Why Are There So Many Banks?

I have spent a fair amount of time in Cambridge’s Harvard Square.  I worked there (for three different organizations) over more than forty years.  Peter and I both lived near Harvard Square when we were dating and after we were married. We moved away for twenty-five years to bring up our children in (then) better public schools and moved back once they finished college and were on their own.

We went to movies in Harvard Square, we ate out there, we shopped there.

Things are different now.  Our wonderful hardware store has closed.  The movie theaters have closed. The newsstands, with newspapers from all over the world are gone.  There are still bookstores, but even the Harvard Coop devotes most of its first floor to clothing now that Amazon has changed book buying.

And what has replaced most of these institutions?  Banks!  Everywhere!

Jeremy came to visit this week.  When Jeremy visits, there is a lot of walking involved.  As we walked through Harvard Square, I saw that yet another bank is opening.  We walked a total of ten miles.  We probably saw more than thirty banks.

This did not make sense to us who rarely, if ever, go inside our own banks.

As I often do in times of uncertainty, I turned to Google.  I learned that a lot of big banks have closed and opened smaller outlets to "better serve their clients," that most of the walk-ins are older folks and there are some banking tasks that must be handled in person.

Still, do we really need a bank on every corner?


When I turned forty, I decided to take some steps to ensure that my youthfulness would go on forever.  I realized, however, that some effort on my part would be required.  So, I scheduled my first-ever-facial, and bought what we now call “product” to ensure that my skin would be Hollywood-perfect forever. 

It was probably too late to make up for all these days at the beach and on the tennis court, but I was going to try my best.

Somehow the facial habit never happened.  But the wrinkles did.  And although it is too little, too late, I decided that 85-year-old-me needed a bit of pampering.  So earlier this week, I had a facial. 

It was heavenly.  Quiet music played.  Gentle hands pressed delicious-smelling creams and lotions into my skin.  I felt like I was levitating.  I didn’t want it to end. 

But it did.

Cantaloupe Revisited

In a long-ago blog post, I shared my inability to cut a not-crooked piece of cantaloupe..  And that, unlike most people, I eat my crookedly cut piece of cantaloupe with a knife.

I still eat cantaloupe every morning. Even during the winter, it’s pretty tasty. I also still cut it poorly.

Yesterday I started a new melon.  I was determined to concentrate and produce a decently shaped serving.  It took me way too long, but I was successful.  Somehow, it tasted even better than usual.

I couldn’t help but think of my grandson Leo, now nineteen, who long ago asked me the following: “Grammy, why do you eat cantaloupe with a knife.  My mommy told me never to put a knife in my mouth.”

Oh, the things we remember...

A Visit to the Past

Peter and I brought up our kids in a too-big house in a neighborhood with good schools.  We made good friends there, and the kids did well.  However, once they were on their own, we disposed of Jeremy’s TV Guides from around the world collection and returned to Cambridge, where we had started our married life 28 years earlier.

When a former neighbor suggested a walk around the old ‘hood, I was all for it.  Of the ten houses on our street, only one is occupied by owners from back then.  Two of the houses (including ours) had been “updated,” one barely recognizable.

We spent a long time reminiscing about the good old days—the kids playing four-square on our quiet street, the fact that one side of the street had only girl children, the other only boys. (Once we traded Seth for a girl across the street for a  week of knowing how girls behave.) We remembered the great snowstorm of ’78 and how we shared whatever food we had in our homes when we couldn’t get to the store.

We walked beyond our street, passing the homes of many of our friends, none of whom live there any longer.  It was an emotional trip down memory lane.

I don’t think I’ll go back.



On Sunday, The Boston Globe published an article I wrote in its Ideas section (https://bit.ly/JFKinBG) in support of “The End of Life Options Act” that is coming before the Massachusetts legislature again this year.  If passed, individuals will have the right to end their lives with the help of a physician if they have a terminal illness and less than six months to live.

In the article, I revisited my husband Peter’s last eight days of life.  He chose to stop eating and drinking because his quality of life had diminished from Parkinson’s Disease to the point where he did not want to live. 

It took me 17 months to be ready to write our story.  What I didn’t expect was that seeing it in the paper would reopen a wound that I thought had mostly healed.  So I am thrilled to see our story in print and sad for the reason.

Happy/Sad, isn’t that what life is all about?

Bom Dia

Learning a new language is said to be relatively easy at a young age.  Even easier would be to spend time in a country where a new-to-you language is spoken. Perhaps the best would be to have parents who speak two different languages to you from the get-go. Unfortunately, none of the above happened to me.    

Honestly, my school-learned French was pretty good years ago, but lack of use has taken its toll.  And when I decided Spanish was the most useful language, I took a semester of Spanish at night in my sixties.  I had a knee replacement half-way through the second semester and that put an end to my Spanish efforts.


