Thursday, November 16, 2017

The New Senior Man

  I don’t believe we called them “Chicks” in the days of my misspent youth. I came along before that time. Yet, whatever name we used, and we had several, you can be sure those fine-looking coeds were noticed and appreciated.
  Though it probably did not feel that way when I crawled out of bed this morning, it seems that some things don't just change over time---they actually get better with age. Take for instance, today's Elderchicks.
  That is what these friends of mine call themselves. Fact is, they seem rather proud of the label. I must confess, I am proud to have made my personal connection with these ladies, aka 'Elderchicks'. (Actually it is my second, since Roma surely qualifies as my number one Elderchick.)
  I have mentioned Thelma Reese’s Elderchicks website before on these pages---along with their new book The New Senior Man, the follow-up to their earlier The New Senior Woman.

 Together, their two books explore and document some of the many ways that today’s seniors, women and men, deal with the opportunities and challenges of late-life in the twenty-first century---where retirement often lasts for twenty or thirty years. Each volume contains dozens of ‘up close and personal’ profiles of seniors making the most of the years that await them.
  I think Marc Freeman’s review of The New Senior Man sums it up well when he writes, “This  moving and insightful book....and the thoughtful men in it.... encourages us to seize the opportunity to write our own encore, and live our legacy. What a gift!”
   "The opportunity to write our own encore." That sounds a lot like the 'thriving in our October Years' I've been selling for years.  Beyond that, I do believe we have an obligation to 'live our legacy.' 
   In their books my Elderchick friends, Thelma and Bobby, offer dozens of varied and unique examples of men and women 'living their legacy,' each in their own way.
  I suppose the ladies’ first book, about Senior Women, was a logical extension of their Elderchicks perspective. I for one found their feminine observations on Senior Men both interesting and revealing.
  Truth be told, I must admit to an unfamiliar humbleness at finding myself officially labeled one of those ‘New’ Senior Men. (I can hear Roma cheering at the possibility of a ‘new’ me.) You see, the Elderchick’s new book includes my own unlikely story among the many ‘New Senior Men’ they profile. 
    Moreover, their website’s most recent post includes an embarrassingly complementary article about my Tanner Chronicles stories. That was enough to warm my old and not-so-humble heart. 
   I hope you will take time to check out the Elderchicks' Website. Just Click Here. It's a fun place, with a wealth of October Years wisdom among their pages.














Thursday, November 2, 2017

Have you been there?




