Previous month:
April 2008
Next month:
June 2008

May 2008

I Feel Bad About My Neck

I just finished reading I Feel Bad about My Neck, Nora Ephron's latest best seller. You probably know this talented woman as the screenwriter of "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally" plus a couple of other bestselling books. In I Feel Bad…, she writes with wit and charm about the crucial issues we women of a certain age confront, such as our hated purses, wrinkled necks, and reading glasses.

Her book is like having a conversation with your best friend, although your best friend probably isn't as funny. Ephron goes on with her light-hearted look at the challenges of ageing for 127 amusing pages (in the paperback edition), and most of the way, I'm completely with her.

In the rest of the book, however, she tells us how she really feels about her age, and it's not so good. She asserts that this is no longer "our" day. Rather it is "their" day. "…the honest truth is it's sad to be over 60," she writes.

Suddenly, I didn't like the book so much. It may no longer be "our" day. But in my view, it's still a pretty darn good day.

What? Me Worry?

I spend too much time worrying. And then I spend even more time worrying about how much I worry. Things I worry about include my children, my husband, my work, my country, and the world, just to mention a few.

I am not the lone worrier among my friends. For example, a close friend worries about her daughter Abby who leads college students on serious beyond-cell phone outdoor adventures. Abby is a very experienced outdoors leader. Yet her mother is always greatly relieved to hear that Abby and her charges are safely back on campus. Another friend claims that the only downside to having eleven fabulous grandchildren is more people to worry about.

One anti-worry strategy that I try is to tell myself not to worry about a particular potentially dangerous event undertaken by a loved one (usually a child), because if he survives this one, another potentially dangerous event will be close behind. So why waste time worrying about this one?

At 70, I am who I am and that's OK. And if that includes being an unproductive worrier, I just can't worry about it.

How Am I Looking?

As Billy Crystal always said in his role of Fernando on Saturday Night Live, "It's more important to look good than to feel good."  I'm quite confident in my judgment of how I feel, but this past weekend when I attended a large cocktail party, I got a chance to assess how I look.

Here are the statistics:

Number of attendees:                                                             70

Number of attendees I knew but hadn't seen in several years     30

Number of attendees I talked to                                               30

Number of attendees commenting on how I look                       30

Number of attendees saying I had aged                                     0

Number of attendees saying "You look marvelous."                   30

Conclusion: I look marvelous.

Me at 5X

My dermatologist has a very good sense of humor and an infectious laugh. I look forward to our annual "visits". Often he's been on a wonderful trip to India or some other exotic place so he is both entertaining and interesting.

He does not have a cure for my ageing skin, however. Unlike the magazines I read at the beauty salon that promise me skin like a baby if I try one of the expensive creams and lotions they advertise, he only reminds me to use sunscreen and gives me samples of the latest SPF60 version.

Normally, I follow his advice.

But I didn't take him seriously enough when he recommended that I never look into a 5X magnifying mirror. Perhaps I bought one because I thought it would compensate for the inevitable deterioration of my up-close vision. Who knows? But morning and night I peer into its reflection to look for new lines or wrinkles. They never ease in. They appear suddenly in their full glory. And they look back at me almost triumphantly. It's kind of a "gotcha" experience.

For relief from this self-inflicted torture, I could turn the mirror to its non-magnifying side. With a flick of my wrist, I could see my face as others see it.

But I don't.

Kathleen Redux

My friend and colleague, Kathleen, was misdiagnosed. Her acute leukemia was not that at all. Coming to terms with the dire outcome of that disease, which she did so graciously, was unnecessary. Lymphoma, the correct diagnosis, is a disease that many live "with" for years and years. When you have a chance to live a full life instead of a few months or a year, it requires a different set of adjustments and expectations. I suspect that these adjustments will not be foremost on her mind until her cancer cells are blasted away.

But the cloud of Kathleen's illness had a silver lining. When colleagues, acquaintances and friends heard about her original prognosis, they rallied. Cards poured in. At work we started Team Kathleen to get her work done. Offers to cook, clean, bring meals to this very independent woman who lives on her own were organized. She felt loved by her friends and colleagues in a way she never has before.

Kathleen is one of those people who stays at the back of the room at events where people might shed a tear, knowing she will bawl. Now when all of this is about HER, her tissue consumption is such that we should all invest in Kleenex stock.

Thankfully most of us are not faced with the kind of bad news Kathleen received last month. But how many of us get to find out how much we are loved the way she has?

That is her silver lining.

Mother’s Day


I thought that Mother's Day was a conspiracy of Hallmark, the floral delivery folks and the candy makers of the world, that is, before I became a mother. My first Mother's Day card came from "Pumpkinella," our then overdue first-born.  Ten days late, he was not yet delivered and therefore unable to deliver the card himself.

