Sunday, October 7, 2018

What, me worry?

Why this?
Truth to tell, there are other topics I would rather explore today ……so many things that need explaining, at least to me. For instance, do the endless pharmaceutical commercials that dot the nightly news bother you as much as they do me? 
They seem to follow a common formula……smiling faces made well by some medicine with a made-up name are parading around while the narrator recites all the ways that wonder drug may harm or maim me, all the reasons I ought not use it. Most aggravating of all, they carry on without ever telling me what ailment their medicine treats. Small wonder those ads are muted in our house.
So why, you might wonder, did I settle on the sad lament that follows? I suppose it must have been something I read, or saw on the tube. Wherever it was born it seemed worth addressing. Hopefully it won’t offend you.

Do warts really worry?
Did it ever happen to you? Did your mother ever look across the dining table into your eyes, with an admonition that sounded something like this? “Don’t be such a worry wart, son. It can’t be as bad as that.”
A ‘worry wart?’ Now there is a term you don’t hear much anymore, at least not in my circles. But there was a time, perhaps before ‘The Power of Positive Thinking,’ when it was a not-uncommon label for those who raised their concerns, especially unpopular ones. 
So here is today’s question, the one I am asking you to consider…….is this Stewart fellow a worry wart? Does he have any reason to be concerned about what he sees ahead? Read on, and tell me what you think.
Signs of trouble in Octoberland
Perhaps you have heard rumors that all is not well in Octoberland. An endless stream of dire accounts and daunting predictions remind us how many of our October/November peers are ill prepared for retirement, or late-life in any form. 
The equivalent of whole forests have given their lives to produce the newspapers, magazines, and books making that point. And odds are that depressing onslaught will continue as the unsettling tide of financial reality becomes more apparent, and the fiscal noose continues to tighten.
To be sure, if you are one of those caught in that tightening noose you know how real it can be, because it is happening to you. It is true, you know, our own reality is the most real of all. We all understand that truth, don’t we? So what is it that awaits us around the next corner or two?

Who will pay the price?
The questions facing the next generation or two are indeed formidable. Is Social Security really a ‘forever’ program? What about Medicare? Will affordable health care be available ten, twenty, or thirty years from now? Or what about the long-term impact of student debt? Will those underemployed graduates ever get beyond that?
Yet as you look ahead to that future, consider this. The tightening noose facing today’s “Greatest Generation” may well look like the ‘good old days’ to a significant portion of the Greatest Generation Plus 1. And if that is true, what about Greatest Generation Plus 2……our grandchildren. After all, they are the ones who will be asked to pay the bill we have left for them.

How did we get here?
But before we turn our attention to those we care about the most, let’s take a moment to visit some of the reasons we stand at the edge of what might be a steep and slippery slope. I would submit that a lifetime of cultural potty training, in the form of schooling, television advertising, movies, books, social media, etc., has enshrined and empowered the supposed virtues of material success, status, and the accumulation of ‘stuff and things.’  
Not just any ‘stuff and things,’ but the right sort of things. The things so prominently affirmed in glossy TV ads and accepted by our peers as desirable. How often is the relevant question……have we met society’s expectations?
Too many of us have spent too much of our life worshipping what we called success as the most reliable measure of our efforts. We know how easy it is to become addicted to the ‘feel-good’ rush of the Divine Dollar Sign smiling in our direction, validating our efforts and confirming our worthiness. Of course, when the dollars and status fail to flow our way that same commitment to material rewards can lay us low.
To be sure, for as long as there have been sellers and buyers, sellers have wanted to sell more, and buyers have wanted to buy more. There is nothing new about that. What is perhaps new, however, are the pervasive forces that feed the blatantly materialistic culture we have seen evolve in the course of our postwar lifetime.

