Have I Become a Person-of-Age Fogey?

rogerCap     Dsc_2064

Should I go to the costume ball as a contemporary someone who’s lost his cool head
or as a committed contemporary reader
who ought to be committed?

I received email a few days ago about a writers’ conference I’ll be attending in late May. They’re planning a new event this year.

It involves dressing in a costume from one’s genre, wearing it to supper, and then parading around for everyone to gawk at. Sounds like great fun for the ladies. Especially those who write historical fiction and would have to bring two extra suitcases to fit one of those old timey dresses in.

If I wrote fantasy—super hero type, that is—couldn’t you just picture me in a cape, t-shirt, and tights—or whatever? I sure hope not!

If I wrote police stories, I’d have to go as a plain clothes cop. No way would I want to get arrested for impersonating a uniformed policeman, even if I could get hold of a uniform.

If I wrote military adventure, maybe I could borrow a Uzi from somebody. A lot of folks at my church—men and women—own and use firearms. Somebody might have one.

Or a tank. I’m sure dragging that behind my car for 400 miles would do great things for my gas mileage. And cause no telling how many accidents among drivers who started staring instead of looking where they were going.

The problem is I write Young Adult fiction…contemporary. And contemporary fiction for adults. What if I just wore what I’d been wearing all day? I couldn’t get more contemporary than that.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I think the costume idea is silly. I just wish one of the other guys on the loop would speak up and say he thinks it’s a tad, uh, unmasculine.

Am I becoming a person-of-age fogey, I wonder? (I’m not old enough to be an “old fogey.”)

I had my day of enjoying costumes. Mostly during childhood. Early childhood.

But I proved my daring beyond everyone’s expectations when I went to a minimum of three different Halloween parties—all during my adult years—wearing a sheet folded as a diaper and held together by huge safety pins. Yes, I did wear something underneath, and no, I didn’t go topless.

But I did carry around a baby bottle of milk, which I occasionally took a sip of. And drag a comfort blanket on the floor behind me. And suck on my thumb from time to time.

Fun? Extremely. Funny? Absolutely. Daring? Extremely.

But would I do that again now? Hmm. One of my unpublished manuscripts is about a couple of teens who pretend she’s pregnant to try to end their fathers’ feud. I could be their imaginary baby.

Maybe my nerve would impress the publishers at the conference and make them take me and my writing more seriously. Yes, that was most definitely supposed to be a joke.

But back to the question of whether I qualify as a person-of-age fogey because of how I feel about the costume idea. I may only be sixty-seven, but don’t I deserve to hold on to what little of my dignity is left?

Okay, guys (and ladies, too)…what would YOU do?

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Crosses–More than Jewelry

myCross     crossKathleenHappy     myDove

For many years I enjoyed making wooden crosses and doves by hand. I quit making them a few years ago, just as I quit making walking sticks. The effort was just too hard on my hands.

After drawing a rough shape on a ½” thick piece of wood, I cut as close to the design with a coping saw as I could. Before I did further shaping, I drilled a hole for the leather lace to go through; that way, if the wood cracked or I messed up the hole, I didn’t waste time doing more.

Next, I used very coarse sandpaper to get rid of the excess, which could take anywhere from one to two hours. The final shape was never the same.

I smoothed it with fine sandpaper. Sometimes I finished my project with a coat of polyurethane—I did that for all of the doves—but sometimes I rubbed my own skin oils into the wood of the crosses. That sounds a little weird, but it gave the crosses a unique finish.

I usually gave the cross or dove to somebody who had admired the ones I wore.

My wife has been wearing the same cross for more than ten years. Only rarely does she wear another necklace rather than the wooden one that means so much to her.

That brings up an important point. There’s no telling how many people wear cross jewelry simply because they like it—without necessarily being Christians or having any understanding of the significance of a cross.

To those people, I sing part of this song I wrote in 1999:

I wear this cross upon my neck to tell how God loves me.
I wear this cross upon my neck to show I love Him, too.
I wear this cross upon my neck to say that God loves you,
For His Son rose from death to give us life
When we trust in Him.

Have a blessed Easter.

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”—check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Small World?

If you didn’t like my post about Stan Kesler on Sunday, you’ll probably want to pass on this post. But if you like this one and missed the one about Stan, you’ll definitely want to go back and read it. (That’s the one about “My Favorite In-Law-In-Law”.)

