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January 2014

Rear View Mirror

(Warning to readers under sixty:  You might want to skip this preview of another indignity of growing older.)

Standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror in my exercise tights while waiting for a slow elevator, I noticed that my backside is now pancake flat.  How could this have happened?!  I spent so many years trying to tame my rear wiggle and now that it’s gone, I want it back. 

Even worse, there are folds in my skin where my butt meets my thighs that I would use to re-inflate my behind, if that were an option.  Those little wrinkles that babies have that show how much space they can grow into?  They’re back again, but heading in the wrong direction.

And while I’m on the subject of my deteriorating body--naah, we don’t have all day…

A Respite from the Cold

We usually get away for part of January because the double whammy of bitter cold and short days make me grumpy.  Often we have traveled to distant places, but this year, a short non-stop flight was a priority, so we chose Sarasota, Florida.

I never expected to like Florida.  In fact, I have bad memories of a concrete jungle of high rises in southern Florida where my parents retired so many years ago. 

But we loved it.  Sarasota is an accessible city with impressive and affordable culture, beautiful beaches and friendly people.  Our small rented condo overlooked the Gulf of Mexico.  The sunsets and shore birds alone were worth the trip.

And even though retirement is supposedly a full-time “vacation,” there is something wonderful about being away from all the commitments of home.  We spent a lot of time walking the beaches, a lot of time reading, and just the right amount of time enjoying new friends and all that the city offers.

And although, thanks to a snowstorm, we had a nightmare of a trip home and it’s bitterly cold here, the days are already a bit longer. I feel grateful, not grumpy.

Bugs and Looops

In 1970 Peter and I created and produced a game called Bugs and Looops.  Since I was going to stay home with our first-born, we decided I needed something to entertain me other than diapers.  Peter had invented educational games that others had produced, but we were going to do this one ourselves.  In our basement.

Many of the details of that adventure now escape me, although we have a notebook filled with publicity, including an article in The Boston Globe entitled “The Toy Too Late for Christmas.”  In any event, we put together a wonderful game, elegantly produced, but with no marketing plan.  Needless to say, we did not recoup our investment.

Imagine our surprise when forty-three years later, we get an email from an engineer in Raleigh, N.C. who had bought a copy of Bugs and Looops in a thrift store, loved it, played it with his engineer friends and wanted to know more about it.  Thanks to the Internet, he found some of the newspaper articles that were written about the game and he found us.  He emailed to ask if he if he could call us to learn more.

We agreed and recently we talked with him at length.  He loves the game  (which tries to teach how computers can do the unexpected).  He doesn’t plan to reproduce it or realize any personal gain from our invention.  He was just curious.

I found the notebook containing all the copies of our publicity in the back of a closet.  Back then, we sold the game in some game stores and by mail order for $6.00 plus 50 cents postage and handling.

We have moved twice since that enterprise.  We used the unsold games’ score pads for our grocery lists for years; we gave thousands of the game’s elegant cubes to schools or anyone who would take them off our hands.  I’ve scoured our house, but can’t find a single copy of the actual game.  But there is a guy in Raleigh, North Carolina who has one.

It cost him 75 cents.

A Garage is for a Car

When we were looking for an empty-nest home nineteen years ago, we had two criteria in addition to location:  a garage and a bedroom and bath on the first floor.

The house we bought has no bedroom or bath on the first floor. Although it does have a one-car garage, said garage has been fully occupied by a snow blower, a lawn mower, two bicycles, all kinds of gardening supplies, shovels, a grill, deck chairs, a 16-foot ladder, firewood, garbage cans and more. No room for a car.

Until now.

The men we hired to take care of our landscaping found our garage appalling.  They made a proposal.  They said it could be possible to hang everything on the walls in the garage and still have room for a car, and they said they could make it happen for a reasonable price. 

Their timing was great because we had just had a snowstorm that had been hard to clean off the car.  So we made a deal.


Although the person on the passenger side has to get out of the car before it enters the garage and we do have to push in both side-view mirrors, it works. Our new heroes hung a tennis ball from the garage ceiling.  When the windshield comes into contact with the ball, we have to stop (or plow into all the things on the floor in the very back of the garage).  Everything but the garbage cans fits just fine. 

But everything has to remain in its exact place for this to work so I have warned Peter that our flawless forty-five year marriage would be in jeopardy if he doesn’t put everything back in its designated place.

We will probably put the car in the garage only when it is going to snow.  But as long as our marriage lasts, there will be no more shoveling it off.

