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August 2014

My Doctor & Me

I feel great.  Like most people my age, I have some health challenges, but I like to celebrate how great I feel. You never know when that might change.

Like it did the Sunday night almost ten years ago when I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen as I got up from the sofa to go to bed.  It came on me so suddenly that I decided to call  urgent care at my health plan. The nurse told me to come in first thing in the morning, but since my regular doctor was away, she made me an appointment with a Dr. Bauer.  Of course she told me that if the pain intensified, I should go to the emergency room.

In the morning, I dressed for work, expecting to be a little late, but moments into my appointment, Dr. Bauer sent me to the hospital for what turned out to be emergency surgery for my about-to-burst appendix. I was so grateful that I wrote him a thank you note and asked if he would become my primary care physician.  He agreed.

Since then, he has been my savior on several occasions--like the time he identified a lump on my parathyroid and sent me off to a specialist for crucial and successful surgery.  Or when he was worried about the result of a routine blood test and sent me to a hematologist who has managed my Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia for the past five years.  Almost a year ago when I struggled with retiring, he prescribed medication to help me sleep and called me regularly to see how I was doing.

On Friday, he retired.

In the spring, when he wrote to his patients to announce that he had decided to retire, I immediately replied, telling him that he couldn't do that.  He's younger than I am.  How could he retire?

When I saw him for my annual checkup last month, we had a great conversation about retirement and the future.  And then we said good-bye.

Before I left, Dr. Bauer helped me choose a new doctor.  I am sure she will be terrific.  But it won't be the same.







Taking the "T"

Peter and I use public transportation to and from the airport.  It’s a lot less expensive ($3.70 round trip compared to the $100 cab tab).  We like to save money, we feel good about our small contribution to avoiding global warming, we are OK with the longer time it takes, and we don’t have to worry about traffic jams.  Best of all, it’s fun to study our fellow passengers. 

On our trip home from the airport last week, we watched the surprised faces of the international passengers as they got on our Silver Line bus when the bus driver rejected their attempts to pay, saying “free” over and over again.  (There is no charge for the trip from the airport on the Silver Line in Boston.)

We watched the reunion of what we took to be a very loving young Indian couple only to hear the woman tell a friend on her phone that she was with her brother who had just arrived from India to go to graduate school. So much for romance.

We talked with a guy who had to get to Copley Square and asked our opinion about the route he had chosen.  We felt sorry for the poor international gentleman who needed to get to Springfield, Massachusetts a couple of hours away.  Fortunately the Silver Line stops at the train station.

We transferred to the subway at South Station and listened to a conversation between two newly-minted lawyers who were talking about their employment prospects.  The young woman complained about her mother’s friends who congratulated her on receiving her law degree and reminded her that they have known her since she was six.  (Hmmmm, that’s something I might have said…)

Unlike at Symphony Hall where the audience is overwhelmingly our generation, we are often the only seniors on the subway. 

Folks, you don’t know what you’re missing.






Our Air Canada Nightmare

When our son Seth invited us to join him for four nights in Vancouver on his Pacific Northwest trip, we couldn’t resist.  And we had a great time (more about that in a later blog post).

But we were not prepared for what happened on the Toronto to Boston leg of our trip home on Thursday.  When our plane from Vancouver arrived in Toronto at 4:30 pm, Air Canada told us there was a “weather” problem in Boston and our connecting flight there was cancelled.  However, the weather in Boston was fine.  The problem was that Air Canada couldn’t come up with a flight crew.

Stuff happens.  We know that.  But although Air Canada had five flights to Boston the next day it took almost 24 hours to get us home. One gate agent explained that there is always a crew shortage near the end of the month because there is a limit to the number of hours per month that a crew can fly.

We spent a lot of time standing in line trying to arrange a flight to get us home earlier than our confirmed flight late the next afternoon.  That failed.  Then finding the transportation to the hotel that Air Canada provided for the night was not an easy task.  The airline gave us a hotel dinner voucher, but the only option at the hotel was to order in from a pizza restaurant. 

At least the room was clean.

We took the bus back to the airport at 6:30 a.m. and stood by for four flights, moving from gate to gate.  Each flight was oversold, and they paid passengers to give up seats (but only for passengers overbooked on the flight). We began to understand why the U.S. customs pre-clearance guy in Toronto told us he would never fly Air Canada.

Our confirmed flight home Friday night was delayed by mechanical difficulties.  But we did get home eventually. 

Besides the final twenty-four hours, it was a magical trip.



I got a pedicure yesterday.  I don’t do that as often as I should.  But when I do, I stick my toes into a very fun world. 

My nail salon has a cast of characters fit for a Broadway play.  As far as I can tell, everyone is Vietnamese, not unusual in the world of nails.

The owner (I think) is a man of many talents.  He fixes everything, he answers the phone, he can do a mean manicure if it’s really a busy time, but most of all, he makes us laugh.  If people bring their little kids, he makes them laugh too.  He knows the customers names and what’s going on in their lives.  As far as I can tell, he is there 24/7.

The main woman—I think her name is Lillian—has been there for years.  Her standard line in her charming accent as she polishes anyone’s toes, “That’s a very nice color.”  (I have to restrain myself from saying, “Aw, you say that to everyone.”)  And then there is a revolving door of what appear to be cousins.  I’m not sure if they are just visiting or what, but they are also skilled pedicurists.

There is constant chatter among the customers who all seem to come from the same neighborhood (not mine).  I mostly listen.

The last, and perhaps least important, reason why I like to go there is the chance to see what Vogue, Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan are saying to young women everywhere.  Sex, clothes and makeup—the subjects never change.

Good to know. 

Getting to Know Myself



I wasn’t so pleased with my friend Marie’s response when I bemoaned the lack of non-stop-people interaction that came with retirement.  Marie believes that we should find new ways to enjoy our own company as we age.