Chances are you know how it feels. We may not like to admit it, but if we have been around long enough we know it is true. Whether it has been calm and cushy or littered with trials we would rather forget, we certainly understand that October and early-November are only way-stations for what waits beyond. Which means that even at our age, we still need to keep our eyes on the road ahead.
There was a time, back in the olden days, when I made my living as a Business Manager. Actually, in one form or another that was what I did for the whole of two different careers. An important part of that work involved looking ahead and planning for what was coming next. As you can imagine, that usually works best when you know where you are now, and where you want to go from here.
Twelve years ago, as I started off on what would become Career Path 3.0---a wannabe writer---I thought I knew where I was. It was a place I called ‘September.’ (Though in fact it was probably early October.) But whatever name I gave it, at that point I had no plan at all. 
Why would I? I had written a single novel-length story thirty years before and nothing since. I was six years removed from the workaday world, struggling to find a reason to get up each morning. From my perspective the golden years were not going so well. Actually, I’ve covered that ground before---how I was flunking retirement. 
Have you ever been in that place where you are not sure what you should do or which way to turn? I know from experience that those unsettling doubts---so many questions and so few answers---making planning ahead a tricky thing. It is hard to navigate such uncertainty in the best of times, even more so in the uncharted landscape of late-life.
I know that in my case, when I finally turned my attention back to that earlier storytelling interest, I was more than a little skeptical. Perhaps that first time, all those years before, had been nothing more than a passing fancy---one of those things I might want to try again some day---or so I told myself. But everyone does that. Right? We all have a story we want to tell, or some other dream we intend to explore ‘someday.’ But how many of us get around to that ‘someday’? So much for planning ahead.
Yet, no matter what our goal, we all know how good it feels when our ‘wanting’ turns into ‘doing.’ There I was, a month or so before my fiftieth high-school reunion, ready to put pen to paper. But what would I write about? I asked that question more than a few times before settling on what felt like an appropriate answer. Without looking back, and with only the most basic of plans, I began the Harris brothers’ story---starting with their own fiftieth reunion---and taking two books to tell. I had told myself I could do that, and I did. I liked the way that made me feel.
From the beginning I was telling up-close and personal stories of what I call the ‘October’ of life, about every-day people dealing with late-life reality. Was the writing great? Not so much, though it has improved with time. Besides, I had not set out to create literature, but simply tell my stories.
In the course of twelve books those friends of mine have faced a litany of October challenges---good times and bad, illness and accidents, poverty and depression. There have been life partners lost, first-loves rekindled, second-loves found and sometimes lost. For twelve long years I wrote about October, mainly because it felt like the time of life that described me.
Then, a while back, it finally dawned on me. Who was I kidding? Times were changing, and so was I. Having spent all that time in October, it was time to consider a new reality---one that waits out there for most everyone. There is only one way to avoid it, and I would rather not settle for that. So there I was, ready to move ahead to what I reluctantly called ‘November.’ Though it was a label I had steered clear of in the past, I was finally ready to admit it seems descriptive of the guy I was becoming. 
Perhaps like you, I was graduating to the next level. Though it was difficult to admit, I knew it was what came next. After all, we can’t hold back November any more than we can return to September. Though it feels a bit like losing an old friend, the time had come to say goodbye to October and get acquainted with November. 
In both books and blogs I have carried on about ‘change’ and ‘becoming’ for years, how October brings change---in ourselves and the stories we tell. But now I had reached the point where October didn’t work so well any more. It was too limiting. It was time for a change.
Think about that for a moment. All around us friends and acquaintances are adapting, trying on a new time of life---sampling new possibilities and facing new challenges. Our late-life friends may be increasingly content to tend their flowers, grow their veggies, and lose themselves in a good book. They are apt to choose cruises over backpacking, preferring the comfort of their own bed to a big-city hotel. Bake-at-home pizza may sound better than a fancy restaurant meal. For some, financial planning becomes less about high-yielding investments and more about holding on to what we already have. And always, lurking in the background, are the troublesome health questions we would rather not think about.
And then, of course, there is family---the children who have become parents, the grandchildren who are having kids of their own---a new generation for us to spoil. We love them to pieces, though we may not understand half of what they say or do. My God, there are times when they make Last Tango in Halifax sound like a documentary. Fortunately, however, when it comes to computers, television remotes, and cell phones they are the ones we call.
We know that all this change will include new and sometimes surprising lessons to be learned. For instance, there was a time when I assumed that October, and certainly November, would be a bleak and boring time. Watching my own parents and grandparents deal with that time of life---dealing with kids and grandkids who had no idea what their elders were facing---I certainly never realized that along with ‘bleak and boring’ there would be moments of frustration and pain, as well as times of extreme pleasure and excitement. Though I rarely understood what they were dealing with, I can see now that their life has become my life. 
It’s true, you and I have learned a lot in the course of a lifetime. But is there any reason to think our life-lessons have ended? Whether we see ourselves living in June, July, October, or November---life goes on. Every day arrives with its own experiences and challenges. We are learning that November‘s leaky-bucket list, the one I wrote of in a recent post, may look different than October’s list, but it will be no less demanding. 

