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

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.


On Renting

It’s a bit strange to be living in a rented apartment after fifty years of living in homes we owned. We will do everything we can to make it feel like ours, but it’s not. And that’s OK.

Although we moved twice this year, we still have too much stuff for an apartment that is considerably smaller than our apartment in Washington. So finding places to put things away is a challenge still to be met. The bathrooms have beautiful pedestal sinks, but no storage space so we are about to give The Container Store a lot of business. And what should be our linen closet contains a small washing machine and dryer so our sheets and towels are temporarily in boxes and on closet shelves.

Some of the surprises are good. Our living room and dining room furniture are perfect for the space. I was delighted to find a full-length mirror on the back of our bedroom door. The guest coat closet is generously large. And unlike the black granite kitchen counters in our former home, the kitchen counters here are bright and easy to keep clean.

Our art is not yet on the walls and our books aren’t yet on the shelves. Framed family photos are in a pile.

But it’s beginning to feel like home.


Oh, the Places You'll Go!

 

IMG_1279

Pictured above is a Steiff teddy bear snuggled between assorted bedding that hasn’t yet found its permanent place in the chaos of our new home in Cambridge.

Teddy is the only possession that Peter has from his childhood in Germany before his family fled the Nazis when he was six years old. Admittedly, he’s a bit shabby, but the places he has been made me think Dr. Seuss best-seller Oh, the Places You’ll Go! about life’s challenges and opportunities.

Teddy has lived with Peter in Germany, Holland, England, New York, Boston, and Washington. On Peter’s sixty-fifth birthday he showed up in New York City at a hotdog stand in Central Park where the hot dog vendor, following a script prepared by our son Seth, claimed that he was a long-lost friend of Peter’s who had been looking for him for years to return Teddy, which, of course, he hadn’t. (I had mailed Teddy to Seth for the hot dog vendor’s participation in the New York City scavenger hunt that he and Jeremy had dreamed up for Peter’s birthday.)

Seuss’ book is intended for new graduates, but it reminds us that adventure lies ahead, even at our age. Teddy looks a little worse for wear, (like us), but he’s ready. So are we…I hope.


You Can Go Home Again

 

How many times have we driven East on the Massachusetts Turnpike?   Hundreds. Going home from New York City, the kids’ summer camp, or weekends in the Berkshires. But this time was different. We were going back to Cambridge after nine months of trying out a new life that didn’t work for us .

Although the many Massachusetts license plates looked strange after months of driving behind cars with plates bearing the District of Columbia’s slogan “End Taxation without Representation”, the streets and houses and stores looked pretty much the same as when we left.

But we had changed.

After a day of driving back, we spent the night in a Cambridge hotel. Early the next morning on the first of August, with our hearts pounding, we went to see our rental apartment for the first time. We introduced ourselves to the concierge, got the keys, and opened the door.

I was prepared for it being flawed and to live with the imperfections that come with renting for the first time after owning our own home for fifty years. What I wasn’t prepared for was the breathtaking view of the Charles River. It made it easy to overlook the last tenant’s picture hooks still on the walls, or the not-solid wood closet doors or one or two other defects.

The apartment is the perfect size for us. We love the location and we will take the time offered by a one-year lease to figure out what’s next.

Hopefully, staying put.


Celebrating Fifty Years

The other night, our two sons and our daughter-in-law took us out for dinner to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary.   It was a beautiful, not-humid-by-local standards, mid-summer evening, and we ate outside at a restaurant we all like.

After we got up to date on our son Seth’s life (he had just flown in from a month in Brazil), the kids asked us for the secret of our long happy marriage. My immediate response was “our amazing children”.

But they wanted more.

For one thing, we’ve always liked many of the same things—classical music, traveling by bicycle, cooking, going to movies. In our whole marriage I remember only one bitter disagreement—it was something about the children, but I forget what—that caused me to stop in the middle of a morning run with Peter and sulk for the rest of the day.

We shared much of the work. When a child was sick, Peter would stay home if it wasn’t a teaching day for him, and I would stay home if it was.

The pride we take in each other’s accomplishments was another reason for our successful marriage. But most of all, we were just plain lucky. We lived in good times, we had good careers and wonderful friends.

The fifty years went by way too fast. Given the chance, I’d live them all over again.