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February 2010
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March 2010

Work vs. Retirement (Cont.)

The other night a colleague gave me a ride home from work because the weather was horrible, and I had not ridden my bike in. The next day she asked if I minded answering a personal question. She said that when she had dropped me off at home, Peter was in front of the house. She noticed how warmly we greeted each other (after all these years). She was curious to know why, now that he is eighty, I don't leave my job to spend more time with him since we don't know how much time we will have together.

When I mentioned her comment to Peter that night, he replied "For better or for worse, but not for lunch."

But my colleague's comment stayed with me a day or two, so I decided to press Peter on this subject. I asked him if he wanted me to be with him more. I told him that if he wanted to take a trip around the world, I would quit my job. But he doesn't want to do that. Peter is a man who has a wonderful life of the mind. Teaching and learning is what makes him happy, whereas I am happiest problem-solving with people. So I belong at work, and he belongs with his life of the mind.

But he went on to say, "Well, maybe if I were really sick…"

My reply, although it may seem unseemly was,

"Then I'd really need to go to work…"    

Aunt Ruth at Ninety-Eight

When we visited Aunt Ruth for a weekend last summer, she was ninety-seven and a half. She insisted on picking us up at the airport. The plan was that we would drop our bags at her house, freshen up, and then go out to dinner with my cousins. Our plane was a few hours late, so Aunt Ruth asked cousin Arnold to pick us up at the airport. She was concerned that we would be cutting it close for our dinner reservation because the delay of our plane meant she would not have enough time to get ready.

Aunt Ruth is extraordinary. I continue to marvel at her beauty, her sharp mind, and her ability to live on her own. But I know my reflexes aren't what they used to be, and she is twenty-six years older than I am. So we were relieved when Arnold met us at the airport.

On Monday we had a flight home at the crack of dawn. Aunt Ruth arranged for a driver to take us to the airport so she could get her beauty sleep. So we didn't have to be concerned about driving with her then either.

Last month, Aunt Ruth turned ninety-eight. Her three sons and their wives, in town for the occasion, said it was time for her to stop driving. She protested that all her younger friends count on her because she is the only one who can drive at night. Her sons insisted that she at least have her reflexes tested. (Her sons probably are old enough to have their reflexes tested too.) She agreed.

The test required that she drive on the thruway and get off and on twice. She also had some reflex testing at the hospital where one of her children works. Apparently, she passed summa cum laude, and the woman who tested her told her that she was the first person over ninety who has ever passed that test.

You go Girl!


On Friday, several of my colleagues were complaining that last week had seemed very long. It might have been that the days of sunshine after so much rain the week before made everyone want to not be at work. Or maybe the change to Daylight Savings Time made us work later, forgetting to leave because the 5:00 p.m. sun made it feel like it was only 3:00 o'clock. We all agreed that whatever it was, it had been a very long week.

It's true that some weeks fly by, and others seem as slow as molasses. For example, exam weeks seem endless when you are a student. The last weeks of pregnancy are long for the expectant parents. But vacation weeks fly by.

When you are 70-something, you welcome the long weeks and the short ones. Just having weeks is good.


Thanks to sheer luck or good defense mechanisms, I’ve managed to get through life so far without the aid of a therapist or an SSRI.  Like everyone else, I have my down moments (or days).  For example, I have an occasional celiac depression—when I am dying for something with gluten because everyone around me is eating a bagel and I can never eat one again.  Or I have my annual one-day depression when the clocks are set back in the fall and I face the dark, cold days of winter. 

But last month, I was hit by two solid weeks of feeling blue.  It was completely different than my mini-depressions.  I was working hard, day and night.  But I’ve done that before.  Winter wasn’t letting up.  But it never does in February. I put on a happy face at work, but I was glum at home.  Just ask Peter.

It wasn’t too long before I figured out what was going on.  I had a new boss.  He’s fine.  But what I didn’t realize was how accustomed I had become to being the acting boss.  I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed getting all those phone calls from folks who couldn’t make a decision without my input.  I missed that feeling of being absolutely essential.

My mood lifted when I remembered that it was my decision not to apply for my boss’ job.  I’m at a stage of life when I should be maintaining the status quo at work or slowing down.  Once again, I had a little time for me. I was over the serious blues.  Life is good.  I’m lucky. 

And I’m de-funked.   