They learned from us
Truth is, an era of unrivaled prosperity……growing income, burgeoning credit-card debt, easy-to-qualify mortgages, inflated home values, and generous pensions……has enabled us to dream dreams no earlier generation had ever dared to dream. In the process our offspring, consciously or not, have learned to dream those same dreams. 
Unfortunately, the historically unique times that allowed so many of our dreams to come true may not reflect the world our loved ones will inherit. Chances are for too many of them the world will be a harder place to grow the dreams they learned from us. In that case they may have to settle for more modest, more achievable dreams.
Will they be able to create those ‘more achievable dreams’? I hope so, but I am not overly confident. So much depends on the path our nation, and the world, follows in the years ahead. Given today’s political climate who would pretend to know what lies ahead? 

How can they be ready?
  We have been raised to believe that things are always improving, that the years ahead will be better than those we have lived through. We call that progress. However, that progress is not a given.
The best advice I can offer our own children harks back to my long-ago Boy Scout days. “Be prepared.” Do your best to create a lifestyle that has you living within your means, setting more than a ‘little something’ aside, and relying on as few ‘safety net’ resources as possible.
In my humble opinion the odds of taxpayers and governments, from municipal to federal levels, continuing to fund what politicians call “entitlements” over the long haul, especially at today’s levels, is very iffy. Any future that includes substantial numbers of tomorrow’s October population depending on Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs is apt to produce a disappointing outcome.

The case for caution
Hopefully those of us who have already made it to October and beyond have outgrown the need for all that ‘stuff and things.’ We are likely to understand the advantages of creating a ‘cautious’ lifestyle, preparing for an uncertain future. Fact is, those lessons are best learned early, when the student has time on his or her side. Still, as convinced as I am of the need for caution, I realize how easy it is for an elder fossil like me to accept that logic, compared to how it is received by a starry-eyed twenty-five year old, whose weekly mail includes half a dozen credit-card offers.
In all likelihood most members of the next generation, our children, will emerge intact, if not victorious, from the challenging life-maze that awaits them. But what about their babies, our grandchildren? I fear it will be a harsher and more traumatic journey for them.

They’ll have to find out for themselves
It seems that life lessons must be lived to be learned. I guess it’s always been that way. We may wish that our hard-won elder wisdom was easily transferable to those who come behind us. But alas, there are inconvenient laws of nature at work……laws which are rarely rescinded. We can share our concerns and self-proclaimed wisdom, but it is left to those younger generations to accept it, if they will, and put it into action. Here’s hoping they can pull that off.

Those of us who make up today’s October/November population will find a way to muddle through to our natural end……some quite elegantly, some on a more modest scale. As you can tell, my anxiety is stoked by what I see ahead, the challenging future that awaits the next generations, and the impact that future will have on the ones you and I care about. That is what has me sounding like a worry wart.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fractured Families - a history lesson

Empty nest blues
I’m guessing it’s something most October folks can relate to……a product of our times. A recent conversation reminded me it is that way today. And it was that way back in early 2015, when I first addressed the phenomena I labeled Fractured Families.
It can be a trying time, watching as one by one our precious offspring go off on their own. Of course we miss them. That is only natural. And we look forward to the times we can gather them together again. We know of course that it has been like that forever……sons and daughters grow up, spread their wings, and leave the nest to seek a life of their own. 
By the time we reach our October years we know all about that. Often as not their leaving is a bittersweet moment……when we weigh the excitement of their hopeful beginnings against our own sense of loss.
I suppose that ambivalence is to be expected. After all, we raise our children with the implied understanding that one day they will strike out on their own. If we are so inclined we can cite biblical injunctions to justify their departure. It is that reality, that parting, which makes preparing our offspring for life on their own one of our most important parental tasks.

Sad, but excited partings
It has happened in our family, and perhaps yours too……those times when we watched our children take the next step in their own lives, leaving not just our home, but for some far-off destination, Though we had mixed feelings about their going……we realized that moment had been waiting there for a very long time. Those long-distance partings happen often in today's mobile society, where families are apt to be spread all over the country, and beyond.
In those moments the ‘leavers’ depart in good spirits, buoyed by the prospect of hopeful possibilities, a new life chapter about to be lived out……with new chances to create their own future and continue their ‘becoming.’ In that light how can we, the ones left behind, begrudge their willingness to accept a new challenge? Still, though we must not stand in the way of their emerging life, there is bound to be a part of us that resists their leaving---at least a little bit.
In a very real sense they are a part of whom we are. In ways we sometimes fail to appreciate we have depended on their presence to make our own life complete. Though we have no right or inclination to hold them back, we can't help but wish they would stay, or at least not move so far away. Those are the urges that separation produces……feelings I suppose are as old as mankind.

