Wednesday, December 27, 2023



Have you ever wondered what it is that makes the old folks, I mean the ‘really old’ folks, the way they are?

Though you may have created theories of your own, it seems to me the following outline is a ‘spot on’ depiction of their history…..and the special time they, my generation, have been blessed to experience.

I’m pretty sure that October/November/December folks will see themselves here. Hopefully our children and grandchildren will take a few minutes to digest the reality that made us old timers the way we are, and why we sometimes struggle to make sense of today’s world.

Today’s post is not at all new for those of us who lived through the times it describes….those brief years of ‘normal’ sandwiched between two existential storms. Hopefully you younger folks, (that is most of you,) will take a few minutes to read about what makes Grandpa and Grandma the way they are.

What follows is a no-nonsense picture of the times we grew up calling ‘normal,’ though in fact they were so much more than that. That was true when I first posted this piece in 2017. It is still true today.

Thanks to Joyce Carlson Oliver, a long-ago classmate of mine, for helping us remember.


Born in the depression years of the 1930s and early 1940s, we were the smallest number of children born since the early 1900s. We are The Silent Generation---remnants of a very special time.

We were the last generation to climb out of the depression. We can remember the winds of war, the impact of a world war that rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.

We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves. We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans to save and reuse. We hand mixed ‘white stuff’ with ‘yellow stuff’ to make fake butter, aka ‘margarine.’

We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available. We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the ‘milk box’ on the porch. (A friend’s mother delivered milk in a horse drawn cart.) We sometimes fed the horse.

We are the last to have heard Roosevelt’s radio assurances and to see gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors.....the sign of a loved one lost in war. 

We can also remember the parades on August 15, 1945, VJ (Victory in Japan) Day.

We saw the ‘boys’ come home from the war, build their Cape Cod style houses….pouring the cellar, putting on a tar-paper roof, and living there until they could afford the time and money to finish building it.

We were the last generation to spend our childhood without television. Instead, we imagined what we heard on the radio.

As we all like to brag about, with no TV we spent our childhood ‘playing outside until the street lights came on.’ We did play outside, and we made play on our own. There was no little league. There was no city playground for kids. 

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.

Our Saturday afternoons at the movies included a brief newsreel of the war, sandwiched between westerns and cartoons.

Telephones were one to a house, hung on the wall, with lines we shared with our neighbors.

Computers were called calculators. They only added and subtracted and were hand cranked. Typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, 'throwing' the carriage, and changing the ribbon. The ‘internet’ and “Google’ were words that did not exist.

In time the GI Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow. VA loans fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand, coupled with new installment-payment plans, put factories to work. New highways would bring jobs and mobility. The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

In the late 40s and early 50s the country seemed to enjoy the embrace of a busy, but quiet order, as it gave birth to the new middle class. (Who became known as the ‘Baby Boomer.s’)

The radio networks expanded from three stations to thousands. The telephone become an even more common method of communication and ‘Fax Machines’ sent hard copies around the world.

Our parents, suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, were exploring opportunities they had never imagined before. While we were busy playing by ourselves until the street lights came on, they were busy discovering the post-war world.

Most of us youngsters had no life plan, but with the unexpected virtue of ignorance and an economic rising tide we simply stepped out into the world and started to learn what it was all about.

We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity ….. a world where we were welcomed.

Based on our naive belief that there was more where this came from, and secure in our future, we shaped our lives as we went.

Of course, just as today, not all Americans shared in that experience. Depression-era poverty was deep rooted. Polio was still a crippler. The Korean War was a dark presage in the early 50s, and by mid-decade school children were ducking under their school desks.

Russia built the ‘Iron Curtain,’ and China became ‘Red China.’ Eisenhower sent the first ‘advisors’ to Viet Nam, and years later Johnson invented a war there. Castro set up camp in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power.

We were the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no existential threats to our homeland.

We came of age in the 40s and early 50s. The war was over and the cold war, terrorism, the civil rights movement, technological upheavals, ‘global warming,’ and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt our lives. 

Only our generation can remember both a horror of apocalyptic war and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty. We have lived through both.

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better, not worse.

We are the ‘Silent Generation’ - ‘The Last Ones.’

More than 99.9% of us are either retired or deceased, and feel privileged to have ‘lived in the best of times.’

Friday, December 15, 2023


Have you ever been in that space……when your reading tastes have transported you to a ‘remembering’ time.....when you are not looking for new ways to tickle your pysche……but instead have set out to revisit good times that still have a hold on you?

