Thursday, November 3, 2022


I intend to make this short today. It won’t take long to state my concerns.

Regardless of your political persuasion chances are you have had your fill of repetitive, often offensive campaign ads. Yet we have learned to accept those irritants as a given in the democratic election process…..the price we pay for the right to choose our leaders and what they stand for.

Yet, in this era of “election deniers” we are reminded that our supposed ability to make those choices for ourselves might be in peril…..that perhaps there are those who would have our so-called leaders making the choices that affect us all …..creating an election landscape our democratic upbringing had never warned us of.

I cannot tell the future…..and don’t pretend to try. But I, like you, can do my best to understand how it may play out. With that in mind I invite you to consider the following basic fact. Does it frighten you at all? Do you see the irony of it?


Think about that for a moment. Is that likely to happen? I don’t know. I for one do not believe that a foreign army or sinister Sino-Russian alliance will spell the end of our beloved democracy. I can, however, imagine that such a loss might be possible…….as a result of our own vote.

Sunday, October 9, 2022



The following post dates from June, 2014, with a couple of recent updates. In my tired old eyes it still rings true 


I’ve spent the last couple weeks proofreading October Bold one last time. In that story David and Marian are stumbling toward one another…..each of them weighing the possibility of a new relationship against their personal experience in a long and successful marriage. As I tell their story I am trying my best to imagine their hopes and anxieties as they consider a new and very different future.

Like it or not, late-life reality is inescapable. As I’ve said before, October is not for sissies. Of course, we all like to dwell on the high points of that special time….a fruitful marriage, our children’s success, the wonderful world of grandchildren, the moments when things work out like we planned. Who can fault us for reveling in those good times? More to the point, it is those successes, both large and small, that help us cope with the other side of late-life….the sometimes dark moments of October/November reality.

Whether as individuals or couples, each of us deals with our own unique set of late-life circumstances ….a personal blend of issues that may include family, financial, health, and relational challenges. 

Each of us knows someone who deals with one or all of those. Perhaps it is you. After all, those of us who are fortunate enough to make our way to late-life arrive with a weighty load of existential baggage. At every turn the person we are still becoming, and the future we are still creating will be impacted by those very real realities. 

Our April dreams….(Remember those?)…. have been tempered by a lifetime of personal experience. Yet even now we continue to update our expectations, creating new understandings of what we consider acceptable outcomes. We have learned by now that our dreams are not static. Our youthful visions of  “happy endings” have been reshaped, probably more than once. Though we keep dreaming, our dreams are undoubtedly very different these days. 

Truth is, for some of our peers loneliness, worry, and doubt have become dominant elements of their late-life existence….testing the responses they have spent a lifetime learning….creating what I consider spiritual challenges. 

No matter how you choose to label those soul-deep trials, my personal sense is that one of the most effective coping responses, whether you view your dilemma as transcendental or purely coincidental, is the presence of the right person at your side. I am one of those who believes that late-life works best as a shared experience.

But before we start down that path let me take a moment to address the obvious. For many, perhaps most late-life survivors a new relationship ……one that is meant to dull the hurt and loneliness of losing a beloved life-mate……is no answer at all. They are quite willing to settle for their one, just right, partner. I will admit that I have always considered myself to be in that camp.

After sixty-two years of satisfying matrimony and the blessings of family the great cosmic parade has taken my soulmate to a better place. One day I hope it will be my turn. In the meantime, I have never imagined the need for a new partner to take her place. Still, how could I say that would never happen? 

Since those stories of mine were written I have personally experienced the gnawing emptiness her leaving created. In ways I had never considered before I can sometimes relate to the feelings my Tenner Chronicles seekers are experiencing….the need for a supportive partner. Perhaps the pain of life lived alone fades with time, or maybe it is a permanent reality. In either case, how does one one move ahead?

It is the possibility that “It works for some people” which nudges me toward the October/November relational stories I tell….the ones that illustrate the impact of a new or renewed relationship on the distressing landscape of late-life reality. We know that sometimes happens in real life. And it happens in the course of my Tanner Chronicles stories.

Take a moment to consider that possibility. What kind of October/November person would choose to start from scratch with a new partner? If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lifetime creating a life with “the one.” (And he or she with you.) At this stage of the game, would you be willing to relive that same, sometimes bumpy learning process yet again?

