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March 2008

February 2008

Leap Year

Forty years ago today, on a chairlift in Cortina, Italy, I asked my husband to marry me, and he said “no”. Back then, February 29th was the only day women were “permitted” to ask men to dance (or marry). But then women didn’t go skiing in Europe with their boyfriends either. I remember finding a letter addressed to me from my mother on the hall table in the chalet where we stayed. She would not have been happy to hear that I was registered with my "married" name. Of course the owner had no idea that I was the intended recipient of the letter since there was no one with my name staying there.

Peter didn’t actually say “no” that day. He said, “When it’s time to ask, I’ll do the asking.” Since we were high on a chair lift in Italy, I couldn’t exactly get up and storm out of the relationship. Which was lucky because four months later he did ask, and forty years later, I can say it was worth waiting.


I thought of my father when I woke up this morning.

Dad was a mystery in many ways. I have a picture of him before I was born, probably taken in the early 1930’s. There he is, the epitome of debonair in his knickers, leaning against his Hupmobile, his Lucky Strike cigarette in his very long cigarette holder clenched between his teeth. Mother always said he was a ladies’ man, but I’m not exactly sure what she meant.

Dad left home to earn his living at age thirteen. His resume is very, shall we say, eclectic? There were tales of his starting the first indoor miniature golf course (a disaster) and many other undertakings before he settled down on a path that led him to be a successful state-wide manager of a life insurance company. As a salesman early in his insurance career, he was on the road a lot, but my mother could always open the front door at 5:00p.m. on Fridays, and he would be pulling into the driveway. If it was the right season, she would have the pot boiling on the stove for the fresh corn he would have bought from a farm stand on his route home.

Dad never got used to retirement. He had only known work—no golf, no hobbies—and I think that may have contributed to his much-too-early-into retirement death. 

Even before his terminal cancer struck though, I remember him frequently remarking, “I ache all over.”

This morning when I woke up, I ached all over, and thought of my father whom I still miss very much.

How Do You “Look” 70?

I hadn’t talked about my age much, except maybe among friends and family. But I’ve decided that at 70, I’m ready to flaunt it. 

I started with Kelly, who has been cutting my hair for more than 15 years. She’s about 40 now. “NO,” she exclaimed. “It can’t be true!” Next my personal trainer (if you call someone you see four times a year a personal trainer). She sent me a birthday card after I told her my secret. At the bottom she wrote, “No one would believe you are turning 70.” Finally, I told a few people at work. Twenty-five year old Erin’s eyes widened. “You can’t be 70, she said.” Paulina, a 50-something colleague responded by “demanding” my exercise program.  Her thought: If it works for her it's worth trying. Even my kids’ friends reportedly were genuinely surprised to hear that I was in my eighth decade (just barely).

So I ask this question? Who looks 70 and what makes anyone “look” that age? I have friends in their 70’s, but I can’t describe any shared characteristic like X-number of wrinkles or gray hair or shuffling feet. I guess how one looks is more a reflection of attitude or behavior. Does my riding my bike to work or studying beginning Spanish make me look “not 70”?

A birthday card that I received several years ago sits on the bulletin board above my desk at work. Its message: “It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years.” So there was my answer—just waiting for me to notice it.


A Room Full of Love

A lot of life is about family, that circle of people who have known you forever, those folks who share your triumphs and failures and who put up with you at your worst moments, because that’s what families do.

Friends are another story. Friends are not about obligations; friends are about love. 

I turned 70 at a beautiful party with 22 friends two nights ago. No one there had known me less than 20 years, and I have known many who were there for more than 50 years. Remarkably, all are still married to their original spouses.

I could talk about the fabulous food in a beautiful flower-filled setting with fireplaces ablaze. (I had nothing to do with the planning.) But instead, I want to talk about being loved. When you think about it, how often are you at an event with only people you chose because you can’t imagine celebrating without them? And how great it is to have all those people meeting each other?

The evening flew. I moved from table to table; I couldn’t get enough of everyone. We gathered in couches surrounding the fireplace for dessert, a sinful flourless chocolate birthday cake (no singing).  People spoke about their relationships with me, and why they were happy to be there. They brought back distant memories about how we met or what experiences we’ve shared. It was a magical evening.

And now, I’m 70.




It’s a crystal clear Saturday, this last day of my sixties. I woke early with a butterfly-y feeling in my stomach, reminiscent of many other milestone occasions in my life.  However, it does feel different because I am going to be 70 tomorrow.

Tonight, friends who have been so important to my life will gather at a party planned by Peter with the help of our friend Tina.  I know nothing about what will happen.  What I do know is that these are all people who have enriched my life by being my friends.  We have shared (mostly) triumphs together, as well as some sadness. Peter often says “life isn’t fair”. He adds, “Thank God”.  