For me there were no better times than the family adventure Roma and I wrote about in the book we called A Year to Remember……that time spent in Winchester, England, where we had gone so I could write a novel.

A few days ago I took that paperback off the self to confirm a bit of forgotten information. By this morning I had reread, and relived, the entire story.

It was that bit of unplanned impulse that has me wanting to share the mood it had created. But how? This blog does not deal in book-length posts. So instead I settled for this……a sketchy beginning to our story that morphs into an equally sketchy conclusion……with room in-between for a year’s worth of remembered adventures.

With that……IN THE BEGINNING.......Chapter One of A Year to Remember.


You have heard of, perhaps even seen, the famous inscription on the Statute of Liberty….the one that implores the world to send us “your huddled masses.”

Sadly, in today’s world of immigration squabbles we are not as universally welcoming as those words might indicate. Yet it remains a noble statement of intent, worthy of our admiration. For many of us the mental image of those “huddled masses” arriving at our shores remains as powerful as ever.

True, in 1972 England still had its immigration welcome mat out for members of its once-great Commonwealth. But on that August morning our forlorn troop of traveling Yanks, which so closely resembled a “huddled mass,” was apparently a more serious test for the starched and stern Custom Agents who greeted us at London's Heathrow Airport.

To be sure, we were a uniformly disheveled bunch….rumpled, tired, and grumpy, some even barefoot….thoroughly intimidated by the chaos of what claimed to be the busiest airport in the world.

In the coldly-efficient eyes of the clerk standing behind the Customs counter we must have looked like a trans-Atlantic reincarnation of Jed Clampett’s hillbilly clan….resembling “displaced persons” more than tourists.

To further complicate things, it took only a few seconds to realize that the fast-moving “Tourist Arrival” lines would not accommodate the likes of us. We claimed to be “Long Stay” candidates. Though the British Consulate in Portland had mentioned that distinction, they had not explained how it would impact our encounter with the “Customs people.” We were about to find out.

The first Long-Stay clerk we talked to never did seem to grasp what we were about, or why Gil was standing there in the dimly-lit room wearing his very-dark sunglasses, the only unbroken pair he had. 

In the clerk’s eyes the six of us must have looked for all the world like Third World refugees, asking for permission to stay in his country for an “extended period” of time. As near as he could tell we had no jobs, no idea of where we would live, nothing but a desire to locate somewhere in England.

To illustrate our good intentions we showed the clerk the Application for Indefinite Stay permit provided to us by the Portland consulate. Moments later things were further complicated when Gil explained that we planned to stay for twelve months. That had the poor fellow scratching his head, trying to make sense of our request to use an Indefinite Stay permit to cover such a well-defined, very-definite period of time. 

There was nothing for the poor fellow to do but to retreat to the back office for a discussion with the higher-ups. Fortunately for us his supervisor was an older fellow, perhaps used to dealing with young and foolish Yanks. 

When he stepped out to join the conversation he calmly began by explaining that an Indefinite Stay permit would not allow any of us to hold a job. How did we intent to support ourselves? There would be six mouths to feed, with absolutely no expectation of help from the English welfare system. He emphasized that fact more than once. 

At that point Gil produced our Cashier’s Check, at substantial amount that confirmed we could fund our stay. Thankfully the Consulate had warned us to be prepared for that necessity. 

With our passports and Cashier’s Check in hand….the most precious of our possessions….the supervisor returned to his office. For the next ten or fifteen minutes we would be waiting….the six of us, the last remaining travelers in the Long-Stay service area. 

We sat huddled in a corner, wondering if the ever-efficient English bureaucracy would allow us to stay in their country, or put us on a plane back to New York. There we waited....tired, hungry, and out of sorts….growing more impatient by the minute.

Finally, wonder of wonders. When the pair of Customs officers, the clerk and his supervisor, returned the older man was actually smiling. Perhaps against his better judgment we had simply worn down his resistance. 

Stepping to the counter he stamped our three passports with an authorization for a ninety-day stay, then gave us a form to complete once we had a permanent residence….requesting permission for a longer stay. By then we were too relieved to argue with his semi-suitable offer.


Without realizing how fortunate we were, we had won the right to find a home somewhere in England……though we had no idea where……and settle into a year of sometimes unbelievable highs and lows.

How would you do that? How would you create your own Year to Remember. Where would you even start?