In the course of eleven novel-length “relational” stories I have followed my Tanner friends, the ones with their own late-life issues, as they travel toward what they hope is “one more time.” Why wouldn’t I have paused along the way to wonder if my depictions of a “second chance relationship” are too simplistic? 

After all, I have lived out the deeply personal process of bonding with a life partner….and her with me. I know that the merging of any two lives into a meaningful partnership is not always an easy thing. 

That must be especially true when each of them has already spent a lifetime in the company of someone else, acquiring their own unique set of habits and preferences. My first partnership experience, all those years ago, required realistic expectations, chemistry, trust, patience, and a huge dose of good fortune. Seems to me that late-life relationships must be built on those same elements.

When I step back to consider my own experience I remember the first times I seriously considered a future with “her”….and how the youthful lad I was at the time charged ahead, relying on an oh-so-naive “I’m sure it will work out.” assumption. Fortunately, it did. But there were no guarantees. That was true then, and still is.

After all, there are so many variables. How can anyone be sure that what worked so well in one relationship will succeed with a new and different someone, especially someone they are still getting to know? Is that even realistic? Small wonder that not all my stories end with a gift-wrapped, happily-ever-after bow. Yet even then, who am I to say they shouldn’t have tried?

Perhaps you can tell that digging deep, looking for unseen motives is an occupational hazard for someone like me. If that’s true I accept it as the price of making my stories as authentic as possible. I want them to be something more than feel-good caricatures of lost and lonely souls seeking a last chance at happiness. My Tanner friends know it’s not always like that. Truth is, you’ll find very few ivory towers in a late-life landscape.

Sunday, October 2, 2022


It is a word I have come to appreciate, even celebrate, the older I get and the more I experience the need for what it means.

Though it is a description most of us may not use every day, we generally understand its meaning in at least one sense. Chances are if you hear it used in casual conversation it is describing a parent, a spouse, or a friend who supports or allows some sort of negative behavior by someone else

In short it is one of those words which has gained a permanently negative connotation.

That seems to me an ironic outcome……the way our culture focuses on the potentially negative possibilities of what I submit is an otherwise positive, even noble concept…..a word that at its heart describes what can be a blessing of great value, a virtue that may literally impact the course of our life.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Oxford Languages, the world’s leading dictionary publisher, provides two primary definitions for the word - 

ENABLER     (en-a-bler)

1).   a person or thing that makes something happen, 

2)  a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in     another. ….i.e. they have “enabled” that behavior.

We know, of course, that life, especially late-life, is a collaborative process. We may pride ourselves in our independent, individual accomplishments, but the truth is……it takes the people around us to make our life what it is. When all is said and done the life we create is usually the product of our own thoughts and actions interacting with the people close to us.

They may be family, friends, caregivers, or mentors……the ones who help us live the life we live, and walk the path we have chosen. 

Though we sometimes overlook the input of those “enablers,” and their role in our life’s journey, they are always there to help. We would do well to remember that as we assemble our personal cadre of Enablers, the ones who keep us going. Without them the life we hope to live, whether holy or humble, might well be out of reach.

I can imagine at least two types of positive ‘enablers’ in my life. First there are those who are close at hand, ready to do the tasks I have come to struggle with…..the heavy lifting, climbing the stairs, or opening a new bottle of catsup. Those are the ones who make a nearly-normal life possible for a used-up November guy.

And then there are what I will call the “social enablers,” whose presence on the other end of a letter, an email, or a phone call helps me, and those like me, live something approximating a normal social life. Providing the support and encouragement we receive and offer in those forms can be especially important to those of us who are no longer as mobile as we once were……when the prospects of travel or entertaining are no longer attractive options.

It seems the longer I reside in this tired old November world of mine the more I appreciate my enablers. After more than sixty years of constant enabling by a loving and determined life-mate I am all the more grateful for the enabling son with whom I share a home. He and his helpful siblings make it possible for me to enjoy a satisfying, if limited lifestyle pushing my walker from room to room.

At the same time I give thanks for the family and friends, those social enablers whose online conversations and occasional phone calls keep me in touch with the outside world.

Of course my inability to do what I once did without a second thought sometime creates an unfamiliar level of disappointment. But with the help of my enabling Enablers I can still create more possibilities than I will ever be able to make happen on my own. I have learned by now that it will take the people around me, my own late-life Enablers, to help turn at least a few of those possibilities into actualities.