Help is at hand
Of course, in our world of interstate highways and on-time airlines the sort of parting I describe need not be a permanent thing. There will be  opportunities for periodic reunions. Additionally, with today's connecting technology the sting of enforced separation has been softened. The internet and wireless communication, in all their many forms, have made staying in touch with separated family members easier and more immediate than ever.

Reliving another time of parting
But now I ask you to pause for a moment to shift gears, to gather those thoughts of family partings and come with me to a another time, when leaving the family nest was apt to mean something very different.
My thoughts on that ‘different meaning’ first emerged in the fall of 2014, when Roma and I spent several days tracking her OregonTrail ancestors over flat, straight Nebraska highways and dusty Wyoming backroads …… from the broad Platte River plain to the Continental Divide. 
In the course of our travels we visited impressive interpretive centers and hiked along riverside trails……seeing first hand the rugged countryside and trying to imagine the challenges those pioneers travelers endured.
Though it was a satisfying and eventful journey, following the Oregon Trail to its Oregon terminus, at some point along the way I found myself dwelling on a wave of melancholy thoughts……October questions I had never seen anyone address before. Those questions, and their sad answers, were a fact of pioneer life that guidebooks and documentary videos seem to ignore.

A different level of separation
Think of it this way. For just about every Oregon Trail pioneer family who sold off most of what they owned to raise the hundreds of dollars their ‘Oregon dream’ would cost, there were family and friends, dozens of them, who remained behind……who gathered to say their good-byes as the hopeful travelers started off on their adventure. 
There were times, of course, when the departing travelers left no one behind, when there was no extended family, or the family remained intact. One of Roma's ancestors joined a wagon train made up entirely of more than 300 members of their Baptist church. The congregation emigrated en masse. And surely there were times when parents and even grandparents, perhaps too old to be undertaking such a venture, joined the overland company simply to avoid being left behind. 
Still, more often than not, families were destined to be separated ……some leaving, some staying behind. When that happened, in those days of wagon-train travel, the separated parties could expect to live the rest of their lives on opposite sides of the Continental Divide.
For some of those left behind that migration-based separation would not be an entirely new experience. Chance were, only a few generations before they or their parents or grandparents had made a similar break……a shorter journey over the Appalachians to the OhioValley and beyond. That too had been a time of separation, of leaving home for good.
For the Oregon Trail pioneers that parting, leaving for the ‘Promised Land,’ was framed by the all-too-likely reality that they and the family members who remained at home would never see each other again. The odds of parents, who stayed behind to tend a farmstead in mid-America, ever seeing the son, daughter, or siblings who had moved half a continent away to the far-off reaches of a mysterious place called Oregon, were slim indeed. 

How would that work for you?
Think about that for a moment. How would you deal with that sort of parting……watching a son or daughter, a brother or sister, ride off to a new life that in all likelihood would never again include you? From the moment they turned their back on you for the last time, your only contact would be in the form of long letters from far away. Your relationship would be sustained by fond memories and words on paper.
Consider for a moment that harsh and very permanent kind of parting. Take a moment to imagine that your son or daughter standing in the doorway, suitcase in hand, preparing to leave……forever. How does one get his or her mind around that?

Heroes all
Yet, in the name of creating a more promising life, they were leaving their family and past behind. It was the only way. And for those who were left behind? The more I think about them, the more I realize that there were two very different sets of heroes taking part in that migration drama. 
Of course those wagon-train pioneers, the ones who made the long trek, endured a hard and dangerous journey. Theirs was the stuff of legends……the story of brave men and women, many of whom did not live to see the promised land. Because of their efforts our country now stretches from sea to sea. In a very real sense it was their willingness to leave their families, friends, and the life they knew that made it possible. 
Still, in a way I had not expected to find, I realize that those wagon-train pioneers were not the only ones to pay the price of separation. In ways that make present-day family separation tame by comparison, our October predecessors paid a price few of us would be willing to pay. 