Then, a year later it was time to be going home. There were bound to be highs and lows involved in that process too……but it had to be done. With that, on to……THE END.


After three weeks in Ireland we were on the ferry back to Fishguard....returning for a last visit to Winchester. More importantly it would be the first step toward “going home,” returning to where our travels had begun. We had seen so much, done so much, and made so many friends. Now all that was coming to an end. 

We had circled Scotland, and traveled England....south to north, east and west, and back again. We had spent a few days getting a sense of Wales. Now, after three weeks spent seeing part, not all, of Ireland it was time to be leaving 

There would be two last nights at a Harestock B & B....savoring again the ancient downtown heart of Winchester and saying our goodbyes. It was hard to leave those good friends. Thankfully the fates would allow us to see them on our return trips to England. Later, when the Morgans emigrated to Calgary, Canada they would come to visit us in Oregon.

Meanwhile, there was a last bit of business to take care of. For those who believe in signs, or perhaps hexes, the first miles in our Ford Estate Wagon might have been a hint of ongoing troubles. Yet once the necessary repairs had been made, months before in Aberfeldy, Scotland, it had never again let us down. 

Through Scotland, England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Wales, and Ireland our trusty wagon had done everything we asked of it. In the end, when the car dealer John Berry recommended gave us half of what we had paid for it ten months earlier, we took his money, boarded the train for Heathrow Airport and our flight to Washington, DC.

Brother Roger met us at Dulles Airport, driving our Chevy Suburban, the only car he had that would carry all of us and our luggage. Back at his Malvern, Pennsylvania home we were surprised to find that Gil’s parents, Morse and Dorothy, had flown east to make our return a family gathering.

They had rented a large house just off the beach in Atlantic City. There, the whole crew....Roger’s family of four, the six of us, and our parents would gather for a three-day family reunion. 

Within an hour or two of reaching Roger’s home we were in need of a few items from the local supermarket. No problem. It was just down the road. Gil would drive to the store. His father offered to join him.

Minutes later, when the two of them started off down the street to the store, they were suddenly caught up in a startling “welcome home” moment. Morse’s excited yell must have been heard a block or two away....when Gil pulled the Suburban out of the driveway and started off down the left side of the street, heading straight toward the on-coming traffic. Apparently, learning to drive on the right side of the road would take some practice.

Having Gil’s parents on hand provided another unexpected advantage. We were fresh off the plane, and Amy’s distinctive British accent was still intact, heard by one and all. That would not be the case by the time we reached Oregon. By then her accent was nowhere to be heard. It had vanished in a matter of days. Today, more than fifty years after the fact, we must play the cassette tapes we had sent home from England to recapture the sound of our “English” Amy.

Finally it was time to be on the road one last time. Ten days later, after a long cross-country drive in a vehicle that had room for the kids to stretch out, we were back in Oregon, visiting again with family and glad to be home. 

Oh yes....regarding that other piece of unfinished business....Gil’s novel, the one that had sent us half-way around the world for him to write. After sitting for forty years in a manilla envelope on a closet shelf, Forever Starts Now finally appeared on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats on June 20, 2014. As it turned out, seeing the world, making new friends, and learning about our family’s roots had all been accomplished quicker than putting his story into print..


As you can tell, this bit of self-indulgence has been a matter of following good memories where they lead us. Don’t be afraid to follow your own. I recommend it.

Monday, December 4, 2023



I realize that most folks may not share my personal belief in life after life. But for those who have learned that truth the following letter, posted on Facebook by Emma McCarty, may sound both familiar and comforting. I for one, took it very personally.

Hi there. This is your late loved-one speaking. (You can fill in the name of the one speaking to you.) I don’t have long, so listen up, because I have a lot I want to tell you. 

First off, I get it. I understand.……..Ever since I left this world you have missed me, and I know you’re bracing for the upcoming holidays without me. No matter what anyone says, those festivities are going to be really tough. 

In fact, let’s be honest, this festive season will probably suck pondwater. But then, Thanksgiving and Christmas are tough holidays for a lot of people. You are definitely not alone.  

You see, the misconception about the holidays is that they are one big party. That’s what every song on the radio claims. Each television commercial you see shows happy families clad in gaudy Old Navy sweaters, carving up poultry, smiling their perfect Hollywood teeth at the camera. But that’s not exactly reality. 

The reality is, fifty-eight percent of Americans admit to feeling severely depressed and anxious during November and December. Fact is, many folks will cry throughout the “most wonderful time of the year.” 

