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November 2008
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December 2008


I got to thinking about pills this morning because there was an extra capsule (two shades of green) next to my orange juice when I sat down for breakfast. The new pill is an antibiotic that I am taking because one of my big toes is infected. Not a big deal, especially since I only have to take it for a week. The others are a multi-vitamin (older- person version), calcium for bone strength, and a thyroid supplement that seems to change in amount (and color) every time I have my blood tested.


This makes me one of the lucky ones because according to The Complete Pill Guide edited by Lewis A Opler, M.D.,PhD. the average number of prescription drugs taken daily by those who are 70 or older is 6.5. This figure does not include any over-the-counter medicines.


I don't take anti-cholesterol drugs or SSRI's or high-blood pressure medicines. I rarely take an Advil or an aspirin. I don't know if my good health is a result of my compulsive exercising or my insistence on eating at least five servings of fruits or vegetables daily. Maybe it's just plain luck.


It's a good time of year to count one's blessings rather than one's wrinkles.


Everyone has things to like about Christmas. At the least, it's a day off when you can't go shopping.


My favorite thing is that we hear from people near and far who check in once a year with a Christmas greeting. This year, our long-time friends from Los Angeles sent a family picture that shows a new grandchild. My former colleague, now in San Diego, sent a picture card of her handsome five-year old—wasn't it just yesterday that I visited him brand new in the hospital?


And then there are the cards picturing the children of my children's friends. My "third son" who lived next door to us when our kids were growing up—now with new twins as well as a four-year old. Or a bright-eyed carrot-colored hair boy now perhaps seven months old, the latest grandchild of a friend I met on the same day that I met Peter 43 years ago. There is the family-photo card of my friend Marty whose husband had a research institute named after him this year. Pictured are their three sons and all their grandchildren, assembled from far and wide, grinning from ear to ear at the big dinner honoring him. Or my friend Christa's family—photographed year after year in the same positions on the deck of their New Hampshire house. I must have a dozen versions of this in my photo albums.


So, a big thank you to Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, etc. and a Merry Christmas to all.

Generation Gap

At work on Friday I got a Christmas card from a young colleague who thanked me for a number of things, including "for making the phrase 'generation gap' obsolete." I was touched and thrilled. It made my day…at least until I got home.


That's when, for the first time in decades, I picked up a copy of Playboy. What was a copy of Playboy doing in the mail of a 70-year old happily married woman, you might ask?


Well, before our son Seth moved to Brazil early this month, he arranged to have his mail forwarded to our address. As a freelance journalist, he subscribes to many magazines. The January issues of Esquire, The Atlantic and Playboy were in Friday's mail.


As I recall the Playboys of my youth, the centerfold Playgirl-of-the-Month was topless, but showed a little modesty "down below" even it was just artfully-crossed legs. Now full-frontal nudity is available from cover to cover in Playboy, and the only controversy as far as I can see is whether to wax or not to wax.


So much for my making the generation gap obsolete…


‘Tis the Season

'Tis the season of the holiday party. Although we enjoy all the celebrations, we do have a favorite party that we've been attending for about twenty years.


Here's why it's special. First, the people—the core people are there year after year. It is the only time we see some of them, but it's always fun to catch up. And every year there are new people to meet. We've made the 30-minute drive in snowstorms and in balmy December weather. Sometimes we have other parties the same evening, but we always spend the most time at this one.


Everyone brings a dessert to add to those traditionally baked by the hostess. And everyone takes some cookies home that they didn't bring so that the host and hostess do not have to consume all the left-over calories. There's a huge pot of hot mulled wine on the stove that's always our first stop.


Here's the best part. We sing Christmas carols. We actually have song books, and we gather around the Baby Grand to sing our favorites. Often the hostess chimes in on her flute. There are some people with really good voices. And then there's me. But if I try hard and don't sing too loudly, I can get away with being a little off key. I love trying.


We're worried that this year may be the last for our favorite party. These events get a little harder to pull off as we grow older. It's a huge commitment and a lot of work for the host and hostess who might just prefer to be celebrating where they don't have to do the work. It seems that most of us are entertaining at home a bit less each year.


I remember when a close friend who is more than a decade older than I am stopped entertaining at home, and I thought to myself that I would never prefer an evening in a restaurant to my dinner parties.


Sometimes you just don't know what you don't know.

Bursting with Pride

Possibly the only thing more boring than other people's grandchildren is other people's children. But sometimes you just can't resist. And today is one of those days. The New York Times Travel Section today contains our son Seth's 130th and final "Weekend in New York" column. For two and a half years of Sundays, we could turn to the Travel Section, see his byline and marvel at his knowledge of that great city.