Willie’s Wise Words

I guarantee you have never before seen Shakespeare quoted on these pages. Yet what says it better than “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”? Parting is often a sad time. We can’t deny that. Yet when the parting soul is family, there is also an affectionate ‘sweetness’ at work. Thankfully we live in a time when a phone call, an email, or text can take the edge off what would otherwise be truly sorrowful.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


You have probably noticed how good ideas can pop up in the most unexpected ways, at the most unexpected times. Take for instance a few days ago when, in the course of my online rambles, I came across a video of Susan Boyle performing It’s a Wonderful World. I played it once, then again. 
Before I was done I had spent half an hour glued to my computer, listening to and watching a dozen or more of her videos. Needless to say, I liked what I heard. Finally I had an idea, what seemed to me a good one. I downloaded three of my Susan Boyle favorites to share with my email friends and sent them off.
With that I set Susan aside and moved on to other things. But then, to my surprise, over the next few days I received several replies commenting on how much they enjoyed the lady’s videos. 
I suppose it was about then the seeds of today’s post were sown. I realize that for many of you what follows may be old hat……ideas you have been exploring for years. For those folks I will be preaching to the choir. However, I’m guessing that some of you, who are computer-literate enough to be reading emails and October Years blogs, have yet to learn about the magic of YouTube. If that describes you, I hope you will read on.
Let me begin by admitting up front there is much about YouTube that I don’t know or understand. They say the vast majority of the site’s users are several generations younger than old geezers like me. Those young folks watch videos and follow stories that are not necessarily intended for an elder audience. Yet, at the same time you can find YouTube material to suit the tastes of just about any niche audience……even tech-illiterate October and November types who are dipping their toes in YouTube water for the first time.
Like lots of folks I first turned to YouTube looking for music, especially the ‘ancient’ sounds I knew in the 50s and 60s. Those are there in force......modern videos and vintage television footage. Just follow your personal taste, whether it be Ella, Don McLean, Bee Gees, the Beatles, Johnny Cash, or any other performer. Your favorites are probably there on video or as part of hour-long audio recordings of old-time favorites. On the other hand, if you prefer opera or symphony music you will find those there too. There is literally something for everyone.
Better yet, YouTube has so much more than simply music, even for we late-lifers. We know, of course, that spending all our hours living in the past is not a healthy thing. We need to be part in today’s world too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take time now and then to revisit what entertained or amused us in the ‘old days.’ In an era when modern entertainment does not always entertain my generation, and comedy often strikes us as seriously ‘unfunny,’ why not let YouTube provide an occasional antidote?
For instance, I remember liking George Carlin back then. It was fun to see that his YouTube videos are as clever as ever. Johnny Carson, and Dean Martin too, are at their best there. I know that not everyone finds Foster Brooks in good taste, but I enjoy his humor. And how about Tim Conway playing dentist with Harvey Korman? Going way back, you will find complete TV programs of Jack Benny and Milton Berle doing their thing. 
In a more current vein Bill Mahr and John Oliver add their irreverent spin on modern politics. If you are a travel junkie like me, Rick Steves will take you to most any country in Europe in half-hour segments. And Jeanne Robertson, a name you may not know, offers a woman’s take on life in the ‘October’ lane. Just fill in her name on the search line to see what I mean.
Finally, you may not be surprised to learn that some of us old timers have really never grown up. I know for sure this eighty-one year old simply doesn’t care who sees the youthful streak he has never outgrown.
You see, there are also movies on……lots of movies, including ones we aging youngsters remember from days past. For instance, early in our relationship I was a bit disappointed to learn that Roma’s favorite cowboy hero had been Hopalong Cassidy. Can you believe that? To make matters worse, she found it hard to accept my youthful allegiance to The Durango Kid. What was it that had us taking sides? You can see for yourself in the dozens of YouTube feature films starring Hoppy and the Kid. (Do I dare show the grandkids what Gramps used to watch?)
When it comes to 1950 & 60 films, the ones that really mattered to us back then, Youtube has us covered. Those were the days when everyone knew that George Reeves was Superman, and The Lone Ranger was bound to get the bad guys. There are dozens of full-length films to prove that. On a lighter note Shirley Temple and the Little Rascals are there in force, along with the multi-episode serials that every movie house played, hoping to draw us back for the next installment. Believe it or not, we can literally relive a complete 1950 Saturday matinee nearly seventy years later.
I know, of course, that perhaps I have been talking right over the heads of our younger readers. But that’s okay. Whether we’re talking about Hoppy, The Durango Kid, The Lone Ranger, or America’s Sweetheart, YouTube videos have the power to return some of us to another, we like to think, better time. We can’t live there, of course. But a brief visit from time to time feels rather therapeutic. And if your classic movie taste is more sophisticated than matinee westerns? (Could that be?) Well, you will probably find your own favorites there too.

