

Writing this column, an idea from a past executive editor, has been a new experience for me. I never saw myself as a columnist, but I have met some of the nicest people while writing it.

I wanted the column to show that you don't have to be famous or hold a high office to have a valuable life. Ordinary people lead extraordinarily valuable lives.

The next chapter.

Once I announced my retirement, everyone asked, "What will you do now?"

Well, my answer is "lots of things."

I have an old ranch house that is in need of long-overdue repairs. I need to get on a fitness program so I will be around to enjoy the renovations. I also plan to take advantage of those tuition-free classes I wrote about at the College of Charleston.

I will continue to sing and travel with the CSO Gospel Choir and sing in my church choir at New Bethlehem Baptist Church. Also, I would like to volunteer to work with youths and senior citizens.

So there you have it.

And, who knows, that person sitting at the piano one day just might be me.

Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555, or sgreene@postandcourier.com. (After Tuesday, I can be reached at Greeneshirley91@yahoo.com)