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June 2011
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July 2011

Our Children Are Better Than We Are

In a recent blog entry, I mentioned writing a thank you email to my primary care physician. That evening when our son Jeremy called, he told me that he had enjoyed that entry and added that he had recently sent a thank you card to his own doctor.


Jeremy outdid me—he took the time to buy a card, put a stamp on it and take it to the mailbox. I like to think that he was brought up to do the right thing and now he does it better than I do. That got me to thinking about all the ways that our kids are better than we are.


I'm a decent writer and have published many travel articles over the years, just because I like to write. But Seth is a great writer and he actually makes a living as a journalist who writes a lot about travel. And honestly, I thought we were good parents. But both Peter and I think Jeremy and his wife Katrina are better at parenting than we were.


Exactly what we want—our children to be better than their parents.


I have been doing a lot of swimming this summer—the Adriatic, the Atlantic, Newfound Lake in New Hampshire and our grandchildren's swim-club pool. I decided that the time had come for a new bathing suit.

I'm here to tell you that nothing makes you feel worse about your over-seventy body than trying on bathing suits. Fitting room lights are designed to spotlight flaws, especially when aided by three-way mirrors. There is no escape.

I wear a size six so I gathered an armful of size six bathing suits and loaded them into a dressing room. The first one was so small, I thought it was mis-marked. But after three "mis-marked," bathing suits, I got dressed and repeated the process with size eights and then again with size tens. Alas, I need a size twelve for my long-waisted body.

Finally, I found one that fit me that I could live with.

I told the sales lady, "The torture is over."


I wrote an email to my primary care physician. I was not feeling ill, and I did not need a checkup or a prescription refilled. I didn't have a question about anything. My email said: 


"This is just a thank you note. You are doing such a good job of keeping me healthy and I thought I should tell you so. I've had a marvelous summer, and I feel great. You play such an important role in my health, and I'm really glad I had appendicitis because that's how I met you."


I wrote it partly because I thought my doctor might like a change from the usual litany of complaints that must clog his Inbox.   But the main reason I wrote is that he has been great.  He gently tells me that I need a few tests, and then he helps me navigate the options and the solutions if what he suspects is true.  He found my CLL; he found my parathyroid condition.  And then he found the right specialists to correct or manage each condition. 


He's old enough to have practiced medicine before managed care when it was easier to be a doctor. I know he sees more patients than he would like to see, and I am very glad that he hasn't given up and left my healthcare provider.


He is just one of the many people who have contributed to my well-being over the years.  I probably should write a lot more thank-you emails.



Words with Friends

We have a new i-Pad.  We resisted buying one as long as we could, but between our grandchildren and their father, our son Jeremy,  the pressure was too great and we gave in.  That is, Peter gave in.

I have to admit it’s pretty cool.  We’ve owned it for about ten days.  However, my total time on it adds up to less than sixty minutes.

That’s because of an app called Words with Friends.  It’s free if you don’t mind some ads.  If you do, it costs a dollar.

Basically, it’s online Scrabble, but you can play with anyone anywhere who owns an i-Phone, i-Pad or i-Pod.  You make your move and then check in periodically to see if your opponent has made a move.  A game can go on for days, depending on how busy the players are.  And you can have more than one game going at a time.  Now Peter has a game with Jeremy and with Jeremy’s next-door neighbor.  Don’t ask me how that happened.

When we went to see the kids in Maryland last weekend, we took our new i-Pad.  And there seemed to be quite a bit of Words with Friends going on. 

We thought it was a stretch for Leo at age seven to try Scrabble, but he gave it a shot on his i-Pod.  When Grady, age four-and-a-half declared that he could play, I asked him, “What words can you spell?”  “Wow,” he spelled, and “Mom”.  Not bad for a four and a half year old, I thought. 

And, he could make a double word just by turning the screen upside down.

Technology (Con't)

Our Yahoo mail provider recently asked us to upgrade (free) to its new and improved version of email.  That was not surprising.  What was surprising was that they thanked us for being with them for eleven years. It seems like only yesterday when our son Jeremy set up our Yahoo account and suggested the password that we still use.

We had had email at work for a few years by then, but we still talked on our landline phone to colleagues and friends and even hand-wrote an occasional letter.

I don’t remember what year we got our first cell phone.  I do remember it was big and that we left it in the glove compartment of our car for emergency use only.

I do remember that when I was on a business trip to Mexico City in 1999, I was astonished that everyone there used cell phones.  I decided that cell phones must be a necessity because the traffic in Mexico City was so horrendous that people had to have phones to let each other know how late they would be.

