Sunday, July 31, 2022



  So you want to tell a story…….be a writer. Lots of us have dreamed that dream at one time or another.

     And hand in hand with that seductive possibility comes an all-important first question. What sort of story should you tell?

Today, as I continue my weekly visitation of earlier blog posts, I find myself wondering once more why and how my late-life storytelling efforts turned out the way they did. 

After all, the path I chose, what they call ‘the genre,’ was miles out of the mainstream……so commercially limiting. Yet those were the stories that came so naturally. Why was that?

Not only did that question arise from time to time……as the following post from several years ago illustrates, it literally became part of the story I was telling.



Over the years you and I have learned a thing or two about stereotypes, haven’t we? I can remember a time or two when I was troubled or embarrassed because I had misread or ignored stereotypical clues.…..reading something into a person or situation that was simply not there.

So it seems to me that here, in what I claim is a “writer’s blog,” is a fitting place to address my own stereotyping dilemma. Take a moment to consider the possibilities. What kind of stereotypes might be applied to someone like me? How about ‘old,’ or maybe ‘grouchy.’ I suppose I could relate to those.


But there are other stereotypical labels I am unwilling to accept for myself. For instance, perhaps you can imagine how I cringed when my first e-book publisher told me he had cataloged my story as “senior romance.” 

 “My God,” I grumbled. “What was he thinking?” There I was, seventy-some years old. Do they still call such tales “romance” at our age? And even if they did, what self-respecting old geezer would admit to writing “romance” novels? 

 I can assure you, these stories of mine do not resemble the paperbacks you see on the supermarket shelves….the ones picturing muscular Alpha Males cavorting across the book cover in a torn shirt, swooping up a swooning and seductive maiden in one arm. I guarantee, the tired old Beta Males whose stories I tell are not into “swooping up” anything or anyone.

 Instead, they and the appropriately mature ladies they pursue are stumbling toward the hopeful promise of a late-life connection, a way to share whatever it is their uncertain future holds. True, in the process they are apt to resurrect adolescent memories….ones they had filed away decades earlier and never expected to revisit. It was that new and altered reality of October/November life that long ago had me setting aside the “romance” label as descriptive of the tales I tell, and settling instead on  “relationship” stories.

 After all, in the course of our lifetime most of us have learned that relationships….whether casual or deeply personal….are the stuff of life. No matter what our age or intent, when relationships work we thrive. Beyond that, for my purposes relationships also make for a good story. 

 Having said that, I find myself face to face with another basic question….why should I be embarrassed about writing about something that everyone can relate to, whether they admit it or not? Would I be more authentic if instead I wrote vampire and zombie tales, spy thrillers or fantasy, or sinister who-dun-its….none of which have ever been part of my life?

 Each of us, based on our own experience, knows how complicated and intimidating the “relationship seeking” process can be. For the October/November friends I depict it is all that and more. 

  They and their world have changed dramatically since their youthful, first-time excursions into that exhilarating territory. Yet, though everything looks different through October eyes, some things remain the same. The world around them may have changed, but my seekers are still looking for the affirmation and hope they craved as teenagers.

Yet, even with a new, more acceptable label, it took a while for me to move beyond the self-induced embarrassment of writing relationship stories….to convince myself that relationship episodes are an elemental part of life….something that everyone understands. 

Granted, not all of our October/November friends who are alone are seeking a new relationship. For many, perhaps even most of those ‘loners,’ the continuing satisfaction of an earlier relationship is enough for them. And who would argue with that?

I, however, choose to focus on those who are still seeking. If I tell it well the resulting story about good people who find themselves alone and hoping for a relationship should be a good read. 

I understand, of course, that fiction is a favored form of escapism. We read a vivid fantasy, a murder mystery, or time-travel adventure to escape the ordinary….a perfectly valid reason. And truth to tell, the real-life relationship stories I tell, may sometimes take the escapist to the very space he or she is hoping to escape. 