And though it may not qualify as ‘planning ahead,’ it seems that life has a way of preparing us for the future---until, in its own time and way, our December arrives. In the meanwhile, however, why not devote ourselves to thriving in our own October and November? 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Ode to November Love


Having completed another round of ‘preventive therapy’ I will admit to feeling a bit puny. Perhaps it was that eighty-year old puniness, and the cute nurse who indulges me, that brought me back to this YouTube clip I came across  a while back.
Warning---this is unabashedly ‘November,’ with a hint of ‘December.’ The perceptive eye will catch hints of April and June, but the emphasis is on the other end of life’s love journey---a time and place that most of the world seems content to overlook.
I guarantee this is not for everyone. But for those who can relate it has the feel of reality, and deserves to be acknowledged in the same way we venerate young love.
  Most of all, it speaks the truth in a meaningful way. In my tired old mind it has the feel of a heartfelt prayer.
An Ode to November Love. (The clip wants to start near the end, so be sure to rewind to the beginning.)





Monday, October 16, 2017

A Leaky Bucket List


Yer darn right. I was feeling pretty perky. After eight months---two surgeries, and a tiring round of Immune Therapy treatments---the doctor had just stepped forward with his ‘cancer free’ verdict. Why wouldn’t I feel like I’d won the lottery? 
In the course of those dark days I had tried to concentrate on ways to make my remaining years as fruitful as possible. By the time I had processed my sudden good fortune, I was already revisiting the slightly unorthodox story idea I had hatched during those ‘treatment months.’ 
But until recently I had never explored that possibility in depth. I suppose those uncertain times had not been conducive to what seemed to me an upbeat, fun, and thoroughly adventurous tale---a story I would really like to tell.
Perhaps it was an idea whose time had come. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that ‘slightly unorthodox’ did not begin to describe what I had in mind. Beyond a doubt, both the story itself and the raw material from which I would create a plot were a notch or two beyond ‘slightly unorthodox.’
Let’s take a moment to add a bit of context. Try, if you can, to imagine this scenario. What if you were 75 or 80 years old, or even older? If that advanced age describes you then chances are you have had, and perhaps still have, your share of health issues. You know about those things ‘up close and personal,’ don’t you? Perhaps you have had that sad conversation with yourself---recounting the reasons why you can’t do what you once could---and probably should not try. 
Yet, in spite of those limitations, there is likely a part of you that is not prepared to fully embrace the notion that you ‘can’t.’ It feels too much like giving up---as though your forty-year old mind is giving in to your eighty-year old body. I know how that feels. After all, there are still things to do, places to see, and feelings to experience. Why would we want to quit now?
So, am I the only one who is out of step? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time. Who else would write novels about life and love with an Alzheimer’s spouse, or winning the stroke-striken lady who was once your high school ‘dream girl,’ but is no longer so dreamy. Or how about tales of ‘Going Poor’ together, or a caring, infatuated couple, each of whom is too timid to take a relational chance?
Those are some of the October trials I have explored, the sort that many of us have faced, or will face if we hang around long enough. For lots of us, October and November have already included what were literally life-threatening moments. Still, in the course of those trials we have learned to ‘suck it up’ and carry on, doing the best we can.  
And what is ‘the best we can do’? As I explore the possibilities of the ‘November adventure’ story I am considering, I am asking myself if I am on to something real, or should I instead accept that such a story would best be cataloged under ‘Fantasy’? In that case I probably ought to just turn up my oxygen, lay back, and chill out.
I realize, of course, that ‘adventure’ is a relative thing. Though at the moment the tale I hope to create is still little more than a fuzzy possibility, I know beyond a doubt that the octogenarian friends I will be writing about are more timid that bold, and more tentative than confident. Yet they are also the sort who keep trying, even in the face of long odds.
Still, the questions remain. Here I am, trying to imagine a story about a handful of eighty-year old folks, men and women, who are inexplicably convinced that they still have things to do, to see, to learn, and become. Heck, one of them even dreams of writing another novel---the same fellow who noted in these pages five years ago that he would run out of time before he ran out of stories to tell. 
Now, as I revisit this grand idea of mine, the next round of questions are bubbling to the surface. Am I being realistic? Or am I perhaps the only November remnant, male or female, who harbors childish notions of how much more there can be? Am I simply whistling in the dark---unwilling to face the reality of this worn-out, used-up life of mine standing on the edge of a steep, very slippery slope?
Of course it is an ego thing---telling a story about a few old folks who are unwilling to cash in their chips so soon, reluctant to discard the dreams they have nurtured for so long.
To be sure, a story that deals with what those creaky old friends can still do, and not do, must necessarily focus on age-appropriate versions of the dynamic, idealistic young men and women they like to think they once were. So the question is---can something as lame as their present geriatic capabilities be turned into a viable action, or perhaps inaction, story?
My role in that process is straight forward. I am the one who must imagine into being the dreams and challenges my heroic November Knights  and their Ladies will pursue. As I consider the size and shape of their dreams I wonder if the November adventures I can imagine are 1) realistic, and 2) representative of the dreams my late-life peers still nurture. Am I the best judge of that---or should I seek broader input?
At that point I was struck by an interesting possibility. Why not find out what you, my readers, consider viable dreams and challenges to include on your own late-life bucket list? 
In the story I am piecing together I want my eighty-year old Beta-male hero and his friends, male and female, to pursue their age-appropriate dreams. I have a few of those challenges in mind. But I will need to refine and expand that list before I have the raw material for a book.
So guess what? Here I am, coming face to face with you, via a computer screen, to ask those very questions. If you are already one of those October/November folks---have you done everything you wanted or expected to do in your life? If not, are there things you could still do that have been left undone---things you would like to accomplish in the time you have left? 
On the other hand, if you are a July or August person the same questions apply. When you reach eighty will it be a time to give up, or will there still be things to do? And if there are, what do you suppose they will be?
Finally, I realize that I have a miserable record when it comes to wringing remarks, replies, and comments from you readers---but here I am, trying again. I need your hard-won insights to help me move beyond what my tired old brain can generate. So I am inviting, even pleading for you to step forward with one or two of your own goals or challenges, ones you would include on your own late-life bucket list. I need your help to fill out a realistic dream-list for my fictional November Knights and their Ladies. 
The comment section below is so simple to use. Just click on “Post a Comment.” Under ‘Comment as’  choose ‘Anonymous’ if you prefer. I don’t need to know who you are, just what you have to say. If you would rather reply to the email or Facebook post that brought you to this page, that works too.
All I am asking is that you take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of my eighty-year old warriors---those old guys and gals who are intent on squeezing the most they can from the time they have left. Of course there are things they can’t do, or do well, but they are willing to try. Take a few minutes to ask yourself---”If that person was me, what would be on my ‘things to do or try’ list?”