Technology has been on my mind since we walked past a McDonald’s on Sunday.  There was a woman outside the restaurant. 

She was having a lively conversation.

On a pay phone!

Not So Great

I haven't been able to eat anything containing gluten for more than eleven years.  I'm used to it by now, but that doesn't mean that I don't mind it.  My mouth waters at the thought of a French croissant or a good bagel, and I still hate it when they bring the bread and olive oil to our table in a restaurant, and I have to watch everyone else soak up that virgin olive oil with artisanal bread while I sit there with my hunger pangs.


I tend to ask Peter how good the bread is.  His stock answer is, "It's not so great." 


It's even worse when we travel and come upon a bakery.  This summer the fruit-filled pastries Seth and Peter picked up in Croatia looked especially appealing, most notably when still hot from the bakery oven.  "That looks divine, I say."  And Peter responds, "It's not so great."


Last weekend we were visiting the summer home of friends near the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border.  Andy suggested that I bring my bicycle and that he and I go for a long ride while Peter and Andy's wife Ruth walked the beach.  Since Peter can't do long bike rides any more, and since I miss them so much, I couldn't resist.  Peter said he didn't mind so I brought my bike.


Andy and I started out at 6:30 a.m. on a gorgeous Sunday. We biked past vineyards and fishermen, across the river and through the woods.  The roads were empty.  It was heavenly. We parked our bikes at the beach and met our spouses as they returned from a long walk.  Peter asked me how the bike ride was.


"Not so great," I replied.

My Mother's Voice

I have a white summer skirt that has an “embroidered” black design.  I wore it Thursday for the first time this summer.  It is gathered at the waist and quite full, kind of a peasanty look.  I think the word for it is dirndl.  I wear it with a black top that fits tightly around my midriff. 

There are a lot of things about my body that are imperfect, but I have a great midriff.  As I pirouetted in front of the mirror, I thought to myself,  “You don’t look so bad for an old lady.” 

Skipping down the stairs, I was hoping Peter would notice, but he was too deep into the crossword puzzle to look up.  But no matter—in my first meeting of the morning, one of my colleagues said she wished she could wear a skirt like mine.

And that’s when I heard my mother’s voice saying, “You should always wear full skirts.  Being tall, you can ‘carry’ them.”

Old Friends Forever

I've known Valerie, a former neighbor, for thirty-five years. Since she moved away twenty-two years ago, we have talked every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. unless one of us was traveling. That's over a thousand phone calls.


On Sunday I told Val about the eightieth birthday party of my good friend Gordon. I have known Gordon for fifty years. Val noted that I have an unusually large number of friends from my distant past who are still in my life—from old boyfriends to old schoolmates.


It's true.


For example, I'm still friends with my grammar school buddy Susie and my junior high school friend Ruth, both of whom I talk to regularly. We're having dinner with my boss from fifty years ago (he's eighty-three) next month when my friend Barbara who worked with us at that job visits from California. I have lunch with one of my former boyfriends twice a year.


My friend of longest standing whom I met on a vacation with my parents at age four or five (we're not sure) is still among my closest friends even though we have never lived in the same city.


People say that older folks with good friends and an active social life are healthier. It is a big pay-back for a small investment.

The "Old-Old"

People may disagree about when we become old-old.  But there is no doubt that the two women I talked with last week qualify.

Take my Aunt Ruth, for example.  Going strong at ninety-nine, she lives on her own.  Last month, she hosted (with some help) a cocktail party for twenty members of her extended family from across the country who were in town for a reunion.  The next night she took them all out to dinner.

I called her last week to tell her that we are planning to go to Buffalo in the fall to see her, and she was thrilled.  However, most of our conversation was not about our visit, but about the “sorry” state of the world.  She had an opinion about everything, including Wimbledon (which she was watching when I called).  I don’t have her genes, but I sure hope that if I make it to ninety-nine, I have her spunk.

I do have the genes of the other nonagenarian I chatted with last week, my half-sister Florence.  She is almost ninety-five, but still has the same four New York City  theatre subscriptions that she’s had for years, and a friend to go with.  She has already been to Seattle once to visit her first great grandchild and has another trip there on her agenda.

It’s a long story, but Florence “found” me.  We met for the first time when she was eighty-two, and I never thought we would have this much time to get to know each other.  Her daughter (my half-niece) is closer to my age than Florence, and it’s been great to get to know her and her family also.

If I am lucky enough to live as long as Florence and Aunt Ruth, I want to be just like them.  They may be old-old, but they are great-great.