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March 2016
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May 2016

April 2016

Men Don't Ask

It’s not news that men don’t like to ask for help. Before the advent of GPS and Google Maps, getting Peter to ask for directions at a gas station when we were lost was an exercise in futility. I get it. It’s a male thing.

So when we were looking for alternatives to cable because our bills were skyrocketing, I was the one who asked for help from our neighbor Jean who, unlike other octogenarians, doesn’t have to ask ten-year-olds how to work her electronic devices. Jean had happily cancelled cable. I asked her how she managed without it.

Jean invited us to her home for a demonstration of cable-free options, and we followed her advice. The other day, when she came over for a thank-you glass of wine, she mentioned that she watches shows she enjoyed on cable via YouTube.

Good idea we thought. So Peter tried but couldn’t figure out how to get it. At my suggestion, he reluctantly emailed Jean and, of course, she had the simple answer we needed. So now we have YouTube on our TV.

Will men ever learn that it’s OK to ask for help?

Doubt it.

My Brother Bill

When I met my half-sister Florence for the first time seventeen years ago, she told me that her brother (my half-brother) Bill had recently died. I was still getting used to the fact that my father never told us that she existed, so I didn’t give much thought to the brother I would never meet. Until Tuesday.

Florence recently moved to an assisted-living facility in Boston from New York because, at age ninety-nine, she no longer wanted to live independently and she wanted to be closer to her daughter Amy.

Last Tuesday, I visited her in her new home. Although Florence and I had been together several times, I had never been to her “home.” Her new apartment is small, and she had to part with many of her cherished possessions. What she didn’t leave behind, however, was a large collection of family pictures. She was eager to show me what she looked like as a young nurse (beautiful), as a young mother (happy) and especially, she wanted me to see photos of her handsome husband who died before I met her.

When I asked, “Who’s that?” about a picture of a nice-looking middle-aged man, she said, “Oh that’s my brother Bill.” For several minutes, I stared at that picture of my father’s child, speechless, and feeling a roller coaster of emotions similar to those I felt when I found out about Florence.

Once again, I wished that I could have a chance to ask my father…


Aunt Ruth at 104

My Aunt Ruth turned 104 in February. I don’t call her much any more because I never know when she’ll be sleeping or have visitors. But, I try to write her regularly so she’ll know that I am thinking of her. Two of her sons call her every day and her third son, who lives near her in Buffalo, visits every day. So she is never out of touch with family.

Last week I actually got a letter from her. There was a note on it from her third son saying that he was the “scribe,” but the following words were hers.

Thanks very much for your letter. I still love to get mail, especially handwritten and not looking to sell me something. I’m glad that you are all doing well. Despite the boredom, I do have happy times with family and friends.


Aunt Ruth

Good to hear that from a 104-year-old.

Breakfast with Leo

On my last morning in New Orleans at the end of March, I took Leo, our twelve-year-old grandson, out to breakfast. We had wanted to go to New Orleans, just the two-of-us, but when his whole family decided to go there for their spring break, that was OK with us. But I still wanted some Leo-to-myself-time.

The perfect moment came when Jeremy took Leo’s brother Grady to breakfast for some special father-son time and we wanted Katrina to have some well-deserved Katrina time.

Leo and I talked about school and his teachers—who he liked, who he didn’t like so much. We talked about his future as a soccer goalie and his future, probably in business. We talked about his grandfather, and how he had liked working in computer science when the field was new.

Already taller than I am, and expected to grow to at least six feet-four inches, I wondered how much longer he will want to share some special time with his grandmother like we had my last morning in New Orleans.

Your Call is Important to Us

I had three tear-my-hair-out experiences last week. Allow me to vent.