Bottom line……if you’re not already on speaking terms with may I suggest you check it out. Once there use the ‘Search Line’ to call up whatever strikes your fancy. Let your imagination be your guide, taking you down the path that appeals to you. I believe you will have a good time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Late Life Fiction Never Gets Old

Today's post will be a bit different than usual, offering two bites of the same apple. You see, Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog was kind enough to offer me a 'guest post' on their blog. As you will see at once Marilyn and Scott have created a professional, highly acclaimed blog site. I am proud to be among their contributors.

You know what they say about "Making a silk purse out of.........." Well, that is what Marilyn Davis managed to do here. Her editing and layout made for a post that has me feeling like I've stuck my toe in the big leagues for a minute or two. 

Please take a moment to click on the link above and check it out, and while you are there show her that we October/November folks know how to leave a Comment or two.

Beyond that, what follows now is the article I sent to Marilyn, so she could work her magic on it. I want to include the original here so that my October Years files, which in time will be compiled into a single volume, are complete.

With that, here again is "Late Life Fiction Never Gets Old" redux.



Don’t tell me I am too old for that

I know how it feels, perhaps you do too……to be 60, 70, or even 80, reminding yourself that you can no longer do what you once could, wondering if you should even try.
It is instinctive, I suppose, the need to push back against those perceived limitations. Accepting that ‘age-based’ prognosis feels so much like giving up, as though my forty-year old mind is surrendering to my eighty-year old body. After all, I arrived at retirement years ago knowing there were still things to do, feelings to experience, mysteries to explore……along with the surprising  realization that there were stories I wanted to tell. 

How I scratched my writing itch

To be sure my literary adventures, the stories I wanted to tell, have taken me down roads less traveled, but that has been the beauty of it. In this day of high-tech, low-cost Print-on-Demand publishing my storytelling efforts have not been held hostage by agents, publishers, critics, or my modest bank account. I am writing to please myself……and thankful for the opportunity to do that, even when I am my harshest critic.
Yet those less-traveled highways offer their own storytelling choices. One fork in the road may have me creating a warm and fuzzy, happily-ever-after tale, while the next one leads to twists, turns, and dangerous intersections……where unseen troubles may lurk.  
Perhaps you can guess which path my late-life travels have taken. I call it Late-Life Fiction. It’s an obscure corner of the storytelling universe that feels like home to me. In the course of twelve Tanner Chronicles books my fictional friends have faced a litany of October and November challenges……good times and bad, illness and accidents, poverty and depression. Still, like real life, a healthy dose of caring love can soften even the harshest trauma. Consider for instance, stories that include:

  • Returning to the scene of an earlier desertion
  • Wooing the stroke-stricken lady who was his high school crush
  • A Second Chance pursuit has men playing with guns
  • The down and out couple who are Going Poor together
  • An infatuated pair too timid to take a relational chance.
  • Life, love, and frustration with an Alzheimer’s spouse
  • Life partners lost and found
  • Second loves found, then lost

