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November 2016

October 2016

Genomes and Me

I choose the courses I take in my learning in retirement program to fill gaps in my education. That’s why I found myself in a poetry class my first semester as I tried to like poetry more. Great teacher, stimulating classmates, but in the end, I still didn’t like poetry more.

This fall, I signed up for two classes to learn about totally new-to-me subjects:  “After Stonewall—the Best Gay and Lesbian Literature of our Era” and “How Genomes Work”. The former is outstanding. The readings are excellent, our teachers very competent and my classmates’ comments insightful, probably because several seem to be either former English teachers or literature majors.

In my “Genomes” class, however, I was lost after the first five minutes. Every word had too many syllables, all of which were scientific and confusing. The teacher was excellent, but I knew I would be a hopeless and frustrated student. So in keeping with my new “I’m retired, I only do what I want to” philosophy, I apologized to the study group leader and took a different class.

A wise decision.

The Visit

We all want to be better parents than our parents. We may succeed in small ways, but there is no such thing as perfect parents.

For example, my parents always tried to pin me down about my next trip home as I left after a visit. But however much I loved them, in my busy life, it wasn’t so easy to just get on a plane home.

Remembering those moments, I try not to ask our departing children how soon they will be back.

So imagine my surprise and delight when Seth found a few open days in his calendar and decided he could “work” at “home.” He arrived by bus on Sunday afternoon, and within an hour we were off to dinner and the theater, having been able to get an extra ticket for him.

The next morning, he commandeered the dining room table and wrote all day. He would take a break now and then, and luckily I was here to take advantage of every second. Tuesday was more of the same and Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m., he was gone.

What he got from his visit: the company of his loving parents, some quiet time to write, theater and dinner out and a refrigerator full of his favorite food. In addition, he left with my extra set of iPhone earbuds and half of our remaining supply of his favorite cheese.

It was a win-win visit.

Seventeen Bites of Honeydew Melon


Aunt Ruth and I, Summer 2009

For more than a week, I was reminding myself to write to my Aunt Ruth. I used to call her regularly, but since her 104th birthday last February, I have been afraid to call because I thought I might reach her at a bad time. So I wrote letters and she responded with letters that she dictated to her son.

But that won’t happen anymore because yesterday morning she died.

According to her helper, she ate seventeen bites of honeydew melon for breakfast, dozed off and didn’t wake up again.

When we visited her the summer before last, she said she hoped that she would just not wake up some morning soon. She had had a wonderful life. She was a pillar of her Buffalo, New York community, a beautiful woman, smart in every sense of the word, generous and the matriarch of our family.

My cousin Gerry called yesterday to tell me the news. It’s hard to hear that there is nobody left in your parents’ generation. But what a wonderful, full life she led.

Gerry wonders what will make our big family get together again once we have gathered in Buffalo from around the country to celebrate her amazing life.

I can’t even begin to think about it.

Five Pictures



My night-table has a drawer. In it are spare buttons in teeny plastic bags that were attached to new clothes that I bought over the years and probably don’t own anymore. Also, some white very thin gloves that I am supposed to wear on my hands overnight to help absorb hand cream. One day I may even use them.

There are also two kinds of lint remover, a few random pens, an empty earring box and a tiny scissors that is too dull to use for anything (except maybe to cut the teeny plastic bags of buttons from new clothes).

But what amazed me on Sunday as I looked through the drawer were five pictures of five different sizes from very different times in my life that somehow landed there:

  1. A picture of me on a beach in Jamestown, N.Y. when I was four or five years old. I have pigtails wrapped on top of my head. My mother is in the picture, together with a new friend named Barbara, her mother and a couple of other random people.
  2. A picture of me and the same (now good) friend Barbara who coincidentally went to the same summer camp and college as I did.
  3. A badly damaged picture of Peter and me on our honeymoon—a close- up of us kissing taken with the camera’s automatic timer.
  4. A picture of my handsome young husband that I took on Cape Cod more than 45 years ago
  5. And our family Thanksgiving picture taken just last year that I posted on the refrigerator in our rented condo in Florida last January.

Of course, I have hundreds of pictures in shoeboxes in the guest-room closet taken with various cameras before we took all our pictures on our phones. But somehow these five ended up in my night-table drawer.

And, on Sunday I loved seeing them.

The Aprons of Yesteryear


While waiting for my learning-in-retirement class to begin the other day, the subject of aprons came up. The discussants of this highly intellectual topic were my high-school friend Ruth, who by coincidence is a member of my learning-in-retirement program, and me.

Our class is studying 1908 and 1928, two important years in American culture. Baseball, Henry Ford, and Orville and Wilbur Wright have been among the subjects we’ve discussed.

