Tuesday, August 22, 2017


  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.


 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.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

LIVING WITH DYING - Installment 8

They are only words, you know---simple spoken sounds. Yet they can have such power. Simply saying them out loud can turn a sunny day dark, overwhelming us with tumultuous storm clouds that threaten to blot out the hope we need to survive.
I began these LIVING WITH DYING installments a few months ago by recounting the doctor’s simple, but searing explanation to Roma and me. “It is bladder cancer,” he said rather matter-of-factly. “In a fairly aggressive form.”
He had more to say, but truth to tell I do not remember much of that. By then my mind had been hijacked by a least three very pertinent details. 1)--He had said "cancer." I knew at once I did not like that word. 2)--It was "bladder cancer." I had heard second or third-hand stories of bladder cancer. It seemed those accounts rarely had a happy ending. 3)--Finally, mine was apparently an "aggressive" form of the species. That did not bode well.

At that point I had no symptoms to speak of, painful or otherwise. Actually, it was not the cancer that had me stressed. Instead, it was the doctor’s spoken words, and the dire thoughts they produced, that had me out of sorts.
However, there was work to be done, and skilled, compassionate caregivers to do it. There would be weeks of Immunology Therapy, then a month-long recovery period, before a second, 'biopsy' surgery could provide an informed notion of how effective those treatments had been.
For weeks I had tried to focus on making the best use I could of the time I had left---be it months or years. I had convinced myself that such a search would offer a more solid footing in what had become a most unsettling time. At that stage of the game I was happy to have such an incentive as I worked my way toward those answers, and the lessons they would hopefully produce.
Finally, on this very morning, it was time to march back into the fire one more time----to hear the doctor’s latest assessment, based on the biopsy results. Once I heard that I could gauge the impact it would  have on my future. Once more Roma and I, along with our son, Adam, waited to hear the newest words the good doctor had to add to the conversation.
As you know, physicians are busy folks. There are always other patients waiting to see them. But this morning he seemed to have more time. He was less hurried as he explained the truth of it.
“I can’t guarantee it will stay this way,” he began. “But as of now, at this moment----you are cancer free.” About then I forced myself to keep listening.
“The original surgery,” he continued. “Along with six sessions of Immune Therapy, have done the job.” 
He was looking into what must have been my silly, disbelieving grin when he added his cautions. “I can’t say it won’t came back. But we did X-ray your kidneys, to be sure it had not spread there. They were clean. 
“Still, it was a nasty strain you had. So we will continue with another mini-round of therapy and periodic bladder scans to see that it doesn’t sneak up on us again. But for now I can say with confidence that you are bladder cancer free.”
You can probably guess that the three of us were walking on air as we crossed the parking lot to the car. Of course, I had day-dreamed about such a storybook outcome, while always warning myself not to get my hopes up. Yet, as of this moment, I am a big fan of ‘getting my hopes up.’
Remember-------I began this narrative by telling myself I must learn to Live With Dying. I had to find a way to do that because my future, which I had always taken for granted, had suddenly become very murky---clouded by unsettling, perhaps ultimate possibilities.
You know what? While those particular outcomes may have lost their intimidating hold on me, I still need to find better ways to live in the face of a future that will invariably end just one way. 
I need to remember the lessons I was able to squeeze from this hard time. Cancer-free or not, all of us are charged to make the most we can of the time we have. Everyone of us has to keep Living With Dying

Friday, August 4, 2017

Late-Life Stories---welcome to the real world

 Enough of my health issues and today’s the never-ending political/social drama. I am ready to venture down a different path this time. More to the point, I want to return to my original reason for filling these pages. From its beginning, four years ago, this has been labeled a ‘Writer’s Blog.’ And that is what I would like it to be today.
Fact is, I plan to indulge myself a little, or a lot, by returning to the roots of my storytelling. I want to focus on some of what I have created over the years. On a purely selfish level it feels like I need to remind myself of those times and results.
You see, I’m a storyteller. I can’t seem to help it. It’s what I do. Apparently it started early. Why else would each of our children have a copy of my epic Cabinboy Cal tale---seven hand-printed pages written in the summer of my eighth year? Turns out, that childhood obsession only grew stronger in retirement
Of course, it’s one thing to decide that you want to tell a story, and quite another to know what you will write about and what you intend to say. However, for reasons I still don’tunderstand, when I began to scratch that writer’s itch again, I knew without thinking twice the kind of stories I would be telling. By then I had learned that the best parts of life are about relationships. Invariably it is the people we encounter along the way who make life worth living. 
So from the beginning I realized that I would be telling “relational” stories. I have mentioned before that my first post-retirement story, begun on the eve of my fiftieth high-school reunion, about a pair of brothers whose fiftieth reunion becomes a springboard to new relationships. The story itself is not all that original---a fellow who had been a not-so-promising high-schooler is still pursuing his adolescent dreams of the coed who had always been miles out of his league. Sure, it was predicable. But the story, which took two books (650 pages) to tell, felt real and worth telling to me.
So there I was, telling ‘relational’ stories, though I knew that was not what everyone called them. Thing is, I prefer that label to the other possibility -- ‘romance.’ After all, what kind of eighty-year old admits to writing ‘romances’? More to the point, does that label even apply to the sometimes stumbling efforts of the seriously Beta male characters I portray? Anyway, in the end I always settle for ‘relational.’
It took a while for me to move beyond the embarrassment of admitting that I wrote such stories---until I finally accepted the fact that it’s hard to imagine any story that is not at its heart a relational story. Whether it’s about young lovers, time-traveling vagabonds, Intergalactic warfare, zombies and vampires, or in the extreme---late-life seniors---at some point you and the author will probably be exploring the role of relationships in the lives of the characters.
Most of us have experienced the April version of relationship at least once. I think they still call it ‘romance’ at that age. You have been there, haven’t you---the young dreams, young love, and young hormones? (Remember those?) It was a time of new experiences, when anything seemed possible. That was April love. Thankfully we’ve been there and done that.
However, as you can imagine, or know from personal experience, the October/ November version of relationship is bound to be something different. The Tanner seniors I depict may think they know how to play that game. After all, they have played it before, sometimes more than once. Yet chances are they have never started over with someone who, like them, brings the baggage and barnacles that come with October and beyond. Of course the resulting relationship will be different. Why wouldn’t it be? After all, they have spent a lifetime becoming someone very different than that April person they vaguely remember.
Although it may be daunting, that ‘second time’ path I lay out before them, the Tanner relation seekers I portray are a tenacious bunch, not the kind to be easily put off. The fellow may win the lady in the end, or he may not. We know that October endings are not always happily-ever-after. But even then, it won’t be for lack of trying. That too is something we have learned over a lifetime. When you’re dealing with what might be your last chance, most of us are not apt to give up easily.
The challenges my Tanner friends face are as unique and individual as the characters themselves. The one constant throughout their stories is their determined desire to make their lives complete and whole again in spite of their personal issues. (Time out---I realize it is not that wa for everyone. Lots of folks are ‘whole and complete’ without another relationship. That, however, would not serve the story I want to tell.)
So what are these Tanner Chronicle stories I tell? Are they simply about old guys and old gals getting together. Is that where the ‘relationship’ thing comes in? Well, yes, the story is likely to include a relationship---but always in the context of how, at the same time, my October friends are dealing with their own real late-life issues. Let me offer some examples.

