A Grand Old Name

Esse Quam Videre (Being Authentic)

RenoBillWhat am I doing in a men’s  group?  Answer:  growing and finally  becoming myself.  By now I was supposed to be all grown up:  smart, practitioner hygiene   mature, order   wise, healthful   a sage elder.  I think many of us guys find the retirement thing a little surprising at first.  We can be a little lost as Previously Important Persons – “PIPs” as we joke about it.

There’s a lot of wisdom on the topic of how to spend  this beautiful season of life.  Time to give back. Volunteer for a good cause.  Do those things we always really wanted to do.  Enjoy life.  Spend some real time with our families.  Travel.  Take some courses.  Loose a few pounds.  Relax.  Such a formidable agenda!

For me, I was foaming at the mouth to draw silly pictures (full time) that would make folks smile or think.  This personal avidity since grammar school found outlets in school newspapers, on my drill sergeant’s wall, then newspapers, magazines, newsletters, boring PowerPoints and lately online and teaching.  But my drawing was done evenings and weekends because I had a more important  goal: to help my two sons thrive and achieve their dreams.  Lucky for me I found an interesting day job and lived in a city that had a booming real estate market.  When I needed advice I generally  turned to people more mature than I, women.  Well, not always.  My father and a few guy friends would listen and seemed to understand.  But, since being a pup, there have not been a lot of strong male relationships in my life.

Visiting an old pal in Key West, I was invited to his “men’s lunch.”  All retirees, from all over, and a very wide range of backgrounds.  They knew each other well and easily talked about their families,  projects,  feelings, and relationships.   Sports, lower-back-pain and hearing-loss were hardly mentioned.  I was impressed.  I wanted to join, but Key West was a long way from Asheville.

Answers are all around, close-by, but often we’re just not listening.  Fast-forward.  Back in Asheville, around the Reuter Center at UNCA, there was  a men’s group forming called Men’s Wisdom Works.  I was on it in a flash.  Chuck Fink, the organizer,  had an outline and format that made sense to me.  It was as if he’d done this before.  (He had.)  We began having bi-weekly meetings at Jubilee downtown,  then meetings for breakfast on alternate weeks.  We were/are all  very different men and similar at the same time.  The group chemistry reflected Chuck’s good instincts as he formed the groups.



In the beginning we had very little in the way of ground rules and an alpha (small A) male emerged who has a very light touch.  Most times topics emerge organically from our check-ins.  Most meetings go very well.  The discussions are fun, often deep, but no lectures, and the listening is profound.  Our male-egos are checked at the door.  Coming up on four years,  we have grown from colleagues to brothers.  We’ve shared our lives, literally.

As we’ve spent time together and become more relaxed with each other,  a strange thing has started to happen to me.  I’m becoming more relaxed with and understanding of myself.   They’ve heard all my jokes, twice.   I’m encouraged to speak more in the first-person than in the third.  Other group members are way ahead of me on this new “self awareness” and the positive growth shows.  Yup, I still have a long way to go, but my brothers are hiking on the same path.  Good for us all.



marylasherMary Lasher is my teacher.  She has an AB and MA in History from Duke. Early in her career she taught high school honors classes in US and world history. She taught at the University of Alabama and pursued post-graduate studies at Vanderbilt University, this she was an instructor at Furman University and later worked as curriculum specialist in Greenville County School District. After her brilliant career in academics, she retired in Asheville in 1997.  Since then, she’s taught many many courses at UNCA/OLLI’s College For Seniors and is a past president of Asheville Sister Cities and Asheville’s AAUW.
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These days, Mary still packs ’em in for her courses at OLLI.  We love her long narratives on geography, politics and historical characters.  She gives context and meaning to history and not much homework.  Most of all, we hang on those occasional editorial morsels about life’s issues and any mentions of her rock-star-OLLI-instructor-and-scholar-partner, Tom.
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She and Tom host wonderful parties at their Deltec round home up in the NE hills above Asheville.  Her most recent course (such a modest title) inspired the illustration below.  I’m a huge fan (hoping for a passing grade.)
Mary Meaning of Life
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