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October 2015

September 2015

Doctor Season

My annual doctor appointments are clustered in the fall.  It just happens to work out that way.  But two appointments the day after Labor Day?  What was I thinking?

8:30 a.m: to my ophthalmologist, a tiny powerhouse of a woman.  Since my cataract surgery several years ago, she checks my eyes annually.  The good news is all is well; the less good news in that I have aging spots on my retina that we have to watch. She also recommended using eye drops for my dry eyes and urged me to see my optometrist to be sure my glasses are just right.

1:30 p.m: to meet my new internist for an annual checkup. She grilled me on all my habits (mostly good) and pronounced me healthy.  However, I’ve lost two inches of height and she is worried about my bone strength negatively affecting my spine.  So I have to see an endocrinologist who may prescribe a dreaded-by-me osteoporosis drug.

I’m lucky to have good and caring doctors in this era of corporate healthcare.  But how did two appointments turn into four?  Maybe it’s because I'm 70-something.






We’ve lived in our empty-nest house for twenty years.  On Sunday, our “new” neighborhood of about seventy-five homes celebrated its 100th anniversary at its annual block party. 

We gathered at the site of our new monument (see above) for a two-block “parade” to our party site (where three streets, all called Meadow Way meet).  Children were in costume, dogs were in tow.  The youngest participant was two weeks old.  The oldest (not sure) might have been Peter.  A few of the oldest actually grew up in the neighborhood. 

We have a neighborhood “mayor” who keeps us organized, but the real mayor of all Cambridge came and gave a speech.  We honored the person who has spearheaded our block parties for twenty-one years and our resident landscape architect who helped us replace aging trees and personally visited the stone quarry to pick our monument stone.  Our resident historian handed out an index card for every house with its history.

Good food, good neighbors, a beautiful late summer day. 



When Politics Worked

Bob Schieffer, former anchorman, host of Face the Nation, and a distinguished and much-honored journalist retired in June after forty-six years at CBS.  On Tuesday, he talked about politics and the 2016 election to an adoring audience at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy.

Schieffer recalled the days when volunteers worked on campaigns because they believed in a candidate’s vision, doing jobs that now command a hefty salary; when elected officials were not so beholden to their donors that they could not compromise or do what they believed was right; when campaigns were shorter and more civil, and when politicians talked directly with constituents rather than focus groups. 

He reminded us of the days when government wasn’t so dysfunctional, when things actually got done in Congress, and when compromise was not a dirty word. 

We older folks often feel that things used to be better. Schieffer reminded us that, in politics, they probably were.


The End of Summer

We had a wonderful summer.  A road trip to Maryland to be with grandkids, meeting friends at Tanglewood in the Berkshires and a journey through eastern Europe were all great.  We also enjoyed the many pleasures of Boston as well as the long days, not needing coats, and plenty of just-picked butter-and-sugar corn.  Summer rocks.

I am grateful that everything went smoothly, knowing that some day it may not.  But being a bona fide worrier doesn’t prevent me from making future plans.  So we are already talking about what we will do in the Summer of 2016.

How to Talk with Someone You Are Going to Lose

Visiting someone who is dying is one of the most difficult things we do.  We can’t know what the other person is experiencing, but we do know how we feel about losing a friend or loved one.  It is always heartbreaking as well as a stark reminder of our own mortality.

In her Guide to the Great Beyond, Jane Brody has some helpful advice for us.  Of course, every situation is different, but here are her basic guidelines:

--This is not about you.  The focus should be on the patient.

--You can start with “Do you feel like talking?”  When there is not a lot of time left, it can be a comfort just to have someone in the room with you. Conversation may not be necessary.

--You can ask, “Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”  Or, “Are there things you would like to say or things you are worried about?”

--It is OK to talk about the past, but it is not OK to say “I know how you feel” because you don’t.

--Finally, it’s OK to say that you don’t know what to say. 


"Memorable" Vacation Moments

Two lingering memories of our vacation that don’t have much to do with what we saw and learned:

First, there was our new friend Roger, a charming southern gentleman. After a rigorous hike through the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Slovenia, Roger told me how impressed he was with Peter (and me) and asked if I minded telling him Peter’s age.

Proudly, I told him that Peter is eighty-five. Then I made the mistake of asking him how old he thought Peter’s wife was.  Roger replied “eighty-three”. 

So much for his southern charm. :-(

After a long day of walking in Prague earlier on our trip, we were heading to a restaurant recommended for pig knuckles.  I was feeling a bit ache-y.  “How did I get to be so old and creaky?” I moaned.

Peter replied, “With good luck.” :-)


Getting Away

Planning a travel vacation at our age is risky, but our luck has held and we have just returned from a tour of eastern Europe that included a visit to Auschwitz in Poland, a four-hour hike through the splendor of the sixteen lakes and countless waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park in northern Croatia, the crowded Charles Bridge in Prague and the sleepy lake town of Bled in Slovenia’s Julian Alps.

It wasn’t just sights; it was experiences like being serenaded in a winery in the Hungarian countryside by a feisty old (and good) violinist who brought tears to my eyes when he ended with American the Beautiful. (The wine might have had something to do with it.) Or Peter and I frantically trying to make the monumental decision of how to spend our last 400 florints before crossing from Hungary into Croatia. (We blew them all on a large Snickers bar.)  Or eating all the fatty foods (like the grilled pig’s knuckle in Prague) that we would never touch at home.

We’ve loved our respite from e-mail, the news of the world and the parade of decisions and worries of our daily life, but we’re happy to be home.     


My Nail Polish Chair

It was a Sunday night ritual.  Peter, the kids and I would gather in our family room to watch TV or just “chill out” before the start of a new week.  And I would polish my fingernails a fire-engine red that matched my lipstick. 

I always sat in the big brown swivel lounge chair. I think the fabric was velour, but it is so worn now that I can’t be sure.

When we sold the house the kids grew up in, the chair was relegated to the guest room of our current home.  It’s used mostly to hold just ironed-but-not-hung-up-yet clothing.

The other night I offered it to my half-niece and her husband who have moved here for a year while their grown son is treated for cancer at a Boston hospital.  They are equipping the temporary home they have rented to be near him with second-hand furniture, and I thought they could use it. They agreed gratefully, and soon our 40-year-old chair will move to a new home. 

I feel a bit sad about saying good-bye to my nail-polish chair.