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June 2014

Two Vignettes

Scene 1: The lily pond next to our path around the reservoir where dog owners bring their pets to swim. Said dog owners are throwing sticks or balls into the pond and their pooches are tirelessly fetching them. 

Peter and I are sitting there admiring the wildflowers (and the dogs).  After a while, the last dog owner gets up to leave and called his dog.

“Don’t go”, I call out.  “Yours is the last dog for me to watch.”

Without missing a beat, Peter pipes up, “ It’s OK, I’ll go in.”  (He may be 84, but he still has the sense of humor of a 12-year old.)

Scene 2:  A perfect June morning, sunny and 72 degrees at 7:45 a.m.  I am on my way to the dermatologist on my bicycle.  No backpack, no purse, just me.  There is a cool breeze and almost no traffic.  I feel joyful.

(I may be 76, but I still take great pleasure in small things like Peter’s sense of humor, my bike and perfect June days.  For all of this, I am grateful.)


Grammy and Gramps Camp

When our grandchildren Leo and Grady are out of school without scheduled activities, they go to “Mommy Camp”, run seamlessly by our daughter-in-law.  But when Katrina unexpectedly had to go to California for six days, she asked us to take over. 

We agreed, but I was concerned about having to drive the kids in Katrina’s huge van around a town I didn’t know.  Also, at ages ten and almost eight, these boys are very active, and their play can get a little rough.

My goal was that Katrina would come home to no new scratches on either her car or her boys. In that, I succeeded.

However, instead of being the perfect grandparents who come with gifts and can do no wrong, we were now the ones who rationed “screen time” and set limits.  Also we can’t play soccer and do all the other things that baby sitters do.  But we drove them to swim practice; we took them to buy new bathing suits; we made trips to the grocery store.  We handed out snacks and played games. 

We did the best we could, but the kids were always happy when Dad got home from work to play catch with them.

I explained to Grady and Leo, that although they might have more fun with other baby sitters, there aren’t any babysitters that love them more than their grandparents.


The Luck of the Draw

My older brother’s high school girlfriend was beautiful and popular, and the sister of a good friend of mine, so I get reports on her now and then.  Yesterday, I learned that she has multiple health challenges.  Turning eighty next month, she suffers from debilitating arthritis and back problems.  She has had the same knee replaced twice and now needs both hips and a shoulder replaced.  In evaluating her for surgery, they found a (benign) tumor in her stomach that had to be removed before anything else could be done.

I find myself wondering, given the enormous drain of healthcare costs in our country, whether or not all those procedures make sense for someone her age.  Easy to wonder that when it’s about someone else.

On the same day, a former colleague was telling me that both his ninety-nine year old parents are alive and well.  When my colleague’s physician asked him what medications his mother was on, he didn’t know.  He asked his mom and she said that she was on medication.  “What?” he asked. “Oh,” she replied. “I take a baby aspirin every day.”

It’s the luck of the draw.

Life is Good

It might be June’s long, bright days after a brutal winter. Or maybe it’s the towering Japanese lilac tree in full bloom that is perfuming our back yard.  Or the wonderful party that we went to last weekend to celebrate good friends’ golden anniversary.  Or the loving and grateful tribute that Seth wrote to Peter for Father’s Day.

It might be how excited I am to spend two weeks later this month helping inner-city high school seniors write essays for their college applications.  Or how much I am enjoying planning a course I hope to teach next year to my fellow learners in retirement.  I know things can change in the blink of any eye, so I am grateful for these moments. 

Life is good.

Quitcha Bitchin


It was one of those days. 

Another school shooting and a Tea Party victory in the Virginia Republican primary.  So I was not in the best of moods when I got more bad news at my supermarket.

Baker’s Chocolate has brought us a “more convenient” presentation. (See above.)  For as long as I can remember, Baker’s (a Kraft Foods brand) golden-yellow package of chocolate contained eight individually-wrapped-one-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate. The new and (I repeat) “more convenient” package no longer contains eight individually wrapped one-ounce squares. Now you have to break off pieces from a four-ounce bar of chocolate.  (That’s convenient?)  And did I mention that the price per ounce is almost doubled? (That is convenient for Kraft’s bottom line.)