P S ……Blessed are those who have gathered their personal clan of Enablers over the years. Everyone of us needs those folks in our life. We never know when we will ask for their help, or offer our help to them. But we must not wait until we need that help, or when it is expected of us, to cultivate an enabling relationship.

 And do not forget, our ongoing reliance on our Enablers is a two-sided transaction. In the same way we rely on them, they deserve the best help we can offer on their behalf. A fruitful Enabler pairing is always a two-way street. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022


Some things haven’t changed much in nearly six years. For instance the main thrust of this post from early 2017, rings even more true today… I try to move ahead without the inspirational nudgings of my longtime helpmate. 

It feels like I need a kick in the pants to get back on track. This return to ‘Becoming’  felt like something I needed to hear.


When the veneer is peeled back to reveal the reality of it, blogging….pretending to offer one’s own insight or wisdom in the form of a blog….is like most human activities. It is bound to say more about the blogger than the world he or she claims to understand.

That was one of the insights that bubbled to the surface as I took a deeper look at ‘Becoming,’ especially ‘late-life Becoming.’ For more than a dozen years my stories and blogs have endorsed the virtues of using the gifts we have received and the time we have been given. Yet rarely have I paused to wonder where that ‘Becoming’ obsession came from, or what it says about me. Then, somewhere in the course of this return to ‘Becoming,’ a new understanding began to emerge. 

For some reason I have developed an aversion to ‘wasting’ the God-given years I have left. I am not sure if that is normal, or even healthy, and I don’t pretend to understand why that is, but I know that reality will color what follows.


Allow me to introduce Brene Brown, Ph.D., an author and research professor at the University of Houston. As I noted in an earlier post, her emphasis on “growing into our gifts” strikes me as another way to frame the notion of  late-life ‘Becoming.' 

I happen to believe that her closing advice…. “It’s time to show up and be seen” applies to us October and November types as much as it does to the midlife folks she is addressing.

Here is what she has to say.

I think midlife (and late-life) is when the universe gently places her hand upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

“I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing - these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt - has to go.

“Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and sometimes it feels like you’re more lost than ever.

“Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”



Does that sound to you like good advice? That “It’s time to show up and grow into your gifts”?

I sometimes wonder if I have returned to the notion of late-life ‘Becoming’ because it seems to me that many of my peers have settled for the status-quo, as if at their age they have nothing more to give?  

Disclaimer #1 - If that is my reason, it is far too presumptuous of me. How could I possibly know someone else’s degree of ‘settling?’ Besides, who am I to judge how they live their lives? I have trouble enough with my own.

On the other hand perhaps this ‘Becoming’ obsession of mine is a purely defensive mechanism, sparked by my own weakness….fueled by the guilt of having wasted so many opportunities, and having left so much of my own life undone. Or could it be that my extended exposure to Wayne Dyer’s mind-bending wisdom has tilted my brain in that direction.

Anyway, no matter the ‘why’ of it, ‘Becoming’ ….making the most of late-life in our own unique way….has become an important focus of my stories and blogging---including today’s post. There is even a novel, of which I am rather proud, titled Becoming. And too, the series of blogs I posted last summer, and the resulting book….Living With Dying….turned a spotlight on my efforts to continue ‘Becoming’ in the face of a serious medical diagnosis.

Along the way I have learned that in late-life, when the need to chase the almighty dollar is hopefully less urgent, there are many other satisfying reasons to keep ‘Becoming.’ Best of all there are few rules and no ‘right’ way to do that, beyond what you find fulfilling.

It was that thinking which had me subtitling this blogsite ‘Thriving in late life.’ True, at the time I was referring to our 60s and 70s. Now in my 80s here I am again, back for another bite of the apple. 


So, first things first. Whatever our age and whatever our goal, ‘Becoming’ is a matter of change….of moving some of our thoughts and actions from Point A to Point B. To be clear, that minimal understanding makes no judgment about whether Point B, the result of our change, will be better or worse than Point A. In the same way ‘Becoming’ does not imply any particular outcome, positive or negative. 

There are other things we know about ‘Change.’ To begin with, it is a given….we are always changing. That is easiest to see over time. Take a moment to recall the person you were five or ten years ago. Can you identify some of the ways that you, the person you know best of all, have changed in that time. 

Now, take a peek into your crystal ball. Will the ‘you’ that appears four or five years from now look and feel like like today’s ‘you?’ (I realize, of course, that at 85 it is an act of faith to believe I will even be here in five years.)