Over the years, I have received wonderful loving cards from each of our two sons. Now, the father of our grandkids sends wonderful photos, artfully framed for Mother's Day.  His brother sends cards with notes about what a good mom I am that are guaranteed to make me weep.

This year was different.  We celebrated Mother's Day a week early with our grandkids and their parents.  Then we joined our journalist son Seth in NYC for Mother's Day weekend.  Rather than the usual make-mom-weep card, he took us to a chamber music concert.  This treat was brought to us by a son who has been known to refer to us as his "classical-music-loving parents" as if he, himself wouldn't be caught dead at such an event.  But a story he was writing took him to Bargemusic, chamber music played on a renovated coffee barge moored on the Brooklyn side of the East River, just under the Brooklyn Bridge.  For thirty years, Julliard or the equivalent-trained soloists have played chamber music for loyal audiences in the 150-seat setting.  Seth thought we would like it.

Peter and Seth and I sat in the first row, and I could have reached out and touched the cellist.  The three musicians were marvelous.  They played only pieces Peter and I love, and I think Seth enjoyed them too.  Occasionally the boat rocked gently as a larger vessel passed in the river.  We could see the sun set from our seats, and during intermission, we walked out on the dock to see Manhattan lit up from the Statute of Liberty to the Empire State Building.

Happy Mother's Day!




I have a vivid memory of our son Seth at age 18. He came into our kitchen one late afternoon, and headed for the refrigerator, as usual. He opened the refrigerator door, paused for a couple of seconds and said. "What did I come here for?"

Now, when I stand in front of the refrigerator, clueless about what I am there for, I am comforted by that memory. If he can forget at 18, why should I be worried at 70?

About twenty years later (last week), a young graduate student came to my office with a question I couldn't answer. I wrote down the name of a colleague who could solve his problem, and gave him directions to her office. We chatted a bit, and then he left. Moments later he returned to tell me that I had forgotten to give him the paper with the name on it. "Oh no," I replied, "You folded it and tucked it away in your backpack." He insisted that I was wrong, so I wrote the name down again. He folded the piece of paper, opened his backpack and saw the paper I had given him five minutes earlier. He apologized. I, however, was grinning from ear-to-ear.

Here's my point. Why do we 70-somethings attribute every momentary lapse to our ageing brains or bodies? Young people forget too. Of course, young people can do many things that we can't. But we should bear in mind that if those young people are lucky, someday they'll get to be our age.

Letters to Leo and Grady

We have two grandsons, age 4 and 1½. They are perfect. We have just reconfirmed that fact on a weekend visit. Sadly, they don't live nearby, so we only get to see them every few months. But I want them to know us as I never got to know my own grandparents. I want them to see in writing how much we love them and how much we want them to know us. So each time we see them, I write them a "letter" about how they have grown and changed, how proud we are of them and how much joy they brings us.

I also tell them about us. For example after Peter's retirement party a couple of years ago, I "wrote" to them. I told them how I had learned things about their grandfather that night that I never knew. About his accomplishments in his field, about his kindnesses, about how his students loved him. About how they named a room after him at Boston College. Even the grandkids' father and uncle were saying," Wow, we never knew that about Dad!"

Today I will write about Leo's incredible knowledge of the Boston Red Sox and how he beat me at basketball. I will write about how he talks non-stop. I will write about his little brother's irresistible belly laugh, how he loves to be chased, how he is saying really understandable words like bubble and purple and juice.

I will tell them what a great job their parents are doing with them and that I cannot wait to hug them both again.

Older Men

The man I have loved for 43 years is eight years older than I am. I have a vivid memory of seeing him for the first time. There was no way to get to my new job by public transportation back in 1965, and my first car, a red VW bug, had not come to the car dealer on time, so my new employer arranged for me to be picked up at a subway stop, and my ride to work (believe it or not in his red VW bug) was Peter. Of course I remember what I was wearing that July day, and I remember his light blue sports jacket. I had no idea if he was single. (He was.)

Three years later, we were married. By then, we didn't work at the same place, and I can remember coming home from work day after day with butterflies of excitement in my stomach at the thought of seeing him. It was the same kind of feeling as being excited about a date. I never gave a thought to his being eight years older.

But things are a bit different now that I have turned 70 and he is 78. Although he is pretty healthy, the odds are strong that I will outlive him. He's always been an absent-minded professor, but now he seems a bit more forgetful. He claims to have less energy. We do worry about each other more now, and I often wish that he too were 70.

Now he is usually home before me, and when I open the door and I hear his "Hi honey!" my first response is relief, knowing that he is fine. Then I feel the butterflies.