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November 2008

Thanksgiving—The Sequel

The cranberry-orange sauce was in its usual white souffle dish, the turkey on the used once a year wedding-gift platter. All the traditional foods on their usual serving dishes.


It's Thanksgiving Day at our house.


The time-worn recipe cards had been on the kitchen counter for days—what could be made ahead was in the refrigerator or freezer. The size, time and temperature of cooking of all of our turkeys have been duly recorded on the roasted turkey page (235) of "From Julia Child's Kitchen" annually since 1987. The sizes ranged from 14 – 24 lbs. Once again the calculation was made. This year's bird at 14.95 lbs was done right on schedule after 3.5 hours.


Thanksgiving is a labor of love, and I get my reward as both of our boys fill their plates for the third time, and Seth proclaims it the best meal of the year.


I don't take Thanksgiving for granted any more. Each time that I see the next generation and the generation after that around our Thanksgiving table, I feel the passing of time, and I realize how grateful I am that we are all together once again.


Thanksgiving—The Prequel

This morning when I woke up, all my most-loved ones were in my house. This only happens once a year. So I savor every moment.

I thought I was the first person to get up, so I quietly headed down to the basement to do my morning exercises. It turned out that our younger son Jeremy was already up, and he decided to join me. Normally, my companion is the newspaper. This morning, it was Jeremy and I chatting away, he on the elliptical trainer and me on the stationery bicycle as if we did this all the time. A very precious thirty minutes.

When we came up, everyone but Seth was awake and at the breakfast table—the grandkids with their specially-bought sweetened (but not too sweet) cereals, and the rest of us grabbing various parts of the newspapers along with whatever our normal breakfast is. The noise at breakfast, not too common around here when it's just Peter and me, is a delightful change.

The day flies by; the kids go out to see friends they've know since elementary school, 25 years ago. Grady, the younger of our two grandsons, naps when they return and we have some quiet time with his older brother. There are a lot of conversations that are extensions of the hurried telephone chats we have while the kids are busy in their own lives.

We have a glass of wine before dinner, and I anticipate a day of cooking and eating too much tomorrow. I love every minute of it.



Thinking About My Mom

I've been thinking about my mother more than usual lately. On many occasions since she died nineteen years ago, I've wanted to ask her how she felt about life at my age. Usually this happens when I experience a "trauma" of sorts and I wish she were here to advise or take care of me.

Today I have been wondering how she would react if she were back for a visit. Would she be surprised that we are going to inaugurate an African-American president of the United States? My guess is she would. But unlike her more conservative husband (my father), I think she would be very pleased.

I wonder if she could believe that at seventy I ride my bike to work every day. Two things there—working at seventy AND riding a bike to work. In fact she would never have expected me to exercise by choice, let alone lift weights three times a week, especially at my advanced age.

Mom was a lady of leisure, not rich, but still of leisure. Of course she volunteered for good causes like all of her friends, but the ladies played bridge and went to charity luncheons and baked pies for their families during the week. They slept on ironed sheets. They hadn't spent junior years abroad. They did live through the big depression, and she would be surprised that we are at least on the brink of, if not in, the worst depression since then.

When Mom was my age, she had been a widow for about two years. She missed my father very much, and used to say that the hardest part of losing him was not having him with her to discuss the events of the day or what the children were up to.

I don't think of her every day, but when I do, I wish she could visit her grand children and great grandchildren. She would be so proud of them.

I'd also like to tell her that she was a terrific mother, and I still miss her.

Blackberry Update

My new Blackberry is five weeks old today. Because I have been critical of other people's use of their "smart phones," I'm a bit embarrassed to report that I am loving mine. Instead of having to cram a Palm Pilot and a phone into my handbag, I have this slick 3.9 oz. item that does all the things they both did plus lets me deal with my email and browse the Internet. No longer do I have to stand idly in line in the supermarket or twiddle my thumbs if I'm the first person to a meeting. No longer do I have to run upstairs to check email at home.

Of course, there is a learning curve for new users, and I have had to call the Verizon help line a couple of times with my questions. And although I'm not as speedy as the next generation, my ageing thumbs are already typing away reasonably fast.

I heard that President-elect Obama will have to forego his Blackberry because his email messages would not be secure and they would not be saved for posterity (or investigations). I sympathize with his distress.

Yesterday, I replied to an email from our son Seth with my Blackberry. He responded immediately with the following message, "Love the Blackberry—you're so modern."

Modern? Yes. Also addicted.


I don't like November.

It's hard to believe that today is November 16th and I haven't complained about my least favorite month of the year. For one thing, the days are too short. I now ride my bike home from work in the dark. In spite of my neon yellow windbreaker, and my flashing bike lights, I am more at risk. Still, I ride.

