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December 2014

Learning in Retirement

Fifteen months ago, I retired from a career I loved.  I had expected a period of “adjustment” and I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, I had a lot of trouble with not rushing off to work every morning.   But after a bit of trial and error, I found a good balance of activities.      

This fall, things got even better.  I discovered that there is a whole new world of learning to explore in retirement.  I’m listening to music in a new way because of an undergraduate course I audited.  With fellow retirees, I studied Rembrandt’s drawings in a six-week course and spent twelve weeks exploring the many facets of Thomas Jefferson with a teacher whose love of all-things-Jeffersonian was contagious.  And I am watching the “digitization” of our world from a new perspective, thanks to a six-week course examining the effects of technology on our lives.

In retirement courses there are no pre-requisites The homework is manageable and there are no grades. 

What’s not to love?


Saturday Sex

I don’t write much about sex. That’s probably because I was born about five years before it was a subject we talked about in public.  (Note to our children:  You’ll probably want to stop reading here.)

I won’t pretend to be an expert about the sex life of my peers.  But for us, it’s usually a Saturday morning thing.  Why?  Well, for one, in the winter, our hands are too cold when we hop into bed in the evening.   Plus, we’re usually pretty tired.  And, even though we are retired, we have so much going on during the week that we have to get up pretty quickly on weekdays.  So Saturday makes a lot of sense.

Last Saturday morning, we lingered especially long.  Those moments together are very special and I said so to Peter. 

“It’s the highlight of my week,” he responded.   


My Funny Husband

Sometimes you have to “be there,” but I can’t stop myself from sharing a couple of Peter’s absurd, but funny (if you were there) remarks.  Like the other day when we walked by a huge, almost-finished apartment building.  We’ve watched it go from a gas station to a hole in the ground to a sprawling, oddly-color-blocked monster.  The other day, it finally sprouted a name.  In huge letters on the front and side of the building it now says 603 CONCORD AVENUE. 

Peter’s comment, “I wonder what the address is…”

Or on the same day when we walked over a defunct railroad track that we’ve probably crossed on foot thousands of times, a track that hasn’t seen a train in at least the twenty years that we have lived in our neighborhood.

Peter’s comment, “Uh oh, I forgot to look both ways.” 

Like I said, sometimes you have to be there.

Fear of Falling

Falling has been in the news lately.  Or maybe I’m just noticing it.

Seven years ago, I fell and broke my hip. I remember how upset I was in the emergency room when the doctor told me that it was highly likely that I wouldn’t be alive in a year.  It is true that a broken hip is often the beginning of a quick deterioration, but that is not what you want to hear in an emergency room. 

Anyhow, I’m still here.

But all this news about stumbling has not fallen on deaf ears.  I find that I am paying more attention as I walk along the uneven Cambridge sidewalks.  I try to remember to use the railing when I go up and down stairs.  My balance is quite good and I do weight-bearing exercise to keep it that way, but I still pay attention.

Yet, the other day I did something foolish.  My foot was asleep when I got up from the sofa.  Rather than shake it awake, I put my weight on it.  It buckled and as a result I had a swollen and painful ankle for about two weeks, despite my icing and elevating it.  It could have been worse. 

Just another reminder that now, more than ever, caution is required.

The Long and Short of It

I haven’t shopped much lately because my wardrobe is pretty set.  But recently I ordered a long color-blocked cashmere sweater online.  True to its picture, it had wonderful shades of cranberry, lilac and purple.

When I tried it on, it was so long that it could almost be a dress, i.e., it stopped at mid-thigh.  I realized that for someone one-third my age, it would be a dress. 

I thought about whether or not I could get away with wearing it over a pair of leggings, combined with high boots.  So the other night, when we were going to a concert, I tried it on that way in front of a full-length mirror.  I was skeptical, but Peter thought it looked great.  I walked around the house wearing it for a few minutes.  I tried sitting down.  I crossed my legs to see how that felt.

In the end, I couldn’t do it. I added a pair of slim black trousers.  It looked just fine.


World Premiere

Our First Nights music class is over.  I don’t remember a semester going by so fast or feeling so sad about a class ending.  We now better appreciate five pieces of classical-music-game changers from Monteverdi to Stravinsky in the context of the culture in which they premiered.  Our teacher was energetic, knowledgeable, talented, and funny.  He loves teaching that course. 

As promised, at the end, we were treated to a first night ourselves.  Our next-to-last class was the “dress rehearsal” of IrrefutableTautologies, a composition for clarinet, piano, bassoon, flute and bass singer by Osnat Netzer, a member of Harvard’s music faculty. The last class consisted of another rehearsal followed by the “premiere”.  The piece was as strange to our ears the first time as, I am sure, The Rite of Spring was to Stravinsky’s listeners.  But hearing it in performance after two rehearsals, I actually began to like it.

And there was something special about being the only people in the world who have heard this piece.  The audience gave the players and composer a standing ovation.  Then, our professor said a few words, and class was over.

When I went to overnight camp as a child, I was the only one who cried when camp was over.  I had that same feeling about the end of First Nights.



Peter, Paul & Mary

On a bitter cold December day about thirty-five years ago, Peter and I and the kids decided at the last minute to make a one-day trip from Boston to Long Island and back for Peter’s Aunt Kathe’s 85thth birthday party. Since the kids didn’t like road trips and this would be a road trip on steroids, we bought every forbidden snack we could think of to keep the kids (and us) going.

The party in the afternoon was not memorable, but it was the right thing to do.  The trip home was memorable. We played the tape (remember tapes?) of Peter, Paul and Mary and sang “If I Had a Hammer…” and other PP&M classics over and over, at the top of our lungs, while indulging in salty snacks, sugary drinks and candy.

The long-playing record (remember LP’s?) “The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary” was a staple in our home.  Of course, we hadn’t listened to it since our long-playing records migrated to New Hampshire to friends who still had a record player after we converted to CD’s. 

But recently, LP’s have come back and, at our son Seth’s request, we re-possessed ours.  Another friend, hearing about our record re-possession gave us his LP collection and a record player, so Seth would be all set.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Seth and I visited a used LP store so that he could round out his new LP collection.  He asked me to pick out some folk music and when I saw the Peter, Paul and Mary album, I grabbed it.

We attached his “new” record player to our speakers when we got home and listened to the “The Best of Peter Paul and Mary”.

That long, cold, snack-filled trip to Long Island could have been yesterday.