Friday, November 21, 2014

Bread Cast Upon the Waters

On Life and Love After 60 Newsletter

By Thomas P. Blake   November 21, 2014

Bread cast upon the waters

I am constantly reminded of the geographical diversity of where are Champs live. They reside all over the USA, Canada and in many foreign countries.

While this newsletter focuses on life and love issues for people age 50-plus, it reaches people in their 30s and 40s as well who want to learn from the experiences our Champs willingly share with us.

In response to my 75th birthday column last week, Craig from Ohio wrote, “I have enjoyed your column for the past several years; ever since my wife of 28 years decided she did not want to be married anymore.

“In November, 2010, I went through open-heart surgery and she walked out of our marriage. I had a good friend who either called me or texted me every day for six months. He saved my life, along with a counselor I saw for about a year.”

I responded to Craig, “My wife left 21 years ago on Christmas Eve with no prior notice. As it turned out, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. That may become your experience as well. Are you dating and meeting women?”

Craig said, “I have lived in Ohio my entire life. When I was a senior in college in 1976, I started dating Debbie from my hometown who was attending the same college as I. Although our families attended the same church, I never really noticed her or spoke to her until we both became students at that college.

“We dated on and off for several years, but, ultimately, we each married someone else a week apart in 1984. We raised families while living a few blocks from each other. She has two adult children and I have three.

“In August, 2012, Debbie’s husband died in an automobile accident. Shortly after this tragedy, in an effort to pay it forward like my friend had done for me following my divorce, I began sending weekly texts to Debbie that were notable quotes on grief, hope, faith, etc. Aside from my visit to the funeral home following his death, we never spoke to each other until mid-summer of 2013 when Debbie began to text me.

“We had our “first” date on August 30, 2013. I continue to send weekly texts to her even though we are seeing each other.”

Craig is a lawyer, still working, and Debbie is a retired school teacher, after teaching 33 years.

Craig said, “This September, we took an Alaskan cruise and followed it up a couple of weeks later with a trip to Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We still live just a couple of blocks from each other.”

Being the prying journalist who tries to present questions the readers are curious about, I asked if Craig and Debbie planned to always live separately.

Craig said, “I can walk from my home to hers in about five minutes, and drive it in a minute. I am living in my childhood home because it was vacant and I needed a place to live following the divorce. Our marital home was sold. I do not plan to live where I’m residing for the rest of my life, but it has been a godsend for me. Ironically, my ex-wife lives within walking distance, too, but we don’t communicate.

“Debbie’s adult son is in his first year of teaching and living at home with her. We have no plans to live together while he is living there. His plans are unknown after this school year but he is in a committed relationship with his college girlfriend, also a teacher. They may or may not decide to get a place together next year. If they were to get their own place, Debbie and I would most likely take a look at living together. At this time, neither one of us is interested in pursuing marriage.”

A simple lesson from Craig’s story: When people unselfishly and without ulterior motive, reach out to help others, often, they are blessed in return with something positive in their lives. And now because of Craig’s caring gesture, he and Debbie have a special friendship.

My incredible Mom, who would have been 104 on my birthday last week, not a particularly religious woman, but a woman of great faith, used to remind me of that principle, by quoting Ecclesiastes 11: 1: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” Mom usually just said, “Bread cast upon the waters…” and left it at that. My siblings and I knew what she meant.

I am sure Craig will keep us posted on his relationship with Debbie.

Part 2

I love hearing from our Champs, not only with their questions or experiences, but just where they live and where they are originally from. Such was the case again this week. Two women contacted me from Florida.

Cecilia emailed, “I was born in Cuba and live in Miami. I really look forward to your newsletter and thought you would enjoy knowing how far your reach is and how many people you impact.”

I would love it if Cecilia would fill us in on growing up in Cuba.

Nancy, who I have known since we both worked for the restaurant chain Victoria Station in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, sent an update: “I have been with Michael since 1998. He has been a pastry chef all of his adult life and has taught at culinary schools. He has had a passion for his craft all of his life.

We just opened a retail bakery on our own called St Pete Bakery, 1961 4th Street North in St. Petersburg. It is fun, exhausting and rewarding. I am hoping to retire from my office job soon to work the bakery full time.”