Some years ago I worked—but not closely—with a lady in another department. Her name was Sharon.

I’ll never forget the story I heard her tell.

Sharon was living in Memphis and working as a babysitter for a song writer. She didn’t say who.

One evening she’d come over to babysit. While the song writer was getting ready to go out, somebody rang the doorbell, and Sharon went to answer the door.

Can you imagine her shock when she realized Elvis was standing on the other side of the door? He was dressed in all black with the collar of his shirt flipped up and hair in his eyes.  He’d come to pick up some music .  She made him stand on the front porch while she called her employer to verify that and to get her senses back.  Elvis was so impressed that she’d made him stay on the porch that he invited her to dinner at Graceland.  She was picked up in a pink Cadillac.  After dinner, they looked at photo albums in the music room.

What a special memory.

When I first heard that story, I didn’t hear  the details. But when I met Stan Kesler, I couldn’t help thinking about that story. It never occurred to me that he might have been that song writer, and I didn’t think to ask him. That would have made for a very small world, wouldn’t it?

Today I received confirmation that Stan Kesler, my favorite in-law-in-law, WAS that song writer.

Now I truly believe in this being a small world–and not just because of the Internet.

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Do you have a favorite “small world” story? We’d love to hear it. Just leave a comment.

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

My Favorite In-Law-In-Law

RogerStan    newspaperStan    IMG_2537

When a guy gets married—I suppose this is true for women as well—he doesn’t necessarily know as much about the family he’s marrying into as he thinks he does.

No, this isn’t a negative story about my in-laws. I love and respect my mother-in-law and father-in-law as if they were my own parents—most of the time, anyhow—and Kathleen’s brothers and their families are pretty cool characters, too. No complaints.

But the family member I didn’t expect to become interested in is one step removed from being my in-law. That’s why I’m referring to him as an in-law-in-law. He’s the father of one of my wife’s sister-in-laws.

Before I tell you about him, I need to explain something. I’ve met a few well-known people in my life. I shook Spiro Agnew’s hand before he became vice president and got into so much trouble. I shook Paul Ryan’s hand, too, and commend him for not getting into any trouble after not becoming vice president.

But entertainers are higher on my interest list than politicians. One of my favorite people is a comedian and actor named Torry Martin. You’ve never heard of him? Hang on. You probably will eventually. I know him ever so slightly, although I’m not sure whether he knows he knows me or not.

Anyhow, famous people fascinate me.

And the most fascinating famous person I’ve ever met turned out to be that in-law-in-law you’ve been wondering if I’d ever get around to finishing my story about. Especially since he’s not famous in the usual way.

Drum roll, please. Let me introduce you to Stan Kesler. Google him, and you’ll find out far more than I can tell you in a single post. And go visit Sun Studios in Memphis if you want to get a real feel for his accomplishments.

He wrote or co-authored some of Elvis’s earliest hits, including his first gold record, “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” At least one of Stan’s gold records is on display at Graceland. He has two more at home.

Even though I lost interest in Elvis when he started doing movies, Stan’s accomplishments fascinate me. The fact that he engineered a couple of Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs’ records is pretty interesting, too—even though I couldn’t stand “Woolly Bully.”

And he played bass on one of Jerry Lee Lewis’s hits—a song I actually used to own a 45 rpm recording of. Sure, they mixed the bass so low in the recording you can barely hear it, but it’s there nonetheless.

I met Stan at a special anniversary celebration for my parents-in-law. Didn’t really get to talk to him much then. Just enough to know I really wanted to talk to him more. Especially since he’s an older fellow and in poor health.

My mom-in-law was kind enough to invite him for lunch one time when Kathleen and I came to Memphis for a visit. I shared a few of my original songs with him. Despite his deafness—or maybe because of it—he said I played better than some of the guitarists he’d worked with over the years. My! Somebody grab my feet and bring me down to earth again.

I doubt that I’ll ever get to visit with Stan again. Not in this life, anyhow. But I’ll never forget him—or quit talking about him. Who wants to talk about Spiro Agnew or Paul Ryan when he can talk about Stan Kesler?

By the way, there’s a great article about Stan in a recent edition of Memphis’s Commercial Appeal newspaper. One of the pictures at the top of this post is of the beginning section.