I have never been this blunt before. Truth is, if I can’t coerce at least a couple dozen replies I will consider this a flop. With that I will end my groveling. Thanks to all who respond. Your replies will be here for all to see. In the meantime---here’s to an adventurous November.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Real Thing




WHY READ KIDS’ STUFF WHEN THE REAL THING IS AVAILABLE AND WAITING FOR YOU?

After all, what could be more ‘real’ than a 50th high-school reunion? For some it is a perfect time to resurrect old feelings and revive long-dormant day-dreams?

 SECOND CHANCES is a story about that sort of October reality --- hopeful seniors caught up in a vaguely familiar geriatric adolescence, ready to take one more chance. 

This time, of course, it will not be about fleeting teenage tingles --- this will be the real thing, as seen through knowing eyes --- sprinkled with liberal doses of danger and disappointment, a small price to pay for a Second Chance.

Readers have been enthusiastic in their praise.
“A wonderful read about love late in life, ready for more.” 
“A wonderful ending all the way around.”
“Excellent read.”

But truth to tell, I am hoping to have more readers telling the world about my late-life fiction. With that in mind, for a limited time, we have made it easier than ever to read Second Chances.

A SPECIAL 1/2 PRICE offer does that --- a mere $1.99 for your personal Kindle ticket to the Harris brothers’ 50th Reunion adventure. (Also available in paperback.)

Check out this Amazon Author’s Page, where you will find Second Chances on sale. While there you can scroll through all nineteen of our October Years, Tanner Chronicles books.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The lure of a blank page



