Thursday, May 30, 2024


  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 finally 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. 

This also strikes me as an appropriate time to note that in the course of telling all the stories mentioned in the following post Roma, my life-long sidekick, was along for every step of the way. She read and reread every paragraph, provided her English-teacher editing help, and an ongoing, no-nonsense running commentary of what sounded real to her, and what did not.

I guessing there were moments when my narrative upset her, or at least had her wondering. Still, she was always open and honest with her critiques, and the stories are certainly better for that. With that, I offer this bit of late-life history.



Today I am ready to venture down a familiar, though sometimes 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 them 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’ve always been 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 years, those storytelling urges were concentrated on sports writing for the school paper, and in college for the Portland Oregonian. Later, in 1970, when our family 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 a year later, 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….after a year abroad 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. 

Then in 2005, seven years into retirement, It seemed 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 understood 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 overtaken by 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’ stories.

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 that is rightly 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. 

Which brings me to a 'Time Out’….A DISCLAIMER, if you will. I realize that not everyone needs ‘another relationship’ to feel complete. Many of us are ‘whole and complete’ with what life has gifted us the first time around. We are not looking for more. As you might imagine, however, that approach would not serve the stories 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. 

(A click on the highlighted title below will take you to the Amazon recap of that story. To return to the blog post from the Amazon page simply click on the return arrow in the upper left corner of the screen.)

***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 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 again, months after her stroke, he scarcely recognizes the woman she has become. She looks different, her speech is hard to understand, and she needs a walker to get around. Yet wonder of wonders, she seems to like him. 

***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.

***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 with him, but the love and companionship she has always represented are now out of reach. 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.

***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 an 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?

***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. The shape of those dreams has changed, but they are still alive and well.


***In Conversations With Sarah Hank Rolland is widowed, looking for answers, and still relying on his departed Sarah for direction. When he finally realizes that he has been looking in the wrong places he retreats all the way to the  wild Mendocino headlands. There, in the shelter of a knarly Alpha Tree, he is finally able to make sense of the future Sarah had envisioned for him all along .

*** 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 stumbled toward the hopeful possibilities of ‘one-more-time.’


At every turn Tanner’s 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. Beyond that, I happen to think those folks are worth getting to know. I hope you’ll take time to check them out.

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