Many of us know how October and November can sneak up on a person. By now our ‘status-quo’ has certainly deteriorated a notch or two. Some of what we could once do, we no longer can. It probably feels like we are decelerating….sometimes slowly, sometimes not so slowly. And there are bound to be times when we believe the opportunity to become more than we are has passed us by. 

I don’t want to sound like I spend my waking hours dwelling on nothing but ‘Becoming.’ Truth be told, it was the Living With Dying series I mentioned earlier that renewed my interest in how I could make better use of the time I have left, be it weeks or years. There I was, dealing with a potentially lethal diagnosis. What options did I have? What options do any of us have?

On one hand, we can accept that we are too old and too set in our ways to become something more….whatever that means to us. In that case we can settle for what we have and remember the good old days, while perhaps bemoaning the sad fact that those days are gone forever.

Or instead we can draw on a lifetime of hard-learned lessons to steer us toward a modestly-optimistic use of the gifts we still have in our quiver. Of course, our notions of what amounts to a worthwhile result have changed over the years. In my own hopeful moments I like to believe that my understanding of what makes me ‘whole’ and ‘complete’ has matured with time.

On the plus side, however, I believe that everything we need to create such change is close at hand. Actually, it has always been with us. If I am going to ‘Become’ something more than the person I am now the implied change, however modest it might be, must begin with me. There is no one else who can do that for me.

We are already familiar with the seeds that create change. They are called thoughts, and most of us have them every day….by the thousands. It is our thoughts about a desired result that trigger change, promoting the urge for something more or different….first as a wish, then as a willingness to imagine how a desired change might feel, and finally as a determination to follow through.

Of course our dreams of change must be realistic, as well as age-appropriate. In the end, however, achieving those dreams, whatever they may be, is not nearly as important as knowing in our hearts that we have done our best in that pursuit.


When all is said and done the choice….whether or not to keep moving ahead in our own way, at our own pace….is ours to make. The Divine Life Force I accept as real does not judge how far or how high our Becoming takes us. But rather, the test is how well we live out the Source’s love-based expectations.

To become more than we are today, expending our life energy, however limited it may be, on what we perceive to be a higher purpose…that is my idea of a worthy goal, something to strive for. That is especially true when those energies are pursued in the name of love, kindness, and caring, as opposed to meeting our need for ego-gratification.

You remember, don’t you….those dated images of late-life as ‘rocking chair’ time? I believe we are called to make it more than that. What form of ‘more’ works for us is our choice to make. No matter what we have in mind it will always begins with the same first step….a thoughtful decision to change, to keep Becoming.

Saturday, September 3, 2022


I realize that the subject of aging, with its trials and possibilities, is well covered these days. I for one have filled a lot of blog pages writing about the pros and cons of late-life. I must admit, however, there is one bit of  late-life reality that seems to have escaped my attention……until recently.

As sometimes happens in this time of life, I have been on my own for a couple months now……dealing with her absence and left to make sense of life alone. Fortunately I have had lots of support from the four ‘helpers’ we created over the years. Still, at least once a day that lovely lady makes her way into my thoughts, reminding me “You can’t quit living. Get out your to-do list and get busy.”

The history of my situation is simple enough……. and not all that uncommon. You see, my beloved helpmate, the one who picked me up when I stumbled, has moved on to a better place. Though I live with son Terry, and he is a big-time help, he works all day, while I am home alone. Can you see where that might lead……leaving an eighty-five year-old misfit on his own for six or eight hours at a time?  

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a particularly sociable guy. I don’t mind being alone. In fact I generally prefer it that way. On the other hand, when I listen to my children what I hear sometimes sounds like an unanimous declaration ……that Dad is too old to be on his own. 

That in turn seems to call for a special sort of help. Perhaps something the old guy could use to summon assistance, if ever that was needed. Something like a simple button, a distress call he could press from anywhere around the house or yard. Well, that sounds doable, doesn’t it?

You’ve heard the pathetic, whining commercials on the tube……”I have fallen and I can’t get up.” Seems to me those ought to be the words of an infant, learning to walk. But in fact they are spoken by an elderly man or woman struggling to do what any six year-old can manage. Since those ancient folks cannot pass that test on their own they must use what seems to me a hi-tech device to summon help.

