Wednesday, April 26, 2023




                          (Originally Posted 2/2016)

When I revised my blog heading a few months ago I was not ready to delete the tagline …. “A Writer’s Blog.” You see, I call myself a writer because I write….in the same way you may call yourself a golfer because you play golf, or a painter because you paint. It’s what I do.

Of course, being a golfer doesn’t necessarily mean you play like Tiger. (Though that seems to be easier than it once was.) Being a painter doesn’t mean you paint like Michelangelo or Rockwell. 

And being a storyteller, the label I prefer for myself, doesn’t mean I have to write great literature. It means that I tell the stories I want to tell because that’s what I like to do. And as much as possible I’ve decided to spend my late-life doing the things I like to do.

So I’m a writer, and from the beginning, ten years ago, I have viewed these blog ramblings as a means to explore and explain some of the storylines I have woven into my Tanner Chronicles narratives. And since I tell the stories I want to tell, this blog has become a very personal thing. 

Of course, I understand that my stories and the ground they cover are not everyone’s cup of tea. So don’t feel like you’re the only one shaking your head.

Truth is, the most fortunate October/November folks remain in satisfying, time-tested relationships. For sixty-three years I was blessed to be one of those, and very glad of it. I hope that you too are one of those lucky ones. Yet we both know that too many of our senior  contemporaries, are not that fortunate. They are alone, and too often lonely. 

Before you start throwing things at me, let me be the first to admit that a great many, perhaps most, of those folks who are “alone,” are exactly where they choose to be. They have no need for, and no interest in, a new relationship. What they had, and have taken from that time, will carry them through just fine. They too are among the blessed, and I respect their feelings. 

But for others, the ones I depict in the Tanner Chronicles, the notion of facing their remaining years alone is not an attractive option. They want, even need, the affirmation and companionship of a new life partner. It is those “wanting” ones who are candidates for my stories.

As you might imagine, late-life relationships…. the ones I write about….are something different than the March and April connections we once pursued so eagerly. If you’re an “October or November” type you don’t need me to tell you that. 

To begin with, there is an obvious difference in hormonal levels….nature’s sneaky and very effective way of continuing the species. In addition there are new and different priorities at work the second (or third) time around….other considerations that have become primary. 

At first glance it may appear that those “seekers” are replaying earlier experiences….ones they first encountered as teenagers. Yet the reality of their latest wanting, what I half-jokingly refer to as their geriatric adolescence, is not at all like that first time. 

In most every way what they are seeking and the way they measure a prospective partner has changed. Appearance, status, income, even sex appeal, carry less weight this time around. 

It is the understanding and support of a caring companion that has become all important….the promise of undisguised affirmation….of someone who accepts them as the “special” person they are….who shows a willingness to help them face the uncertain future that awaits each of us. Chances are those ethereal elements will outweigh everything else.

A case in point. Johnny Blanton is one of my very favorite Tanner seniors. Fact is, he reminds me of someone I once knew rather well. True, some folks will find his laissez-faire life view a bit off-putting. Yet, given the person he is and the future he faces, his attitude strikes me as spot on. I suppose I even envy his willingness to accept the unvarnished truth of his sad situation.

In the following excerpt from Best Friends and Promises Johnny has left the hospital after his latest heart attack to move in with Jan Pierce, a lonely and very caring librarian. Truth to tell, Jan hardly qualifies as an old friend. The two of them first met less than twenty-four hours before Johnny’s latest heart scare. Yet, for reasons she scarcely understands herself, she has invited him to spend his recuperation with her.


By then Jan Pierce was struggling to make sense of the sudden and dramatic changes in her normally pedestrian life. At sixty-four, she had always thought of herself as stable, to the point of boring….given to cautious deliberation, cautious expectations, and cautious actions. An impulsive one-night affair was not her style, any more than inviting a man she scarcely knew to share her apartment. Why then was she feeling so comfortable, so committed to her unlikely choice?

Truth to tell, Jan was not accustomed to having a man in her life. She had not been a cute baby, and had never grown into that condition. From her perspective the only constant in her life had been weight, too much of it. 