In that case, I can probably write off that portion of a potential audience. As for the rest of fiction readers….how many are looking to curl up with an October Years relationship tale that is not on anyone’s best-seller list….especially one that addresses the kind of challenges that may clutter their own late-life space?

Pretty clever of me, eh? Staking my claim in the tiniest sliver of the whole darn market, telling stories that few have ever heard of or considered reading. Thankfully, I’ve learned to live with that, taking my satisfaction from the dozen or so paperbacks on my bookshelf. Still, not everyone agrees with that form of capitulation….as the following scene from the story I called ‘Becoming’ illustrates.

As Jack and I got to know each other better we naturally cultivated a curiosity about each other’s work. One of our earliest conversations about a story of mine took place on a Saturday afternoon at the Terrace, a busy pub not far from the local university. Jack had just finished reading the draft of my first novel-length story and was ready to register his opinion. As I recall it was a three-beer lunch, which may have accounted for his socially incorrect bluntness.

“I’ve read about people who claim they were called to be a writer,” he explained. “But what you’re doing with that calling of yours doesn’t make any sense at all. Of all the things there are to write about, why settle for a love story about old folks? Why not something more ……”

“Something more masculine.” I interjected, completing his thought. “More macho….with lots of action and bad guys, maybe a homicide or two. Stuff like that, eh?”

“Yeah. That’s it. Make your guys younger, with a thing for loose women. Something to hold the reader’s interest. I mean, reading about an old guy and an old gal trying to get it going again, that’s not exactly mainstream is it?”

“You’ve got that right.” I tried to make light of his observation, though it didn’t feel light at all. “The couple publishers who read that story seem to agree on that. They were absolutely unanimous in their disinterest. So what can I say? I'm telling the story I want to tell. That’s all.”

“But why? People read stories to get away from ordinary stuff.” Jack was serious now, wanting me to hear his logic. “Just think about what sells. It’s mysteries and whodunits. It’s tracking down a killer or a cheating husband. It’s about terrorists, and undercover agents who have to find the bad guy before he destroys the world. At the very least there’s a good chase scene. And, of course, some really steamy sex. Then at the end, on the last page, the guy and the lady get together. 

“That’s what real stories are about,” he continued. “About suspense, and action, and mystery. They’re sure as hell not about some seventy-year-old guy deciding that a seventy-year-old lady is his soulmate.”

To be sure, Jack’s objections were not new. My dad had registered those same complaints, although his exact language was a bit more colorful. 

In any case there I was, obsessed with the liberating freedom of telling my stories, even when those same questions intruded from time to time….should I spend my time exploring the low-key relationship tales that flowed so naturally, or should I write the suspenseful action stories that Jack and the Old Man advocated? Of course, there was no evidence to suggest that I could do either one well enough to succeed. But that aside, should I focus on the stories I wanted to tell, or turn to something more commercially viable? 

“Tell me Jack,” I finally asked. “How many homicides and spies have you come across in your lifetime? How many times have you been forced to save the world from destruction?” I did not wait for his answer. “Why would I tell a story like that? It has nothing to do with me.”

“But this stuff of yours is so damn ordinary.” Jack was struggling to understand. For a moment I wondered if he was about to suggest a four-beer lunch. “Why would I want to read about something that’s going on around me every day?”

“Come on," I replied. "This isn’t literature, you know. I’m just telling stories about ordinary people and some of their special times. They don’t always end happily-ever-after, but it feels like they’re real. And most of all, they’re the stories I want to tell.” 

“But can’t you see? They’re 'love' stories for God sakes.” Jack was ready to play his trump card. 

“Women write love stories. Everyone knows that. Besides, real love stories are about young folks. That’s what all those little old ladies want to read about….young love. It’s what they want to remember and dream about. The people in your stories are too damn old.”

About then we fell quiet. All around us the busy pub crowd carried on. The overhead television screens were showing their ball games. Blustery college guys were trying their best to impress anxious college girls. The place was absolutely alive, yet I had managed to bore Jack into silent submission.