Socks with Guinea Hens

All my black socks are rolled up in a plastic bag in a dresser drawer. Some are multi-colored with wild designs, some have more muted patterns.  And some are just plain black.  Usually I grab the pair on top, but when I reached further into the bag the other day, I unrolled a pair of black socks with an overall pattern of marching white guinea hens that hadn’t surfaced in years. 

I bought those guinea hen socks in Africa in 2000.  We were there with our kids to celebrate Peter’s seventieth birthday, not to mention to fulfill my safari dream.

The socks unleashed memories of the experience of a lifetime.  Like my paralyzing fear watching my son Seth, then thirty, bungee jump 111 meters into the Zambezi River from the bridge joining Zimbabwe to Zambia near Victoria Falls.  Or Peter’s and my successful short-sheeting of the kids’ beds in retaliation for them trying to scare us with their hippopotamus noises outside our open cabin late one night. Watching giraffes and elephants at water holes early in the morning.  Long family chats while watching beautiful sunsets.

Memories brought back by a pair of black socks with guinea hens.

Tasting the Marmalade

Hi.  I’m Judy’s husband, Peter, and she has invited me to be a guest blogger again.  Perhaps she thought that I might have some more wisdom to share about life in one’s seventies, since I’m in my eighties and I’ve been through the full catastrophe. But I’d rather talk about life in my decade.  Judy’s next one.

This morning, at breakfast, I stopped reading the newspaper and paid attention to what I was eating – a good piece of bread, toasted, spread with unsalted butter and topped with orange marmalade.  I’ve been ignoring my breakfast while reading the paper for years.

But when you’re in your eighties, you realize that the number of breakfasts you’re going to eat is finite. Oh sure, they’ve been finite all along, but small numbers are more finite  than big ones.  As there are fewer of them left, they are getting more precious.

It’s not just the days that are getting fewer.  So are the things I can do and enjoy.  I can no longer ride my bicycle to Harvard Square, let alone down the “D” roads of France.  I can no longer see well enough to drive at night and one of these days I won’t be able to drive at all. I’m losing my sense of smell.  My memory isn’t what it used to be.

However, having less left is making what I still have seem more valuable.  I think Martin Amis got it right when he said  “I find that in your 60s everything begins to look sort of slightly magical again. And it’s imbued with a kind of leave-taking resonance.” 

I’m finding that leave-taking resonance in my 80s.  I suspect that it’s findable at any age.


Happy Birthday 70-Something Blog

Tomorrow “The 70-Something Blog” will be six years old.  It has become a huge part of my identity.  I have written twice-weekly, without fail, since January 10, 2008, and that feels good.  I have said a lot in my 630 posts, but I haven’t run out of things to write about.

I am not the same person I was in January, 2008, but I do like the person I am today. Yet I realize I am still a work-in-progress.

Thank you so much for reading.  Thank you for your comments.  Please stick with me. 

The Goldfinch

I have just finished an amazing book.  A long book.  Until retirement, something I would have never found time to do except on vacation.  In fact, until retirement, I hadn’t been in our local library more than a handful of times.  And now, they know my name when I walk in.

But I read the 750 plus pages of The Goldfinch in ten days, (less than the fourteen allowed) and I can’t stop thinking about it.  Do you ever have a feeling after a good movie that you are envious of someone who can look forward to it?  That’s how I feel about this book.

Don’t take my word for it.  Read a review.  And then read the book.  You’ll thank me.

My Solo Conversation

I’ve learned not to interrupt Peter when he is thinking deep thoughts (which seems to be most of the time). But lately he doesn’t even seem to like my talking to him when he is doing the daily crossword puzzle.

On Saturday, I was folding the laundry at the dining room table where he was working on the puzzle. I asked him a question that elicited a grunt that meant “I don’t want to be interrupted.”

So, I returned to folding the laundry, and had the following conversation out loud, playing both parts myself:

Peter:  “Thanks honey for doing all the laundry and changing the bed and cleaning the house.  I know it’s a lot of work.”

Judy: “Oh, you’re welcome.”  “Would you like fish for supper tonight?  My turn to cook.”

Peter: “Sure, fish sounds good for supper. Thanks for offering to cook.”

Judy: “By the way, I’ve decided to adopt a puppy from a shelter.”  (The last thing in the world that Peter would like is a dog.)

He looked up from his puzzle. “WHAT??!!!,”  he said.

At least I got his attention. 

Happy New Year!