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February 2009
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March 2009

My First Drink Alone

I've never been big on drinking although I do recall a romp in some poison ivy (after too many scotches) with a date whose name I've forgotten. That was about a million years ago.


Of course, I enjoy a glass of wine with good food and an occasional scotch on the rocks with a lemon twist with Peter on a Sunday night. I always have that Sunday night drink in one of my mother's monogrammed old-fashioned glasses.


When the kids were little, soft drinks were off limits during the week, but we'd often have a "coketail" hour on the weekends. Normally, this was accompanied by a plate of tortilla chips with shredded cheese nuked in the microwave for one minute and fifteen seconds.


Last Sunday night Peter was in England for a conference, the second of five nights away. I'd kept myself busy all day, but when it was time to call it quits, Peter wasn't here to have a drink with. So I got one of my mother's glasses and made myself a scotch on the rocks with a lemon twist. I grabbed some cheese and crackers and sat in my spot in our sunroom, drinking alone for the first time.


It's not the same.


Last Word on Cataracts

My cataracts are gone. Both of them. The second one was easier than the first—maybe because I knew the routine. But I am sure that I had less local anesthesia this time because I heard every word uttered in my short stay in the O.R. The topic was the chimp that ripped off the face of its owner's friend. What a cheerful subject to hear while under the knife so-to-speak! I could also hear the quiet whirring of the ultrasound machine breaking up my cataract. I could hear the surgeon saying "beautiful."


So I write this 48 hours post-surgery on a computer screen that is whiter than is used to be, and I am not wearing glasses. I have lots of drops to take for quite a while—they are already a part of my routine.


Everything is a different, brighter color. And now that I see him better, I can report that Peter is even more handsome than I remembered.



Our two sons are fabulous. We don't take credit, just like we wouldn't want to take blame if they were not so great. They are funny and smart and thoughtful. In fact, their only imperfection is that they don't live nearby.


Normally, I wouldn't single one out, but since these are dismal times, I am compelled to relate part of our phone conversation with our younger son Jeremy today because he made us laugh. He told us that he was on his way to Alexandria, Virginia for a business appointment. I told him that that's where his one-time friend Margaret lives with her husband and their son Colby. Jeremy rode on a real fire engine with Margaret in a Fourth of July Parade about thirty years ago, but probably hasn't seen her since. I suggested that I call her to see if she could meet up with him. He tells me where he will be, if she wants to stop by. "Tell her, I'm the guy with the beard."


"Beard?"I ask. "Why?" His answer follows. "Well, every March 1st, I start a beard. I do it because every time I shave off my beard, people tell me I look younger. On March 24th I shave it off. Since that's my birthday, I can be sure that people will always tell me I look younger."


Not a bad idea.

Houses Are Us

Once you get to be 70, you’ve probably lived in a lot of zip codes.  (Come to think of it, “zip codes” did not exist until 1963, but I digress.)  At age nine, I was living in my fourth state.  In my current state, I have lived at seven different addresses, although we spent the last forty years in only two of them.


Where I live has been on my mind a lot lately.  We love our “empty nest” house which is a much smaller version of our “full nest” house.  When the kids were out of college, we decided we wanted to be back in the city.  We had some criteria for the “empty nest” house which we bought fourteen years ago. First, either the house had to be on one level or at least have a bedroom on the first floor so we could stay there the rest of our lives, even if one of us had a bit of trouble climbing stairs.  Second, it had to be an easy walk from the center of town.  Third, it had to have an indoor garage.  I’m sure there were more criteria, but I mention those because they were the most important to us then.


The house we bought, however, is on four floors with no bedroom on the ground level.  It is a 35-minute walk to the center of town, if you walk fast.  It does have a garage, but that is now filled with bicycles, a snow blower, a lawn mower, garden tools, and charcoal grills of many shapes and sizes, so our car lives outdoors


But we love our home.  It suits us. 


Here’s the issue.  Do we look for a place now or do we stay here as long as we can take care of our home ourselves or with help?  Would either of us want to live here without the other?


Or do we think ahead and become apartment dwellers like we were more than 40 years ago?


There are no easy answers.

Dropping In

Something really unusual happened yesterday afternoon. I was about to send off a newspaper article that was due this week, and was attaching some photos to it to email to the editor. Peter was napping.