I checked out the St Pete Bakery Website and it left my mouth watering for those yummy pastries:

If you are in the St Petersburg/Tampa area, stop in and say hello to Nancy and Michael. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

At 75, love can take on many forms

On Love and Life After 60

By Thomas P. Blake  November 14, 2014

At 75, love can take on many forms

As we age, love can be experienced in more ways than in just having a partner or seeking a partner. I was reminded of that last Tuesday night.

I never receive snail mail on my birthday. Even back when November 11 was called Armistice Day, the mail didn’t come. Now it’s called Veterans Day and the post office still closes on that day. November 11 has always been a low-key day for me, perhaps because I’m a vet and grateful I never was in an actual battle in my three and a half years of Naval duty. I’m not into fanfare, gifts, or parties on my birthday.

November 11, however, is special to me mainly because it was my mom’s birthday as well.

Tuesday morning, as I headed off to work at my deli, Greta said, “Remember, we are going out for a nice birthday dinner so try to get some rest.” I noted that she didn’t say where we were going, but she does that every year; we always go to a nice restaurant.

I arrived at Tutor and Spunky's, my Dana Point, California deli, hoping that my employees would just finesse the day and not do the gifts, cards, and other thoughtful things they do about 20 times a year, when there is an employee’s birthday. They greeted with hugs and “Happy Birthday” and that was about it. Whew, I was relieved.

Business was light that day. Around 2 p.m., Rosalinda, an employee of 26 years, said, “It’s slow today. Why not take the afternoon off and enjoy your birthday?”

I said, “It’s slow because it’s Veterans Day, why don’t you close early?”

Rosa said, “We will.” And I went home.

When Greta came home at 5:30 p.m. from her afternoon of volunteering at the Ocean Institute, she said, “Put on some nice clothes, remember, we’re going to dinner.” Still no indication from her of where. I was going to suggest pizza at home but didn’t want to be a Grinch.

Guys can get ready in a minute or two to go out. It seemed to me that she was taking her time. And then she said she needed to check her emails. I thought that perhaps our dinner reservation wasn’t until 6:15 or 6:30 and that she was merely stalling a bit. My sister Pam telephoned from San Diego to wish me a Happy Birthday.

Greta drove. We headed south on Pacific Coast Highway. That’s how I usually get to work. Then she turned on the street before the deli that leads down to Dana Point Harbor. I thought we might be going to the Harbor Grill or Harpoon Henry’s, or another of the fine restaurants down there. But, Greta made a quick left turn onto the street behind the deli. I thought, “Oh no, something is up.” But as we passed the deli’s rear deck, I noticed it was dark inside the restaurant so my suspicions of a party at the deli passed.

Then, Greta turned into the deli parking lot. The deli was dark, but I could see some balloons in the window. On the front door, there was a hand-written sign, “Closed. Private party.” We walked into the darkened dining room and then the lights came on and 35 employees, friends and family jumped up and shouted, “Happy Birthday.”

The first couple standing there was my sister Pam and her husband Bob, obviously not in San Diego.

The employees were dressed to the nines, having discarded their aprons for dress-up clothes. There were at least 35 hugs, probably more. Love filled the dining room.

Greta’s nephew, Jake Woodruff, is a musician. About six months ago, Greta and I saw him perform at the House of Blues in Hollywood. After seeing him there, I sent him a list of five country songs that I love and thought he might want to add to his repertoire. Jake and his mom Gina were at the party.

Jake announced to the crowd that he had prepared some songs for me. He nailed it when he opened with, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” a Garth Brooks classic. And then, a Kris Kristofferson hit, “Loving Her was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again.”

Jake knew I had been a good friend of Johnny Cash. One night 40 years ago, at the Sahara Tahoe Resort, Johnny had asked me back stage before the show what my favorite song of his was. I said, “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Johnny came on stage that night and said to a packed show room crowd, “This song is for my friend Tom Blake,” and sang it.

Jake had mastered that song and performed it wlell. Then, he sang another Garth Brooks classic, “The Dance.” Those songs were from the list I had given him. His learning those songs, perfecting them and then singing them was an incredible gift to me.

