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October 2019

September 2019

Lost and (Sometimes) Found

When we sold our house and moved to Washington, DC in 2017, we spent months getting rid of “stuff”.  Just before leaving, we invited the neighborhood over for a take-away-whatever-you-can-carry-event. The whole process was stressful. (I can see those of you who have been through it nodding your heads.)

Nine months later, we returned to Cambridge.  That was stressful too, but the right decision for us.  During that move, we got rid of more stuff.  (We still have too much, but that’s another story.)

What this is about is my often futile searches for things I was sure I kept.  How could I have no trays?  Why is there only one of my favorite pair of silver candlesticks?  I couldn’t find my flour sifter a couple of months ago that was from my long-ago-life with roommates—a real antique.  That one had a happy ending—it had fallen off a Lazy Susan in the back of a kitchen corner cabinet. 

The other day I tore the kitchen apart looking for my mortar and pestle for crushing fresh herbs.  I never found it, but you’d be surprised what you can do with the back of a soup spoon.

I have learned that if your mover packs for you, those small balls of crushed paper you find in the boxes aren’t all just “filler”.  They may contain a silver candle stick, a mortar and pestle and a hard-to-re-place light bulb.

It’s been fourteen months since our last move.  Hmmm, I’m wondering where my high school yearbook is…

My Favorite Thing

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” may have topped Maria von Trapp’s list of favorite things in The Sound of Music, but they wouldn’t make my list at all.  At the top of my list of favorite things is a Styrofoam cylinder-shaped tube, six inches in diameter and three feet long. 

My foam roller, if used properly, is supposed to ease muscle pain and inflammation. I can’t say that mine does that, but I do know that if I lie on my back on it for three or four minutes, I feel like all my bones are properly aligned and a sense of peace and well-being overcomes me.  A few deep breaths and I am a new woman.

To benefit from a foam roller, one has to be able to get down to, and up from, the floor. 

So far, so good.


Body Check

If you had told me when I started documenting my seventies, that I would still be doing it almost twelve years later, I would have laughed.  If you had told me that I would be writing about the state of my body when I was eighty-one, I would have thought you were crazy.

But here I am to tell you that my body is still working pretty well.  It’s not as quick as it used to be, but then not raising kids while working full time, it’s OK to slow down. 

Here’s an update.

My blood pressure is fine and my weight is stable.  I still exercise daily at the gym or at home.  My hair is a little more silver, but not completely.  I am living with the uncertainty of breast cancer, but I don’t think about it every day as I did when it was diagnosed last November.  The knee that was new in 2007 is still a miracle.  

The anti-cancer drug I have to take makes me a bit sleepy around five pm every day so for the first time in my life I try to pencil in a daily 20-minute nap.

On the downside, it looks like my second knee is about to give up.  We’re trying cortisone and exercise, but I see the handwriting on the wall, and I don’t like it.

My head still works pretty well (except for remembering names) and I am grateful for that and about a million other things.



Block Party

We never missed the September Block Party in our old Cambridge neighborhood.  It was fun to catch up with busy neighbors and to see how much their kids had grown over the summer.  Footballs, bicycles and scooters were everywhere.  There were chairs for the older folks and a wading pool for the little kids.  It never rained and the wine never ran out.

On Sunday, Peter and I had gone to a late afternoon event and when it ended, we decided to visit this Fall’s Block Party in the old ’hood as neighbors emeritus.    

I was mixed about going because we had had such a wonderful twenty-three years there, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a strange family living in “our” home.  I thought it might make me sad to see how things had changed.

I shouldn’t have worried.  What fun to see the changes over the last two years!  People were happy to see us—some didn’t know that we had returned to Cambridge.  Little Christian who lives across the street from “our” house is now eight.  As cute as ever, he jumped off his bike to hug us.  The new owners of “our” house greeted us warmly, in spite of the fact that the basement began to leak badly shortly after we left.

Now we live about a mile away. We’ve moved, but the neighborhood hasn’t.  And we will be back again next year.

Seasoned Traveler

In 1964, I broke up with my then-boyfriend, quit my job and flew to Lisbon, Portugal alone.  I stayed in Europe for three months.  That did not please my parents.  There wasn’t any email then, and I know they worried. 

After Peter and I were married, the only trip I made to Europe on my own was a work trip to London. Other than that, I traveled abroad with family or friends until earlier this month when I went to a family wedding in Medellin, Colombia without Peter.  Our son Seth was with me on the way down, but I was on my own coming back because he was staying longer. I have to admit that I was a bit anxious. 

I ran into my first problem in the Medellin airport.  I had checked in online, but I could not find any sign that told me what gate my flight to Panama would be leaving from.  Fortunately, a kind customs official literally walked me to my gate.