She had never married. As far as she knew, no man had ever considered proposing. Over the years there had been a few casual liaisons, including one that lasted for several months, largely because she had been willing to settle for the minimal affirmation it offered. 

Then, just days before, in the course of a single night, a worn-out Johnny Blanton had accepted her caring as something special. Later, during his days in the ICU, as she waited to learn whether he would live or die, she had felt that caring grow.

Now, back in her apartment, Johnny was seated at the end of the sofa when Jan returned from work. He patted the cushion beside him and nodded for her to join him. 

“You know,” he said. “I really appreciate this….letting me stay here. I’m not sure what I can do to make all the trouble I’m causing worthwhile.”

“Just be yourself. That’s all,” Jan answered. Resting her hand on his knee she leaned against his shoulder. “We’re much too old to be playing silly games. I want you here. That’s enough reason for me. After all, it’s not like I’ve ever had men chasing after me.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“You should,” she nodded. “The thing is, from the first time we talked….about my scotch-on-the-rocks of all things….it was like I was visiting with an old friend. It just felt right. And too, I like being able to help. It’s been a long time since anyone needed my help.” 

“You’d better believe I need you and your help. And not just because I’m feeling so puny.”

Looking up into Johnny’s weary, deep-set eyes, Jan asked, “So tell me, Mr. Blanton. Why does this work for you?”

“Well," he said. "To begin with I’ve never been very good at being alone.” How blunt should he be? It seemed she deserved the truth. “But, at the same time, I’m not everyone’s idea of good company.”

“Why would that be?” she wondered out loud. “What’s not to appreciate? Is there something I should know about?”

“Oh my. How can I describe it?” Was there a polite way to explain, in words that would not be graphically offensive? 

“I’ve been called ‘undisciplined’ and a ‘free spirit.’ To some folks I’m a ‘loose cannon.’ And there have been other descriptions I don’t repeat in mixed company. Lots of that stuff is pretty negative, but I suppose it’s partly true. It's just that I’ve never cared much what people thought about me.

“But there’s another side to that,” Johnny continued, reaching for her hand. “The part I want you to know about. When I’m on your side I’m there one hundred percent, no matter what.

“That’s something you should know. I’ll be here for you in any way I can.” Pausing, there was a moment of quiet as he searched for a way to spell out his final point. “But there is something else.”

“What’s that?” 

For the first time Jan was witnessing what seemed to be Johnny’s blushing embarrassment.

“You may have noticed,” he said. “After our one night together, that I am no longer the youthful love-machine my mind tells me I once was.” There, was that subtle enough? Had he made his point?

Stifling her laugh, she poked playfully at his ribs. “Do you recall hearing any complaints?” 

“You were very kind not to bring that up. Actually, my situation has changed a bit since that first night. For the worse, I’m afraid.”

“Well, after a heart attack, I should think so.”

“When we were kids,” he continued. “We used to joke about wanting to die while we were making love. If we had to go, that sounded like the best time. Just so you know, that’s no longer my goal.” 

Squeezing her hand, he let her soft laughter wash over him, sensing that it was exactly the tonic he needed. “I just don’t want to misrepresent my reasons for moving in.”

With that Jan straighten up to wrap her fragile old man in a most affectionate hug. “Don’t you ever worry about that,” she whispered. “I want you here with me. You want to be here. What other reasons do we need?”

Johnny Blanton was weak and tired….there was no doubting that. Yet in the midst of his weariness he settled back in the sofa, soaking up the pleasant realization that he was wanted. That must surely mean he was exactly where he belonged.


And that, my friend, is precisely what each of us wants, isn’t it? Even this late in the game, in spite of the baggage we bring with us, we keep ploughing ahead in the face of existential quicksand that keeps getting deeper and hills that grow steeper. Yet all the while we want to believe that we are heading to a place “Where we belong.”

Chances are that place where we belong will look and feel different than any place we’ve ever been before. It may even include a new “someone.” In that case we will probably have to set aside our outdated “April” qualifiers and focus instead on the more-relevant “October and November” attributes that mark our path toward a different sort of experience.