So why at my advanced age would I try to learn Portuguese, a language that is much harder than the other two I attempted?  Well, if your child was completely bi-lingual in Portuguese and he told you how much Brazilians appreciate Americans who try to say even a few words, and he lived in Saõ Paulo half of every year, and you were going to visit, wouldn’t you try?

A free version of Duo Lingo online has been my guide.  It takes five minutes a day. But one should do it every day, and that’s a lot.

Nonetheless, I have a Portuguese vocabulary that includes some names of fruits, some animals, some verbs and a few phrases.  I am solid with obrigada (thank you) and bom dia (good morning).

It’s a start.

My Gluten-Free Life

I had never heard of Celiac Disease in 2000 when my gastro endocrinologist gave me the results of my endoscopy.  She told me celiac disease required removing all gluten from my life.  Forever.  And that would remove the stomach distress that I had been experiencing. This was not good news for this lover of baked goods.

That was a Friday, and I decided that I would stuff myself with gluten over the weekend and then suffer without gluten forever.  As I recall, I consumed two bags of honey-mustard pretzels, as many bagels as I could eat and lots of other forbidden food.

At that time, there weren’t many gluten-free options.  And the “substitute” items were pretty horrible.  Things are better now.  But even from my local gluten-free bakery, the bagels didn’t justify their name.

On my birthday weekend in New York City, I had a bagel (as reported earlier) to die for.  A gluten-free bakery with a line out the door on a Sunday morning must have something going for it.  Big, chewy, smothered in sesame seeds—everything a bagel-deprived person could hope for.

On the train back to Boston, my backpack was stuffed with a computer, three hard cover books, and a dozen sesame bagels.

On Sunday, I heated a frozen sesame bagel.  I spread it with gobs of cream cheese.  I had a fresh pot of coffee and the newspaper.

Sheer joy.


People...if you have never owned a pair of Birkenstock’s Arizona sandals, you don’t know how happy feet can be.  My Birkenstocks were always waiting at my front door to replace the high heels I wore at work.  Now, I wear them at least 50% of my waking hours.

I don’t know how many pairs I’ve owned over the years, but I always have a new pair on my closet shelf, just in case.

Birkenstocks have been produced for 248 years.  They must be doing something right.

It is said that Steve Jobs wore Birkenstock’s Arizona sandals while developing the Apple computer in his family’s garage fifty years ago. Those sandals recently sold to an undisclosed buyer for $218,750.00.

Because Peter taught computer science, we owned a very early Apple computer. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the Birkenstocks I wore while using it.

Unaccustomed as I Am...

I made a little thank you speech last Sunday at 1:50 p.m. before I left for Penn Station in New York City to catch a train to Boston.  The speech was spontaneous.  The audience was small—but they were the five most important people in my life, and they had made my 85th birthday celebration perfection.

Last Thanksgiving Sunday, I had noticed a full-page ad of rave reviews for a new Broadway play.  I hadn’t been to New York in several years, but the reviews were extraordinary, and I decided then and there that I wanted my loved ones to join me  in New York for a weekend to celebrate my transition from being old to being old-old.

And to see the play.

A lot of pieces had to fall into place.

  1. Nobody could get Covid.
  2. I had to not have a fall.
  3. My older grandson would have to fly in from Minnesota where winter weather can be a showstopper, so-to-speak.
  4. My younger grandson and his parents had to drive safely from Maryland.
  5. Seth had to not be in Brazil.

And it happened.

Everybody made it. The play (Kimberly Akimbo) was loved by all of us.  We dined in a special restaurant for my birthday.  We walked.  We laughed.  Our last meal together was take-out from a gluten-free bakery/restaurant for Sunday brunch.  We ate outdoors.  I had a gluten-free bagel that was extraordinarily close to the last real bagel I ate twenty-three years ago.

So, before it was time for me to hop in a cab to the train station, the first of our group to leave, I made a speech.  I thanked the five people in the world I love the most for making me so happy.

An Old-Fashioned MD Appointment

Four years ago, I had four weeks of daily radiation following breast cancer surgery. The doctor who oversaw the treatment recommends five years of annual follow-up appointments, and I had my fourth with him last week.

We chatted a bit and then he examined me, looking for any signs of change since last year.  When he was finished, he sat with me for a while.  I told him that he had spent more time with his hands on my body than any other doctor since I saw him a year ago.  I told him that my Medicare “wellness” annual visit was a conversation with a nurse practitioner about my current medications and a blood pressure check.  I reminded him that four years ago, in a thorough exam with my primary care physician, her concern about a change in my breast resulted in an earlier-than-previously scheduled mammogram revealing a very early-stage cancer.

Now, it would be a different outcome.