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May 2013

The Red Line Train

After visiting Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art on a recent Sunday, Peter and I were on the subway to Harvard Square. Sunday is the day that track repair happens on the Red Line, and that Sunday was no different. 

When the train pulled into the Harvard Square Station where we get off, the driver announced, “This is the Red Line train to Braintree” when he should have said “This is the Red Line train to Alewife.”  We knew that meant that the train was turning around three stops early because of track repairs. 

But apparently the announcer needed to drive home his point.  So we heard,

“This is the Red Line train to Braintree.” Pause…“This is the Red Line train to Braintree.”  And once more, “This is the Red Line train to Braintree.”

After the third time I turned to Peter to ask, tongue-in-cheek, “Where is this train going?”

At the same moment, Peter turned to me to ask, “Where is this train going?”  We burst out laughing after the “Where”.  Fellow passengers stared.

Some couples finish each other’s sentences.  We start them.

Have we been married too long?




You're Not !

I enjoy shooting the breeze with Maureen who has worked at our dry cleaners as long as I can remember.  She remembers our address and that Peter doesn’t like starch in his shirts. Clothes with stains that didn’t come out get sent back, and she never forgets our senior discount. 

But yesterday when I took in armfuls of winter clothes, we chatted a bit more than usual while she wrote up a very long ticket.  I mentioned that one of these days I would quit my job and never have to look at some of those clothes again.  “Not you”, she said.  “You aren’t ready to quit,”

I replied, “Well, I am seventy-five.”

“YOU’RE NOT!!!!!!”

Like I said, I enjoy shooting the breeze with Maureen.

Saturday Morning

Peter was reading the newspaper on the computer when I came downstairs on Saturday morning.  He did manage to look up and say “Good morning.”  He was sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee.  He looked quite content.

While he read, I hand-washed two sweaters, sorted the laundry and started the first load, watered the plants, gathered piles of winter clothes and coats to take to the cleaners and straightened up a bit from our dinner guests the night before.

Then I had some toast and coffee with him. 

When I was cleaning up from breakfast, I noticed that there was a lot of water puddled on the stovetop.  To mop it up, I had to remove the grates and the trays under the burners and make several trips to the sink with dripping sponges. 

Now, I don’t mind doing the laundry, watering the plants etc. while Peter reads the paper. But there was something about all that water that got to me.   So I said in my most obnoxious voice—“I don’t mind doing the laundry and watering the plants and getting the cleaning ready while you sit with the paper and your coffee, but don’t you think you could have at least cleaned up the water on the stove when the tea kettle boiled over?”

Yes, even our almost-perfect forty-five year marriage has it bad moments. But I immediately regretted speaking angrily to the man who bakes me great gluten-free bread, mows the lawn, listens to my endless stories about work and gave me two great sons among other things.

I decided that I should have kept my mouth shut.  So I apologized, hugged him as hard as I could and said, “You are one awesome eighty-three year old.”

He is.

Apples to Apples

On Mother’s Day weekend when we were visiting the kids in Maryland, a torrential downpour interrupted the Saturday night barbecue party next door. Neighbors from around the corner joined us to wait out the rain at our kids’ house, and someone suggested a game of Apples to Apples.  We had no idea how to play, but it is a cinch to learn. See http://bit.l/rqZA9

The ages of the ten players ranged from six (our grandson Grady) to eighty-three (Gramps, aka Peter).  It’s hard to imagine that a game could entertain a kindergartner, a third grader, an eighth grader, an eleventh grader and six adults, but Apples to Apples requires little more than a sense of humor. 

People were competitive, but friendly.  Some lobbied the “judge”.  Others reprimanded the lobbyists.  We laughed a lot.

The rain stopped.  We kept playing. 

I won.

Gluten-free Mother's Day Weekend

I could write about how great it was to be with our son Jeremy and his family in Maryland for Mother’s Day.  I could say how amazing the grandchildren are, how much I enjoyed Leo’s soccer game, the barbecue at their neighbor’s, the visit with a childhood friend, our Mother’s Day brunch, and Seth’s Mother’s Day email from Berlin which, of course, made me cry.   All good.

Instead, I want to write about gluten. 