  1. Three months ago, when Peter had his blood tested at Quest Diagnostics in Florida, he gave them a referral from our health plan. On Tuesday, we received a bill because our insurance company had “rejected the claim”. Except…Quest had sent it to the wrong insurance company. When I called them to straighten out their mistake, I was put on hold for forty minutes. When I finally got to a human, she told me that they would submit the claim to the correct insurer, but it could take months to straighten it out.
  1. The same day, I had to call Sarasota Memorial Hospital because Peter’s doctor wanted to see a CAT scan taken there in January. This time it was only thirty minutes on hold before an apologetic woman told me they could only send the report if I printed out an online form and mailed it to them. No clue about when we might expect the CAT scan.
  1. Moments later, our mailman delivered a bill from Sears for a service visit to repair our clothes dryer. They were unable to fix it because the part that had failed is no longer available. We paid the repairman before he left and have the credit card charge to prove it. Yet Sears billed us for the visit on a Sears credit card we didn’t know we had.

I managed not to tear my hair out. This time.

Awesome Amy

As 70-something readers may remember, my half-sister’s daughter Amy moved here last summer from Minnesota because her son has metastasized colon cancer, and she and his father, Ken, wanted to be here to help with his young children while he was being treated at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Amy and Ken have made a life for themselves here, balancing care of their grandchildren, new friends, a book club, plenty of table tennis for Ken and more.

Recently, Amy’s mom, my half-sister Florence, decided at age ninety-nine that she wanted to live closer to her daughter. So in addition to everything else, Amy and Ken cleaned out and sold her mother’s apartment in Queens, New York, found her a place here in Boston, got her stuff moved, set up her new apartment, and finally, brought her here from Florida where she had gone to escape the winter.

We hear a lot about the “sandwich generation.” But watching Amy has been inspirational.

When I told her she is awesome, she replied “If I am, it's just that it runs in the family”.

The Forty-Four-Year-Old Kid

Our forty-four-year-old son Jeremy has a responsible job. He and his wife Katrina own a house and a couple of cars. He’s a great father to our grandsons, nine and twelve.

But how many forty-four-year-olds can boast of having eaten an apple a day for a thousand days—his first self-imposed challenge? For his second he endured a “meatless September,” not easy for a hamburger fanatic.

He’s about to finish his third challenge--eating in the hundred most successful U.S. restaurant chains.

Which is why his family, my sister-in-law and I were squashed into a rental car in New Orleans last week. Jeremy needed to knock “What A Burger,” his ninety-eighth restaurant, off his list. No matter that we were in Louisiana and “What A Burger” was in Mississippi. This was the closest he’d come to one. No matter that we were scheduled for a five o’clock swamp tour in Louisiana and we didn’t get to “What A Burger” until after 4:00. But we made it (with only three calls to the swamp people to say we’d be just a little late). No speeding involved; a ticket would have slowed us down. You can see Jeremy’s selfies in front of ninety-eight of the restaurants here.

The next day Jeremy challenged twelve-year old Leo to walk 30,000 steps in a single day as measured by their Fitbits. After trudging endlessly all over New Orleans, those two “kids” marched up and down our eighth floor hotel corridor to get those final couple of hundred steps. You had to see it to believe it.

What makes a grown-up be a kid inside? No idea, but I loved being part of the fun. Looking forward to spring break in 2017? You bet.

New Orleans, LA

I haven’t taken a vacation without Peter for almost fifty years. But when Jeremy and Katrina and our grandsons invited us to go with them to New Orleans for their spring break and Peter didn’t want to go, I couldn’t refuse. I’d never been there and I figured he’d be OK on his own for four days.

A million years ago, I had two roommates who had gone to school in New Orleans. I had heard about beignets and Bourbon Street. I had heard about brunch at Brennan’s and Cajun cooking. But I’d never been there. All of the above still exist, plus the fabulous National World War II Museum

Joined by my sister-in-law, Nancy, we walked everywhere. The Easter Parade went on through intermittent downpours, but the rain didn’t stop handfuls of beaded necklaces and fat raw carrots being thrown from the floats to the outstretched hands of onlookers. We walked Bourbon Street, Royal Street and Frenchman Street—jazz, galleries, pralines, crawfish—we tried everything. Our historic Hotel Le Pavillon served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hot chocolate with real whipped cream and marshmallows at 10:00 every night.

Leo and Jeremy walked 30,000 steps one day and the rest of us were pretty darn close. We went on a swamp tour. We saw NCIS New Orleans being filmed on St. Charles Street.

It was exhausting and wonderful.   And Peter did fine.