By then our situation may even call for a modest dose of geriatric adolescence. In that case, I believe we could do worse than seek someone like a Jan Pierce or Johnny Blanton with whom to share our remaining years.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


                   KEEP  PEDALING

                    (Originally posted 8/2014)

These October Years posts of mine often deal with material taken from books….usually my own stories. It is, after all, a “Writer’s Blog.” This time, however, I’d like us to consider a book that is not mine. Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life is by Jane Marie Thibault and Richard L Morgan, and published by Upper Room Books. It was those authors and their book that started me down the path I am exploring here today.

As you might guess, given the publisher, the insights Thibault and Morgan offer have a religious slant. I know some folks are uncomfortable with that. Yet when we read or write about “the last third of life,” blog about “October & November Years,” or tell stories of Tanner seniors facing their own late-life trials I happen to believe that we are treading on ground strewn with spiritual implications.

The challenge for us October/November types, whether we consider it spiritual or not, is to move ahead in the face of a changing landscape. Think back for a moment. In one form or another you probably spent the middle third of your life, your own Jun, July, August, and September, looking ahead, focused on the future you hoped to create. For most of us that was a season of possibilities….nurturing a career and/or a family, doing our best to Become more tomorrow than we had been yesterday. 

Early on in their book Thibault and Morgan suggest a metaphor to help us put that busy time into context. They ask us to think of ourselves as having climbed a long hill….one that represents the first two-thirds of our life, from January through September….that time of “looking ahead.” In the course of our climb we were seeking expanded possibilities, while hoping for more and better rewards. It was, among other things, those mind pictures of future possibilities that kept us moving ahead, even when the going was hard.

Then at some point we reached the summit of that hill, where it seemed that we had climbed as high as we could go. From there we paused to look down the long slope on other side, towards what waited ahead ….the last third of our life, the time I call October and beyond. 

From our vantage point on the hilltop, October and beyond may have had the look of a dead-end decline….devoid of the affirmation, accomplishment, and recognition that had made midlife so hopeful and exciting. Looking down on the cloudy, sometimes forbidding landscape that lay ahead we perhaps longed for the sunny days of June and July, and mourned their passing….even as we dreaded what waited ahead.

By then the seductive dreams that had pulled us up the hill were probably fading a bit. As we stood there our first impulse may have been to take a deep breath and reluctantly prepare ourself for the not-so-seductive descent to the end.

Let’s pause for a moment right there, to expand the authors’ metaphor a bit. Remember those Tour de France cyclists you’ve watched on TV? Like them you have pedaled hard to reach the top of your hill, the one that represents the first two-thirds of your life. From there, as the saying goes, it’s all downhill. 

At first glance that “downhill” may have the feel of something to be endured, with little to look forward to. Having spent your entire life, up to then, on the exhilarating climb to the top, it might be tempting to simply accept the new and not-so-exhilarating future that seems to await you. In that case, why not just settle back and coast down the hill to the finish line?

As you can probably guess Thibault and Morgan recommend something more than “coasting to the finish line.” They write of a “pilgrimage,” a meaningful October/November journey. They speak of retirement and aging as a time of purpose…..a time to Keep Pedaling in an age-appropriate way. Truth to tell, their appeal sounds very much like the “making the most of late-life” that I write about.

I’ve made the point before. No matter how we label that time of life, it is not for sissies. It is literally a new life and lifestyle. We soon learn that the ways we dealt with life in June and July, the things that worked for us then, are probably not as effective, or even possible, in October and beyond.

You have read the numbers. In the last century science and medicine have added decades to our life expectancy. It wasn’t clean living that got me to 86. Fact is, the October of our life is arriving at an older age.

Our “October and beyond,” what the authors refer to as “last third of life,” is lasting longer. Twenty and thirty year retirements are common place today. The question for us has become….will we spend those years passively waiting for the finish line to come meet us? Or will we choose to use our remaining years in a more productive manner?