“You know,” I finally said, hoping to resurrect our conversation, “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. When that relational stuff happens again at our age some of it must be like the first time around. You do remember that, don’t you….when we were kids and it was all about hormones?”

“Just barely.”

“But the second time around, or maybe the third, is bound to be different. Sure, parts of it may feel like coming-of-age all over again. That’s the ‘geriatric adolescence’ I sometimes mention. But at our age each of those folks brings along all sorts of baggage. They’ve spent a lifetime creating their own experiences, making their own memories. There are probably some highs they’d like to feel again….and some lows they’re hoping to avoid.”

“You mean they’re hoping to get it right this time?” Jack was shaking his head again, certain that he knew better than that. “Do you know the odds of that happening?”

“Come on, those folks aren’t thinking about the odds. They’re looking for something they want.” 

I decided not to ask Jack what qualified him as an expert on “getting things right.” I knew something of his history, enough to render his judgments suspect. “Near as I can tell,” I added. “Lots of folks do have those feelings. If I tell my stories in a believable way, maybe some readers will see something of themselves in what I’m writing.”

“And you know how to do that?” 

“I keep trying. Look, I used to apologize for telling stories no one wanted to read. I’m pretty well over that. I just keep doing what feels right and try to do it better.” 

With that I drained the last of my beer and stalled a bit while Jack, my wage-earning buddy, dug in his wallet for the tip.

Saturday, July 23, 2022


    Perhaps you have been in a similar place…. struggling to make sense of a new existential landscape. If you ever find yourself in that space I wish for you a caring support team like mine…. family, friends, and church who have helped me carry on. Along the way I recently returned to this late-life observation I first posted four years ago. I found it worth reading again. Perhaps you will too.


Happy New Year to all. 2018 is only hours old and already it has me off on a new tangent. Fact is, I did not plan to be writing this. I’m not sure where the notion came from. The inspiration....if I may be bold enough to call it that....seemed to arrive out of the blue. 

I’ll bet that’s happened to you. The path you set out to follow, the one that seemed so right, even tempting yesterday seems to have lost its appeal. Instead, something new and different has grabbed your attention. I’m not sure where this detour will take me, but I am willing to follow my intuition and find out.

Thing is, I have spent years weaving ideas, some of them important and some rather trivial, into stories about late life. It has been a satisfying challenge ….telling what I believe are true-to-life tales about today’s seniors….wrapping the lives of friends I have created out of thin air in the October/November values, virtues, and vices that seemed worth depicting. 

I will admit, however, there have been times along the way when I was tempted to forego the storytelling part, and instead take time to focus on those values, virtues, and vices in greater depth than a fictional narrative allows. 

There are things that happen to you and me every day….things we too often let pass without notice. With that in mind I decided to spend today’s post recalling some of the lessons my fictional friends have learned in their travels, and how blessed I have been to learn a thing or two from their adventures.


If you are a late-lifer like me, chances are you view the world from the relative quiet of an October/November perch. From there we may occasionally revisit the times and events that have shaped our lives. In our more reflective moments we may even consider which of those efforts were worthy and worthwhile, and which were a waste of time.

That certainly holds true for me, an old guy who claims to tell stories about folks living out their October/November years. As mentioned above, of late I have felt less committed to telling those stories, and more inclined to dwell on the hard-learned realities they were meant to illustrate. Having spent a lifetime learning some of those lessons, perhaps it is not surprising that I want to explore the more important ones, without the distraction of weaving them into a story.

That’s what I hope today’s post will be….an in-depth look at one of those realities we all have dealt with in the course of our lifetime, but have perhaps never given the attention it deserves. Hopefully by the time we are done here you will have spent a few minutes remembering the ways you and your life have been touched by this bit of magic. Whether you consider it a virtue or a vice, it is something that everyone of us has experienced, and been thankful for.

