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

Frozen

In response to the 2017 security breaches at Equifax and other credit rating organizations, we froze our credit reports. It seemed the prudent thing to do-- until we tried to unfreeze them.

We had recently learned that Amazon Prime account holders are eligible for a credit card that gives 5% cash back on all Amazon and Whole Foods purchases. Admittedly, we order from Amazon more than we should, but we have been customers at Whole Foods for years, so why not?

When I contacted Chase, the credit card provider to Amazon, they told me that I needed to get Equifax to lift my current freeze (temporarily or permanently) so they could see if we are credit-worthy. I contacted Equifax and they agreed to lift the freeze “universally” for a month. But when Chase checked, they were told it had not been lifted.

I will spare you the details of the many times and ways I tried this—including just lifting it for Chase with a specific pin. I did this three times with three different pins, each time Equifax told me that it had been lifted, but when Chase checked, the freeze was still on.

I talked to supervisors at both institutions. Equifax offered a business services number that the Chase representative could call to fix this, but both the person I talked to and her supervisor at Chase said they do not call--that I must lift the freeze electronically.

I spent hours on the phone, repeating the same information to both organizations, entering my social security number and a whole lot more, time and again.  So, as of this writing, I don’t have an Amazon credit card. I’ll let you know if I can bear to try again.

As if I didn’t have anything better to do…


Almost Like You and Me

Several weeks ago, I wrote that a young friend I had walked with was having a drink with Michelle Obama that night. Many of you asked for a detailed report. So did I.

My friend and I walked again one afternoon last week and I finally got the lowdown on what it was like to have a drink (and dinner) with the former first lady. She explained how they met and became friends (kids the same age at the same school, bonding over soccer games and other school activities). There were sleepovers at the White House and Camp David for her girls, and agents of the Secret Service in my friend’s driveway overnight when the Obama girls slept at her house. Just ordinary parents making plans for their kids—except that one set of parents was rather famous.

I have no “juicy” secrets to keep from you about their dinner conversation. Just two friends at a restaurant on a quiet Monday, small inconspicuous Secret Service detail nearby, having the same talk that I might have had with any of my friends when I was in my fifties (except for the part about the first lady liking her official portrait).

I loved hearing how Michelle Obama is so much like the rest of us, that she has the same concerns about her family as the rest of us, that she has to figure out what to do with the rest of her life,  just as the rest of us.


Weather or Not

I felt a few snow flurries when I came out of the post office the other day. This is April, I thought. This is Washington, DC. Although we came here primarily to be near our grandchildren, the warmer weather was a big attraction. So where was it?

It’s true that the cherry trees were blooming (and beautiful), but it was cold. Our fellow residents called it an “unusual” extension of winter.

April snow is not “unusual” in Boston where we came from. I remember a snowstorm on the tenth of May thirty-some years ago when my mother was visiting for Mother’s Day. And this past February was the fortieth anniversary of the Great Boston Blizzard of ’78 when more than an inch of snow fell every hour for thirty-two hours. We were without power for days, and everyone’s freezers had defrosted. The only dinner food we had was pasta and sauce that could by cooked by those of us with gas stoves, so our neighborhood bonded over a huge spaghetti party. Only doctors and emergency workers were permitted to drive, and people dragged groceries home from supermarkets on sleds. Of course, the stores soon ran out of milk.

Two days after our late DC flurries, Washington weathermen were predicting ten-twelve inches of snow, but not a single snowflake fell.

Too bad, I would have felt right at home.


Six Weeks Post-Surgery

Easy for Peter’s surgeon to say he wanted to see him six weeks after the operation to repair his broken femur. Not so easy to make it happen. Just getting Peter from our apartment to our car was a major challenge. So I called in the co-captain of my get-well team, Peter’s cousin Andy, for moral support and to shepherd Peter if we couldn’t find parking.

Two hours before we planned to leave, I called the doctor’s office for advice about how to get wheelchair-bound Peter to his appointment. Much to my chagrin, I heard a recorded message: “You have reached…our office is closed.” Not possible I thought. I’ve got Andy lined up, we are psyched to go and I’ve got the day of our appointment wrong? Peter assured me that the office had confirmed the appointment. Stressful? You bet.

I called back an hour later and got a human voice who told me that the office hadn’t been closed. It had been “closed for lunch”. They had a new automated phone system that should have said “for lunch” but didn’t.

The good news is that with Andy’s help, we got there, parked, and got Peter to the doctor’s office on the  sixteenth floor. The better news is that his surgeon was pleased with Peter’s healing.

