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.