I’m not sure how Ruth and I got on the topic of aprons, but we were reminiscing about our high school Home Economics class (long after 1928) and wondering whether such a class exists in high schools today.  

Both of us distinctly remembered the aprons we sewed in class. They had a wide pocket below the waist and some rickrack stitched across the top part across our chests. Mine was a happy fabric, 100% cotton, a cream-colored background with a tiny-multi-colored-flowers pattern. I can picture it as if it was yesterday.

We also “learned” to cook. I think the first thing we made was oatmeal, but maybe it was tuna fish casserole. I am sure it was something beige-colored. I know that the best thing we made was peanut brittle.

We’re not sure what the boys in our class did in their Home Economics class (which was called “Shop”) but we think they made bookends.

Not sure how well making an apron prepared me for life, but I know I haven’t thought about it for sixty-five years.

Weekend Report

I have been in Washington DC countless times. My job took me there regularly, and now that our grandkids (and their parents) live in nearby Maryland we visit frequently. But although I flew over it time and again, I had never visited Arlington National Cemetery. Until Monday.

It was Jeremy’s idea to stop there on the way to the airport after our weekend visit. Our grandchildren were in school and their mom had a full schedule, but he had the day off. So it was just the three of us. It was a bit like our travels with his brother, the Frugal Traveler, only a different son. Jeremy took charge and he was a super guide.

We didn’t have enough time there, but we did get to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and John F. Kennedy’s grave. Both sites left me feeling more emotional than I would have expected. The crowds of people paying their respect and the acres of graves left me with a pride for our country that has been missing for me in this political season.

The rest of our weekend visit was the usual non-stop fun, including a fantastic chili dinner made by Jeremy. When I asked him if he’d make his chili for one of our dinners when they come for Thanksgiving next month, he quickly said “yes” and then took it back. He is in the middle of a challenge to eat nothing that begins with each letter of the alphabet for 26 months to raise money for the Food Recovery Network, a student-led network that helps colleges distribute food that students don’t eat in their dining halls. It turns out that November is “c”. So, no chili this Thanksgiving. And for Jeremy, no cranberries.

If you’d like to contribute to the Food Recovery Network by sponsoring Jeremy’s alphabet food marathon, please go here to contribute.

To Move or Not To Move

Eight years ago when Peter learned that he had Parkinson’s Disease, we thought we would have to move from our four-story home soon because of his potential mobility problems.

We began a fruitless condo search that lasted about five years. Two things have kept us where we are. One is that we never found the right condo and the other is that Peter is still handling the stairs fairly well.

But we think it’s time to decide where we would like to live when we can no longer be on our own. So when I saw a posting on a bulletin board looking for “seniors” who are struggling with this decision to be interviewed for a book on the subject, I signed up. I was hoping we might learn something to help us make our decision.

Of course, in a 45-minute phone conversation, we didn’t get enough information to make a final decision. But here’s what we learned. The people the researcher interviewed fell into one of two categories. Either they weren’t “ready” to move or, if they were already living in a continuing care retirement community, they wondered why they had waited so long to make the move.


Now I've Heard Everything (Maybe)

The other day I broke the glass carafe of our Mr. Coffee coffeemaker. I barely brushed it against the side of the sink, but a hole is a hole. Fortunately, it was after breakfast because a day that doesn’t start with coffee wouldn’t work in our house.

I had looked for an “extra” carafe to have on hand for such a mishap, but somehow I never found one. So, our plans for the day were put on hold while we worked on this problem.

We scoured Amazon and Target’s web sites and found that a nearby Target had several Mr. Coffee carafes in stock for $11.19. Within moments, we were on our way.

When we got to Target, we failed to find what we were looking for, but fortunately a knowledgeable clerk helped us out. We had thought we would buy two carafes in case this would happen again, but alas, they had only one.

Satisfied for now, we went to check out. At the cash register, the price came up as $15.99. I told the cashier that we had just seen it online for $11.19, and without missing a beat, she directed us to Customer Service where they gave us the carafe for the online price.

Hmmm…Does that mean we need to check the website before every trip to Target?

Landline-less at Last

We cancelled our cable TV a couple of months ago because we were tired of paying for a million channels that we never watched. Best decision ever.

That is until we cancelled our landline phone. Maybe it was the endless political robocalls. Or maybe we heard from one too many charitable organizations. For sure, we were hearing from too many “Name Unavailable” callers. Our phone rang from dawn to dark and we couldn’t stand it any longer.

It’s been an amazing change. We are celebrating the silence. Of course, cell phones are not immune to robocalling so I’m not sure our celebrating will be long-lived.

But for now, we’re loving it.