More when I am 70. 

Getting Closer

About five years ago, a friend in her 50's, I in my 60's and another friend in her 70's shared our thoughts about our respective decades.  Here is the introduction I wrote to my part at that time.

"I celebrated turning sixty.  And I mean celebrated!  Whereas, on my fiftieth, I fled the country to avoid my birthday, I celebrated my sixtieth by running up a hefty tab at one of New York's
très chic and très cher restaurants with my husband, a son, and close friends.  I had loved my fifties, and believed that there would be more ahead worth celebrating. Yet who would guess that during the first two years of my sixties I would meet an 82-year old half-sister that I hadn't known existed, I would make my first visit to South America and fall in love with Chile, and I would have an op-ed piece published in The New York Times that inspired a public television documentary."

Many other wonderful and memorable things happened in my sixties.  There was a trip to Africa with our grown children, a son's wedding, a first (and second) grandchild, continuing success in my career, and more. 

So, I am positive about my 70's (now five days away).  there are different issues that have moved to center stage as I face this decade.  I feel our country is less safe.  I feel our planet is less safe.  I am anticipating my own losses.  I remind myself that it is important to prepare for the inevitable, but just as important not to become obsessed by it.

So bring on the 70's!  I'll be grateful for every day.

Grown Up "Kids"

A colleague with eight and eleven-year-old sons tells me she hopes 
that, when her boys grow up, she and her husband will have as close
a relationship with them as we seem to have with our grown
children.  Close? Yes. Seamless?  Of course not.  Here are a few
things I try to keep in mind:

*There is no such thing as a perfect parent.
*There is no such thing as a perfect child.
*Never take credit for how children turn out.
*Never take blame for how children turn out.
*Eliminate "should" from your vocabulary.
*Whenever possible, wait for grown children to call you.
*If you can't stand waiting, send a two word email, or, even
better, a text message that says "home safe?" or "all is well?"
*Ignore these rules if they don't work for you

Does Anyone Notice Us?

Unlike some of my friends, I never thought much about whether or not as an older woman, I had become invisible--whatever that means. That is until one spring day about ten years ago when I was walking along a Manhattan Street with my young friend Nina. Nina is stunning. Black hair, blue eyes, perfect pale skin and a killer body. I noticed that men’s glances lingered as we passed by. I quickly figured out that I wasn’t the attraction.

I can live with that. I do not depend on the glances of men to feel good about myself. Besides, I have Peter who thinks I am still beautiful. That’s what counts. Please, no comments about the fact that he doesn’t see as well as he used to.

But something very nice happened last week. A young colleague whom I don’t know very well took me aside before a meeting. She asked if I had been walking near the reservoir with my husband the previous Saturday, and I replied that I had. This is what she told me:

“On Saturday, my partner and I were driving home from obedience class with our five-month old puppy when we slowed down for some traffic near the reservoir.

We simultaneously let out an extended 'aaaaawwwww.' Walking along, with their backs to us—was a distinguished-looking couple, each with lovely gray-white hair. The woman had reached over and put her arm around the man with such a tender and sweet gesture. He leaned into the small embrace.

While we felt that we had invaded a private moment, we were both touched by the event. We remarked that we hoped that we still touched each other like that when we were their age. At that point, we drove past them, and I said to my partner, 'I know that woman!'”

Invisible? I don’t think so.


From Generation to Generation

Several years ago our son Jeremy asked Peter and me to write about our lives up to the time he was born. So write we did. We enjoyed trying to capture the essence of our growing up and the patterns of behavior we developed that made us who we are today, for better or for worse.

We were surprised that each of our hastily written autobiographies of "the early years” ended up to be seventeen single-spaced pages long, and astonished to learn things about each other from reading about our lives before we met.

Then last spring, Jeremy asked us to talk about where we are in our lives on videotape. The plan was that the tapes would be embargoed with no one having watched them until it was played for our grandchildren in 20 years. Jeremy set up the camera on the porch, left me, saying he would be back in 15 minutes and instructed me to talk.  By the time he came back, I was reduced to tears, saying how much I loved everyone to the video camera. Then it was Peter’s turn, and I have no idea what he said, but I do know that he had more trouble filling the 15 minutes than I did, typical silent-male type that he is. 

I often wish I could talk to my parents these days. I want to know what they were thinking at my age. How did they feel about turning 70? I want to know more about my father’s difficult childhood. I want to know if my mother ever wished that she had had a career other than as a mom. I wonder if she had that empty feeling in the pit of her stomach that I always have when a child leaves after a visit home.

Through our writing about our early lives and our recording about where we are now, our children will have answers to some of the questions I wish I could ask my parents. And maybe, just maybe, our grandkids will tell their own children what life was like for their grandparents at the turn of the 21st century.