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Who’s the best-known person you’ve ever met? Leave a comment and let us know, please.

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

Too Old to Give in to Ego

 BookShelf     sampleEdit

It’s a good thing I didn’t decide to become a novelist until I was in my late fifties. My ego couldn’t have taken it.

Of course, I don’t think I could have become one much sooner anyhow. Although I’d always wanted to write a novel—who hasn’t?—I’d never had the time and I’d never come up with a novel-worthy idea.

So much of what I put into my novels has resulted from whatever wisdom—well, whatever experience, anyhow—I’ve gained over the years.

The advice to write what you know about isn’t always valid, but it has been for me. As a Christian, a Preacher’s Kid, a happily married man (following an unhappy marriage), an amateur musician and song writer, and an all-around nice guy—all of those things have enabled me to write the books I write.

And it’s taken many years for those factors to meld into meaningful stories that have me in them, yet aren’t really about me at all. Maybe I’ll explain that someday in another post.

If I’d started writing novels twenty or twenty-five years ago, I would’ve still been so much under the influence of my former favorite author, James Michener, that I couldn’t have made the transition to the contemporary way of writing novels.

That means—among other things—no purple prose (it even sounds nasty, doesn’t it?). No starting with page after page of unnecessary backstory and setting. No writing so beautifully that it distracts the reader. And no compulsion to follow the rules of grammar. Of even the rules of writing, which seem to fluctuate—or at least to vary according to the expert being consulted.

If you recall how I began this post, I have to commend you for your patience. The one thing I haven’t mentioned since the first paragraph is ego.

I spent various parts of my life thinking of myself as a success. And other parts considering myself a failure. Now, in retirement, none of that matters very much.

Yes, I’m quite pleased that my first book, Found in Translation, sold 5,000 copies (the other 5,000 copies were remaindered off) and the second, Lost in Dreams, half that number.

But I could easily look at the hundreds of thousands of books my author friends have sold and feel insignificant. Fortunately, I put my writing in God’s hands, and I count on Him for the results He wants. I’m not sure I could have done that when I was younger.

Right now I’m experiencing what could have been an ego blow—if I’d let it. I’m reviewing the edits to one of my manuscripts made by the professional editor my current publisher has assigned it to. She is GOOD!

But what helps is that I’m open to her suggestions. Instead of feeling that she’s “plucking the pedal off my rose,” to use a quote from poet T. S. Elliott, I recognize that there’s a huge difference between my being a creative novelist and my insisting on having the final word on what will make my book the best it can be.

Out of the dozens of suggestions she’s made, especially regarding what to delete to bring the book down to a reasonable length (from 100,000 words to 80,000 or less), I have only insisted on keeping one very brief section she wanted to delete. But I knew how that section affected the story later, whereas she hadn’t gotten far enough to realize that. She won’t object.

Furthermore, she’s been so good about pointing out various things she REALLY likes. Amazing how far a positive attitude goes, isn’t it?

So her suggestions don’t come across as blows to my ego. I hope she’ll be my editor again in future ventures.

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”find it here-to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger

 

My Changing Taste in Music

loudMusic     headphones

A few years ago—or has it been ten or fifteen now?—I read an article on the C.F. Martin guitar company’s website claiming that many of today’s baby boomers have lost all interest in loud, electrically enhanced music. They seem to prefer quiet, mostly acoustical music. The kind more commonly associated with Martin guitars, as a matter of fact.

The article made sense. Because I’d paid good money for CDs of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Jimi Hendrix, I force myself to listen to them once every couple of years. If I remember to, that is.

Forty-some years ago I spent hours and hours listening to artists like those—under headphones with the volume cranked up dangerously loud. I didn’t need illegal drugs to enjoy that kind of music. And I didn’t have to roll up the car windows because the music from the next car over at the traffic light was giving me a headache.

But those days are gone. Along with some of my hearing.

I started playing guitar during the “folk fad” of the 1960s and early 1970s, and I’ve never lost my admiration for the acoustical musicianship of the Kingston Trio, Ian & Sylvia, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and dozens of similar artists who didn’t deafen me with unnecessary volume.

I haven’t lost all of my interest in rock, but I never listen to the radio anymore. I couldn’t tell you what singers are popular now or what song is currently number one.

