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

I'm Taking a Break

For almost eleven years, I have blogged twice a week at “70-something.com” and (now) “80-something.com”. My goal was to process the decade of my seventies and to be authentic in documenting the challenges and joys of my life. In a way, it was a shared journal. Much to my delight, many of you responded, telling me that my blog posts resonated with you, and my audience grew.

As the decade ended, I published the book 70-Something: Love, Life and Limits in the Bonus Years, a compilation by subject of my (and your) favorites. www.bit.ly/70-something

Of late, I have been thinking that I want to write only on occasion. During the past year, I have faced some challenges that took more out of me than I admitted, even to myself. Now, Peter and I are facing some medical issues (not surprising in our decade) that will require more attention.

But I am not closing down my site, so you haven’t heard the last from me.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you. I wish you all the best, and I encourage you to document your life, wherever you are in it.


Re-inventing our Lives

Peter and I have been “home” for two months now, but we still haven’t determined what our new life is all about. We haven’t worked out a regular schedule of activities because we have been busy seeing friends--and far too many doctors.

We are trying to figure out how to give meaning to the rest of our lives. As my cousin Gerry put it so well, “What can we do to earn our space on this planet and yet not be obligated?” A former colleague used to remind us to always be “on time, dressed, and ready to play”. What does that mean for 80-somethings?

Good questions. No easy answers.


Keeping Up

In all my years of working with graduate students, I tried to stay on top of new technology to know what the students were up to. I remember when the students first got email. I remember a student in the computer lab showing me the amazing Mosaic web browser, pretty much the beginning of the Internet.

Of course Facebook and other social media have touched my life, and yours too. I even have WhatsApp on my phone. And Instagram.

But now I feel I am falling behind. When I recently read that the latest “Alexa” can tell me that I left a light on and then offer to turn it off for me, that was a bit much. And although I still read the technology page in the newspaper every Thursday, I no longer want everything I see. I don’t have an Apple watch so I actually have to look at my phone to see a text and that’s OK with me.

If I really need to know the latest, I can always check in with the grandkids. Isn’t that what all 80-somethings do?


Appointments, Appointments, Appointments

Before we moved to Washington DC last year, we had appointments with all of our doctors in Boston, partly because we wanted to thank them for taking care of us and partly because we were worried that we wouldn’t find such good doctors where we were going.

One of the plusses of our return to Cambridge is that all our doctors are still here and they have welcomed us back.

But each doctor seems to find something to worry about that’s not in their area of expertise. And that leads to more appointments.

I am convinced that going to doctors is what we eighty-somethings do for a living.

That’s why it was such a pleasure to visit our financial advisor the other day. Our financial condition looked healthy, we caught up on each other’s children, and in thirty minutes, we were on our way.

Nothing added to our calendar.


Weekend in New Hampshire

Every September we are one of two lucky couples invited to spend a weekend with close friends at their vacation home on Newfound Lake. We have spent sunny weekends and rainy weekends, cool weekends and warm weekends. They have all been wonderful because when friends have been friends for more than fifty years, the weather doesn’t matter.

Some of us (not me) swam in the still-warm lake. We all walked along the beautiful lakefront. We went for a hike on the Sculptured Rocks Trail on the other side of the lake. On Sunday, we picked apples from the same Cadillac Mountain orchard we’ve gone to for years.

But this year was a little different. As we drove along the lake, I felt nostalgic for the many years that we biked the sixteen miles around it. We didn’t hike as far on the Sculptured Rocks Trail as we used to and this time there was some serious after-lunch napping.

Still, these are our bonus years and that continues to be something to celebrate.


Re-visiting the Forum

During my career at the Harvard Kennedy School, I spent countless evenings attending programs in the school’s Forum. International dignitaries, politicians, outstanding academics, even actors, spoke to enthusiastic audiences almost nightly during the school year. It was the site of student and faculty talent shows, fund-raising auctions and receptions. The Forum was a happening place.

It felt a bit strange to return there one night last week after more than a year’s absence. But we wanted to hear Jill Lepore, Harvard history professor and New Yorker writer talk about her new book, These Truths.

Of course, I knew none of the current students in the audience, but a Forum staff member recognized me and rushed to find seating for us. And I spotted a professor or two I knew and a former Dean of the school who used to introduce events in the Forum and was now just a member of the audience.

I, too, am now “just a member of the audience.”   And that’s okay.


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.