The 70-Something Blog is now The 80-Something Blog. Stay tuned in ten years for The 90-Something Blog!

Let There Be Light

As the days grow shorter, we are beginning to realize that we don’t have enough electric lighting in our new apartment. Particularly challenging is our dining area because there is no ceiling light over our dining room table. And no way to hang one.

We started searching for lamps online, but soon realized we needed to see the actual lamps. That’s why we found ourselves in a highly-recommended lamp store in downtown Concord, MA last Saturday.

Within minutes of our arrival, dreadful childhood memories of lamp shopping with my mother intruded on my morning. I pictured myself in one of Pittsburgh’s big department stores, trailing Mother down the endless aisles of the lamp department. Every second was torture.

But those expeditions always ended with a chicken à la king lunch elegantly served in the department store’s tearoom, me feeling very grown up in my best shopping outfit, complete with the white gloves all well-dressed women (and their daughters) wore “back in the day”.

Our ladies lunch almost made lamp shopping bearable. Not completely bearable then—or now when it doesn’t even include lunch.


The Summer That Wasn't

It was hot. And it was humid. But somehow we seem to have missed the summer of 2018.

Although the calendar tells us that there is still a week of summer to go, I’ve spent too many years in education. I know there is no summer after Labor Day.

For many years, summer meant bicycling vacations. More recently we have spent summer vacations traveling to new destinations abroad or spending long weekends in our favorite New England towns.

But we spent this summer moving from Washington, DC to Cambridge. So our summer was bookended by boxes. Packing up boxes in July. Unpacking boxes in August.

When our friends regale us with stories of their amazing summer trips, we feel a little envious. On the other hand, we’re back at home where we want to be.


Update on Peter's Parkinson's

Alan Alda, and Michael J. Fox have both been in the news for the gracious ways they have been dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. My husband Peter has been living with Parkinson’s for more than ten years and he, too, has handled it with grace.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s. Although symptoms differ from individual to individual, the disease eventually causes limitations, especially with mobility, and Peter is feeling those limitations more. On top of that we’ve had a challenging year that included Peter’s broken femur and moving twice. But mostly it is just the clock ticking.

Peter’s ongoing optimism is infectious most of the time. But then there are days that it isn’t.

Fortunately, not many.


Marimekko!

In the 1960’s, Marimekko, a Finnish textile company that featured brightly colored fabrics and clothing, became a household word, sweeping the country, or at least Cambridge, Massachusetts. Architect Benjamin Thompson featured Marimekko in his iconic Design Research store, and it is said that Jackie Kennedy owned eight Marimekko dresses that she wore during the 1960 presidential campaign.

I hadn’t thought about Marimekko for years until, at a Cambridge cocktail party last weekend, I met a retired architect who had worked with Ben Thompson. We talked about how we missed the Design Research store that graced Harvard Square for many years and is now occupied by the chain store Anthropologie.

Our conversation reminded me of how perfectly Marimekko’s tent-like dresses worked as maternity clothing. (Back then you covered up your pregnant belly.) And how well a large piece of Marimekko fabric had served as a wall hanging in our Cape Cod summer house. I wish I hadn’t lost a photo taken of me in front of that wall-hanging wearing my full-length similarly-colored Marimekko dress.

Then on Sunday, a reader commenting on my 80-Something blog post about accessing and de-accessing mentioned that she too had trouble de-accessing. She said she was still holding on to two Marimekko dresses from the 1960’s that she had bought at the Design Research store in Cambridge.

The store is gone. The photograph is lost. But the memories remain.


Downsizing/Upsizing

They say that downsizing is the hardest part of a late-in-life move. Everything you own becomes a treasure, and it’s hard to let go. That’s exactly how we felt last fall when we left Cambridge and moved to a retirement community in Washington, DC.

We especially missed the big sofa in our sunroom where our whole family collapsed after eating too much Thanksgiving turkey. I had trouble giving up our Charles Webb planter full of “Christmas” cacti that bloomed on and off all year long.

In spite of all the things we left behind, we spent a lot of our time during the first weeks in our new apartment at the hardware store or on Amazon buying things like a wall mount for our TV, closet accessories, and a tiny stool for reaching cabinets high above the sink.

