Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Married couples also need space

Married couples also need space - by Tom Blake 2013

Last week, two couples in their 70s had lunch at Tutor and Spunky's, my Dana Point, California deli. They appeared to be having a good time and enjoying themselves. When they left, one of the men lagged behind and said, "Don't you write that dating column?" I smiled and said yes.

He said he had been married 40 years and had retired a year ago. He said he didn't properly prepare for retirement and was around the house nearly all of the time. "My wife and I are driving each other crazy," he said.

And then he added, "I've got to do something that will get me out of house."

I said, "That would be a good idea. You wouldn't want to jeopardize the marriage after all of these years."

His wife poked her head back in the door and said sternly, "Harry, we're waiting for you, let's go." He looked at me and said, "See what I mean, even that bugs me."

Not an hour later, another older gentleman named Tom said, "I like reading your dating column in the newspaper, even though I've been married to my Julie for 50 years. I've been retired 20 years. Our marriage is the best it's ever been."

I said, "Tom, how do you and Julie keep your relationship so fresh?" I told him about the comments Harry had made an hour before.

Tom said that he and Julie are both very involved in outside activities. He volunteers at the Cabrillo Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano and at Habitat For Humanity. Julie volunteers at their church and is an avid quilter.

Tom said, "For a marriage to last, there are times when you need space, to be away from each other. There is nothing negative about that."

Tom's comment made me think about couples who meet later in life and say to me they either want to be or are together 24/7. That makes me shudder. That's just not going to work. They are going to smother each other and then part ways. Everybody needs space, particularly as we get older.

Carol wrote, "Every self-help book written tells us to have a life of our own, and I thank the heavens I have followed this advice."

Yvonne shed light on why married couples may be together at home so much:  

"Fewer people attend church or temple. Fewer people socialize in other ways, like the old bowling leagues of the 1950s, for instance. Fewer people even go out to go to the movies, instead preferring to watch at home on DVD. Our homes have become so comfortable that people venture out less than they used to. If we're retired, we may not be out and about in the world as much as we were when we were still working."

There is a pretty simple lesson in today's newsletter that applies to all couples--married or otherwise, and to single people as well. To be an interesting person, each person needs to have individual interests that keep them occupied. We've all got to take a break away from each other on a regular basis, and then, when we do spend time together,  we will appreciate each other more.

Space can be nearly as precious to a relationship as time spent together.

Why dating after 50 is difficult

Why dating after 50 is difficult

About 14 years ago, I was sitting in a chair on the set of the Today show, at the NBC studios in New York City, waiting for Matt Lauer to appear to interview me. Out the window, I could see a few hundred people in Rockefeller Center, waiving signs and placards. I was nervous; the show was being broadcast across the country.

When Matt sat down across from me, he said, "Why is dating after 50 so difficult?"

I smiled, hesitated and said, "Some of us haven't had a date in 30 years. We're out of practice."

Of course, there were a lot more answers to Matt's question than that one. But I had been briefed by the show's producers to keep my answers short and to follow Matt's leads.

During the course of the four-minute interview, I attempted to provide the five main reasons that make dating after 50 so difficult. After the Today show appearance, I published a book titled, "Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do.' Chapter One answers Matt Lauer's question.
People often contact me now with the same "Why is dating difficult" question, but they tack on to it, "after ages 60, 70 and beyond."

I referred to Chapter One of the book to prepare today's newsletter, with a little updating of course, to reflect the added years. Now, dating later in life is even more difficult. Here's why:

1.  We aren't prepared

After a long-term marriage or relationship, perhaps 30+ years, our spouse or significant other is gone. We had been preparing to spend our retirement years together. We had not been preparing to date again. But now, that's what we're faced with, and we don't know how to begin, where to go, or what to do. It's perplexing, daunting and scary.

2.  There aren't places to go where there are relatively even numbers of single men and women in our age range

One night a month, Tutor and Spunky's, my Dana Point, California, deli, sponsors a Meet and Greet gathering for singles age 50+ and beyond, in some cases far beyond (my good friend Dave is 92, and met a new love there and is very happy). The ratio is often four or five to one, women to men. Some new women walk in, see the excess of women, and start complaining about the lack of men. But the attendance at our event isn't much different than similar events held across the country. There just aren't places to go where the ratios are more favorable.

3. More on the dreaded ratio of women-to-men
It is a fact of life, according to the census statistics, that as we hit 60 and 70, the number of available single men decreases significantly. What can women do to overcome the lack of single men?

The best answer I've ever heard to that question came from Dr. Ruth Westheimer at an AARP convention. She said, "The ratio is a fact of life, you can't change it. However, if you put your mine to having a nice appearance, and an openness to meeting new people, and a willingness to do social things, and you're positive, you can effectively reduce the ratio."
Then she added, "Commit to having a good life, with or without a man."

4. We've aged

On the above mentioned Today show, I explained to Matt that age made dating more difficult compared to our younger years. That was 14+ years ago. Now, age is even more of a factor.  Hell, we don't have the energy we had before--and dating takes energy (and time and money). We've added wrinkles and wear and tear to our bodies. Last week, I was watching the Today show. Matt Lauer has aged just like the rest of us.