    When we turn 80 we are setting off into our nineth decade. Perhaps that explains why clever, new ideas are harder to find amongst the mind-clutter that slows my sometimes deluded brain.
    On the other hand, by this stage of the game I am inclined to overlook that absence of witty, original insights. Perhaps something worthwhile will show up--- perhaps not. Why worry about that? Especially when I can return to an earlier post that still says what I want to say. Some may consider that cheating. It so, I plead guilty. Take for instance, this post from last year---edited to reflect my present circumstances.
                                     ~~~~
    I suppose it says something about my own priorities at this stage of life. The wife is talking about a family gathering when she turns eighty next month. I’m looking forward to that. It’s always a good time when we get the whole clan together.
    In the meantime I am quite enjoying the luxury of a very personal ‘good time’---that space in the flow of my days when the latest story has been edited and sent off for a draft copy---the one Roma and I will correct and mark up, making it ready for what I am willing to call complete.
    With that task accomplished I can take time to look at the blank page that awaits me. Truth is, I find that a liberating space. A story-in-progress is bound to limit ones creative options. Whatever we add to the mix must mesh with what has come before. But the blank page in front of me now---a new story waiting to be told---offers the best sort of freedom. It can lead anywhere I choose to take it. Sometimes I find that latitude so comforting that I am reluctant to send it away by beginning a new story.
    Truth be told, I have at least a general idea where the next tale will take me. The route it takes to get there remains to be seen. But however it plays out, you can be sure it will be about life choices, the kind we are still making in our personal October and November. In one way or another it will reflect the course of 'Becoming' in late-life. 
                                         ~~~
    Hey, we’re October or November people, aren’t we? We know from experience how complicated life can be. Even the most mundane existence is an constant stream of highs and lows. The exact mix of ingredients is a very individual thing, but from the beginning the life we have lived has been an ever-changing blend of choices made (or not made) and actions taken (or not taken). 
    As a storyteller I do my best to describe and illustrate the chain of actions and interactions, thoughts and choices that make up my story. My goal is simple enough. I want the reader to care about what happens to the characters I have set in motion. Yet in the telling I have the luxury of focusing on particular elements of the story---truths or opinions I consider worth exploring in depth. Inevitably, that makes each of those books a very personal expression.
   We know how hard our October years can be. Chances are November will bring additional trials. Each of my Tanner Chronicle stories deals with one or more forms of that sometimes unsettling reality. In the course of eleven books I have touched on a wide array of October challenges. Yet my emphasis is never the dark side of late-life, but instead the affirming role that relationships can play in helping us deal with those hard times.
    I have made the point before. What I call “relational” stories are something very different than the “romance” novels you see on the supermarket shelves. Like you, I know a thing or two about romance. I’ve been there---and I’m glad for that. It was a special time of life, when hormones and inclination combined to make youthful romance perfectly appropriate.
   But that was April. This is October, or perhaps November. A different sort of relationship is just as appropriate. For the last fifteen years Roma and I have visited our congregation’s shut-ins on a regular basis. We have called on dozens of special friends who were facing late-life alone. For some of them that was by choice---and that choice was certainly theirs to make. For others it just turned out that way. In either case, for many of those friends, there was no denying the sense that something (or someone) important was missing.
    Which brings me to a particular October truth I have explored more than once. If growing old brings its own trials, and it does, then growing old together is bound to be an age-appropriate blessing. Facing October and beyond in the company of a caring and supportive life partner is the best way I know to deal with those intimidating circumstances. Of course, in the process each of them will struggle from time to time. That is an October given. But they will be struggling together.
  There are a million ways to tell a story that emphasizes the virtue of 'struggling together.' Allow me to offer one of my own---from Long Way Home.
    Elly Warren is a year removed from a life-changing relational disaster. She has experienced the pain of great loss up close and personal---leaving her determined to never let it happen again. Keeping the possibility of a new relationship at arms length has become a way of life. But now her best friend, Claudia Harris, is on the phone, asking her to consider that choice in a different light.