Well, my ‘device’ was delivered yesterday. I knew it was coming, of course….. so its arrival was not a shock. Instead it is the unsettling realization of what it represents… perceived need for that bit of help…..that has me wondering.

Don’t get me wrong. The necklace itself is not at all uncomfortable or hard to wear. As far as I know it works as intended. But that doesn’t answer my obvious question……why are my own kids so sure that I need it?

After all, at eighty-five I still get around pretty well…..for a fellow my age. Sure, I use the hand rail on the steps, and pause to get my balance when I get out of my chair. And some things take longer these days. But beyond that what are they so worried about?

True, the ladder incident did land me in intensive care for a few days, but that was a freak thing……broken ribs, punctured lung, fractured clavicle, and bulging vertebrae. Besides, I don’t do ladders any more. And the fall off the trailer wasn’t nearly as bad……though I do remember that a fractured pelvis hurts a lot.

So what kind of mischief can an old guy get into around his own house? I can only imagine. Could it be that our offspring have it right after all? Without Mom on hand to keep the old man out of trouble perhaps it is best to rely on a hi-tech necklace.

I suppose it’s worth a try.


Saturday, August 20, 2022


     I can’t be the only one. I’ll bet you have been there too. Right? I suppose it’s an October/November thing. You see, in a world that has been hijacked by pandemics, wars, inflation, political bickering, homeless camps, and an increasingly divided nation……..I’ve had my fill of all that.

Fess up now. Aren’t there moments when you long for the old days and the old ways……those times that look so good in our hazy rear-view mirror? I realize, of course, that we can’t actually return to those earlier days. But I have learned of an interesting way to resurrect bits and pieces of that sentimental history. Best of all, we can savor those times and those places in small bites……..a few minutes or a few hours at a time.

Several years ago that surprising discovery was the subject of the following October Years post. In the course of my recent return to some of those earlier blogs it had made its way to the front of the line. 


I don’t remember exactly why, but at the time I needed a break……perhaps I was looking to get away from an all-too-crazy world……or maybe it was a “honey-do” chore that had turned sour.

Whatever the reason, that evening in the course of my online wandering I bumped into a YouTube video of Susan Boyle performing It’s a Wonderful World. I suppose I remembered having heard Louis Armstrong’s version of the song, and how much I enjoyed that. Whatever the reason, I decided to give Susan a listen. I played it once, then again. 

Before I was done I had spent half an hour glued to my computer, watching and listening to a dozen or more of Ms. Boyle’s videos. Needless to say, I liked what I was hearing. By the time I was done I had hatched a rather unorthodox idea. On a whim 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 this post were sown. I realize that for some of you what follows will be old hat……things you have been doing 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. Chances are 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 interests and tastes of just about any niche audience……even tech-illiterate October and November types who are dipping their toes in the YouTube water for the first time.

I will admit that after my Susan Boyle introduction I returned to YouTube looking for music, especially the ‘ancient’ sounds I remembered from the 50s and 60s. And those Golden Oldies are there in force……in both videos and vintage television footage. It was simply a matter of following my own personal taste……Ella, Don McLean, the Bee Gees, the Beatles, Johnny Cash to name a few. 

If music is your thing, filling in the search line will take you to your favorites. If your musical tastes are different than mine…….be it opera, symphony music, or a lively polka, you will find those there too. There is literally something for everyone.

Better yet YouTube has so much more than music, especially for us late-lifers. There is simply no subject you won’t find there. Be it cooking, meal prep, travel, investing, paranormal philosophy, or the screwy world of American politics……you will find dozens, even hundreds of videos, from minutes to hours long.

We know, of course, that ours is a sometimes harsh and confusing time. Chances are YouTube can help you make sense it all….. allowing you to hear several sides of most any topic. It can help us better understand today’s chaos……and be better equipped for the world we live it.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t also take time now and then to revisit what entertained or amused us in what we think of as the ‘ good old days.’ We live in an era where what passes for modern entertainment does not always entertain my generation……where so-called comedy often strikes us as seriously ‘unfunny.’ So why not let YouTube provide an occasional antidote?

For instance, I remember once upon a time liking George Carlin. It was fun to discover that his YouTube videos are as clever and incisive as ever. Johnny Carson and Dean Martin are there too, at their best. I know that not everyone finds Foster Brooks in good taste, but I enjoy his humor. Or how about Tim Conway playing dentist with Harvey Korman? Going further back, you will find videos of complete TV programs with Jack Benny and Milton Berle doing their thing. 

