Saturday, March 28, 2015

Happily ever-after -- or not

It’s been a while since I turned these pages toward the “Writer’s Blog” part of our title, so I will begin with the obvious. Because I write about seniors, those of us in our October or November time of life, my stories naturally deal with “second-time-around” relationships. Though in today’s world those alliances are not all that unusual, certain assumptions are required to turn them into a story.

Consider for a moment, how adaptable are you? Are you the kind who could start over with someone new? Could you risk another relationship? Not everyone can or wants to do that. Yet those are not rhetorical questions for the October seniors I write about---the ones considering the prospect of a new life with a new partner. 

Perhaps for those who have seen a promising marriage turn sour a more hopeful second chance might be tempting. I’ve told a story or two about that. But what about those who have suffered the loss of his or her life mate---whether suddenly or after a drawn-out illness? Can there ever be “another time” for them? I’ve explored those possibilities too. In every case the resulting answers are personal and unique. There is no right or wrong response to dealing with such loss, and the daunting prospect of facing the rest of life alone.

 In the face of those variables, what makes me a credible creator of the relational settings from which to launch a story? Perhaps like you, I’ve spent a lifetime becoming one-half of a pair, learning to live with “the one.” (And she with me. Truth to tell, she’s had the tougher job.) At this October stage of the game would I be willing to go through that sometimes complicated learning process again? I can’t answer that, and hope I never have to.

Yet, to tell the story I want to tell I must set my characters in a place where “another time” is an option. In the course of ten novel-length “relational” stories I’ve tagged along as many of my Tanner friends faced that possibility. The first step of that storytelling process is simple enough---introducing a pair of lonely and wanting seniors to each other, explaining how they have made their way to that point in life, and planting the seed of relational possibility---a glimpse of what they want. If I do my job well you’ll want to know more about their journey toward that place, which is the story I’m telling.

Lately however, perhaps prompted by this renewed blog-focus, I sometimes wonder if my depictions of a “second chance” relationship have been too simplistic. I understand that the blending of any two lives into a meaningful partnership is not an easy thing. 

That must be especially true when they come together late in life---bringing with them a lifetime of habits, preferences, and expectations. Coming together with a life mate the first time, all those years ago, required trust, chemistry, and patience. Though I’ve never been there myself, I am certain that a successful second chance, an October relationship, must include those same elements.

In Second Chances each of the Harris brothers is widowed. Neither of them is actively seeking a new connection, yet both are beginning to sense that late-life spent alone is not an attractive prospect. Nothing unusual about that. So with a typical male “go-get-her” mindset each of them charges off just like the first time---assuming that if they can win “her” interest their pairing will succeed. Of course each of them is defining “success” in terms of his first long and loving marriage. Their mind-picture of a new relationship is bound to look like a replay of that first satisfying time.

But it is not that easy, is it? There are so many variables. How can anyone be sure the formula that worked so well in one relationship will succeed with someone else, someone they are still getting to know? Small wonder that not all my stories have a gift wrapped, happily-ever-after ending. Still, who am I to say they shouldn’t try? Actually, that is exactly what I am trying to sell---in a relationship or any other October pursuit the way to “thrive” is to keep trying.

Perhaps you can tell that digging deep, looking for unseen motives is an occupational hazard for someone like me. If so, I accept it as the price of authenticity. I want the stories I tell to be more than feel-good caricatures of lost and lonely souls stumbling toward inevitable happiness. My Tanner friends know it’s not always like that in the real world. Fact is, you’ll find very few ivory towers in the October landscape.

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