For another thing, it can be raw and cold in November. Although I put it off as long as possible, my winter jacket has come out of its cleaning bag. And November is fickle. We had an absolutely balmy day yesterday, and they are talking about snow showers tomorrow.

Then there is the sky. Gray, gray, gray. It has rained on and off for the last five days, a typical New England November. Perhaps the worst thing about November, however, is that it is followed by at least four months of winter. And although, at my age, I try to be grateful for every day, I confess that by mid-February I am longing for the first crocus.

Yet November does have a redeeming feature called Thanksgiving that just happens to be my favorite day of the year.

So in the end, maybe November isn't all that bad.

Doctors, Doctors—Why Do I Have So Many Doctors?

Every year around this time, I decide that I may be single-handedly responsible for our nation's overwhelming healthcare expenses. That's because all of my annual medical appointments come around at once. And because, at seventy, there are just more things to check out.

On Election Day I had my annual dermatology exam. Later that week it was the dentist. (OK, that's twice a year.) But this week I've already had two M.D. appointments and it's only Thursday. The first was my annual physical. That seems to take longer than in the old (young) days. I know that back then my doctor did not go behind me and whisper "Can you hear me?" as a subtle way of testing my hearing. Actually, I'm on to him now, so I know when he goes behind me I should just say "Yes." I think I passed the exam because the next day when I saw the breast surgeon (following up every year due to non-cancerous cysts), she told me that my internist had entered his thoughts in my electronic record and I am apparently in great shape. What she didn't say, but I heard anyhow was "for someone your age."

Yet to come before the New Year, my annual eye exam and after that my annual gastro-intestinal check up to make sure I'm sticking to my required gluten-free diet. (I am, but it takes a blood test to be sure.) I really am fond of my G.I. doctor so I enjoy my annual catch-up with her. I already know, however, that she'll be reminding me that next year it will be time for another colonoscopy.

It's great that I'm in good shape (for someone my age). I just wish it didn't cost so much to find out.

Fear of Falling

I was extra cautious when I rode my bike to work in the rain on Friday. A few days of rain, drizzle and fog had left the fallen leaves slippery, and I didn't want to chance skidding if I had to brake suddenly.

I didn't used to be concerned about falling off my bike, although I've always watched for potholes and car doors opening in my path. But at 70, I feel more vulnerable.

Last October, I broke my hip in a bizarre (non-biking) fall caused by a person who cannot be named because I am married to him and I don't really blame him. The details of that nightmare are of interest only to me, but I still shudder when I think of the doctor in the emergency room telling me that I had a good chance of dying because of my broken hip. Not what I wanted to hear just then. However, it turns out that one in five people over 65 who break a hip do die within a year, often because they become inactive and are susceptible to pneumonia and other emotional and physical problems.

Coincidentally an article "Once Just an Aging Sign, Falls Merit Complex Care," appeared on the front page of my morning newspaper yesterday. It reinforced my belief that fear of falling is a good thing.

So is riding my bike.

An Historic Moment

On the morning of November 5th, our country felt different to me. No matter what your politics are, you probably also felt something powerful had happened. The campaign was long—way too long in my view. The campaign was too expensive. And it had its ugly moments. But in the end we have a new beginning.

Forty-eight million people voted for the candidate who lost. And fifty-two million voted for the winner. That's a lot of voters. And there were different voters among them. Young people and minorities participated in record numbers. The get-out-the vote efforts of both parties paid off.

Despite the questionable tone of the campaign, I feel hopeful that the enormous problems we face as a country will be attacked in a bi-partisan way. John McCain will cross the aisle as he has done before. And the president-elect is aware that we must work together because the stakes are too high not to.

Watching the tears in Jesse Jackson's eyes, and hearing the pride in the voices of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, one couldn't help but acknowledge that we have taken a huge step forward in electing our first African-American president.

I feel hopeful for our country. And proud of it too. I've saved the front pages of three newspapers so our grandchildren will have a record of the first presidential election of their lifetime.


But I am glad it's over.

Keeping Up

I resisted Facebook as long as I could. I finally "joined" because my son Jeremy set up a page for me when I wasn't looking. I must admit that Facebook is actually quite good, and although I don't report my daily activities, I do occasionally check on what my 51 "friends" are up to. (Friend-wise, Jeremy is way ahead of me at 450, but this is not a contest.)

As for a "smart phone", I was determined never to join those rude people who read their email on their Blackberries when they think I am not looking. The amount of time I spend on my email at work is frightening, not to mention that I already check it on my home computer on nights and weekends. So I drew the line—no Blackberry for me.

Alas, my boss finally insisted that I be reachable 24/7 via email. And so I now have a two-week old Blackberry. I have not begun to explore all the things it can do. Just thinking about that gives me a headache. But while waiting for planes in several airports last week, I have to admit it was kind of fun to be connected.

Thankfully, I don't have an I-Pod, and I don't have Tivo.