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

Thoughts about Retirement

Two articles that appeared in The New York Times in April expressed legitimate, but quite different, views of retirement. The first “Many Americans Try Retirement, Then Change Their Minds,” prompted writer Anne Bernays to write in a letter to the editor, “Retirement before you’re truly ready to stop cold is like getting a Botox shot in your brain.” The second letter, in response to “Scrap Your To-Do List” described the wasted day with nothing to do as “bliss.”

That got me to thinking about where I stand on the retirement issue, almost five years since I walked away from my thirty-three year career. My conclusion? Somewhere in between. I’m not the type to put my feet up, read a good book, and call it a good day. But I don’t think I could put in the hours I used to at work (and still get to all my doctors’ appointments!).

Still, there isn’t a day I don’t think about my former work. But there are some issues in higher education now that I’m glad not to face. Funding, diversity and inclusion, and the #MeToo movement are just the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, being among an international population diverse in age and experience, was always a joy (or at least that’s how I remember it).

I have moved on, yet when I put on my fleece that has the Kennedy School logo, I yearn to hop on my bike and ride off to my job.

I will always miss it.

 


A Good Day

We’ve had some rough days in our new life here in Washington, DC, so it is a pleasure to share the good day we had last week.

First, the pre-heat-wave-weather was gorgeous--cloudless sky, temperatures in the low-seventies. Washington in the spring is graced with thousands of blossoming trees from weeping cherries to dogwoods and redbuds, not to mention acres of daffodils and tulips and other spring flowers I haven’t seen in New England.

Second, we had our first visit to Peter’s new physical therapist, and although a long drive away, Josh was worth the trip.

Third, Peter liked Josh well enough to trust his barber shop recommendation, and we went there for a much-needed (in my opinion, not his) haircut.

And, if that wasn’t enough, a resident of our retirement community celebrated her hundredth birthday. She stood greeting friends for her entire champagne reception. (I, at eighty, eventually had to sit down.) She still writes poetry. A haiku of hers was just published in The Washington Post.

All in all, a good day.


Body Update

Some years ago, our then five-year old grandson asked “Why is Grammy’s neck wrinkled like a skeleton?” He knows better than to ask that now, but if he did, his question might be “Is there any part of Grammy that isn’t wrinkled like a skeleton?”

Thanks to lucky genes, I’ve never had a weight problem. But like my mother at my age, I am too thin. Good for my health, but bad for my wardrobe. I am finished with sleeveless tops, and I’ve probably bought my last bathing suit.

But I still can do the forty-minute walk home from the nearest Whole Foods with a backpack full of gluten-free goodies.

And that’s my good luck.

Update on our attempt to lift our credit freeze: After countless hours on the phone, I learned what the problem was. It turns out that Peter and I don’t share a credit report. When I was calling, I was lifting my freeze and the credit card we wanted to get was applied for in his name. The business reporter who helped me solve this problem told me that most people aren’t aware that married couples have separate credit ratings.

Now you are.

 


An Unfortunate Legacy

One of the pleasures of retirement is that we have time to think about the big picture. We can celebrate what’s going well, such as the meaningful decline in world poverty in recent years and the great strides we’ve made in medicine and technology.

But there is some not-so-good news too. For example, our earth is doing badly. Oceans are rising, species are dying out.

We discussed the future of the earth in my last TED-Talks class, focusing on the sad state of our environment. Two facts (not fake):

  1. The Great Pacific (Ocean) Garbage Patch is now two times the size of Texas. (262,000 sq. miles x 2) and growing.
  2. A million plastic bottles are manufactured every minute.

(Fact #2 caused a handful of class members to slip their plastic bottles of water under their seats.)

We know we must take action. We left class vowing to help rectify this situation. But will we?

Will you?


Ten Days with Seth

During the five years that our son Seth wrote The Frugal Traveler column for The New York Times, his lucky parents got to join him on a trip once each year, five memorable adventures.

We’ve just had ten days with him, this time without traveling, because he came to Washington to help out with Peter’s broken femur recovery while my skin cancer surgery prevented me from bending or lifting anything that weighed more than ten pounds for a week.

Besides allowing me not to worry about Peter, Seth did the following: Took me to and from my day surgery, rushed to the post office to overnight-mail some tax document that didn’t get to our accountant, and spent an entire morning taking my car someplace I didn’t want to go for a scheduled service.

Because he can work from anywhere, our dining room table became his office. He took a part of a day to film Washington’s famous Cherry Blossom Festival for his Amigo Gringo YouTube channel and we were impressed by his ability to author, star in and edit the video.

We listened to him chatting in Portuguese or English as he planned an upcoming trip to give a talk in Sao Paulo. We watched him with his brother’s family who joined us here for pizza one night. His nephews adore him.

And then suddenly, he was gone. As usual, I laundered the sheets and towels and tried to quickly put away all evidence of his visit. I’ve been quickly eliminating evidence of his visits for decades.

It never gets easier to say goodbye.


Mohs, Again

When I had a total knee replacement eleven years ago, I decided that once was enough so I’d better take care of my “good” knee. I had a similar thought after surgery for my basil cell carcinoma in early March, namely, this had better not happen again.

Alas, a biopsy on the other side of my nose showed a similar malignancy. So I found myself at the center for dermatology surgery again last week. This time the first layer of cells removed didn’t have clean margins, so they had to take a second layer. I was in the waiting room from 8:30 until 3:30 with short intervals on the examining table. Toward the end of my waiting, I struck up a conversation with a nice man my kids’ age out of sheer boredom. He was a former writer who became a trauma therapist and because I love reading and hearing about other people’s traumas, Mark and I became fast friends. That helped the time go by.

Closing the wound took forever, my eyes covered with goggles to counteract the bright lights, sewing hands pressing on the goggles hurting, the sound of snipping scissors after each stitch…It was endless until it ended. And with half my face covered by gauze and bandage, the healing began.

Other reformed sun-worshippers of my generation may want to try Vitamin B-3. A recent article in a prestigious medical journal suggests that in the form of nicotinamide, it helps lower the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.

I’ve ordered a life-time supply.


Facebook

Facebook has been on my mind ever since I watched its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg (dressed in impressive Wall Street garb) testify to Congress. It’s hard to feel sorry for the accidental multi-billionaire, or to get angry at such an angelic face. In light of all this, I thought 80-Something readers might enjoy this recent post by ITEC Learning Technologies.

A Senior’s Version of Facebook

For those of my generation who do not and cannot comprehend why Facebook exists: I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles.

Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passers by what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later and with whom.

I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving round town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does everyday.

I also listen to their conversations, give them the “thumbs up” and tell them I like them. And it works just like Facebook. I already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator, and a psychiatrist.

Amen.

 

 


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.