So at this stage of the game I want to focus on what seems to me the heart of the matter….one of the life-lessons that make their way into my thoughts when I leave the door opened a crack. That is exactly what happened a couple nights ago, when a particular notion, or more precisely a particular word….that’s right….one word....caught my attention.


The word in question was “Healing,” a plain, but powerful word that everyone can relate to. In the course of our lifetime each of us has been healed many times, in many ways. Truth is, we are constantly in the process of being healed, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. 

In any case, for reasons I still don’t understand, my midnight thoughts had settled on that seemingly unremarkable word, and a rather remarkable truth I don’t remember having considered before….the simple fact that being healed is one of life’s great blessings. 

Some of the best moments of my life, and yours too, have been times of healing, when we were made well and wholeness has been restored. You know the feeling. Having endured a time of infirmity or deprivation, you are finally restored to your allotted degree of health and wholeness. 

That welcome reprieve can arrive in many forms….physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual to name a few. But whatever the burden that has been lifted from your shoulders, the resulting wholeness has qualified as healing.

So, as I put my thoughts on paper I hope you will take time to refer to your own moments of healing and restoration. I invite you to consider your personal experience….your insights on the universal reality of healing. After all, healing is an important part of life at any age, but especially old age.


To begin with, I submit that our word-of-the-day….Healing….describes one of life’s greatest blessings. It is also an incredibly versatile word, that can be used in many different ways, to mean many different things. But in every instance it seems to imply ‘making healthy’ or ‘returning to a higher degree of wholeness.’

We most often think of ‘healing’ in terms of physical health. We sometimes refer to health-care professions as the ‘healing arts.’ And thankfully they are all that and more. Every one of us can cite examples of how healing has restored health and wholeness to ourselves and loved ones. 

Still, we understand that ‘being healed’ is not the same as ‘being cured.’ Our October/November world is full of people like me who have had more than one brush with cancer or some other life-threatening condition, and been returned to a satisfying and functional lifestyle…we have been ‘healed’….without being ‘cured.’

Still, whether our search for physical healing leads us to health-care professionals, faith-based spiritual gurus, or sincere gratitude for a fortunate genetic inheritance….at one time or another each of us has sensed the comforting warmth of having been made well again.


We realize too that those moments of blessed healing may not last forever. The time will come, whether tomorrow or ten years from now, when some form of misfortune will once again have us wishing and praying for a new round of healing. Yet, we must not allow that blunt realization to lessen our gratitude for the welcome healing we have experienced in times past.

We are, after all, a vulnerable species. As long as we live our need for restoration, in one form or another, will never end. Beyond that, we know by now that late-life healing is a relative thing. No matter how well the bones heal or the new knee works I will never again dunk a basketball. (Not that I ever could.) 

Moreover, I know by now that October/November ‘wholeness’ is at best a mental judgment, a willingness to accept an age-appropriate level of renewal in keeping with the rest of my late-life existence. Truth is, by this time of life it seems we are constantly healing in one way or another.

For example, Roma’s pacemaker arrived as a mechanical means of coping, not curing. My new round of immunology therapy is simply the next step in an ongoing cancer-coping journey. On the very afternoon I started to create my first notes about healing, our daughter Amy lay in a hospital bed, recovering from the ordeal of donating a kidney….itself the very definition of a blessed healing act.


Healing, however, can mean more than restoring a broken or infirmed body. Some of our most satisfying healing experiences, the ones that have touched us most deeply, had nothing to do with mended bones or restored organs. The same sense of ‘being made whole’ that we usually associate with physical healing applies just as well to other facets of our being. 

There are innumerable non-physical conditions on our October/November plate….vital elements of our daily existence….that may need restoration and wholeness. Truth is, there are some infirmities that the army of medical caregivers who stand ready to serve us with their skills and pills, cannot heal.

By this time of life we may be alone or isolated, perhaps overwhelmed by bad luck or wrong turns taken in the past, or ‘what if’ moments that we managed to misplay. We may be in need of another, more personal, sort of healing….something beyond physical restoration. 