This summer has been a good test for me. Although I’ve given myself a number of projects (update, I’m on page 352 of Thinking Fast and Slow) and we have had just enough travel, I’ve had more time on my own than I had during the rest of the year.

And it hasn’t been so bad.  I’ve read some good books, done some writing, and worked on my de-accessing project (will it even be done?).  I’ve done some thinking and planning.

But much to my delight, I’ve become more aware of nature.  I read on a couch next to a window. I am fascinated by the constant parade of bees working on the butterfly bush just on the other side of the glass.

Last week, I watched a family of six wild turkeys foraging in our back yard.  More often than not, sitting on our patio, I am joined by a rabbit.  I don’t know if it is always the same one, but he (or she) is brazen—stretches out just yards from where I sit. 

When I step out my front door, my neighbor’s yellow and gold cosmos peeking out from her picket fence give me great pleasure. Not to mention the ever-changing wildflowers on my walk around the reservoir.

It’s been a beautiful summer in New England and one that has taught me that a bit of solitude is not so bad.

Who's Calling?

It’s been quite a while since we bought our answering machine that announces loud and (not-so) clear who is calling.  We’ve gotten used to not picking up the phone when it announces “not-a-vale-a-bill” or “private caller”.  The latter is most often an appeal for a charity or a vote.   It’s not that we don’t give or vote. We just prefer not being called at dinner.

We do pick up “cell phone MA” because I don’t recognize all our friends’ cell phone numbers, but we can be sure when it’s “cell phone TN,” where we know no one, that it’s a solicitation. 

When our son Seth was in town the other day, he wondered why we didn’t answer when “PrintLink” called, but picked up Parkinson, Barbara whom we don’t know.  Hearing “Parkinson” announced when your father has Parkinson’s disease is a bit unsettling, but when it turns out that it is your brother calling, it’s really strange.  What Seth didn’t know is that Jeremy’s phone is a work phone, formerly belonging to one Barbara Parkinson. We’ve gotten used to it.

But when I heard my cousin Joanie’s message later, I remembered that her husband’s firm is Printlink, and I was annoyed that I had missed her call.

Although we are unusual in having a landline at all, we are unique in having a son who is announced as “Call from Parkinson, Barbara.”


Travel Experiences I Could Have Lived Without

I’m big on travel. I have boxes of travel journals that document great trips.  But I could have lived without the following:

1. On a propeller plane from London to New York in 1958, one of our plane’s engines died.  We detoured to Iceland where we landed on a military airfield covered with foam and surrounded by fire engines.  Safely.

2. In 1971 on Tortola, a British Virgin Island, Peter and I drove down a dirt road, ignoring the “four-wheel-drive-vehicles-only” sign.  Our brakes didn’t hold, but luckily, the car rolled over into the mountain, not down it.  A road engineer happened by and drove us back to town where I had my gashed forehead sewn up. 

3. On a country road in Brittany in the mid-nineties, I was the last in line on a bicycle ride.  My friend Christa noticed that I wasn’t behind her and she, her husband and Peter rode back to find me regaining consciousness by the side of the road.  I have no idea what happened, but I spent the night in a French hospital with a broken clavicle.  The hospital refused to let me leave until a surgeon came by in the morning.  I didn’t want surgery, so Peter and our friends helped me sneak out of the hospital.  Two days later, I was back on my bike. (The hospital did manage to bill me, however.)

4. In the summer of 2000, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border, our son Seth decided to bungee jump into the boulder-filled, fast-moving Zambezi River. I told him that he would have to pay the $90 fee. His father and brother said my face was whiter than a sheet as I watched him jump.  He survived.  (2012 update—a young woman jumping off the same bridge had the bungee cord break. She plunged into the crocodile-filled river—and lived.)

5. In 2010, traveling with the same fearless son, this time in Nicaragua, our car sunk into hub-cap-deep mud on a country road.  We tried everything that three people could do, but remained stuck until a bus packed with locals came along.  The driver attached a thick rope to our car and towed us out. We spent the afternoon in a car wash.

I could write about all my great travel experiences, but the bad ones make better stories.


The Tina Test

By the standards of our children’s generation, my house is pretty clean.  At least it’s pretty picked up, i.e., it looks clean.  Hector and John, our cleaning men since forever (around forty years) always provide incentive for me to “clean up for the cleaning men”.  Until I retired, it seemed perfect. 

But now that I am home more, I see bookshelves that haven’t been dusted, drawers and closets that could use a cleaning, basement tool shelves in disarray.  I haven’t done much about it, despite my good intentions. 

The one thing I do pay attention to is my refrigerator.  I regularly give it the “Tina test,” namely, would I be embarrassed to have my friend Tina, the paragon of perfect housekeeping, peek in?

When the answer is “yes”, I know what I have to do.


ZZZZZZZ's (A Sleep History)

As a kid, I tried to stay up as late as possible.  My delaying tactics ranged from “just one more chapter” to “I’m thirsty”.  And because I shared a bedroom with my older brother until I was nine, I’d try to stay awake until he came to bed so we could share our days hour by hour.

As a teenager and a young adult, sleep wasn’t a problem.  I went to bed, I slept, I got up.  As new parents, we slept when we could, and in middle age we slept when we wanted to.

But now that we are older, sleep has become an issue.  The first two words Peter and I exchange in the morning are “Good morning.”  The next three “How’d you sleep?” 

It’s unpredictable.  Sometimes I can’t fall asleep.  Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and get up and read because I can’t fall back to sleep.  Sometimes I wake early. But then there are the nights that I sleep like the proverbial baby.

In my list of the plusses and minuses of growing old, sleep goes in the “not-so-good” column.