According to the website “Consumerist”, Kraft made the change about a year ago.  The site quotes a Kraft representative’s response to a complaint as follows:

“Our consumers have told us that they prefer this size over the larger size because   the majority of our BAKER’S recipes call for 4 ounces or less. The easy break bar makes it faster to melt and easier to break apart. And they can buy only what they need for a recipe, so the product is fresher.”

Kraft didn't seem to feel the need to explain the rise in price.

It was one of those days.




If you are just returning from another planet, it may be news to you that the World Cup begins today in Brazil.  If you've been on Earth, you've probably heard more about it than you care to.

Is it me, or has there been more hype about the World Cup this year than in the past?

As far as I can recall, soccer didn’t exist in the United States when I was a kid, at least not for girls.  Although our children played from third grade through college and we watch our grandchildren play when we can, we never have paid much attention to the World Cup.

I do remember one time watching a conga line of cars with honking horns and screaming fans in brightly-colored shirts hanging out the windows celebrating victory in whatever country we happened to be biking through one World Cup summer.  I wasn’t sure what all the excitement was about.

But this time, I will be watching.  Watching to see if Brazil has met its huge preparation challenge.  Watching to see if the U.S. can beat Ghana. And hoping to catch a glimpse of our son Seth, aka The New York Times Frugal Traveler, who is making his way there frugally via, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.  He (and Joe Biden) will be at the game in Natal on June 16th.









Slowing Down

If I had a nickel for everyone eighty or older who needs a regular daytime snooze, I’d retire.  (But wait, I am retired!)

For quite a while, Peter would announce, “I’m sorry to say this, but…” or “I’m afraid I’m going to…” apologizing before heading upstairs for his almost-daily nap, usually around 2:00 p.m. 

He doesn’t apologize any more.  And he shouldn’t.

Other things have changed/are changing because of our age.  I have been our designated night driver for years because Peter’s glaucoma affects his night vision.  And since his agility has diminished because of Parkinson’s Disease, I usually drive when we anticipate having to park between two curbside cars.  But lately, I seem to be driving more and more just because he prefers not to.

Some other changes in my 84-year-old husband—he eats less (not a bad thing) and more healthily (a good thing).  And although he claimed that he was going to drink more gin as an old guy, he can’t handle it, so wine is usually his alcoholic beverage of choice.  And although he has always been a man of the mind, he seems a bit more introspective.  Or maybe he just doesn’t talk unless he has something meaningful to say (unlike the rest of us).

BUT, he is still the handsome, brilliant, funny guy who has loved and taken care of me for almost fifty years.

And that’s what matters.



College Reunion

Five years ago we went to Jeremy’s fifteenth Amherst College Reunion to help take care of our grandchildren, then five and two.

On Saturday, we went to his twentieth reunion. This time, the grandchildren were so busy with other children that it took an offer of ice cream at Bart’s to get some time with them.

But that hardly mattered.  It was good to see them, even if only briefly, plus we got to hear Jeremy speak to his classmates as part of a panel on “How Did We End Up Where We Are 20 Years Later?” Jeremy talked about his startup that failed and the lessons he learned.  He was poised, insightful and funny.

After his panel, we went to a buffet lunch for hundreds of reunion attendees.  Once the grandkids were stuffed, they ran off with their friends.  We stayed at our table and chatted with Jeremy’s friends.  We knew them all from the many parents’ weekends or visits for lacrosse games.  They are impressive 42-year-olds.  Hearing about where they are in their lives, talking to them adult to adult was thrilling.

I couldn’t resist passing Jeremy a napkin on which I had written

“Thank you for sharing this with us.” 


Saving the Cyclamen

The white cyclamen in the center of our dining room table was in full bloom for weeks.  It seemed to have stopped blooming about ten days ago, but I wasn’t ready to toss it because its heart-shaped green leaves were still vibrant. 

Then yesterday, a new bud appeared.  It’s not as robust as the original buds, but it will bloom.  I was pleased that I hadn’t given up on it.

That came to mind as Peter and I talked about a friend who has had a stroke. We don’t know the prognosis, but he is in intensive care, unable to communicate, though breathing on his own.  It’s sad.

Peter and I are clear about what we would do if something like that happened to one of us.  We both feel strongly that we don’t want to be kept alive without some quality to our life.  So far, we’ve been lucky, but at some point, that could change.

How does one decide that it is time to give up? Like with flowering cyclamens, it’s hard to know if there will be new blooms.