Perhaps it is a hard-to-define blend of emotional and/or mental infirmity that has us seeking, in our own way, a more satisfying sort of non-physical healing. Hopefully by this time of life each of us has cultivated our own means of addressing those intangible healing possibilities.

And for some there are more intimate and personal sorts of ‘unwholeness’ begging to be healed. Relational health....getting along with family and an important part of a ‘whole’ life. If that is a problem for us, perhaps it is time to mend the relational bridges we have burned over the years. At any time of life, but especially in our October/November years, restored and revitalized personal relationships are a most productive sort of healing.

And then, of course, there is perhaps the most vital and satisfying form of restoration....Spiritual Healing....the soul-deep wholeness we all seek, no matter what we call it. There are probably no miracle drugs, space-age cures, or other short cuts to help us accomplish that. A million books have been written on the subject, each claiming to show the way to spiritual health. Yet in the end I believe it is our own personal inner compass, not someone else’s advice, that will guide us on that most personal of healing journeys.


Finally, as you can certainly see by now, I am not here to tell you anything you didn’t already know. I do hope, however, that a few minutes spent revisiting the notion of ‘healing’ will help each of us shine a light on our own blessings of healing and wholeness....and perhaps renew our sense of awe at how fortunate we have been, in ways we don’t always stop to appreciate.

In the course of our lifetime we have been healed over and over. And we will always need more. But I happen to believe that it is not our passing acknowledgment of the healing we have received that matters most. Instead, it is our expression of gratitude, 'giving thanks,' that best validates the healing which has brought us to where we are today. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022


 There was a time when I assumed I would be telling my stories for as long as I could put pen to paper and pound away at the computer keyboard. It was a bit surprising to learn that I had run out of stories to tell…..and/or the need to tell them.

When I paused to think about that change of course I wondered if I have failed in my once-stated mission. But on second thought I realized that I had a good story-telling run….and it was time to move on from there.

With that in mind I found it easy enough to return to the following bit of meandering introspection….an October Years post from a few years back. Though it is long and blatantly self-indulgent it seemed to me a fitting recap of those many years of late-life storytelling. 


Today I am ready to venture down a familiar, though hazy path. More to the point, I want to return to my original reason for these blogging efforts of mine. From the beginning these pages have 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 maybe a lot, by returning to the roots of my storytelling, and focusing 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 those 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 Cabin Boy Cal hand-printed pages written in the summer of my eighth year? Turns out, that childhood obsession only grew stronger in time.

After that burst of Cabin Boy Cal energy, during my high school and college days, those storytelling urges were concentrated on sports writing for the school paper, and in college for the Portland Oregonian. Later, in 1970, when we moved to our eastern Oregon ranch I spent a winter writing a book-length story for our kids……Indian Summer At Horseshoe Ranch.

Apparently that process was more addictive than I expected, because in 1972, at age thirty-five, I was overtaken by the notion of creating a novel….and promptly moved our family of six to England to accomplish that task. Long story short….the resulting manuscript, Forever Starts Now, would sit on a closet shelf for another thirty-five years before it would again see the light of day. By then, seven years into retirement, I was ready to again tread that storytelling path. 

Of course, it was one thing to decide that I wanted to tell a story, and quite another to know what I would write about and what I intended to say. 

Yet, for reasons I still don’t understand, when I began to scratch that writer’s itch, I seemed to know at once the kind of story I would be telling. After all, by then I had learned that the best parts of life involve relationships. Invariably it is the people we encounter along the way who make life interesting and 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, was about a pair of brothers whose fiftieth reunion becomes a springboard to new relationships. 

The story itself was not all that original….a fellow who had once 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 the telling.

So there I was, telling ‘relational’ stories, though I knew at the time that was not what everyone called them. Thing is, I prefer that label to the other possibility  ….‘romance.’ After all, what kind of old guy admits to writing ‘romances’? More to the point, does that label even apply to the sometimes stumbling efforts of the seriously Beta 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 it’s called ‘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 the ‘second time’ path I lay out before them may be a daunting challenge, 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 no matter what, it won’t be for lack of trying. That too is something we have learned over a lifetime. When we’re dealing with what might be our 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. 