If you vote for “something more productive,” be aware that the best part of thriving in late-life is that we CAN choose the form of our thriving. On the other hand, the hardest part of thriving in October is that we alone MUST choose how we will thrive. No one else can do that for us. We have to make those choices ourselves. After a lifetime of having our choices dictated by career and/or family, the opportunity and the challenge of thriving in October rests squarely on our shoulders.

Having tread that path and descended that hill in the course of thirteen Tanner Chronicles stories, as well as my own life, I have some experience in the matter. Why else would I have posted Retirement - If it’s so easy why did I nearly flunk it? Still, I understand that some folks are not looking forward to that “pilgrimage”….their descent to the finish line. Many of us would rather not think about it. It is, however, as vital to completing the wholeness of life as our birth and maturing….and better by far than the alternative.

So, since the choices are yours to make, why not choose to thrive in your October and beyond? Instead of tilting your recliner back and coasting to the finish line, select one of the many paths leading down from that hilltop? Take the one, or ones, that offers the unique and satisfying “something” you seek.

This is not the time for unbridled ambition....seeking the ego-driven satisfaction of our earlier days. Instead we should be charting a conscious path that enables the love-infused soul we have been gifted.

That sort of seeking, of course, will not erase your late-life trials….the health, financial, or relational obstacles we all face. It may, however, soften those blows. So instead of coasting, choose an age-appropriate way that makes the most of your time, energy, and potential, and start pedaling. That sounds to me like a proper pilgrimage.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023




     (Originally posted nov, 2015)

So what is it that brings you here to this blog site? Is this a first-time visit, or do you belong to the club? I’m referring, of course, to the regular members of the blog-reading fraternity. (Or is it a sorority?) I’m not sure what our members are called. Are they blog junkies or blog groupies? 

Whatever we call ourselves, it feels to me as though we have stumbled onto a most engrossing, stimulating, and sometimes addictive diversion….a perfect retirement pastime. If following the blogs of your choice is not already a part of your routine perhaps you ought to consider it. 

Are there times when your present world is not big enough to suit you, or doesn’t take you to the places you would like to go? If so, latching onto a blog or two can be a fun and painless way to expand your horizons. How else could I have become a member of the Dull Men’s Club?

Anyway, if there is a chance that being a ‘bloggie’ might work for you let’s begin with the obvious….a working definition. Blog (noun) - a website on which an individual or group of users regularly record opinions, information, etc on a particular topic or range of topics.

However it may have happened, you managed to find this blog, and I thank you for that. But did you know that there is a blog, or blogs, for just about everything under the sun? The bloggers you read may be seasoned experts or overeager novices. But no matter what the subject, someone out there is offering their own opinions and information on the matter….as well as creating a dialog about it, 

Take any interest, hobby, habit, or obsession imaginable and you can be sure that any decent search engine can locate one or more blogs that deal with it. (If you are into current events, I stopped counting “Stormy Daniels” blog posts at something more than a dozen.)

‘Blog-following’ is, of course, an internet-enabled pastime….a bit like visiting with your neighbor over the back fence. Except in this case your “neighbor,” the one who wants to tell you or talk with you about a favorite subject, may live on the other side of the world. Chances are he or she will bring unique insights and ideas to the conversation ….something new for you to consider or explore. Best of all, you get to choose when to visit, whom you will visit with, and when to add your own input to the dialogue.

Perhaps you’re a “show me” sort of person. You know, someone who says “I’ll believe it when I see it.” If so, the test is oh-so-simple. No special computer skill is required. Just go to any search engine….enter a topic, any topic, on the ‘search line,’ then add the word “blog.” It’s hard to imagine a real-world subject that won’t produce multiple responses. Simply review the results of your search, choose a site that appeals to you, call it up and read. If you decide to join the online conversation you will be coached through that process.

At once you will find that you have stumbled onto a new kind of community, a virtual-village of folks who are excited by what excites you. For me that process began years ago when I logged on to an inconspicuous website called Hitch Itch, where I was introduced to the world of full-time RVing, something that interested me a great deal. (Sadly my wife did not subscribe to the romance of making a tin house on wheels our permanent home.) She preferred her own fan collecting and genealogy blogs.