If you are a travel junkie like me, Rick Steves will take you to most any place 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 never really grown up. I know one eighty-one year old who doesn’t care if folks know about the youthful tastes he has never outgrown.

You see, also has movies……lots of movies, including ones we aging youngsters remember from days gone by. 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 decide for yourself by checking out 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 1940 & 50 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 also 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 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 some of your own favorites there too.

Bottom line……if you’re not already on speaking terms with may I suggest you check it out. (It’s free.) Once there use the ‘Search Line’ at the top of the page 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 there.

Saturday, August 13, 2022



Over the years I grew comfortable viewing life, at least the part of it that came our way, through “our” eyes…..the two of us. That worked pretty well. But sadly, that no longer applies. I have been left with only my own failing eyesight to interpret and cope with an ever-shrinking world.

Truth to tell, I depended on her in so many ways, often without realizing or acknowledging my dependence. Now it seems that each day reveals some new hint of the impact she had on so many of us…..the ways she made our world whole and more satisfying.

As for me, it feels that I have been left without a compass. Where is my true north? Which way do I turn? For so long she was the one who gave me permission to be “me.” The “me” I became was the “me” she had set free.

Even today, weeks after the fact, there are moments when it seems as though there is no wind beneath my wings. And why wouldn’t I feel the way? After all, she was the one who kept our family, and me, on an even keel.

The world around us may look the same to unknowing eyes. But for some of us everything has changed……our children have lost their mother and I have lost my wife. Did anyone ever tell me about this descent into lethal loneliness? It may be altogether natural, and more common that we might expect. But it still hurts.

For years I have used these blog pages to proclaim the message of thriving in late-life. At the moment, however, it doesn’t feel like I am in a “thriving” mode. I tell myself this melancholy funk will pass with time…..but I am not sure I want it to. I don’t want to forget why I feel this way.

Yet, what I am dealing with is not a matter of grieving…..not as I understand it, not the way some folks suffer. The two of us knew what was coming. The whole family did. She spoke openly of her readiness to “move on.” After weeks of hurtful, but necessary conversations we had come to accept that sad reality… much as anyone can.

What I deal with today is not so much the fact of her leaving. If ever anyone deserved to be free of unrelenting pain it was her. I accept that release as a blessing. But what I am left to cope with is the yawning void her absence has created.

I know, of course, that she expects me to carry on. She made that very clear. But how does an eighty-five year old guy “carry on” in face of such loss?  Why did she not warn me about the moments when I wonder why I should make the effort, when the reason for my “carrying on” has left the scene, leaving me adrift?

Fortunately, however, her legacy is not altogether sad and dark....not even close. She has left me with multiple reasons to stay the course. We call them our “kids,” “grandkids,” and “great-grandkids.” They are “reasons” that we ourselves created…..she and I…..the ones she nurtured so lovingly…..the ones she expects me to carry on for.

Of course there will be the harsh times when the reality of her leaving weighs heavily. But at the same time she has left me with work to do…. obligations to fulfill. At first glance it feels a bit like starting over…..returning to a time I can scarcely remember. But I know I must honor her expectations.

When I step back a bit I realize that it is just like her…..setting my table with a new menu of possibilities and responsibilities. And why wouldn’t she? She spent a lifetime expecting more of me, even as she let me decide what that meant.

In a very real way it feels like she is still on the job……doing her thing, working her magic.

Saturday, August 6, 2022



I love Paris in the spring

                                    ....but Belize in October?

(From August, 2016)

I’ve mentioned before how, as a spoiled and self-indulgent boss’s son, I sometimes took advantage of my dad and his willingness to let me “find myself.”.

From time to time, however, I am reminded that he too was capable of his own sneaky tricks. For instance….in spite of the many good things he did for my mother, brother, and me, the old guy managed to bequeath to me a particularly troublesome bit of himself….an itch that I have never completely overcome. You see, I was the one who inherited the Old Man’s lifelong curse….a pesky and persistent infection he called “wanderlust.”

In my case the symptoms apparently surfaced at an early age. By seven or eight I was spending hours leafing through the big Rand McNally World Atlas the folks kept under the coffee table. From map to map to map….one colorful country after another….I toured the world. At each stop on my imaginary travels I paused, trying my best to sound out the strange-looking names, imagining the people who called those far-away places home, all the while wondering what it would be like to live there. I distinctly remember thinking that Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexican border, would be the most wonderful place of all.