Let me call a 'Time Out' right here….I realize that not everyone needs ‘another relationship’ to feel complete. Lots of folks are ‘whole and complete’ with what life gifted them the first time around. They are not looking for more. That approach, 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 my October friends are dealing with their own real late-life issues. Please allow me to offer some thumbnail 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….the high school diva he dreamed about all those years ago. When he finally meets her, months after her stroke, he scarcely recognizes the woman she has become. She looks different and her speech is hard to understand, and needs a walker to get around. Yet wonder of 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 his late wife Sarah had 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, broke, dejected, and depressed. Yet even in the midst of all that, his dreams of relationship, and becoming the man he believes he should be, have not died. They may not look the way he expected, but they are still alive and well.

***Or what about a relationship that deals with one of late-life’s 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, when she moves into a care facility, his October trials will be further complicated by an 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 the business at hand 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? No wonder Going Home grows more complicated by the day

*In October Bold David and Marian spend a few minutes together on a Music City dance floor, then go their separate ways….to opposite sides of the country. Though the possibility of ‘more’ was intriguing, their wanting was constrained by shared timidity, and 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, lingering questions are raised, and lives are impacted….including those of Jerald’s birth parents, who are reluctantly reunited after a twenty-year separation.

***In today’s late-life economic 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 a productive formula. But when that coping and compromise are no longer effective….what then? Dan Padgett has nursed his elaborate retirement plans for years. So why is Nell being so resistant? Why can’t she just accept the liberating logic he has so carefully constructed?

*** And finally, we come back to my favorite, to where these 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 relationships. 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 hopeful 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 doing their best to overcome the emptiness of life lived alone. Boredom is not an a problem for them. Beyond that, I happen to think those folks are worth getting to know. I hope you’ll take time to check them out.

Thursday, July 7, 2022



         They can be harder than you might think ……the times when I am required to imagine how the October people whose story I am telling will feel or react in the face of a particularly trying late-life situation.

        Consider for instance this bit from my Best Friends and Promises story. Aaron Peck has returned home after checking Leona, his wife of fifty years, into an Alzheimer’s ward. At that moment there was no escaping the truth of it. Pacing slowly from room to room he was struck by the emptiness that surrounded him, and the overpowering sense that he was alone in his new world, left to face the sad reality that life apart from her would never be the same.

At every turn, in every room, Arron was reminded of how much he missed Leona’s presence and the subtle interactions they had shared for so long…. the soft touches in passing, the seemingly unnoticed smiles, even the unspoken aggravation she could communicate with the simple arching of an eyebrow. 

In a particularly introspective moment he was overtaken by how much of their relationship had been played out below the surface….those times when their verbal interaction was little more than redundant phrases and muttered code words, each of them carrying a long-established significance, conveying volumes of meaning in a handful of syllables.

It was a hurtful thing, knowing that the personal dialect which had served them so well had ceased to be. The way they had communicated their love and caring for so long was no longer effective, as though he remained the only person left who spoke their dying language.”

    Rereading that scene for the first time in months I was struck by how frustrating it would be….trying to communicate a head full, or heart full, of feelings you want to express, when the one you want to hear your words will not hear them.

    In that case, what would we do with all these thoughts and words we wanted to speak? How could we set them free? If we are fortunate enough, there will be someone else to listen. If not, perhaps those heartfelt feelings will emerge as a prayer. For a storyteller like me those October Year insights often make their way into a story or blog post, to be shared in that way.

    And that is where I am today. For sixty-two years of marriage, Roma was the motor that kept our family running, the glue that held it together. Now she is gone. To be sure I am thankful that the painful curse of cancer has been overcome. I truly believe she has moved on to a better place. And along the way I am so grateful for the loving support of family and friends that surrounded her last days.