                                         ~~~
   “It’s mostly a matter of being lonely,” Elly explained. “Day after day, it’s all the same. There’s nothing to look forward to. I go shopping every couple days. I do lunch at the club with the girls. But that doesn’t help. I honestly don’t know what do. It’s all so complicated.”
   Claudia could tell her friend was struggling. Would she be willing to hear another point of view? 
   “You know,” she replied as she shifted the phone to her other ear. “I'm not at all sure it's that complicated. In fact, I’m guessing it’s really quite simple.”
    “What do you mean?” 
   “It seems to me you have a choice to make. That’s what I mean. Just one choice, nothing more. That doesn’t sound so complicated does it?”
   Elly was not sure how to respond. “What are you talking about? What choice is that?”
  “Do you want to be alone---or not? That’s the question you have to answer---the choice you have to make” 
   Would this work, Claudia asked herself. Would Elly even listen? 
   “You’re seventy years old, aren’t you? And what little family you have is in California. Which means you’re basically on your own. Right?”
   “I suppose so.”
  “I’m sure there are fellows at the club who would be willing to help out. But you won’t let that happen, will you? I know that you think you have all the answers. But what if you’ve been asking the wrong questions?”
  “For heaven sakes, Claudia. What are you talking about?”
   “I’m talking about reality--about the real world. Take a moment to imagine yourself ten years from now. Think about what you might be facing if you were eighty and all alone. How do you suppose you’d cope with what that future looks like? 
   "The thing is, you can decide right now whether you want that to be your future, You can decide if you want to be by yourself or with someone who can be there to help if you need it---someone who makes things better?” 
   Claudia’s soft laugh might have sounded out of place, at least until she added, “We don’t like to think about all that, do we?”
  “You’re right,” Elly replied. Why was her friend going on about things no one wanted to think about---now or later?
   “But that brings us right back to the one question you need to answer. Do you want to spend your future, whatever it turns out to be, by yourself or with someone who can help you---someone you can help?”
   “Claudia. Don’t forget I had a ‘someone’ before.” Elly countered, falling back on her well-tested defenses. “He turned out to be the problem, not the answer. Why would I want to go there again?”
 “You’re getting sidetracked, Elly.” Claudia was pacing now, from one end of the patio to the other.“Just concentrate on that one question. Do you want a future by yourself? Or would you rather share it with someone?”
   “But, I told ....”
   “Elly. Listen to me.” Claudia’s emphatic interruption startled even herself. “Forget about ‘before.’ That’s ancient history. Just answer that one question---by yourself or with someone?”
  “I just can’t believe it’s that simple, just one question.”
   “It is simple. I’m not saying it’s easy, because it’s not. But it is simple. Just ask yourself that one question. If you decide you want to go on alone, like you are now,  then there’s no need to worry about anything else. Because you’ve already decided. You’ve answered the question. 
    "Lots of folks feel that going on alone is the best way for them. And that's perfectly okay. The question now is---is that the best way for you?” 
   “It is much safer this way, you know. There’s less chance of getting hurt again.” Elly’s words carried a remembering edge that lasted until, “The thing is, it’s so lonely. I know there ought to be more.”
  “Perhaps that’s your answer then. Maybe you’ve already made that choice.”
    “But, how can I know for sure?”
  “Elly.” Claudia was past caring if the neighbors heard her. “We’re not talking about a sewing machine or a new car. It doesn’t come with a guarantee. There is no extended warranty. It’s about taking a chance. If that sounds too scary, if it’s not worth the risk, then don’t do it.”
    “But I can’t go on like this. It’s too lonely.”
   “Then you have to step out and take a chance. You have to trust again, even if ‘trusting’ has hurt you before. You have to try.“
                                           ~~~
   There you have it, my friend, another peek into the daunting world of October Bold, an interpretation of what I consider to be a late-life truth. It is about thriving in our 60s and 70s (and beyond), wringing all we can from late-life. It may involve taking chances, even when it’s scary. It may include trusting, even when you’re not sure you can do that again. And of course, there will be no guarantees---no matter what path we choose. 
    In the end 'thriving' is a matter of being willing to try. That is true on a relational level---whether you decide your way is to go on alone, or you choose to rely on a new relationship. It’s also true for just about any other October challenge you can think of---like telling stories and writing blogs, or some other late-life project that works for you.