Some older singles go to bed early. The last thing they want is to be out on a date at 9 p.m. seeking love. For many, it's easier and less complicated to be curled up and reading a book at home. They may have to change their sleeping patterns or schedule their dates during the day if they choose to keep dating.

5. Compatibility--difficult to find

Robin, a friend of mine, said, "I'm finding it difficult to meet someone who doesn't have a lot of insecurities and fears in their later years. I can't seem to reassure them that I am not after their money or possessions. It's so frustrating."

As we age, we are more set in our ways. We know what we want and what works for us. We're not going to accept someone to share our life who doesn't measure up. The pool of available compatible people shrinks with each passing year.

So, yes, dating after 50, 60, and 70+ is difficult. But not impossible. At the deli Meet and Greets, one of the reasons there are so few men is that women keep capturing them and taking them away. These men tend not to come back. Why? I've asked some of them that I've seen at Costco or the hardware store.

"My new partner doesn't want me to attend anymore," is usually the gist of what they say. I wink at them and add, "Perhaps she's afraid you'll meet someone else." They smile and give me a thumbs up.

But, don't let the dreaded ratio or your age stop you from getting out and about. There's a lot of life to live--with or without a man. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Major developments in 2 missing persons cases

Major Developments in 2 missing persons cases

For nearly four years, there having been two, unrelated, cases of missing persons that have affected me. One--the McStay family case--was pretty close to home and personal. The other, the disappearance of Dana Point, California, yacht broker Ed Fitzgerald, with an estimated three million dollars of  money belonging to others, was more of a business-related situation, albeit one that indirectly involved me.

Both of these cases I wrote about in this newsletter--separately--between three and four years ago. There were many times during the four years when I wondered if the missing people in either case would ever be located. Now, they all have been found.

When national media outlets broke the grim news last Friday about finding the remains of the missing McStay family, many Champs contacted me, expressing condolences, which I appreciated. I promised them that I would provide updates on both cases today.

Last Friday was a difficult day for the thousands of people around the world who have followed the story of the missing McStay family, primarily on the Find the McStay family facebook page and the website. For me, it's difficult to express my thoughts on this case. But, if someone who knows someone who knows anything about what happened to the McStays, it could lead to finding the killers. 

In the late 1980s, and early 1990s, I helped raise two stepsons--Joey and Mikey McStay. Their mother Susan and I were married for six years.

On February 4, 2010, Joey, his wife Summer, and their two children, ages 4 and 3, disappeared from their North San Diego County home. They left food on the table, their beloved dogs behind, and $80,000 in the bank, so it didn't appear they left voluntarily.

However, four days later their car was found parked in a shopping center near the Mexican border. People speculated that they had left on their own. After almost three years of investigating the case, the San Diego Sheriff's department decided that's what had happened and dropped the investigation--they felt it was strictly a missing persons case.

National media featured the disappearance, including America's Most Wanted and other national shows. I wrote about the case, hoping someone might have seen the family of four.

Almost every day since, I kept hoping that I would hear the news or Joey would call me saying they were safe.  

Last Thursday night, I received a phone call from Mikey; I could tell by the sound of his voice that the news wasn't good. He said, "They're all gone." I couldn't process his words. I kept asking, "Are you sure?"

Earlier in the week, an off-road motorcyclist had noticed human bones in the San Bernardino desert near Victorville, California. He notified authorities, who found the McStay family remains in two shallow graves.

A press conference was held last Friday morning at the San Bernardino sheriff's office. The conference was broadcast across the nation. To see my former wife, Susan, and her son, Mikey, in such a state of grief tore my heart apart.

I muddled through the rest of the day unable to process the news, unable to comprehend such a terrible act. It seemed every time I turned on the radio, or the TV, or the Internet, the news regarding the discovery of the McStay family remains was featured.

Reality struck Friday at about 3:30 p.m. for me. I was pulling into a shopping center in Dana Point to have my cell phone inspected at the A.T.& T store there. On radio station KNX, Los Angeles, Scott Pelley of the CBS national evening TV news was doing a promo for his show that night. The entire two minutes was devoted to the McStay family. I thought to myself, "Oh my God, I was in this shopping center at least 25 times with Joey when we lived together." It was surreal.

Yes, I have spoken to Susan. She said, "I am numb. I never imagined this outcome. I never gave up hope. Now, there's a new focus on the case." She's a brave woman.

The case is now being investigated as a homicide by the San Bernardino sheriff and the FBI. Let's hope whoever murdered this family is brought to justice.

Missing persons case #2

Of much lesser importance to me, is the case of former yacht broker Ed Fitzgerald. He was arrested six months ago in Florida. He's been in an Orange County, California, jail since. On Tuesday, I attended the first pre-trial hearing at the courthouse in Newport Beach.

He was a deli customer of mine. When he disappeared in July, 2009, he left a trail of broken dreams and wallets. It was alleged that he owed nearly $3 million to friends and associates, many of whom I know. As a local columnist, I felt it was my duty to write an ebook about his disappearance.Dana Point Yacht Ponzi. The Ed Fitzgerald Scandal Fitzgerald Scandal.

Tuesday, when I met the prosecuting deputy District Attorney, he said, "I read your book."

From the sounds of the testimony from the first few victims, I would speculate that he will be sentenced to several years in prison.

It is ironic that after nearly four years, both of these cases are coming to a close, and had major milestones within a week of each other.