Even the longest journey may begin with a single stumble

I have spent the last couple weeks exploring the possibility of a new ‘November adventure’ story. In the process I have paused a time or two to ask myself if I am on to something real. Or is the story I have in mind more apt to be cataloged under ‘Adult Fantasy’? In that case I probably ought to turn up my oxygen, lay back, and chill out.
We all understand, of course, that ‘adventure’ is a relative term. I know beyond a doubt that the septuagenarian friends whose story I will be telling are more timid than bold, and more tentative than confident. But they have been around the block a time or two, and are the sort who keep trying, even in the face of long odds.
Still, the questions remain. Can I imagine, and then tell, a convincing story about a handful of seventy-five year olds who are inexplicably convinced that they still have things to do, to see, to learn, and become?

Am I the only one?

Before long the next round of questions had bubbled to the surface. Am I the only November remnant, male or female, who harbors childish notions of how much potential Becoming remains at my age? Am I whistling in the dark …… unwilling to face the reality of a worn-out, used-up life standing at the edge of a steep and slippery slope?
Of course it is an ego thing …… telling a tale about old folks who are unready to cash in their chips so soon, reluctant to discard the dreams they have nurtured for so long. From beginning to end my goal will be storytelling, not literature. My aim is to make it quality storytelling.
Any story that deals with what my creaky old friends can still do, and not do, will necessarily include age-appropriate depictions of the dynamic, idealistic young men and women they like to believe they once were. Will I be able to put into words the challenges my November Knights and their ladies face? Will their geriatric capabilities be enough to win the day?

How about telling your own story

But what if you are among the multitude of October wannabe writers, most of whom do not share my unorthodox interest in Geriatric Adolescent fiction? Let’s say that your sort of story takes you somewhere else. Well, my friend, you are in luck. For no matter what you write, today’s self-publishing universe has a place for you.
First, however, let’s begin with this bit of cold reality. The latest numbers I have found indicate that more than 700,000 different e-books were self-published in the US in 2016. That’s right……a couple thousand a day, every day of the year. That, my friend, is serious competition, which ought to temper anyone’s expectations of finding an audience. Of course, your book might be the one that rises above the crowd, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. 
In my aging mind the best approach to that reality has been to tell the stories I want to tell, the way I want to tell them, and take pride in my creations. At the end of the day, if they make a dollar or two, that’s great. If they don’t, I am still left with what I wanted.
I have charged ahead knowing that everyday people in every corner of the world are writing and self-publishing a growing tide of novels, family histories, family adventures, self-help manuals, even coloring books. Best of all in my tired old eyes, publishing an original novel in e-book and paperback formats, and scoring your own Amazon Author’s page can be done for next to nothing. I have done that twenty times, beginning at age sixty-nine. You can too.

What’s in your closet?

Forty-five years ago our family moved to England so I could write the novel I knew was in me. We spent most of a year there, living out my foolish notion that serious writing required an exotic locale. Turned out that Winchester filled the ‘exotic’ bill much better than my original typed manuscript, which lay on a closet shelf for more than forty years before I resurrected it, whipped it into shape, and self-published it three years ago. As literature it may have left something to be desired. As a memento of a special time in a special place it means a great deal to me.
By the time I was through with that project Roma was suggesting that we create a new story, recounting our family’s English adventure……the life we lived there, the sights we saw, the mistakes we made, and the life-long friends we met. The two of us spent a few months creating the story, before ordering five copies of the handsome paperback edition for Christmas gifts. Our total investment, from beginning to end was $37.00.

What is your life calendar telling you?

I cannot in good faith recommend late-life writing and self-publishing as the means to strike it rich. Yet, as an affordable and satisfying creative experience it hits all the right notes for me. Storytelling has allowed my June/July mind to engage with my October/November body, as I depict the forces of late-life playing out in the lives I am creating. That has worked for me. Hopefully others will find my results worth reading.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Of Course I Can

“You betchum, Red Ryder. I can get it done.”