Well, guess what? Nobody is crying up here in heaven. This place is unreal. There is, literally, too much beauty to take in. Way too much. 

For starters—get this—time doesn’t even exist anymore. Which I’m still getting used to.


Right now, for all I know, the calendar year down on Earth could be 1728, 4045, 1991, or 12 BC. It really wouldn’t matter up here. This is a realm where there is no ticking clock, no schedule. Up here there is only this present moment. This. Here. Now. That’s all there has ever been. And there is real comfort in knowing that. I know this all seems hard to grasp, but if you were here you would get it. 

Also, for the first time I’m pain free. I feel like a teenager again in my body. You probably don’t realize how long I’ve lived with pain because I never talked about it, I kept my problems to myself because I was your loved one, and you needed me to be brave. 


But pain is a devious thing. It creeps up on even the strongest person, little by little, bit by bit. Until pretty soon, pain becomes a central feature of life. 

Sometimes my pain would get so bad it was all I thought about. No, I’m not saying that my life was miserable—far from it. I loved being on earth. It’s just that simply waking up each morning was getting exhausting. But, you know what? Not anymore. In this new place, I am wholly and thoroughly happy.  

But enough about me. I don’t have room to describe all the terrific things I’m experiencing, and you don’t need to hear them. Right now, you’re grieving, and what you need is a hug.  

Which is why I’m writing to you. This is my hug to you. Because you’ve lost sight of me. And in fact, you’ve lost sight of several important things lately. 

Death has a way of blinding us. It reorganizes the way you think. It changes you. You will never be the same after you lose someone. It messes with your inner physiology. It reorganizes your neurons. But through it all there is one teensy little thing you’re apt to forget: I am still around. haven't gone away.

Yes, you read that correctly, I’m right here with you. No, you can’t see me. No, you can’t reach out and hold me. But did you know that one of the things I’m allowed to do as a heavenly being is hang out with you? 

It’s true. I’m never far away. I’m in the room with you now, along with a big cloud of ancestors, saints, and witnesses. I’m shooting the breeze alongside you, watching you live your life, watching you raise your kids, watching your private moments of sorrow. 

Here, in this new realm, I am in the perfect position to help you learn things. Which is what I vow to spend the rest of your earthly life doing, teaching you little lessons, lending you a hand when you least expect it, while desperately trying to make you smile. Actually, I’ve already been doing this stuff, you just haven’t realized it. 

What, you don’t believe me? Well, wake up, pal. You know that tingle you get in your spine whenever you think of me? That’s me. 

You know how, just yesterday, you had a beautiful memory when you were driving and it made you cry so hard that it actually felt good and you began to laugh through tears? Also me.


You know how sometimes when you’re all alone, preoccupied with something else, suddenly you get this faint feeling that someone is standing in the room with you? Hello? It's me.

You’re not alone on this earth. You never were. You never will be. So during this holiday season, when cheerful families are getting together and making merry, and taking shots of eggnog, I’ll be clinging to your shoulder, helping you muddle through somehow. 

I’ll be making your spinal column tingle a lot, and I’ll be sending plenty of signs. Each of these signs—every single one—is code for “I love you.” So start paying attention to those hints. 

Because this was ONE OF THEM.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Story Only You Can Tell


A while back I suggested that everyone, especially October/November folks, ought to consider writing their own personal memoir. After all, you have lived a full life. Chances are you have time on your hands and stories to tell. Seems to me those are the necessary ingredients for the most personal late-life project I can imagine… that only you can create.

So, what kind of response did I receive about what I considered a viable idea? Most replies sounded like……“I couldn’t do that. Why would I want to? I’m not a writer. Besides, who wants to read about my life?”

Those are all valid replies, but perhaps they are the right answers to the wrong questions. More to the point, they seem to miss what I have come to accept as the most important virtue of creating one’s own memoir. 

What if the first and most important question to be asked is…. “What would I gain from writing my own memoir?”….What would I learn about myself if I took the time to study the most eventful pieces of my life, from beginning to now. Have I ever stopped to think about how those ‘pieces’ fit together to create the ‘me’ I have become?

Allow me to digress for a moment. I have mentioned before that I have walked that ‘memoir path’……378 pages of serious digging into my life through 2020. On the very first page of that story I said, “I want to know more about the ‘me’ I have become.” When I had finally completed that search I had the resulting book self-published, and ordered five copies, one for myself and each of our children. There will be no reason for any more copies. 