  This Amazon Author’s page gives you an idea of where my own October and November have taken me.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Is My Old Age Showing?

 Come on, tell me straight out. There’s no reason to hold back. Am I the only one who feels like the train has left the station, leaving me alone on the platform clutching my tattered suitcase, the one filled with old, outdated ideas. As happens often lately, it feels like I have once again been left behind, scratching my head, trying to make sense of it.
 If you are an old October/November fossil like me you may know the feeling. How many times have you listened to the day’s news or the latest rant by some clueless politician and told yourself that “I’m glad I won’t be around to see how that turns out.”?
 I know, of course, that it’s always been like this---old folks complaining about the youngsters and their new ways. That’s what we do, isn’t it? But it seems to me that today’s rate of change, taking place in a setting of extreme divisiveness and social turmoil, is more toxic than usual. I hope those young folks are adaptable and resilient enough to make lemonade from the lemons they have inherited. 
  In the meantime, did I mention that, “I’m glad I won’t be around to see...........?”
 No wonder I am sometimes (perhaps ‘most of the time’) confused and frustrated. Why wouldn’t I be, when the insanity that masquerades as the ‘new normal’ threatens to overwhelm the world I used to call home. 
 Television, computers, and the internet. Together that technological triumvirate has created the ‘brave new world’ we used to read about, but could scarcely comprehend at the time. They have changed everything, and in the process instilled new attitudes and understandings in the younger generations that will have to deal with the dubious legacy we are leaving them.
 Of course there is a generational divide---as there has surely been since the beginning of time. My eyes see and my ears hear the same things my children and grandchildren see and hear (though not as well as they do). Yet those sights and sounds, when filtered through my intractable November mind, register in ways those younger eyes and ears can scarcely comprehend.
 Take for instance the phenomenon they call Social Media, which I will admit includes elements that I know nothing about. What I do know is that hate and contention, in all their many forms, too often dominate those very unsocial conversations. Whether the subject is liberal vs conservative, blue state vs red, young vs old, white vs black----it seems that civil discourse has become a lost art.
 For old-schoolers like me the strength of democracy is its diversity. If that is so, making America great again by building the walls that divide us even higher---whether about race, religion, income, or political persuasion---is a recipe for failure. Where diversity is threatened, so is democracy.
 Or consider the impact of television, the most influential, cultural-shaping force in our generation’s pre-internet world. On a personal level it has been a fact of life for as long as most of us can remember. For decades the ever-present tube has provided an effective mirror of our society and its culture.
 And what does that mirror reflect today? I can remember a time when we turned on our television to be informed and/or entertained. Is that the reflection we see now? Or perhaps a better question is---what does it mean to be ‘informed’? Do ten-second sound bites of ‘Breaking News,’ sandwiched between sixty-second commercials, qualify? To be sure, today’s television offers us a wide choice of ‘news,’ more than ever before. Whatever our particular predilection, we can find an abundance of programming to support our way of thinking, while bashing the other side.
 Think about that for a moment. Do we listen to the news or read a newspaper in order to create informed opinions about the world’s complex, life-altering problems? Or do we instead select the news source that feeds and fuels our particular leanings, and call that ‘being informed?’
 And if we October/November folks, who grew up in a more-civil, less-divisive time, find ourselves drawn into today’s ‘divide and conquer’ world of ‘news’ and ‘fake news,’ odds are the younger generations---the ones who have never experienced anything other than ‘choose your side and follow the party line,’ will never know any other way. 
 Chances are they have been imprinted for life. If so, will reasoned debate ever be possible among those who rely on a single, biased source of information---be it Fox News, or CNN, or MSNBC. That is the strongest argument I can imagine against the possibility of finding a national ‘common ground’ that will make America great again. 
 It is hard to know what to make of the political babble that frames our national dialogue. On one hand I find comfort in knowing that over time I have learned to separate the sense from the nonsense. Chances are you feel that way too, even when your truth and my truth reflect opposite sides of the debate.
 As one who sometimes resorts to prayer I find it a bit worrying to imagine the wide range of prayers we Americans raise to what we claim is ‘one God.’ Do you ever wonder what He, She, or It makes of our constant stream of conflicting prayers, each of them dueling for Divine attention?
 Fact is, I don’t care which side you take, because I fear that in the end both sides---make that all sides---will be proven wrong. No matter what their promises and plans, none of our wannabe leaders are likely to outrun the demographic, social, and fiscal realities that are reducing our national ability to respond. 
 Truth is, turning the ship of state in a more hopeful direction---be it to the left or right---in the face of today’s global reality and our own national frailty, will require more compromise and good will than our population seems willing to offer. While one leader or another may be able to momentarily overcome our political malaise, I fear that our downward trajectory as a world superpower will continue.
 So tell me, friends---has my tired mind gone off the rails? Is the wife right---that my old age is showing? Or is, in fact, the notion of a national ‘common ground’ further out of reach than ever before? I’m afraid it might be. In that case I’m glad I won’t be around to..........
 What do you think? Am I being too pessimistic? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