So where did that woman get her silly ideas? What had my own wife doubting that I could do it? After all, I’ve been around the block a time or two. I know about these things.

You see, the old wood-frame deck on the back of the house was already in pretty rough shape when we bought the place. Now the time had come to deal with that, to perform the necessary surgery. 

The deck was a large two-tier affair……..more deck than we would ever use. Over the years the lower, uncovered area had born the brunt of a dozen or more Oregon winters. It sagged where it wasn’t suppose to sag and the wooden railings were rotten enough to be dangerous.

This summer’s sunny and dry months would be the logical time to act. After all, I knew what had to be done and how to do it. It was simply a matter of getting off the couch and going to work.

At first the only thing holding me back was her unsurprising questions. “Can you do that?” Roma asked, as she often does when I set off on some new project, especially since my crash and burn ladder experience. Still, what had I done to earn that lack of faith? (I will leave that answer for another time.)

“Of course I can,” I replied. And in that moment I was speaking what I believed to be the truth…….at least in my octogenarian mind. Though it was too early to have exact “how-to” answers in hand, I was sure I would able to sort those out when the time came.

You see, like many renovation projects, eliminating half of the deck would be a two part process. First the outer, lower portion would have to be torn down. With that accomplished new steps and railings would be constructed for the remaining upper deck. 

That meant I would be beginning with my strong suit, what I do best. Even my doubting wife would agree that I am at my best when taking things apart. I have always been good at that……all the way back to the foxy Model-A coupe I bought her fifty years ago. It needed some work, as you might expect. And I went right to work……purging the offending parts in preparation for a major renovation.

Long story short—-the gutted carcass of Roma’s Model-A, along with dozens of assorted parts and pieces, filled our garage for months before a mechanically-adept friend bought it for a pittance and let us have our garage back. 

By then the truth was there for all to see. Gil does pretty well taking things apart. As for putting them back together again ……. well, that's another matter.

Except…….demolishing a 20 x 12 deck, with its bulky wood infrastructure and half-rotten railing, would be a really big job. If I was looking to hire someone to do that work would I choose an 81 year-old fellow, who had never done that before? Probably not.

It took a day or two for my bruised ego to accept that logic, and move on to a better answer. You see, we have three sons and a son-in-law. They’re a strong-backed, hard-working bunch who could do the entire demolition job in a single weekend. That was what we needed. Obviously, it was time to call for a family work party.

Except……..the four of them, my potential wrecking crew, were dealing with their own busy summertime schedules. It might take weeks to find a day or two when everyone was available. If we waited too long to tear things down, there might not be time to finish the construction part of the job before the rains came? Man alive, I was still in the planning stage and already I was out of answers.

Except…….Terry, our youngest son, lives with us. In one sense he was already on the job. You might say he had a horse in this race. And more to the point he had a definite idea of what the demolition process would require. “Forget the work party,” he announced one evening at dinner. “The outer deck is already falling apart. I can tear the whole darn thing down in one day.” 
Really? My octogenarian logic was having a hard time buying that. But did I have a better idea? No, I didn’t.

Except…….Terry didn’t get the job done in one day. True, it took no more than eight or nine hours, but that was spread over three or four days, most of it in the evening after work. And you can bet he didn’t do it alone. As fast as he and his trusty saw carved the lower deck into bite-sized pieces, Roma and I were there to carry the remains to the refuse pile.

By the end of the week the lower-deck area was bare and the upper-deck railings were gone. And in the process Mom and Dad had managed to save Terry perhaps half an hour of lumber removal. 

And that, my friends, is how I was able to manage that job. It took some doing, but the deed is done…….and I am ready to turn my attention to installing new railings and steps on the upper deck. As the designated ‘idea man,’ I have some thoughts of how I'll do that.  

Except…….I’m pretty sure that too will be a team effort. I’ll be on hand to point out what needs to be done, and Terry will see that it happens. After all, that's one of the lessons we October and November folks have learned along the way. Two or three heads (and strong backs) are a lot better than one, especially if the ‘one’ is me.