Thursday, April 8, 2021


         No matter what our age, in the course of our lifetime each of us has created our own gallery of memories. Embedded in those recollections are hints of life lessons learned.

Yet how often have we have paused to consider those lessons and the ways they have served us……the ways they have helped us become the person we are?


It feels like a new start. For years I have used three email lists, plus Facebook, to spread the word about my October Years efforts……. whether blog posts or serialized stories.

Now, in light of the recent culling of our “non-involved” audience, I am hoping we have a smaller, but more responsive readership.

Chances are you have heard me grumble before about the sad fact that we have never been able to create a blog dialogue, the two-way conversation I had hoped to generate from the beginning. I didn’t need to be doing all the talking. I was hoping the rest of the world would speak up. Though that hasn’t happened yet, here I am…….back for another bite of the apple.

It seems as though what began as my October years, which over time became November years, (I hope it is not December yet.) has turned more quiet and uneventful than ever…..hemmed in by lockdown constraints and social isolation. Were it not for the serializing of a couple stories I would be staring at the walls, wondering what to do. 

Then a few days ago, as I leafed through an old photo album (Another sign of too much time on my hands.) I was struck by a different way of expending a little energy.

It seems to me a given… matter what our age…..that in the course of our lifetime every one of us has created, and are still creating, our own unique gallery of memories……the sort I sometimes revisit in my October and November reveries. And embedded in those recollections, if we take the time to seek them out, are hints of lessons that life has taught us along the way.

It was that notion of “lessons learned” notion that set me thinking. Whether we are young or old, we have learned lots of things along the way……though probably not as much as we like to think we have. So, what if I was asked to recite one of the more important of those “lessons learned”? Could I do that? And if I was to ask that question of you……how would you answer?

As you might imagine, before this is over I am hoping to hear your response to that question. But first it seems fair that I offer an answer of my own. What important life lesson have I learned in the sixty-six years since South Salem High turned me loose on the world?


That lesson, simply stated, is this….”In the course of a lifetime my definition of success has changed dramatically.” 

I grew up in a family business, certain that commercial success would provide the future I wanted. I had aced my college business studies, even sniffed the rarified air of Stanford Graduate Business School. How high could I go? What trophies awaited me and my family?

Alas, the better question would have been “How high did I want to go?”  Except for the plentiful opportunities to sooth my wanderlust, the normal “success” perks that people strive for were seldom my motivation. It was something more than that which had me and my family bouncing around for years…..looking for answers I never quite found.

Turns out I was a slow learner. It would not be until well into retirement, when I started writing my stories, that it finally felt as though I had found the place I was meant to be. I had begun that storytelling odyssey by staring at a blank page. I could have filled that space with any sort of story. So where did I allow my muse to lead me?

It did not take long for the truth of it to emerge. I was telling a story about a pair of October Years fellows and the special people in their lives…..the ones who made it all worthwhile. Years before, as a young, gung-ho business warrior, ready to take on the world, I would  surely have been drawn to more urgent and tangible forms of action.

That “blank page” moment was sixteen years ago. Looking back on the dozen novel-length stories I have created since then it is plain to see that I was drawn toward the telling of what I accepted as real-life, relational subjects… opposed to the who-dun-it, adventure-filled escapist tales others tell.

To be sure, those tales do not deal with the intense, salacious tempest of youthful romance. (Hurray for all that in its proper time and place.) Instead I have explored the settled affirmation of late-life relationships, evolving at their own age-appropriate pace.

It seems to me that in the course of creating a story the storyteller, any storyteller, is not only drawing on lessons he or she has learned. They are actually reinforcing the reality of those lessons in their own mind…. making them more real and impactful in the living of their life.

On a personal level, I have been fortunate enough to experience more than sixty years of that relational reality. I understand its appeal and importance. Still it was surprising, even enlightening, to see how natural it was for my storytelling to follow that road less-traveled. I count my settling on that seldom-addressed form of relational fictions as a satisfying and productive lesson learned.


There you have my stumbling attempt to put an important life lesson into words. That was easy enough. Now comes the harder part…..asking you to step forward and do the same…..convincing you to tell us about your own “life lesson” learned. I’m hoping that some of you will be willing to do that. I’m guessing you have the time. It need not be as wordy and rambling as I tend to be. The only right answer is the one that is real to you.

So….before you pass on this, please take a moment to consider the possibilities. If you are a young man or woman, in the early stages of your life journey, consider the lessons you have learned so far.….. knowing that those youthful conclusions are not cast in stone, but subject to change in the years ahead.

On the other hand if, like me, you are dealing with late-life, I happen to believe that at our age we have become living repositories of “Elder Wisdom,” however we choose to define that characteristic. Years ago we set out on our personal life adventure…..each of us following our own unique path. Along the way we have seen a lot, lived a lot, and learned a lot. Yet how often have we paused to recount the lessons learned over the years, and the ways they have served us?

Yet no matter what our age, why should we be timid about sharing what seems real to us? If we believe those lessons, and accept them as real, why not share what they mean to us? Odds are you will find that the mere act of rethinking your personal history, and its impact on the person you have become, is an affirming, instructive, even liberating experience.


There you have it……..another “far out, join the conversation” possibility for you to consider. Chances are no one has ever asked you to deal with a task quite like this. May I suggest it is time for you to take that bold step, for yourself and the ones in your life who deserve to know more about what you have learned over the years.

It seems to me that a lesson learned is not simply a matter of knowledge, a set of facts we have come to understand. To have truly learned a lessons means we have lived the truth of it and made it a part of our response to real-life situations. It has become an arrow in our quiver.

And especially if you are one of us October/November folks you have lived in a world your grandchildren can scarcely comprehend, any more than we can comprehend theirs. In the course of a lifetime you have created your own personal brand of Elder Wisdom. You have family and friends who deserve to hear or read that legacy in your own words. I hope you will accept the challenge of sharing a bit of it with us too.

Think of it as a new form of late-life “Becoming.” After all, how often have you been offered the opportunity to help create a collaborative collage that all of us can read, enjoy…..and learn from.


But what if no-one steps up to join the conversation? Will I be embarrassed if mine is the only post? Not really. If it is another of my clinkers and there are no responses, that’s okay. At this stage of the game I don’t mind looking silly. That’s happened often enough. Besides, I can always chalk it up as another life lesson learned.

But hopefully you will choose to reply. If so, feel free to use this blog site’s “Comment” section, or if you would rather, simply reply to the email you received. Either way, I will compile any responses to share with the others.