But let me listen to the Everly Brothers or Bread or The Association, and I’m more than satisfied. Even folk rockers like The Byrds continue to appeal to me. And what about the wonderful story tellers-in-song like Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, and Gordon Lightfoot? Their songs from “back then” are still just as enjoyable today.

I also listen to some of the country songs I used to enjoy. John Michael Montgomery, Ronnie Milsap, early Olivia Newton-John. Songs I could understand the words to. Words that made sense. Uh, usually, anyhow.

Has advancing age turned me into a retro fan? Or have I always been one? I don’t care. I like what I like, and I don’t have to justify it to anyone.

What about you? Has your taste in music changed? If so, how?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here–to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Look at the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

 

I See

cataractBefore     cataractAfter

Dr. Everhart smiled after examining my eyes. “Mr. Bruner, have you noticed your vision getting more blurred?”

I wrinkled my brow. “Not overly. But if I hadn’t felt I needed new glasses, I wouldn’t have come to see you.”

She nodded. “Have you noticed little flecks crossing your field of vision?”

“Now that you mention it, yes. My left eye only, though. I’ve almost reached the point of ignoring them, but they really bothered me at first. It’s like watching a tiny insect crawl across my glasses. In fact, that’s what I thought it was at first.”

She continued in a sympathetic tone. “I’m not surprised. Your left eye needs cataract surgery. Your right eye will need it eventually.”

I felt my mouth fall open. “What? Cataract surgery? Surely you’re kidding. I’m just in my lower sixties. Cataracts are a problem OLD people have.” I wasn’t about to admit I was feeling more like an old person with every passing day, and I’m sure my vision contributed to that feeling.

She patted me on the shoulder. “Not restricted to old people at all.”

Hmm. Then why was her waiting room full of only old people. People a lot older than me, that is.

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While that dialogue is partially fictitious, my need for cataract surgery in my early sixties wasn’t.

I knew that cataract surgery was such an established routine that I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Dr. Everhart was not only a sweetheart of a lady, but a well-established eye surgeon.

I won’t bore you with the details, but the front office scheduled me a few days later to be fitted—probably not the correct word—for my replacement lens. Other than having my eye dilated once more, that was no problem. I was scheduled for the procedure itself for several weeks later.

I awaited that day with a combination of confidence and terror. I prayed a lot for God to replace all of the terror with confidence, and I believe He did—to whatever degree I was willing to trust Him.

The big day came. Kathleen had to be there to drive me home, and we had to be there at the break of day. The outpatient surgical unit liked to get Dr. Everhart’s first few patients ready early so she could move through them quickly. Great idea…except it meant an hour or two of waiting and wondering.

Reading wasn’t really an option. Not with those drops they kept putting more of in my left eye. I almost fell asleep a couple of times, but I was in a busy area. Between receiving more drops, having a visit from the anesthesiologist, and who knows what else, sleep wasn’t practical.

The time came. A couple of nurses rolled me to the operating room. I didn’t receive general anesthesia, but was sedated enough not to give Dr. Everhart any problems.

During the actual surgery, I heard her and her assistant talking, but that’s all I was conscious of. A short time later, I was in the recovery area, where I spent maybe fifteen minutes.

Dr. Everhart checked on me before letting Kathleen drive me home and gave me a bag of “stuff,” including three types of drops I would have to use four times daily until I’d used them all up and a high power set of sunglasses that would fit over my regular glasses. I wore a patch home, which I was permitted to take off at noon; I had to wear that at night for a week.

I had a checkup call from Dr. Everhart that evening and went in for a quick followup visit the next morning. From that point on, I was permitted to drive again. I made an appointment for a regular eye exam for those new glasses I’d expected to get a month or two earlier.

I could see again. Quite well. Maybe it didn’t matter whether the thought of cataract surgery had made me feel older originally.

So, when I learned the right eye needed it now—this was about a month ago—I shrugged. Okay. Let’s get it done. I’m thankful to say I didn’t experience any apprehension this time, and everything went just as smoothly.

In some areas, I suppose I’m aging more gracefully than in others.

What about you? Have you experienced health problems that weren’t super-serious, but made you feel a little older?

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. On “As I Come Singing” I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve already posted all of my songs, I revise and re-post a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.
Best regards,
Roger