Based on that experience I learned that the process of reviewing my life…… the highs and the lows, one step at a time……while trying to understand what each step meant to me, was an empowering adventure. 

Most of us think of a memoir as something to be read by others……the few who may care enough to read our story. I am asking you to consider ‘your story’ as something by you,  for you…… opportunity for you to visit, and revisit, your life, one step at a time. Whether or not you ever ‘write’ that story, you may find that the time spent reviewing and reliving those ‘steps,’ outlining your own memoir, is the most productive part of the process.

With that in mind I have decided on what feels like an October Bold approach. What follows is Chapter One of the memoir I call In Retrospect…. My bumpy road to growing up, which explains my memoir logic about as well as I know how.


                           CHAPTER ONE

“An unexamined life is not worth living.”


“Only as we look back at the course our footprints have traced do we fully understand how we have read life’s inkblot.”

                    Huston Smith

                                   WHY TELL THIS STORY?

There are, of course, dozens of reasons to explore one’s life, and dozens of ways to approach that process. Beyond those matters of motivation and technique lies the most fundamental question of all. Why do I feel called to tell my story?

As I set out on this journey I have at least three reasons in mind. Chances are I will find others along the way. For now, however, I will be seeking to answer these questions. 

1) Why did I choose not to concentrate on the opportunities I was gifted as a young man? 

2) Why did I instead settle for my own ‘road less traveled.’ Making my way to a more satisfying destination? 

3) And, how was I lucky enough to win the lady who would put up with all my foolishness, while providing a helping hand in my search?

I want to know more about what made me the ‘me’ I have become. In the process I will be retelling and perhaps even reliving bits of my life in hopes of gaining insight. To be sure, this will be the most personal writing I have ever attempted. And most importantly, I am doing it to satisfy myself, no one else.

At eighty-three it is high time to face this life of mine head on and see where my thoughts take me. Hopefully I can confirm that satisfaction and fulfillment are not prizes to be found in the world of ‘things,’ but are instead products of soul-deep expectations we cultivate in the course of a lifetime.

I won’t pretend to address every detail of my long life. Instead I want to gather the recollections that stand out to me, whether or not their importance is obvious to a casual reader. It is that hopeful gathering of long-dormant memories and emotions that draws me toward telling my story. 

I know there are intuitions and aspirations, anxieties and injuries that inhabit the inner ‘me,’ like ghosts of times past. I want to know more about those invisible specters. What should they mean to me? How are they connected to the person I have become? How do those long-ago episodes, perhaps insignificant at the time, relate to the answers I am still seeking at this advanced stage of life?

Have you ever wondered how seemingly-minor, often-momentary events are able to create such lasting subconscious associations? You and I live daily with hopes and anxieties that confirm the significance of long-past events. 

Are those yearnings and apprehensions real? Are they the basis of a fruitful life? Or simply illusions, unsafe to lean on in the heat of life-stressing situations?And where do all those questions come from? 

More to the point, why is my octogenarian mind still seeking those answers? Surely, by this time of life I should have learned to live with my accumulated doubts and uncertainty. Why haven’t I created more satisfying answers by now? Seems that most people my age have managed that.

In the course of a lifetime all of us construct explanations that we rely on to create our ways of coping. Some of that logic may be shaky, barely able to hide the dysfunction it is meant to address. Some of it is more productive. I would like to know more about the ‘answers’ I have fashioned on my life journey. Which ones created real resolution? Which ones simply shielded me from the reality of unwelcome questions?

My search for personal answers, the strongest motivation of this exploration, may not make sense to anyone else. The drama and emotion of my seeking may be real only to me. Chances are an outsider will consider my questioning asides strange at best, occasionally humorous, and perhaps at times the work of a deranged mind.

For the most part my life answers have been adequate. They have allowed me to deal with the situations at hand, if not always well. Some questions that required an answer in an earlier time have ceased to be an issue for me. And, of course, there have been times when my answers were simply wrong and unproductive. 

Like you I have spent a lifetime trying to create satisfactory responses to life’s challenges. In the process I have reached the supposed calm and quiet of retirement……yet there are questions that still remain.

Will this telling of my story, help me find those answers? How can I know that at the beginning? Ask me again when we reach the end. In the meantime why not join me on the bumpy road to my Becoming.


There you have it, dear reader. Whether or not you ever create a memoir, I happen to think that the process of thinking through the chapters that make up your life is a worthwhile exercise. I invite you to consider that challenge.