False Alarm

Everything turned out fine. But on Friday night I had a reminder that things can change in seconds. At 9:00 p.m., just as I was contemplating whether or not a bag of microwave popcorn might be pretty tasty, Peter said he was bleeding in his mouth. There was quite a bit of blood, and when it didn't slow down, he called our health plan emergency number, and they told him to go to the hospital.

Peter didn't feel dizzy or weak, so I wasn't frantic. Also, he takes a blood thinner, so when he bleeds, he BLEEDS.

It was only minutes until we were at the hospital and he was evaluated (kudos to the emergency room at our local hospital). A very nice nurse said that Peter had bitten his tongue, and that the tongue can bleed heavily because it has a lot of blood vessels. Of course, the initial evaluation was followed by a long wait before seeing a physician. When we finally left the hospital two hours later, Peter had four stitches in his tongue. He was a bit uncomfortable Saturday morning, and his speech was slurred as if he was slightly inebriated. But he was fine.

Going forward, we have to be more careful about biting into the dark chocolate we eat every evening–for our health!

For now, however, we have dodged another bullet.

Guest Commentary: The 70-something Blogger’s Spouse on Turning Eighty

Today is my eightieth birthday and I'm beginning to feel old.

I didn't feel old when I turned seventy. I had a full-time job, I was biking long distances on summer vacations, and I only took one pill in the morning. Now, ten years later, I'm retired, I take about ten pills a day, and seldom bike more than two miles

Don't get me wrong. I'm still happy to be on this side of the grass. I'm happy to wake up next to Judy in the morning. I'm happy to learn something new almost every day. I'm happy when I hear Mozart or come up with a new idea. And I still like managing the things I run.

So far so good. But I wonder how I'll feel when I turn ninety…if I turn ninety.

I'd like to turn ninety, and keep going, because there are still lots of things I'd like to do. I want to see what happens to my children and grandchildren. I have things I'd like to teach, some research problems I'd like to solve and a martini or two I'd like to drink..

Although ordinarily I don't like being interrupted while I'm in the middle of doing something, that's how I'd like to go – while I'm in the middle of doing something. But, as Saint Augustine said after he asked his God for chastity, not yet.

Roll Call

Yesterday we went to the Bar Mitzvah of a colleague's son. Benjamin did an awesome job (and I don't use that word often). I loved watching the pride of his parents, and I know him well enough to have been proud too. When there is so much bad news in the world, it's wonderful to have something to celebrate.

But there was a surprise in store for Peter and me. One of the other guests turned out to be none other than the incomparable JW, the fifth and sixth grade home room and math teacher of both of our kids. It turns out that he was the summer camp counselor of Benjamin's father, and they are still in touch.

All those elementary school back-to-school nights, all those Green Sheets (the elementary school newsletter that, I am sure, is an email now), all those yellow, hand-written reports about the kids' strengths and weaknesses—it seems like only yesterday.

But unlike my own fifth and sixth grade teachers who disappeared from my life when I was in high school, JW keeps up with the kids. He is their Facebook friend. He knows about Jeremy's web business,, and that Seth is living in Brazil. But he wanted to know more, and we had a wonderful talk.

JW looks pretty much the same, although some thirty years have passed. He's retired now, and I am sure up to some good stuff although we didn't get to his life or ours. It was all about the kids.

And before we parted, he recited, from memory, the entire roll call of both of the kids' home room classes alphabetically.

It was a hoot.


Wii and They

We flew to Maryland to see our grandchildren last weekend. They couldn't wait to show us Wii, their latest favorite thing. Although I have heard of Wii, I had never seen one in action.

Our grandchildren use the sports version. For those who haven't had the experience, you can use WII to play golf, baseball, tennis and bowling, and it feels like you are really doing whichever sport it is. If it's bowling, it feels like you are in a bowling alley, complete with lots of players and spectators.

The kids had already made Grammy and Gramps avatars, so we had our own characters, and they actually looked sort-a like us. Anyone could become addicted to Wii, as long as they don't mind losing to their grandchildren. The good thing is that it is not like a computer game—you actually get a little exercise while playing.

Wii represents the modern world of kids' entertainment. But we also went to the Children's Museum. That seemed more familiar—Curious George, old fashioned trains, a grocery store with checkout lines and much more. But, when our daughter-in-law asked our six-year-old grandson to identify one particular item, he was clueless. We were reminded that a lot of things from our generation are completely strange to this one. What was it? A plain black rotary telephone!

There's a big difference between Wii and they.