There were people in the room between the ages of 19 to 75. When Jake sang Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, everybody—all ages--knew the words and joined in with the “So good, so good,” and the other words the audiences often sing along with Neil.

When the party was winding down, Jake and three of my young, talented, women employees were singing together and I could visualize a new singing group being born. They were really good.

I had no clue about the birthday party. Not one employee slipped by saying something that would have alerted me. It was a total surprise planned by Greta with the help of Rosalinda and the rest of the deli staff.

To receive that much love from 35 people who are very special to me was an incredible way to spend number 75. I am truly blessed. That is what love is. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Widower says this column is written for women

On Life and Love After 60

By Thomas P. Blake  November 7, 2014

A widower says this column is for women

Ellen, a Champ and long-time friend of mine, lives in the Pacific Northwest. She and her partner Paul have been together for three and a half years. Ellen wrote, “We sent last week’s newsletter to a relative who is newly widowed after 60 years of marriage. He is a great guy, outgoing, in good health, handsome, financially secure, and quite a catch at 80.

“He has just started seeing a woman he knew from church.
It seems to be moving quickly. She is twice divorced, 18 years younger, with a 27-year-old son living with her, who doesn't drive. That first time with someone after being widowed is so powerful, you're coming from a place of starvation and it feels sooooo good.

“He commented that your newsletter is mostly for women. I noticed that all the comments in this one were from women. I know the newsletter could be beneficial for him.”  

I told Ellen that her email is what inspired today’s column. Her
widower friend is correct in a way; the newsletter is primarily written for and read by women. The reason: Approximately 80 percent of newsletter subscribers are women, and they are the ones who respond with questions, comments, personal experiences and observations, as you did today.

It’s always been this way, going back to the column’s roots.

My first column, titled, “Living alone with only my dogs for company,” ran in the local Dana Point, California, newspaper on July 4, 1994. I had gone through an unexpected divorce and had captured my thoughts on paper. The material had a-woe-is-me, I-got-screwed-in- my-divorce, and younger-women-won’t-date-me, flavor to it. I showed the two editors, who were women, my material. They liked the male-point-of-view--no men were writing about love in those days--and gave me a chance.

What those two editors didn’t tell me was they privately felt the women readers of Orange County would find my material so male-slanted and controversial, it would stir them up big time. It did. I remember the first reader response. A woman wrote, “Who is this sniveling puke?” Another said, “Why is it that middle-aged geezers want to date 20-year olds?” Soon, we were off to the races and the column was in 10 local papers. After that, it ran in the Orange County Register for eight years.

Initially, I estimated the readership was 70 percent woman. As I’ve grown older, the percentage of women readers has increased.

According to Census statistics, by age 60, the number of single women in the USA outnumbers the number of single men by approximately three-to-one. At age 70, it's closer to four-to-one. By age 80, six-or-seven to one. There are simply many more single women than single men in the later years.

I see similar ratios at the Meet and Greet singles events I’ve hosted at my deli for two and a half years. There are almost always two to three times more women than men who attend. And I need to keep replenishing with new men because women gobble them up and then don’t want their new boyfriends to attend any more. I know of approximately 15 men who don’t come back because they met their new main squeeze there. And sadly, two of our regular guys have recently passed away.

When men respond to the newsletter, or send in questions or opinions, they often make very valid points. I usually use their information because women still want to hear the male point-of-view. Some of the men I have recently quoted--Jon from Olympia, Washington, Ken and Chris from Orange County, California, and Art from Florida, for example--really hit the nail on the head with their comments.

And then there are some men who make no sense at all, but not many.

From what Ellen wrote about her widower relative, it sounds like he is moving quickly. But, who am I to judge if this is right or wrong? While his new woman friend is 18-years-younger, he may be happy with her and willing to accept her 27-year-old son as part of the package. I would just caution him to protect his assets and to ensure his estate plan is written the way he wants it.

Still, the widower could benefit from newsletter information that might help him avoid making mistakes that he would later regret. I published an ebook that could be helpful to him titled, “Widower Dating. Gold Mine or Mine Field?” That can be downloaded to one’s computer or reading device at

While I am on the subject of this newsletter and that it is read primarily by women, a somewhat related issue was presented to me at last week’s Meet and Greet. A woman I had never met approached me and handed me a folded, hand-written note. I was busy so I put the piece of paper in my pocket for later reading.