***In Becoming, while Carl Postell is falling under the spell of his father’s caregiver, Jack Benz is pursuing a longstanding interest of his own. When he finally meets her, months after her stroke, he scarcely recognizes the woman she had become. She looks different and her speech is hard to understand. Yet wonder or wonders, she seems to like him. 
***In Conversations With Sarah Hank Rolland is widowed and looking for answers. When he finally realizes he has been looking in the wrong places he retreats all the way to the Mendocino headlands. There, in the shelter of a knarly Alpha Tree, he is finally able to make sense of the future Sarah had always envisioned for him.
***Going Poor deals with a different sort of October becoming. Lane Tipton’s dreams of a happy ending have gone terribly wrong. He is sixty years old, disappointed, dejected, and depressed. Yet even in the midst of all that, his dreams of relationship, and being the man he believes he should be, have not died. They don’t look the way he expected, but they are still alive and well.
***Or what about a relationship that deals with one of the ultimate challenges---when the deep shadows of dementia intrude? In Best Friends and Promises Aaron Peck deals with that distressing change of course. Leona is still there beside him, but the love and companionship she has always represented are gone. In time his October trials will be further complicated by the all-to-human need for companionship, and the upsetting attention of the kind lady who is willing to ease his loneliness.
***For decades Tom Fedder has dodged the issue, but now there is no avoiding a return to Tanner. With his step-son in tow he is Going Home. But will he be able to take care of his business without crossing paths with the wife and daughter he had deserted forty years earlier? And what could possibly go wrong when his step-son takes a fancy to the granddaughter Tom has never met? By then Going Home is growing more complicated by the day
***In October Bold David and Marian have spent a few minutes together on a Music City dance floor, then gone their separate ways---to oppositie sides of the country. Though the possibility of ‘more’ was intriguing, their wanting was constrained by mutual timidity, reinforced by a mutual unwillingness to risk relational failure. Clearly they would need all the boldness they could muster to fulfill the promise of their dance floor meeting.
***Adopted as an infant, Jerald Rogers, now a young father himself, sets out to find his birth parents. In the course of Closing the Circle long-buried memories are resurrected, questions are raised, and lives are impacted---including those of Jerald’s birth parents, reluctantly reunited after a twenty-year separation.
***In today’s late-life universe being ‘underwater’ is not all that uncommon. As their once-hopeful retirement dreams slowly unravel, Jim and Anita Camden have come face to face with that unwelcome reality. The need to downsize is real and depressing----and complicated by their differing ways of dealing with what comes next. Apparently Breathing Underwater is best learned when there is no other choice.
***They are Family Matters, the ways a couple and/or family copes with the realities of family, home, and career. Along the way ‘compromise’ is bound to be part of the formula. And when that coping and compromise are no longer effective---what then? Dan Padgett had nursed his elaborate retirement plans for years. So why is Nell being so stubborn. Why can’t she just accept the liberating logic he has so carefully constructed?
*** And finally, back to my favorite, to where those late-life stories began. It was their fiftieth high-school reunion. And though Clint and Gary Harris were on hand, they were certainly not looking for relationsips. Yet sometimes those things just seem to happen. In the course of Second Chances and Long Way Home there would be a trail of unexpected alliances, resurrected rivalries, dire threats, and surprising admissions---as the brothers stumble toward the Cinderella-like possibilities of ‘one-more-time.’.

At every turn the Tanner senior population offers late-life stories waiting to be told. And though the stories I tell will include relational elements, you can tell they are not the stories of youthful abandon, the ones that line the supermarket bookshelves. And while you’re at it, throw away your dated stereotypes---of used-up seniors and their altogether boring lives. To be sure, every one of the October seekers I depict is dealing with his or her own late-life issues, while trying to overcome the emptiness of life lived alone. I happen to think those folks are worth getting to know. I hope you’ll be willing to check them out.