Today, we read how he caught up on some "must do" New York activities that somehow he had missed in his 15 years of living there, like seeing Radio City Music Hall's Rockettes and being in audience of the David Letterman Show. More important to us, for the first time he writes in the first person of the city he loves so much, and there is a big photo of him on his first visit to the Metropolitan Opera where he attended La Traviata.


Within days of completing this last column, he moved to Brazil to write from South America.


He had a great run.

House Rules

When our boys were small, they would wolf down their peanut butter or bologna sandwiches (crusts removed) and attack the Oreos. A half-a-bag later, they had enough, but I had to put cookies on the shopping list again. So Peter and I made a rule—two cookies for dessert at lunch, three at dinner.


We had some other rules too. Soft drinks only at the weekend "Coke-tail" hour, the sugar cereal of your choice once a year on your birthday, three pieces of candy a night until the Halloween loot was gone, and no candy in the house the rest of the year. (Little did we know that across-the-street neighbors had a candy drawer in their kitchen that was available to any neighborhood child.)


Additional rules included one hour of TV on school nights, everything off the bedroom floor if the cleaning men were coming, (on the bed was OK), a three sentence thank-you note for all gifts as follows:

1. Thank you for the birthday check.

2. I will spend it on ___________.

3. Hope to see you soon.


My daughter-in-law Katrina says they had no soda at all in their home growing up. They did not have a TV except when they rented one to watch the Olympics or presidential debates. They never had sugar cereals.


So I wonder what the "house rules" are now in these days of cell phones, laptops, electronic games, text messages, high def. TV, and friends with benefits.


Our grandchildren are two and five, but I know they don't get dessert if they don't finish their dinner.


That's a good start.

Am I a Dinosaur?

When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to two daily newspapers. In the morning, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was delivered. In the evening it was The Pittsburgh Press. My older brother had a paper route that got him out of bed before dawn. He taught me to fold the paper so that it could be thrown accurately from the sidewalk (in half horizontally, and then each outer third to the middle, tucking one into the other). My recollection is that he quit shortly after receiving his Christmas tips, but that's another story.


All that is to say that newspapers have always been a presence in my life. Today we subscribe to two daily papers, both delivered in the morning, thrown haphazardly from a car window in their plastic sleeves and landing somewhere between the sidewalk and our front steps.


During the week, I compulsively read them both. Even if it is late and I am retaining nothing of what I read, I turn every page before I turn off the light. On Sundays, reading the paper is pure pleasure. Peter and I dawdle over breakfast, each with our usual order of sections, often quoting news tidbits to each another. It is a sacred ritual.


But a ritual that may be coming to an end. To quote a recent newspaper article. "the public appetite for printed news has vanished." I had been concerned about this for a while as I watched papers shrink in both page size and number of pages. And recently our neighbors revealed that they had cancelled their papers and now read them on two laptops at their breakfast table.


The worst indication of the forthcoming demise of print newspapers is the closing of the 53-year-old "Out of Town News" kiosk which is the landmark of Harvard Square. Not that I regularly went there to buy Le Monde or some such paper, but just knowing that I could, was a comfort.


Have I ever read a newspaper online? Yes. Do I like doing so? No.


Am I a dinosaur?

A Quiet House

Our last Thanksgiving visitor left this morning. I have finished rounding up all the guests' sheets and towels. The grandkids' toys are back in their storage box, the forgotten p.j.'s have been mailed, and the house looks pretty much like it usually does. But today's goodbye was harder than earlier ones because our older son is on his way to Brazil where he will be the Brazilian correspondent for GlobalPost, a just-launching international news website. It's a very exciting and good opportunity for him and we support this move 100%.


On the other hand, having him so far away is hard. No longer can he jump into his car and come home for a weekend just because it's been a while or because one of us (usually me) has had an emergency appendectomy or a knee replacement. No longer can we do the same in the other direction when we feel that we need a dose of Seth. Yet we will have a reason to visit a country that is new for us, with a guide who knows it well.


Seth reminds us of his journalist friend who has just been sent to Afghanistan. I remind him that hearing that someone (in this case his friend's mother) is worse off than I am has never made me feel better.


It doesn't seem like that many years since I declared that my son would never be permitted to cross the street without me. I got over that when he left for college, but Brazil seems a lot further away, and there aren't any semester breaks.


When I wrote my first blog entry last January, I mentioned that there would invariably be some losses in this decade. Thankfully, this isn't the kind of loss I had in mind.


But the house is very, very quiet.