We went to lunch after Leo’s soccer game.  The kids and Peter went to Five Guys, a hamburger place, and Katrina and I went to Sweetgreen next door  where  the counter staff composed a gluten-free salad per my direction but put a piece of bread on top of the greens.  “No,” I shouted—you’ll have to start over—I said I needed gluten-free.”

“Not to worry”, they replied.  “It’s gluten-free bread!” 

We took our salads next door to join the males.  Five Guys makes their French fries in a dedicated fryer and they are therefore gluten-free.  I ate my first fast-food French fry since my celiac diagnosis fourteen years age.  It was heavenly.

That night the neighbors offered piles of barbecued pork and chicken brought in for their party.  I planned to stick with the raw veggies.  But my daughter-in-law called the barbecue place and they said I could eat all but the bread. 

The one disappointment was at Costco’s on Friday night where Peter and Jeremy each had a huge ice cream dipped in chocolate and crushed almonds.  The woman at the counter didn’t understand what gluten was so I couldn’t join them.  Peter admitted it was fantastic.  I sulked.

But when Jeremy called Costco customer service after our Mother’s Day Brunch and learned that, in fact, that bar is gluten-free, we took a quick detour on the way home, and Jeremy bought me my own ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and crushed almonds.  Delicious.

Life is gluten-free and good.


I don’t nap.   When we arrive in a foreign country after an overnight flight, everyone else naps before setting out.  But I am ready to roll and power through until bedtime.  There are sights to be seen.

I can’t nap during the week because of work, but I also avoid the couch on weekend afternoons because I always believe there is something more important to do.

I’ve always been like that.  As a kid, I would rush out of my best friend’s house saying I had to go home because I had “things” to do.  Whatever that meant.

But then there was last weekend.  It had been an unusually busy week with various crises at work that brought me home later than usual. I didn’t have Friday night to recover because we had company for dinner.

Saturday morning we were busy with errands.  In the afternoon, I decided to take a short break to read the paper before doing some yard work. Two hours later, I woke up,  a new woman. 

Napping could become the new normal.

Bikes and Us--A History

One of my favorite photos shows me at age ten in the driveway of the house where I grew up.  Two good friends and I face the camera on our new three-speed bikes, grinning from ear to ear.

A bicycle was my sole means of transportation in college. But I didn’t bike much after that except around the neighborhood with the children. When I biked four miles on vacation one summer, I thought that was a great accomplishment.

It wasn’t until 1985 when we took our first real bicycle vacation that I came to love biking for biking’s sake.  For the next twenty-five years, we vacationed by bicycle every summer, and then forty to fifty miles a day was no problem.

Things change.  Peter’s Parkinson’s disease brought an end to our bicycle vacations five years ago.  But, until recently, we could still bike short distances together on the weekends. Last month, that too ended when Peter’s cardiologist told him to stop biking altogether.

Tuesday night, we sold his bike to a lovely student from Niger.  We had so much fun talking to her that we were tempted to just give her the bike.  When she offered us $15 less than our asking price, we sold it to her for even less.

We watched her ride off with very mixed emotions, one more reminder that “We had our time.”


Home Owners Lament

Don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful to have a roof over my head and plenty to eat because there are so many people who don’t. 

But when the roof over my head has to be replaced in the same month that the oven, the dishwasher and the furnace choose to dysfunction, living in a cave sounds like a good idea. Oh, and did I mention that last Sunday, my iron called it a day?

So we’ve had a revolving door of repair folks, mostly when Peter can be home.  And their charge for walking in the door, before parts and labor are added, is already higher than dinner for two at an upscale restaurant.  

I hear my mother’s voice in my head. 

“They don’t make things like they used to.”

Helping our Vets

The other day, I joined some colleagues from work to help clean up the grounds at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Boston.  The hospital’s funding has been cut, so they were delighted to have our help.  It was a beautiful spring day, and it was nice to be away from the office.

We planned to treat ourselves to lunch in the neighborhood and we asked the men who supervised our work to be our guests.   There were a dozen of us and two of them, both veterans themselves.

 At first the conversation was a little slow, but we got into sports and where we grew up—they were born and bred in Boston and only one of us could claim that. They love the Red Sox no matter how bad they are, and they were very proud of their city’s response to the marathon bombings. 

Food is a great equalizer, and by the time we parted, we had made new friends.  I still smile when I think of their parting words, “We can’t wait to tell our friends that Harvard bought us lunch!”