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

What Matters

If your parents could parachute into your life for a visit, what do you think would surprise them the most? They may have been around to see desktop computers, but they would be surprised to learn that the phone in your pocket has more computing power than those desktops, that you pay your bills online or that something called Facebook has 2.4 billion users.

They wouldn’t know that using the word “they” as a single pronoun is now grammatically correct or that someone could run 26.2 miles in under two hours or that people don’t buy encyclopedias anymore.

All that is important, but what I’d want my parents to know is what amazing great-grandchildren they have.  Isn’t that what really matters?


My Big Brother

My older brother, Don, turned eighty-five the other day.  Don and I have not lived near each other since high school.  Although we talk and email, it’s not the same, and I regret that I can count the times I have seen him in the last ten years on one hand.

We’ve lived quite different lives.  He’s had three wives and five daughters.  I’ve had one husband and two sons.  He loves golf and bridge.  I don’t do either (although I learned bridge very young to make a fourth player for our family).  His successful career was in business; mine in academia. I think he likes red meat more than I do.  He’s still darn good looking.

We grew up in the same household, and I can picture Don coming home after school and eating a half-head of iceberg lettuce with our mother’s home-made thousand island dressing as if it were yesterday.  I remember his fake sneeze that prevented me from hearing the announcer tell us what was coming next on Let’s Pretend, just to annoy me.  As the younger child, I got away with more than he did, but throughout high school, I was Don’s little sister, and that could be good and bad.

Today, I just wish I could give him a big hug.

   


My Babies

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When" Zara" tacked a note on the mailroom bulletin board asking if anyone would be willing to babysit her plants for the summer, I sent her an email saying I would do it.  In no time, a young Sri Lankan woman appeared at our door surrounded by green leaves.  She was going to visit her parents for two months and she was thrilled that I was willing to take care of her plants while she was away.  She left quickly to finish packing.

I introduced our own plants to our guests, and I treated our guests as if they were our own.   I even re-potted one of them.

When Zara returned at the beginning of September and came to pick them up, she was thrilled at how they had thrived. I could only think about how hard it was for me to give them back.  So I asked her if I could take a cutting from a couple of them and see if I could get them to root.

Pictured above is my first success.  It’s in the only piece of pottery that I ever made (circa 1972).  I check it for new leaves every morning. The other plant cutting took a bit longer to root, but it will be ready to pot soon.

Plants and flowers (and flowering plants) give me great pleasure now-a-days.  And that’s good.

 


If I Could Be a Fly on the Wall...

Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall?  That you could be an invisible observer of some meaningful event?  Perhaps your child’s first date or her first day in the Oval Office?  

Lately, I have been wishing I could be present, but unseen in a specific Boston University classroom in which fifteen graduate students are studying neuropsychology.  They all appear to be in their mid-twenties.  Except for one eighty-nine-year-old named “Peter”.  The professor invited him to join the class  because there was no room for him in her undergraduate version of the course.

So every Tuesday he and his walker take a Lyft or Uber to BU, and the students always save a seat for him. 

Peter is interested in the brain and he knows quite a bit about it.  But he was not happy with his performance on the first exam because he had just as much trouble remembering the brain’s many parts as he does remembering names of the people he meets at parties..  Since he’s not taking the course for credit, the only thing that hurt was his pride.

But I give him a lot of credit for taking on a challenge like that on top of Parkinson’s and an approaching 90th birthday. 

I would love to observe that class, but only if I could be a fly on the wall.


Technology and Aging

If you are lucky enough to grow old, you face a choice—age in place or choose one of the many other available options.  Unfortunately, one size does not fit all.

If you decide to age in place, technology that didn’t exist in our parents’ generation offers you lots of advances that could make life easier.  (See https://bit.ly/2nAhOYr)

Let’s start with Uber and Lyft, an easy and relatively inexpensive way to get where you have to go.  (I love not having to dig into my wallet for cash when we arrive at our destination.)  More and more, people are telling me that those who give up car ownership come out ahead financially—insurance, upkeep, and traffic tickets add up. And for those of us without garages in places where it snows a lot, it’s even better.

How about grocery shopping? Peapod (and many grocery chains) are happy to deliver anything they sell.  Even better, you’re not limited to pizza when you want dinner delivered. Grubhub and the like offer lots of restaurant choices.    If you prefer home cooking, there are services that deliver recipes complete with the ingredients you need to make the meal yourself. 

Beginning to worry about driving to your cabin in the mountains?  Soon, they tell us, a driverless car will take you there.

And then there’s Amazon—like it or not, it allows you to shop for anything without leaving home. 

We’re promised that things like telemedicine, personal care robots and much more are in our future. Whether or not you decide to stay in your home, technology is making aging easier.

But not easy.