The doorbell rang, and I went to see what organization I had no interest in supporting was disturbing my Saturday afternoon. Mirabele dictu! It was my really good friend Joannie who lives about 30 minutes away. She was on her way to the airport to pick up her husband when she thought about stopping by and did.


"Why don't people drop in anymore?" she asked. Good question. People used to be around, especially on Sundays, prepared for whoever might stop by for a cup of coffee or a chat. Those were the good old days when doors weren't locked and people were not chained to their email or Facebook, when everyone had time, and neighbors chatted without making a formal date.


When's the last time someone dropped in to borrow a cup of sugar? What a good excuse to stop whatever you're doing, to connect in person!


I wasn't exactly dressed for company, and I wished I had gotten all the folded laundry upstairs. But it didn't matter to Joannie.


She only stayed a few moments, but I am still thinking about how happy I was to see her. I wish we did more dropping in.


There isn't anything that can't wait for a few minutes.

My Beloved at Seventy-Nine

My beloved husband turned seventy-nine this week.  It seemed to me like we just  celebrated his seventy-eighth birthday.  He'll be eighty before we know it.  How do we slow down time? 

In school, I was always one of the youngest children in my grade.  When all my classmates were driving, and I had months to go until my sixteenth birthday, the days and weeks seemed to drag on and on.  Now the weeks and months are flying (with the possibly exception of January).  How do we make the most of the unknown number of days we have left together?

One of the amazing things about Peter is his attitude.  He has lived longer than both of his parents; he has glaucoma (good for me because he still thinks I am beautiful) and a year ago he got a hearing aid.  He doesn’t like not being in front of a college class which he did for thirty-some years.  So now he teaches in an institute for learning in retirement.  And he only teaches things he doesn’t know so he can learn along with his “students.”  He goes to the gym every day.  Unlike his wife, he is not a complainer. OK, he does moan and groan occasionally when he’s feeling a little achy, but he is only human. 

He is as interesting today as he was the day I met him, and I am grateful for every moment that we are together.

One Down, One to Go

If we live long enough, we get cataracts.  The challenge is to know the right time to have them removed.  I could have waited longer, but I figured why not see better now?


I’m not one to go on about my operation, but I will say it was like a production line.  Show up, sit around a waiting room, get called, get prepped, get the procedure, get out.  I was on my way home in under two hours, and it only took that long because the man ahead of me had extra thick cataracts and probably should have had the surgery years ago.


The following morning there is a reunion in the doctor’s office of all the people who sat with me in the hospital waiting room the day before, all there to get their patches removed.  Then come three days built around eye drops, phone calls and a book on tape.  After that, resume life with some restrictions.  Piece of cake.


Here’s the payoff.  There’s a poster advertising a Matisse exhibit in France on the wall in our sunroom.  The background is white.  When I look through my still cataracted eye, the background is grayish; when I look through my cataract-free eye, it’s bright white.  It’s a whole new experience.


In ten days, I am going to do it all again. 

Out to Lunch

I remember when we had lunch hours.  A chance to clear your head, maybe catch up with a friend, or run a quick errand.  Gone.

Now, it’s grab a quick bite at your desk, sometimes not until 3:00 p.m.


So last week when my boss, two colleagues and I had a leisurely lunch out, it was very special.  We walked to a restaurant.  There were other customers, people we didn’t know.  We ordered from a menu and had exotic drinks like pomegranate lemonade.  We talked about family secrets.  We talked about our plans for the weekend.  We talked about the economic crisis and how people we know are scared and worried.  We heard about newlyweds, just into a brand new house, with a big mortgage and an unexpected firing.  We worried about roommates and loved ones and speculated about when things might get better.


We reminisced about old times.  We spent way too much time away from our desks.


What Will I Do?

On Wednesday, I will have my first cataract removed. I have heard nothing but happy results (although I have been given written warnings about all the things that could go wrong), and I look forward to seeing better.


This means that I will have six days this month (three for each eye) in which I can do almost nothing. I am forbidden to read, write, watch TV or exercise. I can't bend from the waist, shower or wash my hair.


How will I get through these days?


First what I will not do. I will not think about all the things I need to do that I can't. (Good luck to me on that one.)

I may do the following:


1. "Read" books on CDs.

2. Go for walks.

3. Talk on the phone.

4. Listen to music.

5. Learn a few words of Portuguese.

6. Take baths carefully.

7. Consume several bags of gluten-free pretzels

8. Nap


What would you do?