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August 2012
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October 2012

September 2012

A Sweet Man

One nice thing about working is that the weekend feels different. We rarely set the alarm clock, and resent it when we have to. Rather than leaping out of bed, we hold each other tight and take some time to express our gratefulness for another day together.

I am married to a very nice man and yesterday morning, I told him so.  “You are a sweet man,” I said as we lay in bed together.

“You made me that way,” he replied.


Little Things / Big Pleasures

My friend Marie is semi-retired and ambivalent about it.  When she is not teaching, she misses her students and colleagues. She misses the rigor of her schedule…sometimes.

On the other hand, she has come to appreciate little things, things she doesn’t have time for when she is working. At lunch the other day, she told me a few:

  • Reading a new novel in the garden with a glass of white wine
  • Watching the sunset from her third floor deck
  • Making progress on her Italian, thanks to CD’s borrowed from the    library
  • Writing catch-up emails to old friends
  • Taking all week to read Sunday’s New York Times
  • Making a simple dinner for a visiting friend
  • Learning how to load a new iPod with her favorite music
  • Taking a free thirty-minute course in cell structure online, from The Khan Academy

As a 70-something who still spends more hours in the office than at home, the idea of enjoying the pleasures on my own list is tempting.  Just not tempting enough.




I took myself on an adventure to a new Premium Outlet Mall about forty-five minutes away from home on a beautiful fall weekend. I thought I could spruce up my wardrobe with a bargain or two.

I played my favorite CD’s in the car.  I enjoyed the scenery, especially as the leaves were beginning to show their fall colors. 

What I didn’t enjoy was the shopping.  Things didn’t look fresh—they didn’t look like they look in the regular Saks Fifth Ave or the fancy Coach store in the mall.  They had sales on their sales, and nothing looked appealing.  So guess what?  The only thing I bought was a new spatula to replace our forty-five year old one that disappeared a week ago.

I couldn’t help but think of my shopping trips with my mother.  We would take the bus to downtown Pittsburgh to shop in Kaufmann’s.  We would outfit me for the new school year, based on the latest fashions in Seventeen.  We would have a ladies’ lunch in the store’s restaurant, either Chicken à la King or tuna salad. I probably wore white gloves.

The stores had free delivery back then so we got back on the bus, tired, but unencumbered by any bags.

Kaufmann’s is now Macy’s. But when I think about those shopping trips, it’s Kaufmann’s to me. And it always will be.


Our GPS tells us it is “recalculating” when we are not following its directions. It quickly offers us a different option or directs us back to what it considers the right one.

Of late, Peter and I are doing some recalculating, and it’s much harder when it’s about our lives.  For example, although Peter has done a great job of staving off the worst symptoms of Parkinson’s disease through sheer determination and rigorous exercise, he doesn’t have the balance or energy to do all the things we used to do.  Of course, he is also eighty-two.

The other night when we talked about a possible trip to New York City and I rattled off the long list of things I would like to do, he thought it might be too much for him.

Some changes take time to process. We are recalculating.

Old Folks Talk

At work, I am surrounded by people who are younger than I am.  Since the mission of our school is to make the world better, there’s a lot of talk about problem solving in the present and challenges for the future. But no talk of aging.

So last weekend, away with two couples we have known for a very long time, I was struck by how different our conversation was.  We reminisced about the good old days.  We talked about our kids and their kids and what their futures hold.  We spent a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon sharing our hopes and fears about aging.  We talked about how we think that walking into a room and forgetting what we were looking for is a sign of incipient dementia to us, while younger friends do the same thing without giving it a second thought.  And we talked of our fears of a bad death wracked with pain, and what we would or would not do if faced with that situation.

We talked about what good luck we have had in our lives compared to the world at large, or even compared to some friends who have had multiple disappointments and losses.

It all may sound depressing.  But it wasn’t.  We know we’ve had a great run, and we will make the most of whatever future time we are lucky enough to have.

Still, I was happy to go to work on Monday and talk about how we can make the world better.

My Rivals (revisited)

We spent Labor Day weekend at our friends Tina and Harvey’s vacation home in the Berkshires.  It is a very special place.  We step out of the car, and suddenly everything is fine in our world.

Tina’s mother was also visiting.  She is an amazing 90-year old, widowed eighteen months ago after a long and happy marriage.  She looks years younger.  She is not a complainer. She laughs easily.  She loves her I-Pad. It’s fun to be with her.

At one point during the weekend, she whispered to me, “Peter is really a handsome man.”  “Agreed.” I replied, and I didn’t give it another thought.

Until an email from Tina in response to my thank-you note included the following, “My mother loves Peter.”

Do I have another rival?

P.S.  Thanks to reader Sara Coburn. we know that the poem quoted in the last posting was written in 1961 by Jenny Joseph.

The Color Purple

There’s a wonderful old poem that starts like this:

    When I am an old woman

    I shall wear purple with a red hat

    that  doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me…

The poem tells us that when you are old, you can get away with some pretty outrageous things just because… you are old . 

I do say some things that I might have self-censored just a few years ago, but so far I have not regretted any of them.

As for purple, it turns out that I bought a regally purple sweater last winter.  And this spring I bought a purple bathing suit and a purple big shirt to wear over it.  But it was not until both my daughter-in-law and my cousin separately told me what a great color my new purple polo shirt is for me that I thought of “When I am old I shall wear purple…”

Now I just need a red hat.

My Rivals

For a long time, Katie Couric and Jennifer Anniston were women Peter lusted after.  I guess that was OK as I was pretty interested in Jake Gyllenhaal and Javier Bardim.  Of course, the odds of either one of us being replaced by each other’s crushes were zero.

But lately, when I have trouble getting Peter’s attention, it’s more likely to be because of an inanimate object.  In no particular order, The Economist, the GPS lady, and The New York Times crossword puzzle vie for his attention.

Unlike Katie and Jennifer, they’re always around and available.

Just like me. 

Neville Place

On our Day of Service to kick off the school year, I led a team of students to Neville Place, an assisted living facility.  I had mixed feelings about spending the day with people who could no longer live on their own.

The fourteen of us worked in small groups.  In the morning, four of us worked with a group of ten seniors. We had a basket of pictures of historical events. We asked the group to tell us memories that the pictures evoked.  Our team made collages of the pictures and wrote the memories around each picture.

One woman who was blind didn’t say anything, although she was paying attention.  Another couldn’t speak, but wrote her thoughts in a notebook she carries with her.  The gentlemen were a bit less talkative.  Three women spoke quite eloquently of their memories of World War II, Martin Luther King, and Frank Sinatra.  Others talked of flappers and freedom for women, of Rosa Parks and Jackie Kennedy, of the boy scouts and the Boston Red Sox.  It was fun.

In the afternoon, three of us went to the Alzheimer’s, unit where we helped the residents make necklaces or work on other art projects. The hardest moment for me came when a woman had to be reminded by a staff member that she has grandchildren.  “I do?” she said.  And then she continued drawing. 

The happiest moment for me came when Sadie who wouldn’t interact at all suddenly burst into song when we played “You Are My Sunshine” on the electronic keyboard. Her singing was so happy.  I’ll never forget the look on her face.

I had worried that I would find this experience depressing.  Instead, I found it uplifting.  Their life may look sad from the outside, but the residents of Neville Place are not sad.  From where they sit, life is pretty good.