       Yet, there is no denying the sense of ‘aloneness’ I feel right now….the sad knowing that ‘life apart from her will never be the same.’ Truth to tell, she will always be a part of me. I will still converse with her, bouncing my sometimes maverick ideas off her, hoping for her caring input. 

    But now I, and the family, must learn new ways to follow the loving and graceful path she set before us. 

Saturday, July 2, 2022



 I call this A Writer’s Blog….a place where I can have my say, stating my case in my own words and my own way.

So why have I been sitting on this piece for weeks, rereading it, tweaking a word or two, wondering if it belongs here? Why the reluctance? Whether we admit it or not, October people like you and me have spent a lifetime creating their own answers to the questions I am about to address. Heck, I’ve written whole stories about them. There is no logical reason to be so timid. So here goes nothing.

As you might imagine, writing about late-life, what I call the October years, is different than writing about the Aprils and Mays we so fondly recall. For one thing, most of us have moved beyond those adolescent dreams. Our October expectations are probably different, and more realistic, than those youthful visions of how we hoped life would treat us. Though we like to revisit those memory-laden Aprils and Mays from time to time, by October we have hopefully developed the inner resources to help us cope with what life sends our way. 

Of course from time to time everyone seeks out those soul-deep ‘inner resources,’ the ones I am inclined to call “spiritual.” Yet steering clear of such personal, introspective subjects is one of the most conventional bits of advice given to storytellers….whether they are blogging or writing a novel. 

When it comes to matters of the “spiritual,” and especially “religion,” we are advised to tread softly. The odds of offending are just too high. Still, though I certainly don’t want to offend, I do want to my October stories to reflect the real world….and for me that includes matters of the soul.

After all, in the course of a lifetime I have learned there are times when this sometimes-fragile psyche of mine needs reinforcement….spiritual reinforcement. To ignore that inconvenient fact for the sake of literary correctness would have me overlooking a basic truth about the people who populate my stories

Having reached their sixties and seventies, the fictional October friends I have imagined into being have experienced the “spiritual” side of life first hand, whether or not they are willing to call it that. Hopefully in the process they have created their own ways of integrating those impulses into an acceptable life-view.

Near as I can tell, that need is universal….common to all cultures in all places. No matter what answers they construct for themselves, the fact is everyone faces those “matters of the soul.” In that case, why would I allow my stories to shy away from something so central to the lives of my October characters?

Over the years, as we’ve moved across life's calendar, you and I have found our own ways of dealing with those soul-deep questions. How else could we have made it this far? In the course of my Tanner Chronicles stories I have touched on a wide range of those October trials….hurtful times of loneliness and isolation, the emptiness of a life-partner lost or retirement gone wrong, a promising future turned sour by a failing economy, and the pain of dementia forcing its way into a long and loving relationship. Every one of those situations is more than simply a life-experience dilemma….they are the stuff of a deeply spiritual challenge.

As a staunch advocate of October Boldness and October Becoming I view our late-life spirituality as a place where “Belief”  and “Becoming” come together. By this time of life we have experienced some of the ways our spiritual "beliefs," in whatever form they take, can impact our unique and very-personal “becoming.”

You may wonder how Belief and Becoming might be blended together in an October story? How about a brief example? It’s from a story I call Becoming. Maria Ruiz is a middle-aged caretaker, a life-long captive of a God she was taught as a child to fear….the one who promises harsh judgement for every failing, and dire consequences for long-ago transgressions. 

Carl Postell, on the other hand, is left to counter Maria’s unyielding faith with little more than his own stumbling intuition of a God who asks us to be “givers,” who sends each of us off to “become” the person we are meant to be. Not surprisingly, the common ground Maria and Carl are seeking often seems out of reach. What follows is an excerpt from Becoming.

“The other day you asked me if I believed in God,” I said, pushing myself away from the fence. “Well, just so you know, I do. But I know for sure the God that I can imagine is nothing like the God you talk about.” With that I started toward the porch, ready to check in on Dad before I left.