At home, Greta said she had seen the woman hand me the note and was just curious, of course, about its contents. We read it together. It said: “What do you think about doing a ‘His’ and ‘Her’ point-of-view in each of your articles? I’m 59 and would be interested writing it if there is an interest.”

My thoughts on shared writing of this column: Every week I include at least one woman’s point-of-view, usually more than that as Ellen pointed out. The last thing I need is to try to co-ordinate weekly articles to include one exclusive woman’s point-of-view. There isn’t time or money to do that.

Also, why would I--after 20 years of scratching out these columns and newsletters every week on own--be willing to allow someone to ride on my hard-earned coattails? Would doing so make the column more enjoyable to read for women, my primary support group? I don’t think so.

Besides, my current newspaper editor, also a woman, is the one who decides how the newspaper column will be formatted. The woman who wrote the note would have to approach her. And, the big boss, the newspaper publisher, hired me because he wants the male-point-of-view.

So, if anything, I need more male-points-of view in my columns. And believe me, getting them is as hard to come by as getting new men to attend our singles functions.

But that doesn’t mean I will stop trying. 

The McStay Family murder case

On Life and Love After 60 Newsletter

By Thomas P. Blake    November 14, 2014

Breaking News – the missing McStay Family

The morning of Friday, November 7, last week, began like so many other mornings have begun over the last nearly five years. I was downstairs at my home sipping coffee while reading emails. As a newspaper columnist, I am on the Orange County District Attorney’s press release email list. Most every day, the DA sends out press releases that describe who has been arraigned or sentenced in this county of 3,000,000 people.

One of the first things I check for is to see if any of those DA press releases are of interest to me. For nearly five years, I have been hoping and waiting for the news on one particular case—the McStay family.

Many Champs know about the McStay family case. I wrote about it in this newsletter four years ago. You see, Joey McStay was my stepson for six years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He, his wife Summer, and two young boys, age four and three, disappeared from their family home on the night of February 4, 2010. They left food on the table and the dogs they cherished behind.

Their car was found abandoned a few days later on the American side of the Mexican border south of San Diego. Hence, there was speculation that they had gone to Mexico on their own.

Their case was featured on America’s Most Wanted and a myriad of other national mystery programs. The family of four was on the cover of People Magazine. A book was written speculating on what happened to them. The San Diego Sheriff investigated the case as a “missing persons” case as there was no proof that a crime had been committed.

I kept thinking that they would come back someday. That myth was shattered on my birthday, November 11, 2013, when the San Bernardino Sheriff held a press conference to announce that the four bodies found buried in the desert near Victorville, California, were those of the McStay family. Hearing that news shook me to the core. The Sheriff promised my ex-wife Susan and her remaining son, Mikey, that they would do everything in their power to find the killer.

Last Friday, November 7, there were no DA press releases in my inbox. Greta was upstairs and had just turned on the TV news, something she rarely did in the morning. Usually when she wakes up, she reads a book on her Kindle to start her day.

At 7 a.m., she yelled down to me, “There is breaking news on the McStays!” I exploded from my chair and took the steps two at a time to hear what was being reported on L.A.’s Channel 5: The San Bernardino Sheriff was holding a press conference regarding the McStays at 9 a.m.”

I watched the press conference from the same home where Joey had lived 21 years ago. When the press conference began, I noticed an easel a short distance behind the podium with a man’s photo on it. At that moment, I knew that the authorities had found their killer. Later, we learned that the man had been a business partner of Joey’s.

The rest of Friday was a blur. I was so filled with emotion—happy, sad, melancholy, reflective—and my eyes were so red, I tried to hide them with sunglasses. People emailed and texted and deli customers who knew of my connection to the McStays shared their feelings with me.

My partner Greta, who has been a rock through this ordeal, said, “Tonight, we are going to have a nice dinner and enjoy a glass of wine,” which is what we did.

I share this with you today since so many Champs chimed in with their thoughts and blessings.

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the case: the man’s motive and why he had to kill the young children are a mystery.