Six weeks from now, we do it again.


Unexpectedly Eighty

Legendary author Judith Viorst, best known for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is still going strong at eighty-seven. She’s been acknowledging the passage of decades with books of poems since her thirties. I had enjoyed Suddenly Sixty and Other Shocks of Later Life and I’m Too Young to be Seventy.  So Viorst’s Unexpectedly Eighty and Other Adaptations was a welcome gift for my eightieth birthday in February.

In that book, Viorst waxes poetic about a past not unlike mine, reminding me of things no longer in my life such as garter belts, Saturday afternoon double features (which for me always included a box of Milk Duds) and reaching gourmet cook status just by producing home-made onion dip. Viorst celebrates her age with humor and insight.

Rumor has it that she has looked at our retirement community—having lived in Washington for decades, she has a lot of friends here. But she’s too busy writing to move—her next book of poems will celebrate her nineties.

I plan to read it.


Back to School

A priority for our new life in Washington was to replicate the learning environment we enjoyed while living near Harvard University. When we learned that American University has a robust learning-in-retirement program, Peter and I applied. (That Peter broke his femur on the American campus after the new-members-breakfast in February is ironic, but things happen…)

Even during Peter’s hospitalization and rehab, I managed to go to classes. They have become my way to stay in touch with the world outside our retirement community.

We had a discussion on the future of work in my TED-Talks class this week. The lesson for grandparents:  Don’t ask your grandchildren what they want to do when then grow up because there will be few one-stop careers. Instead, ask them who they want to be.

In my class on Foreign Policy Challenges for 2018, we’ve had experts lecture on terrorism and cybersecurity so far and future classes will cover hot geographical areas around the world.

For the ninety-minutes of each class, I forget Peter’s broken femur.


Homecoming

It was the calm before the storm, literally. When Peter was released from rehab, we headed home just hours before the snow that shut down Washington for a day.

Leaving rehab wasn’t easy. Endless forms to sign. Endless instructions for physical and occupational therapy sessions and nurses’ visits at home.  Phone, computer, and electric razor chargers and other belongings accumulated during five weeks in the hospital to be packed up.

We hired a caregiver to help get Peter from the car to our apartment, two elevator rides and two long corridors away from our parking space and to help us rearrange the furniture to make it easier for him to manage on a walker. Our daughter-in-law Katrina was there to lend a hand.  It was a team effort.

Miracle of miracles, it all worked

And so began another phase in our “new normal”.  No more daily trips to the hospital, but other challenges. Life could not be more different than it was six months ago.

But Peter is home, and that is what matters.


Living on My Own

Since Peter has been in the hospital and rehab for six weeks with a broken femur, I have been living alone for the first time in fifty years.

I have managed to do things like reset all the clocks (even the car!) to daylight savings time, work the three TV remotes, pound in a nail or two and handle other household chores that were always Peter’s responsibility. It’s nice to know that I can do those things.

But I’d rather not.

On the other hand, there are some things that aren’t so bad. The apartment is much neater. I can eat when I want to, what I want to, or not eat at all. I can watch TV or not. I can go to bed on my schedule.

But I’d rather not.


Nose Mohs

Mohs surgery is a technique to remove skin-cancer cells. Like many in my generation, a suntan was a priority for me, and now I am paying the price. My new dermatologist found several suspicious spots on my face, and I just had the first, and hopefully the only, malignant one removed. There is a 99% cure rate with this surgery so I can be optimistic.

A couple of years ago, I had a similar procedure, and it was easy. This one, on the side of my nose, was more complicated, and so I have a black eye and a face that looks like it’s been to war. I can’t bend over, pick up anything weighing more than ten pounds, blow my nose, and, worst of all, I can’t exercise for a week.

In our retirement community, people know Mohs surgery. Upon seeing a large bandage on my face, people greet me knowingly with...

“Been to the dermatologist?”


Phone Calls from Friends

Life is fairly frantic for this newly-turned-eighty-year-old. Visiting Peter daily in the rehab hospital, “shopping” classes at American University, and participating in some of our retirement community’s activities, have left me hopelessly behind in everything else.

But I always have time for phone calls from friends.

Several from home check in with me a few times a week, others less often. All have provided tremendous support as I adjust to our new surroundings and new challenges.

I like hearing what’s going on in their lives too. I try not to sound too smug about our winter being so much easier than the endless one they are enduring in Massachusetts.

Our conversations are never short.

My new friends here have been caring and quick to offer help. But there is nothing better than friends of fifty-plus years. They always have my back