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21,000 Views

Our son Seth has been producing YouTube videos for Brazilians (in Portuguese) for several years. He deals with multitudes of topics about life in America including its politics, fashions, holidays, and the like.

While he was home for Thanksgiving last week, he invited me to join him on Amigo Gringo. He had asked his YouTube viewers to submit questions that they would like him to ask his mother.

They ranged from my relationship to our children to whether or not I would support universal health care.  They asked if I had made farofa, a Brazilian dish made of cassava flour, bacon, onions, garlic, parsley, and chives toasted in butter. (Answer, no, but I’ve eaten it and like it.)

Twenty-one thousand people viewed the video during its first three days.  After the interview aired, many of them submitted comments. Here are a few of the things they said.

    “What a cute mom.”

    “Seth’s mother, adopt me please, please, please.”

    “Adorable video.  I'd spend hours watching Mrs. Kugel explaining things.”

Most important was how much fun it was for me to be part of Seth’s “work”.

(The video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhKWuiNneNsif  If you would like to watch it, start around minute 3:18.)


Our Annual Thanksgiving Day Photo

Thanksgiving 2020 copy

My expectations for Thanksgiving 2020 were pretty low.  I couldn’t imagine my favorite holiday without the usual attendees, our traditional menu, our grateful-jar reading and our annual family Thanksgiving-Day-  picture.

But we managed.  We coordinated eating times with our Maryland family.  Seth quarantined, got a negative Covid test and drove to Cambridge from New York, having never missed a Thanksgiving with his parents. 

Here in Cambridge, I made all of our Thanksgiving favorites and some new things. (The roasted brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds and walnuts were a big hit).

Sitting around two dining room tables 471 miles apart, we shared what we were grateful for with our Maryland family virtually, and thanks to the computer skills of the next generations, we got our annual Thanksgiving-day picture.

P.S. Thinking of a holiday gift for someone in or hovering around their seventies? 70-Something: Life, Love, and Limits in the Bonus Years is available here.


The Conference Room

During the pandemic, the social life of our condo building has taken place primarily in its lovely garden where even on the hottest days, there is a cooling breeze from the Charles River, and there are plenty of shady places to sit.  “Going out to dinner” consists of ordering pizza and eating it in the garden with friends.

Alas, with the shorter and cooler days of Autumn, the garden is no longer an option.  Our building lacks a common room, and at most only two people are allowed in the laundry room at the same time.

However, there is a waiting area in front of the elevators on every floor, each with a nice long bench on which folks can sit. We now refer to those locations as the “Conference Rooms”.  Two or three residents can socially distance there and also get a chance to say “hi” to other neighbors as they come and go to the elevators.

We’re thinking of serving tea.  


Changing Minds

My husband Peter has often said that he did not want to live a day past the time when he could no longer grapple with the issues he cares about, and he becomes a burden to society and his family.  He hoped that he could make it to ninety before that happened.  After that…

“That” is now.  Peter turned ninety last March.  Luckily, he is still able to do most of the things that matter most to him.  And I don’t hear any more talk of “packing it in” at ninety.

I mentioned that to one of my doctors  during an appointment on Friday.  She told me that her mother always said she’d not be treated when she aged –not even an aspirin, let alone a hospitalization for a serious illness. Her mother, now 101, seems to have changed her mind.  She now wants to be resuscitated, if it might save her life.

Another example of not “knowing” what it’s like to be old until you are.


The Sounds of Silence

At 5:00 on a recent Wednesday morning, I was awakened by a knock on our apartment door.  When I got out of bed, the rug underfoot was soaking wet. It seems that a heating pipe somewhere in our condo building had broken, and water was seeping through the walls and floors of about five apartments, including ours.

The building brought in an army of five huge industrial fans to run 24/7 to dry the walls and carpet in our bedroom and upstairs hall. The noise was deafening. They told us it would take two to three nights.  It took ten. For ten nights we slept in our study on a sofa bed. 

We have been happily back in our bedroom for two nights now.  The walls and carpet have dried, although the carpet will have to be cleaned.

Most important, you can hear a pin drop.


My First Job

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Long, long ago, in a land far away (so it now seems), I walked into the Office of the President of Kennedy’s, Inc. and into my first job after college.  Kennedy’s was a Boston-based chain of twenty men’s clothing stores.  I was the assistant to Herbert Weiss and shared an office with Barbara who is still a good friend.  I ran the daily sales numbers (on an adding machine—remember them?) and I was the editor of a new company-newspaper, called Ken Dee’s Ink.

Herb Weiss died a week ago at the age of ninety-two.  We had stayed in touch, and usually had lunch together once a year. 

Yesterday I received a letter from my former office mate (she now lives on the West Coast). Included was a copy of the issue of Ken Dee’s Inc. in which I (then Judy Faskow) wrote about my boss of sixty years ago.

May he rest in peace.


Losing Friends

Three of my close friends died in their forties leaving seven grammar-school students motherless.  Two of the mothers died of lung cancer in spite of the fact that neither of them smoked, and the third died while waiting for a liver transplant.

Something about this year has made me think of them often.

When they died, our generation had never experienced a pandemic.  Nor had we experienced the sadly divided United States that went to the polls last week.  Or perhaps it’s because if a member of our generation dies now it’s sad, but not tragic.

When I think of Helen, Linda and Patti, I think of the wonderful years they have missed.  I would not include 2020.


The Sound of Music

When I became a grandmother, I promised myself that I would stay “with it,” meaning that I would keep up with kid trends from pre-school on.  I imagined my grandchildren asking for my advice even after my hair turned white and my steps faltered.

I have failed.

I did listen to popular music in the fifties (Remember How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?) And maybe into the sixties.  But Peter and I are unabashed lovers of classical music. and popular music is alien to my ears.  I do recognize the names of Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Adele and a few others.  But when I saw a list of seven “Spin-Fresh Pop Songs” the other day, I did not recognize a single artist.

I miss you Harry Belafonte.


The Man I Love

I seldom write about my amazing husband.  Ageing has its challenges, and for him, it’s Parkinson’s Disease, a cruel, incurable disease that he’s been living with for fourteen years.  His mobility is greatly compromised.  A former marathon runner, he now struggles to walk a mile with his rollator. 

It’s easy to spot Peter when he is out walking – stooped, walking tiny quick steps, behind his fire-engine-red rollator (named Clem because it’s too hard to say rollator).

The other day I was walking toward Harvard Square with a friend when we spotted Peter walking toward us behind Clem, clutching a bouquet of daisies.  It seems that he caught me in a moment of feeling unappreciated (caregiving can be hard) and he knows how daisies cheer me up.  My friend was amazed.  It was a Hallmark moment.

A week later, I woke to the unmistakable cinnamon smell of a coffee cake in the oven.  (Gluten-free of course.)  Yes, the kitchen was a mess from his unsteady hands, but the cake was delicious.


Falling

One out of four people over sixty-five fall every day, and as our aging population grows, the total number of people falling increases.  In 2016, almost 25,000 people seventy-five or older died as a result of falling.

There are several things you can do to lower your chances of falling.  Have your vision checked regularly.  Make sure that your medications don’t make you unsteady. Always stand up slowly.  Do strengthening exercises regularly. And I would add (from personal experience) look where you are going.

I wonder what resources are being allocated to deal with this problem. The U.S. government allocated more than $9 billion to develop a Covid’19 vaccine, a pressing need at the moment.  But is there money devoted to helping the elderly with their balance?

The Center for Disease Control does have some information on its website, and I hope that they are beginning to realize that this is something that we need to address.

In the meantime, watch out.  Wet leaves can be slippery.