Before I reached the back door Maria’s question was loud and demanding behind me. “How is it different, Carl?” she asked. “What makes your God different than mine?”

“Look, I’m not sure I can explain that. I’m not exactly a church-going kind of guy, you know. Let’s just say we have very different ideas and let it go at that. Okay?”

For an instant I was remembering a time when I had been “a church-going kind of guy.” When our children were young Sandra had insisted that we be in church every Sunday….certain that the kids would benefit from Sunday School and seeing their parents in church. 

It was not the kids’ favorite thing, or mine….but for several years we were there most every Sunday. Strangely, Sandra’s religious logic had grown more flexible over time, allowing us to “outgrow” church as the kids got older. By the time Trish was twelve or thirteen Sunday morning had reverted to its original status as a well-earned sleep-in-day.

Now, looking back at Maria leaning against the backyard fence I was half-laughing to myself, aware of the startling irony. That nice lady, my father’s caregiver, was struggling with the deepest of faith questions ….concerns that had apparently haunted her for decades. Now, in the very depths of her seeking, she was asking me of all people to elaborate on my muddled notion of God. She deserved so much more than I had to offer.

At that  moment I should have turned away and kept moving. Instead I paused long enough to suggest, “Maria, there’s nothing about what I believe that would help you. It’s just too different.”

“That’s what I’m asking. How is it different?”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked, knowing that I was not at all sure, She nodded her affirmation, so I took a deep breath and threw caution to the wind.

“Okay, here’s the deal. You talk about a God who has rules for every step you take….and who comes down hard on you when you break those rules. Your God sounds like a tyrant to me.…one who depends on the ‘fear of God.’ The God that makes sense to me is one who gives everyone the freedom to become themselves. 

By then my unfamiliar role as spiritual advisor was growing more uncomfortable by the second. “The God I can imagine gives every person and every thing It creates exactly what they need to become what they are supposed to be. And then It sends that creation off to become that ‘something.' That’s true for a tree, a flower, or an animal. They use what God gives them to become what they’re meant to be. And I believe that it’s the same way for people. 

“That’s what I think we’re doing with our lives….at least we’re supposed to be doing,” I continued, hoping that Maria was still listening. “We are ‘becoming.’ A part of that process is learning what we’re supposed to be….that might be a caregiver like you, a storyteller like me, or anything else. There's no end to the possibilities. 

“But I'm certain that once we've figured out what it is we're meant to be, we’ll discover that we have everything we need to become that person." I paused to read her reaction. She was giving me few clues so I added, “And I guess that’s about it.”

“That’s all?,” Maria asked incredulously. “That's what God is like to you?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” I shrugged, knowing there was at least one more piece I ought to be including. How would she accept that? “Except for one last thing,” I said. “Something that seems to be very different than the God you know.”

“What’s that?”

“Like I said before,” I continued. “We have choices in the matter. We do the choosing. We can even decide not to become the person we’re meant to be. We all do that sometimes. But when that happens….when we mess up….I don’t believe that God gives up on us. The God I can imagine doesn’t forget about us, or get mad, or punish us because we took a wrong turn. He, or She, knows that everyone does that from time to time. Most of all, God is ready to help us when we’re ready to try again.

“It seems to me that’s important.” I was ready to end this. “Because even when we get off track, and we all do, what I call God is always ready to help us. We’re surrounded by Him, or Her, or It. The people who care about us, who lend a hand even when they don’t have to….they’re God’s way of helping us.

“Anyway, that’s how God looks to me. But I don’t see how any of that can help you. Not if you can’t accept a God who forgives the times you’ve gone wrong. I wish you could do that, because Dad and I would really like to see you smiling again.”

How about that? There I was, having Carl Postell take the first unpromising steps toward a relationship by debating the nature of God. Unlikely perhaps, but apparently necessary. How else could Maria, who viewed life through the blurry lens of a vengeful God, be guided to a more fruitful becoming? How else could she become the person she was born to be?