Anyway, there on Hitch Itch dozens of folks were posting their blogs….proclaiming the virtues of living full time in an RV, sharing their travel experiences, and staying in touch with each other. Though I was usually a silent observer, I occasionally added my input to some ongoing dialogue. And all the while, on an irregular basis I followed the travels and trials of folks I’d never met, and likely never would. 

We had become new-age Pen Pals. (Remember those?) In the same way the blog you are reading right now allows, those blogging Pen Pals had invited the rest of us to join them on their own unique journey….while we learned a bit about who they were and what kept them going. It had the feel of an old-fashioned party-line, an intimate conversation posted for the whole world to read

As for myself, I have several reasons to be blogging. Now, in our eleventh year’ this October Years space is clearly labeled “a writer’s blog.” I use the format to explore, explain, and (gasp) promote my stories. Hopefully that is enough to keep people returning to these pages.

Personally, I enjoy resurrecting some story I wrote years before to ask again what I was trying to say, while judging how successful I was. I’m always working on a new story, looking for ways to make them better. Writing a blog helps me do that. If, at the same time, I nudge some blog reader towards reading one of my stories I’m okay with that.

Finally, whatever your reason for being on this page at this moment I hope you’ll return often, and tell your friends about it. As always, I’ll keep asking for your comments, though few of you have taken me up on that.

 In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out other blog topics that interest you. There is a whole world waiting out there, tens of thousands of conversations are going on at this very minute. Chances are there is one or more that you’d enjoy being part of. You have the computer and internet connection. (That’s how you’re reading this.) Why not visit Blogsville and see if one of those conversations ought to include you? 

Wednesday, April 5, 2023



  Mentors on our road to Becoming

 (Originally posted 8/2015)

It’s hard to beat a good example….a role model who can show us how to deal with the good times, and more particularly the hard times. 

It’s a fact, you know, the souls we choose to guide us, our “Mentors” if you will, help shape our life journey. If you are like me, a late-life traveler on the road to “Becoming,” you appreciate those souls who can model, by a life well-lived, just how fruitful October, November, and even December can be.

When I first posted this piece in 2015 I happened to choose a pair of then-contemporary examples to illustrate the point I wanted to make……the  differing impacts of a life well-lived versus a life that had become entangled in a maze of ego-driven side roads.....dreaming addicting dreams of being President, the 'one in charge.'

How could I have guessed all those years ago that on this very day, nearly eight years later, those same examples of a life-lived-well, and a life spent preening for the ego-satisfaction of public acceptance would still be so relevant?

In that light can you think of a more inspiring 2015 role-model than former President Jimmy Carter, ......deep in his 80’s, still building homes for those in need, teaching Sunday school, and smiling his quiet, confident smile in the face of a recent cancer diagnosis. Can there be any doubt that you are witnessing a strong faith at work? Perhaps late in his personal November he was still showing us how to make the most of our time and energy……illuminating new pathways to Becoming.

Take a moment to consider the lasting legacy he has created. Whatever you thought of the man’s politics, there is no denying that he has been a prime example of how to live a productive and eventful life after the “main event” has come and gone….proving once more that ‘Becoming’ is a life-long process. 

And today, 2023, even as his immediate future rests in the hands of a home-town Hospice team…..those angels who walk among us.....President Carter continues to illustrate an important truth. Even though he rose all the way to the top, he has made his late-life as important and meaningful in its own way as were his September and October.

Take a moment to think about your own life journey. If you’re like me you’ve been retired so long that it’s hard to remember when you weren’t. Yet chances are you can still recall the giddy moment when you finally reached the end of that work-a-day rainbow. 

Since then, if you are among the lucky ones, you have had the time and opportunity to pursue at least some of the dreams you dreamed on the way to your October and November. I hope it’s worked out that way for you. 

But what about our late-life peers who complain of having too much time on their hands. Listening to them grumble I wonder why they ran out of reasons to keep moving ahead before they ran out of time. More to the point, don’t they realize that in a world full of possibilities we never stop “Becoming”? We are always on the way to somewhere. In that case why not make the journey the most productive it can be?