And now we’ve moved again. This time, we left a beautiful Vermont cherry-wood bedroom set and a custom-made desk in some happy new owners’ hands because we have fewer square feet in our Cambridge apartment.

But we have had to buy a smaller TV and a microwave oven, and over the weekend, we bought a new table and chairs for our balcony (having sold chairs and a table we could use now when we moved to DC last fall). It seems we are now up-sizing.

Will we ever be “right-sized”?


"To Live and Die in Paris"

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to being eighty. Somehow, I just sailed through my seventies, but this is different. I realize how lucky I am just to be here.

And that brings me to “To Live and Die in Paris,” a recent New York Times opinion piece by ex-pat Pamela Druckerman, author of the best seller Bringing up Bébé. In her piece, Druckerman describes a recent visit with a French friend in her seventies who has terminal cancer.

Her friend “Hélène” describes her plan to “disappear” as the French put it. She is ready to go. She has planned her memorial service and has already selected the “elegant” dress she will wear for it. She had worried that, if she died in August, all of her friends would be on vacation and no one would come to her funeral, but the funeral planner assured her that, if necessary, he could refrigerate her until September.

Read the article


Family Wedding

A family wedding in Marblehead, Massachusetts last weekend gave us a perfect excuse to stop unpacking boxes. It was also the first time my cousins had a chance to get together since the death of my Aunt Ruth (mother of three of them and grandmother of the bride) died two years ago at 104, and there was a lot of catching up to do.

The wedding ceremony was held in a park overlooking Marblehead’s sailboat-filled harbor and it was beautiful, in spite of a steady rainfall.

At dinner, the toasts to the bride and groom were funny (and blessedly short). The band played songs that even I could recognize.

I sat next to my cousin Ken, a “retired” physician who at seventy-eight still does grand rounds and serves on the admissions committee of his medical school. Toward the end of the evening when he had moved his seat and was sitting across the table, I caught him staring at me.

“You look a lot like your mother,” he said. “She was beautiful.”

I love my family.


Vain about Veins

I rarely do a body update in this blog any more. The news is not uplifting (so-to-speak).

But today I will report that like many of my peers, I have stopped buying sleeveless tops. Although I lift weights, my upper arms just aren’t what they used to be.

The other morning, I noticed that I had a new very prominent vein in each of my lower arms. They just came out of nowhere.

I mentioned this development to a life-long friend who is three months younger than I am. “Oh,” she replied. “That just happened to me too!”

There are no friends like old friends.


A Very Good Day

To the casual observer, our new home is looking pretty settled in. There are only a few packing boxes left to be seen. I have already replaced the beloved fern that rode to Washington in the back seat when we moved there last fall, but didn’t flourish in its new home and wouldn’t have survived the trip back.

In reality, although things are out of boxes, they are not all yet where they should be. I have to be patient.

But I had a great day on Tuesday. With trepidation, I took my second trip in a week to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (not known for its user-friendliness). I had checked and re-checked to make sure I had the proper documentation (after failing the first time). I arrived just before the Registry opened at 9:00 a.m. By 10:30, I had my Massachusetts license plates and a Massachusetts driver’s license. I was ecstatic.

Then we had the best lunch guests imaginable—Jeremy and Katrina who took a three-hour detour from their vacation trip to Maine to see our new apartment.

And before the afternoon was over, I had gone to City Hall, got my Cambridge Resident Parking Sticker, and then on the way to renew my library card, bumped into our former next-door neighbor.

Re-entry is challenging, but some days, everything goes right.


Your Time Is Unimportant to Us

One of the challenges in moving is letting the world know where you will be. Doing it twice in one year, as we have, is not for the faint of heart.

If you are lucky, the U.S. Post Office will forward your first class mail for a year, but it will forward magazines for only three months. It’s up to you to inform everyone. And that means everyone—banks, insurance providers, doctors, Medicare, cell phone companies, newspapers, alumni offices and more. 

Each time you do it by phone, you will be asked to “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.” You’ll be told “Your call is important to us. You’ll find out how important it is when they tell you that their staff is unusually busy helping other (presumably more important) customers. And then to heighten your enjoyment, they play what they call “music” at you. I find myself yelling “Representative!” when what I want is not an option, but that rarely works.

Having to change your address is a good reason to age in place.