     
UPDATE - LIVING WITH DYING       

  I won’t pretend that I have been swamped with requests, but several folks have asked if I intended to publish my Living With Dying blog series in Kindle and paperback versions. Well, Amazon has those available now. If you are interested check them out at THIS LINK.

  MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH,    TURNING THE BLOGGERS LOOSE

 Sometimes it takes very few words to make a point. This may be the shortest entry I’ve ever posted. But for those who are drawn to the subject it can provide literally hours of enjoyment.
  You may recall that from time to time I have made a big thing of how so many of our October/November peers are having their say online. I do that with this October Years blog. But rest assured, I am just one of hundreds who are adding their voices to the late-life conversation.
  Fortunately, the proof of that is close at hand----elder blogs by the dozens, covering a wide range of topics. The Elderbloggers List contains hundreds of them. I hope you will check them out. In the meantime, do any of these blog offerings sound interesting to you?

*** Fools Rush In - senior humor                      
*** The Fabulous Geezersisters
*** Dying Man’s Journal - eh?
*** Fat Man on a Blog
*** Chez NamasteNancy - in French
*** Dirty Laundry - makes you wonder
*** Geriatric1927 - the internet grandad
***Help! Aging Parents - inching to 80 
*** Hootin’ Annie’s Chronicles
***Journal of a Writing Man-(in French)
*** Life in London After 70
*** Letters for George - Crypotids ???
*** Living in the Bonus Round
***Minding Our Elders -caregiver help
***The Next Stage - retirem't for women
*** Recollections of a Vagabonde 
*** Retirement - a Full Time Job
***Xtreme English - (love notes to the English language)

Or how about my favorite? 

*** The Rant - (‘your very own cesspool of naughty, left-wing propaganda’)

  And where, you ask, can you find those tantalizing possibilities? Look no further. THIS LINK will transport you to As Time Goes By. Once there simply scroll down the page to review the dozens of late-life blog offerings. Somewhere on that list is one or more that were written just for you.
  Have fun and enjoy.