It’s true, we will never be able to do everything we dreamed of back then. After all, our world has changed. Our expectations are different. We have new goals to strive for. Besides, our capabilities have probably retreated a bit, sometimes more than a bit. The old ways of doing things may no longer work. But there are still new ways that just might.

We have learned that when circumstances change our responses need to reflect our new reality. We must adapt. We have spent a lifetime using that logic in our career, our parenting, and our relationships. Surprise! It still applies in retirement ….one of the most important “change of circumstances” we will ever encounter. 

October and beyond is bound to be an unfamiliar world, with new rules and new challenges. If ever there was a time to trust our instincts and reach for the most inspiring role models we can find, this is it. 

I know there have been times when I’ve had to “adapt”……sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. I’ll bet you’ve been in that space too…. where the old ways were no longer as effective as they used to be, and better answers were hard to find. That happens at our stage of the game. I’ve probably spent more time than most people focusing on October and its challenges. In the course of twelve Tanner Chronicles novels I have explored a myriad of late-life speed bumps and their impact on October late life. 

My stories have dealt with loneliness and grieving, disability and dementia, depression and lost dreams……I have spent weeks at a time weaving those unsettling elements into a story. Along the way I have created friends that I consider October role models….who even in the worst of times trusted their instincts and never stopped Becoming.

I suppose I have always been drawn to the imagery of the “positive role model,” a label I gladly assign to President Carter and the life he has lived. On the other hand, the notion of “trusting our instincts” was an idea I had not explored until recently, when I read T. D. Jakes’ latest title……Instinct.

In the course of my blogging I have sometimes made a big deal of “change.” It is, after all, an important part of our October and beyond. So I was taken by Mr. Jakes’ way of addressing change….at any time of life, including retirement. The change he writes about is not an “off-the-shelf,” “one-size-fits-all” process. 

Instead, he stresses the uniquely personal nature of change. For it to be successful it must deal with the individual….focusing on his or her history, preferences, expectations, and perhaps most surprisingly….his or her instincts. All that, of course, requires serious self-examination, something most of us resist. Yet, without an understanding of what makes us the person we are, how can we expect to create effective change?

I realize that for some T D Jakes’ reputation will precede him. He is, after all, a highly successful mega-church pastor who often writes on Christian topics. For some that may be a red flag. 

My take on such concerns is pretty simple. If you disagree with Jakes’ treatment of change, and the role ‘instinct’ plays in that process, I assure you it won’t be because he has turned his case into a religious rant. There is nothing remotely approaching a sermon in the whole book….just his straight-forward explanation of the many ways our instincts impact change, or the lack of change in our lives.

Those of us who reside in a late-life world know the truth of it, change happens at every stage of life….no thing and no one stays the same. Our choice in the matter is rather simple….we can choose to play a part in directing our own change, or simply sit on the sidelines and accept whatever change comes our way. 

Perhaps you have decided to have a voice in the change the impacts your life, but are wondering whose advice to follow to make that happen. All those years ago, back in 2015, I cited a counter-example to Jimmy Carter’s caring instinct in the form of a yet-to-be-elected politician who had recently announced his candidacy for the US Presidency. My actual words in that post were   ……..

“Should you model your response to change on The Donald….on the juvenile “It’s all about me” ravings of a geriatric egomaniac? Or should you instead follow the quiet counsel of an aging Georgia peanut farmer?” 

Remarkably today, eight years later, it seems to me that question still resonates. It would be hard to find two more opposite role models. While Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school and visits with his hospice nurse, former President Trump deals with a raft of legal and ethical issues.

Personally I am swayed by Jimmy Carter’s example, and T D Jakes’ reasons for relying on my own instincts, along with my old friend Wayne Dyer’s thoughts on the power of intention….all of which urge me to continue my Becoming, building on my role as co-author of my own story. 

In the end the choice is ours to make, dictated by our own soul prodding…..our instincts. And at the same time remember that our choices, and the way we live them out, are apt to influence those whose lives we impact, who like us are looking for guidance in the process of Becoming.