Those youthful mind-travels continued to become more and more obsessive until, at age thirteen I ran away from home, determined to see the world for myself. In the end what I saw was a bit of Eastern Oregon and the inside of the Umatilla County Jail. That was a letdown for sure, but not enough to dull that travel itch. Truth is, it’s something I’ve never outgrown. Later, Roma and I would be fortunate enough to visit and even live in some of those places….as many as our resources and family situation would allow. Those were wonderful experiences, but not enough to cure an advanced case of wanderlust.

Then in my mid-sixties, I retired and we moved on to our own October Years. And surprise….it was still there, that undiminished urge to see the world. And now we had the time to indulge those fantasies. 

We began as tourists….twelve weeks revisiting old haunts and old friends in England and Europe. By then I was mulling new possibilities. What if we made our retirement home in one of those far-away places? How cool would that be?

At that point the question became….what sort of retirement move could we afford if we were so inclined? Certainly, those with a hefty pension and fat IRA had more choices than we did. They could decide that “home” ought to be in Arizona or Florida or Europe….any place they wanted. Our choices were more limited?

Fortunately, for those of us who fancy ourselves as bold, even at our age, today’s internet world offers new, sometimes intriguing ways to scratch our retirement travel itch. One of my favorite “wanderlust” fixes is a thick promotional newsletter that arrives in the mail every few months. Apparently I have been on their mailing list for years. As near as I can tell the message has never changed in all that time. I have only to open the envelop and recite the first sentence or two to have Roma heading for another room.

“The hibiscus are in bloom,” the message begins. “As they are every month of the year. The gardener watches over them and the rest of the grounds, while the maid/cook maintains order in your bright and airy home. Just months before you would never have dreamed that the two of you could retire in such luxury for less than $1,800 a month. But now you know what so many others do not….that the good life and affordable health care are well within your reach.

Chances are you have seen that enticing pitch, telling how you can afford the retirement you dream of....somewhere. And perhaps you are one of those who find a certain satisfaction in dreaming about the possibilities it seems to offer. I know I do.

After all, the idea itself is not so far-fetched. For decades our fellow Americans have been taking advantage of low-cost foreign retirement, especially in Mexico and Central America. Lately, in the face of an increasingly harsh economic environment, that trend seems to have taken on new and novel forms.

In this brave new world of ours an up-to-date list of well-publicized retirement havens might be enough to send us back to the atlas….asking retirement questions most of us had never considered. 

For instance, take a moment to ask yourself what it would take to make Colombia a viable place to live out your Golden Years? Or Peru, or Thailand, or Uruguay, or Belize? I see e-mail ads for $300 seminars that will provide all the information you need to establish a home and live the good life in any of those countries….creating a lifestyle that costs a fraction of what you’ll pay here in the U.S. The sponsors claim they can make the case for that. Could they convince you?

Of late, I have come across articles online touting two particular retirement destinations…. Panama and Belize. Certainly Panama has a long history of dealing with and providing for US citizens. Belize, on the other hand, was formerly a British colony. It is the only Central American nation where English is the official language. Each of those countries already hosts a sizable ex-patriot population. Is that enough to make them interesting to you?

I suppose in the end each of us must decide what “retirement”….the label we assign to life-after-work….means to us. For a wanderlust junky like me the lure of  an inexpensive lifestyle lived in some exotic, out-of-the-way locale is a bit seductive and hard to ignore. 

But then, about the time those exciting possibilities have me thinking like a kid again, another of those pesky, hard-to-avoid October realities kicks in. “Is it practical?” I ask myself. 

Perhaps like yours, we are a family-oriented family. How would it work to have Grandma and Grandpa living on the seashore of sunny Belize, thousands of miles from the clan, following our grandkids on Facebook or Zoom, perhaps visiting them every year or two? And even if we could manage that, we are kind of set in our ways. How would we adapt to a very different culture and lifestyle, no matter how inexpensive it was or how adventurous the challenge?

So when it’s all said and done we have decided to settle for the wilds of the exotic Willamette Valley, and the lifestyle we’ve lived for all these years. But don’t think for a moment that I’ll stop day-dreaming about the sunny beaches of Belize or Panama.

How about you? Do the possibilities of tropical splendor on a shoestring resonate with you? Or does “Is it practical?” win out?