 


Lost and (Sometimes) Found

When we sold our house and moved to Washington, DC in 2017, we spent months getting rid of “stuff”.  Just before leaving, we invited the neighborhood over for a take-away-whatever-you-can-carry-event. The whole process was stressful. (I can see those of you who have been through it nodding your heads.)

Nine months later, we returned to Cambridge.  That was stressful too, but the right decision for us.  During that move, we got rid of more stuff.  (We still have too much, but that’s another story.)

What this is about is my often futile searches for things I was sure I kept.  How could I have no trays?  Why is there only one of my favorite pair of silver candlesticks?  I couldn’t find my flour sifter a couple of months ago that was from my long-ago-life with roommates—a real antique.  That one had a happy ending—it had fallen off a Lazy Susan in the back of a kitchen corner cabinet. 

The other day I tore the kitchen apart looking for my mortar and pestle for crushing fresh herbs.  I never found it, but you’d be surprised what you can do with the back of a soup spoon.

I have learned that if your mover packs for you, those small balls of crushed paper you find in the boxes aren’t all just “filler”.  They may contain a silver candle stick, a mortar and pestle and a hard-to-re-place light bulb.

It’s been fourteen months since our last move.  Hmmm, I’m wondering where my high school yearbook is…


My Favorite Thing

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” may have topped Maria von Trapp’s list of favorite things in The Sound of Music, but they wouldn’t make my list at all.  At the top of my list of favorite things is a Styrofoam cylinder-shaped tube, six inches in diameter and three feet long. 

My foam roller, if used properly, is supposed to ease muscle pain and inflammation. I can’t say that mine does that, but I do know that if I lie on my back on it for three or four minutes, I feel like all my bones are properly aligned and a sense of peace and well-being overcomes me.  A few deep breaths and I am a new woman.

To benefit from a foam roller, one has to be able to get down to, and up from, the floor. 

So far, so good.

 


Body Check

If you had told me when I started documenting my seventies, that I would still be doing it almost twelve years later, I would have laughed.  If you had told me that I would be writing about the state of my body when I was eighty-one, I would have thought you were crazy.

But here I am to tell you that my body is still working pretty well.  It’s not as quick as it used to be, but then not raising kids while working full time, it’s OK to slow down. 

Here’s an update.

My blood pressure is fine and my weight is stable.  I still exercise daily at the gym or at home.  My hair is a little more silver, but not completely.  I am living with the uncertainty of breast cancer, but I don’t think about it every day as I did when it was diagnosed last November.  The knee that was new in 2007 is still a miracle.  

The anti-cancer drug I have to take makes me a bit sleepy around five pm every day so for the first time in my life I try to pencil in a daily 20-minute nap.

On the downside, it looks like my second knee is about to give up.  We’re trying cortisone and exercise, but I see the handwriting on the wall, and I don’t like it.

My head still works pretty well (except for remembering names) and I am grateful for that and about a million other things.

 

 


Block Party

We never missed the September Block Party in our old Cambridge neighborhood.  It was fun to catch up with busy neighbors and to see how much their kids had grown over the summer.  Footballs, bicycles and scooters were everywhere.  There were chairs for the older folks and a wading pool for the little kids.  It never rained and the wine never ran out.

On Sunday, Peter and I had gone to a late afternoon event and when it ended, we decided to visit this Fall’s Block Party in the old ’hood as neighbors emeritus.    

I was mixed about going because we had had such a wonderful twenty-three years there, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a strange family living in “our” home.  I thought it might make me sad to see how things had changed.

I shouldn’t have worried.  What fun to see the changes over the last two years!  People were happy to see us—some didn’t know that we had returned to Cambridge.  Little Christian who lives across the street from “our” house is now eight.  As cute as ever, he jumped off his bike to hug us.  The new owners of “our” house greeted us warmly, in spite of the fact that the basement began to leak badly shortly after we left.

Now we live about a mile away. We’ve moved, but the neighborhood hasn’t.  And we will be back again next year.


Seasoned Traveler

In 1964, I broke up with my then-boyfriend, quit my job and flew to Lisbon, Portugal alone.  I stayed in Europe for three months.  That did not please my parents.  There wasn’t any email then, and I know they worried. 

After Peter and I were married, the only trip I made to Europe on my own was a work trip to London. Other than that, I traveled abroad with family or friends until earlier this month when I went to a family wedding in Medellin, Colombia without Peter.  Our son Seth was with me on the way down, but I was on my own coming back because he was staying longer. I have to admit that I was a bit anxious. 

I ran into my first problem in the Medellin airport.  I had checked in online, but I could not find any sign that told me what gate my flight to Panama would be leaving from.  Fortunately, a kind customs official literally walked me to my gate.

I had an easier time in the Panama airport. I was able to find my gate on my own.  (It helped that my flight from Panama had arrived at the same gate).  Once I was on the flight home, I felt like   a seasoned single traveler again. 

It’s never too late to step out of your comfort zone.