I had an easier time in the Panama airport. I was able to find my gate on my own.  (It helped that my flight from Panama had arrived at the same gate).  Once I was on the flight home, I felt like   a seasoned single traveler again. 

It’s never too late to step out of your comfort zone.

Five Day Withdrawal

You would think that a country that exports two and a half billion dollars’ worth of coffee annually would have coffee ice cream stands on every corner.  As an every-night consumer of a scoop or two at home, I couldn’t imagine that I would have a problem finding coffee ice cream in Colombia.

Not only did I live without coffee ice cream for five days, I had no ice cream at all.  For a woman whose sophomore year college roommates gave her a gift certificate for five pints of gourmet ice cream on her birthday, this could have been tragic.

To be honest, I couldn’t get enough of arepas and freshly-squeezed fruit drinks in Medellin so that was where I focused my attention.  And all the wedding events had much more spectacular desserts than ice cream.

It helped that our hotel had a huge basket of delicious wrapped coffee candies in the lobby. Every time I walked by, I picked up a new supply.

Although the first thing I did when I got home was hug Peter, the second was to grab a big bowl of you know what. 

It’s good to be home.

Destination Wedding

On May 2nd, I bought a round trip ticket to Medellin, Colombia to fly to a cousin’s forthcoming wedding at the end of August.  On the same day, I bought trip insurance. I didn’t really believe I was going until I was on the Avianca Airlines plane.

Peter was OK with being left on his own.  I was not comfortable about it until we got him a “First Alert” button to call for help, if needed, and multiple friends agreed to check up on him.  Still, I worried.  We hadn’t been apart for six days in our more than fifty-one years of marriage.

Medellin, Colombia is known for its drug wars and poverty. They have a huge influx of Venezuelans fleeing their home country, many of whom are selling candy on the streets holding babies in their arms. But the city sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, and there are some very rich people there too.

The outdoor wedding ceremony took place high above the city, and as the sun went down, lights from the favelas sparkled up and down the opposite mountain.  It was breath-taking.

My cousins and I spent non-wedding-event time seeing some of the city’s best sights, led by Seth (my son and date) who got us on and off the Metro, cable car or whatever like a seasoned guide.

It took me sixteen hours to get home on Tuesday.  The trip insurance was the best money I’ve ever wasted.


Back to School

To me, the day after Labor Day is New Year’s Day. When school begins, my calendar year begins.  That’s how it was when I was the student.  Then our kids were the students.  And Peter and I both worked in academia for more than thirty years.  Fall is the year’s beginning to us.

Last week, I decided to walk over to the Farmer’s Market on the Harvard University campus for some end-of-summer corn and maybe some beginning-of-fall apples. I didn’t realize that it was freshman move-in-day.  Harvard Yard (surrounded by freshman dormitories) becomes a parking lot.  Signs warn that you only have twenty minutes to unload the belongings of your member of the class of 2023.  Harvard’s maintenance vehicles can’t keep up with the mountains of empty cardboard boxes on the walkways.

I’ve just finished reading Grown and Flown, a new book that prepares parents for the very event I was observing. I smiled to myself as I recognized the usual emotions that accompany saying good-bye to a child.  I can’t even remember my own college drop-off, but I bet my parents did.

I did notice something different this year.  There were strategically placed police eyeing the crowd.  Thoughts of mass shootings rushed into my head and I quickened my steps.



Becoming a Caretaker

When we are young and in love, even though we promise “in sickness and in health,” it doesn’t occur to us that when we age, the “in sickness” clause might kick in requiring one of us to become a caretaker, perhaps for years.

Luckily for us, Peter’s Parkinson’s Disease, now twelve years past diagnosis, has progressed slowly and he has been diligent about doing what he could to keep it at bay.  And he is appreciative of all that I do for him. 

About two years ago, I took over all of our driving.  Peter is a great co-pilot and excellent company, but I no longer get to file my fingernails on the way to somewhere. I do all the heavy lifting (thanks to my compulsive weight-program, that’s not too difficult). And more.

Last week I had planned to meet my former hairdresser.  I hadn’t seen Kelly in months, and we agreed to meet at a mall about half-way between our homes.  All details were confirmed.

In the morning Peter’s phone wasn’t working. The glass had shattered (we think from sitting down with his phone and keys in the same pocket) and the phone wouldn’t work at all. There was no way that I would leave him alone without a working phone. I texted Kelly and broke our plans. 

Instead, I spent a good part of the morning getting his phone repaired.  Was I disappointed?  Yes.  Did I let it get me down?  No.

That’s what we caretakers do.