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My Men

As the only girl in our family for three generations, I have a brother and four male cousins. I have two sons.  And two grandsons. And a male grand-dog.  (Luckily, I have a wonderful daughter-in-law)

Therefore, I have spent this Thanksgiving weekend in the mountains enjoying
many football games, a silly Will Ferrell movie, and never going for a walk without a football. There have been multiple purchases in thrift shops by the youngest generation and a couple of stops at a high school football field to toss the pigskin.  There has been non-stop eating by the males. (Luckily, I have a daughter-in-law who knows how much food is needed for growing men.)

There was a solemn time when we spoke of Peter as we spread his ashes beneath a stately evergreen in the woods behind the kids’ mountain house. 

Another wonderful Thanksgiving. Just a touch of sadness.


The Grateful Jar

Without Peter, it’s not easy to write my Thanksgiving grateful jar entries this year. But I am with my children and grandchildren, so part of him is still with me.

This year, we are having our first Thanksgiving at Jeremy and Katrina’s vacation home in the “mountains” of Maryland, so we are establishing a new tradition.

We will have the usual bountiful food, maybe an extra pie or two since the grandsons are suddenly over 6’3” tall.  We will walk to the nearby lake and perhaps into the woods.  There is something wonderful about being together after last year’s virtual Thanksgiving.  And about being close to nature.

All reasons to be grateful


What I Wish I Could Tell Peter

  • Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, our recent landlord, has published his memoir Home in the World, and the Harvard Coop calls it the most anticipated book of 2022
  • I saw a good musical at the American Repertory Theater. Although it was very loud, I think you would have liked it.
  • Grady got called from JV to Varsity for his high school football’s playoff game. They lost, but he did fine. Both grandsons got excellent report cards last week.
  • Seth’s friend Fernanda came to dinner on Wednesday. As you know, Brazilians eat late. We started eating about the time I would usually be getting into my pajamas.  She was very entertaining.
  • I miss you every day.

Brené Brown

On various surfaces in my apartment, there are scraps of paper with lists of things I hope/need to do.  The other day I came across a list that had on it (in addition to 1.5 lbs swordfish and a jar of fennel seeds) a recommended TED talk.

So I became the 55,767,452nd listener to Brené Brown’s TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.”

Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, and a visiting professor in management at the University of Texas School of Business. She has studied courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy for twenty years.

Accepting our vulnerability empowers us, according to Brown. It allows us to take risks like being able to say “I love you” first.  It allows us to believe that even though we are imperfect, we are worthy of love.  And much more.

Brown delivers her important message with charm and humor.  You can watch it at https://bit.ly/3HvVnrh

 


November is November

I can’t help but do my yearly “I hate November” rant.  Of course, I look forward to Thanksgiving. But I don’t tolerate the dark November afternoons so well.

And then there was this past Friday with its howling winds, torrential rain, and a shrieking fire alarm that forced our entire building outside (fortunately no fire) for thirty minutes in the morning.

It should have been the kind of day to get things done, but other than slapping some labels on shoe boxes that are too high up for me to reach, I didn’t accomplish anything other than making a huge bowl of popcorn. I finished the whole thing down to the last burnt kernel.

All by myself.


Pronouns

I am enrolled in three classes.  This does not go well with trying to process losing a husband.  However, one of my classes is quite practical.  It’s called Understanding Gender Identity.  I chose it because I want to be up-to-date on the ever-changing vocabulary that goes with sexual identity.  To me, referring to a single person as “they” does not come easily. 

My own vocabulary is challenging at this moment.  My apartment is no longer ours.  It’s mine.  We don’t have tickets to a concert, I do. 

And when I went to a dinner party last weekend, there were five people, not six, although in my heart, Peter was there. He would have loved the conversation.

And the dinner.


Breakfast with Catherine

Catherine was Peter’s number one caregiver. She is from Uganda. Her full-time job is as a nurse in a rehab facility, but her work shift is 3-11 and so she cares for people in their homes at other times.  Months ago, she began to come to us a couple of mornings a week.  She and Peter would go for walks with his red Rollator, and I think they grew to care for one another. 

After Peter’s stroke in early May, Catherine began to come every morning at 6:00 a.m. to help me start the day. She would join us for breakfast, and she always had the same thing—a four-minute boiled egg, toast with orange marmalade, coffee and some fresh blueberries. Catherine said my soft-boiled eggs were the best she’d ever had.

On Thursday Catherine came for her regular breakfast.  We talked about losing Peter, and it was clear that she missed his presence too.

After breakfast, I helped her put three huge green garbage bags filled with Peter’s clothes into her car.  She will send everything to Uganda.

We hugged and promised to stay in touch.


Sweater Weather

I have just completed my fall change-over.  My summer T-shirts and my winter sweaters have switched places. 

I have more sweaters than I can possibly wear.  Yet each one has a story. They remind me of memorable occasions when I wore them.  Many are turtlenecks—a blessing for my aging neck.  Too many of them are gray.  One is a chic short-sleeved blue light-weight wool, which means I can wear it in summer or winter, except I always forget I have it.

Peter had a drawer-full of sweaters, some dating from the Stone Age.  Our boys and our grandsons took all but a few.  Those few are now in my sweater collection.

They will keep me close to Peter.


Peter On Dying

(For fourteen years, Peter has written an annual post for this blog.  Close to the time he passed away, I suggested he write how he feels about dying, and I am publishing it without his permission.  Here are his words.)

“I’m planning to end my life. I’ve entered hospice, and in a few days, I’ll stop eating and drinking.

Why?

I’m happy with much of my life. I have a wonderful wife, two accomplished sons and two lovable grandsons.  Judy and I have been happily married for more than half a century.  We live in a condo that overlooks the Charles River.  We can walk to Harvard Yard where I sat in on classes (or more recently Zoomed in).

But my advancing Parkinson’s Disease and a stroke-impaired left leg are limiting my mobility.  You have to have lost your mobility to appreciate what that means.  When I gave up my driver’s license, I couldn’t go many places alone. Now I must call for help to use the bathroom.

I am not in pain, but being helpless hurts.  I realize that dying may be uncomfortable, but it won't be as bad for  me as it was for my mothers' parents who died in Auschwitz. 

When I think about the trouble I am having at the tail end of my life, I worry that Judy may have trouble in her golden years without my help.  That may be largely in my imagination.  Not having my help may be an advantage. 

I’m sorry I’ll be missing half of my children’s lives and most of my grandchildren’s lives.

I think I am making the right choice, but if I haven’t, I won’t have to live with it.”


Snippets

 

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Even with all the sadness surrounding losing Peter, I recall some memorable things he said to me in his last days that show his sense of humor and love for me were still intact.

            Sense of humor: “Can you get my criminal record expunged?”

            Love: “I should have brought you more flowers.”

                       “You have been magnificent in caring for me.”

Missing him isn’t easy.