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February 2020

January 2020

Farewell January

My friend Valerie claims that I once said, “Why can’t June last as long as January?”  It’s true—the summer months do fly by.  But for us on the Eastern Seaboard, this has been a January to remember for its mild temperatures and lack of snow.  We have watched the Mid-West deal with severe winter weather, while we have rain.  The runners along the Charles River are still mostly in T-shirts. 

As a recovering knee-replacement person, I have been able to walk outside without fear of black ice. And now, it isn’t pitch black outside when I wake up in the morning.   But I don’t want to celebrate too soon—February is a day longer this year and we have no idea what it has in store for us.

Eighty-Four Years of Bouillon

I have been a satisfied customer of Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge for years.  Both of our boys were born there.  I had an emergency appendectomy there.  I had my first knee replacement there. I had breast cancer surgery and radiation there. Now I live a five-minute walk away from the hospital and am a steady customer of its gift shop.

It wasn’t until last year that I learned about the hospital’s Thursday Morning Talks, now in their 84th year.  Started by a Harvard classics professor and his wife and held in their elegant Brattle Street home, the talks were (and still are) preceded by bouillon served in china cups.  They are now held in the Holy Trinity Armenian Church on Brattle Street every Thursday in January and February.

The speakers, often from Harvard, MIT or the world of politics, are excellent. They speak for forty-five minutes, once the teacups are collected, and answer questions for fifteen minutes. The auditorium holds about 300 people.  Lots of gray hair, more women than men, definitely a highlight for the senior population it attracts.

The speakers donate their time and all the proceeds go to the hospital.

Personally, I think the bouillon is too salty. 

When Is It Time to Stop Buying Furniture?

Here’s a question that wouldn’t have occurred to me in my seventies:  When should you stop buying furniture?  In other words, what should we do about our on-the-way-to-looking shabby living room love seats?  The furniture-cleaning specialists told me they couldn’t guarantee that the fabric wouldn’t ripple (whatever that means) if they were cleaned again.  Could I bear to go fabric shopping and live without them while they were reupholstered for some outlandish dent in our children’s inheritance?  It’s a dilemma. 

Two years ago when we moved out of our home of twenty-three years, we couldn’t take our wonderful king-sized sofa bed that lived in the basement because we had remodeled the kitchen and it could not be brought up the stairs.  Fortunately, the people who bought our house were delighted to have it stay.  However, in haste we replaced it with a sleeping sofa we don’t like.  You can’t curl up on it. It’s stiff and boring. Guests (including our children) have slept on it without complaining, but we know it doesn’t measure up.

That one was easy. An hour in our favorite furniture store and in a few weeks, we’ll be cuddling in front of the TV in comfort again.

Still, I wonder if it isn’t is too late to buy new furniture.

Life in a NORC

A Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) is a community (building, street, or neighborhood) a large proportion of whose residents are over sixty years old living independently.  Peter and I live in an apartment building in a neighborhood with many single-family homes and lots of young children. But although many of the residents of our building brought up their kids here, most of us now fall on the far side of sixty.

It’s not surprising that  our neighbors would need the help of walkers, crutches or canes.  Since September, residents of our floor have had three knee replacements, a fractured hip and just last week, a broken foot.

Thanks to my knee surgery, I have used all three of the devices.  But I am now walking around our apartment on my own most of the time.  So, when a neighbor down the hall who lives alone broke her foot last week, I decided that the dinner I was making was enough for three people, and although she couldn’t leave her apartment, I could bring her dinner. 

Both of our apartment units have stairs up into them which was a challenge for us.  I hobbled down the hall on one crutch, carrying a hot plate of roasted pork tenderloin in cranberry sauce, broccoli and mashed potatoes.  My neighbor stood at the top of the stairs into her apartment and I stood at the bottom.  She leaned down as far as she could and I leaned up on the stair railing and passed her the plate of dinner.

It was a pathetic scene, but we laughed together at the ridiculousness of it.  It also worked.  She got a real dinner via room service down the hall (me) and I got to feel great for helping her out.

Twenty Years Without Gluten

I have not eaten anything containing gluten for twenty years.  My long un-explainable stomach symptoms finally got explained in January, 2000.  I have celiac sprue, an autoimmune disease where gluten destroys the villi in the small intestine.  It took me a while to process what my gastroenterologist was explaining.  No wheat, rye, barley.  Ever.  Nor any of the millions of foods containing them.  

I know that things have improved for people like me since then. More restaurants understand  gluten-free. More organizations realize that there is a market for good gluten-free products. Back then, it wasn’t easy to adjust to the cardboard product that was gluten-free bread.  Or to give up pretzels and bagels, French bread, most desserts.

Five months after my diagnosis our entire family took a dream trip to Africa.  By then I had adjusted to my condition, but since I knew nothing about African cuisine, I carried a giant size jar of Skippy peanut butter and gluten-free crackers in my suitcase.

There is still no magic pill or cure for this genetic mishap.  I still look at dessert menus--you never know when a flour-less chocolate cake will make the cut.

Whatever Happened to Thank-You Notes?

                                             “Dear Aunt Ruth and Uncle Milton,

                                                                   Thank you very much for the $5 birthday check.  I am depositing it to my savings account for a trip to Europe when I grow up.

                                            Thanks again.

                                           Love, Judy”

So went the template for the thank-you notes I wrote to my mother’s five siblings year after year, once I knew how to write. 

People always used to write thank-you notes.

I thought about that recently because people have been so nice to us since my knee surgery—sending cards, calling, bringing flowers, delivering home-made dinners, offering to pick up food at the market, etc. I am embarrassed to admit that I sent my thanks by email.

Fortunately, our daughter-in-law has taught our grandchildren to write thank you notes.  Sometimes they don’t come for months, but they come. And the other day I got a very nice hand-written thank-you from a cousin for a wedding present.  All may not yet be lost.

Those $5 birthday checks year after year added up.  When I was in college, I managed to go to Europe thanks largely to them. 

Today each of them is worth $53.56.  Not bad.


Happy Birthday Eighty-Something

On January 10, 2008, the “80-Something Blog” (nee the 70-Something Blog) debuted.  This is my 1239th post.  It has been an honor to have people accompany me on my journey over these twelve years.  I have learned so much from my readers.  I have also learned a lot from writing.  You look at things differently when you think you might write about them.  

I hope you’ll stick with me.  It could be interesting. 

P.S If you want to read the prequel, 70-something:  Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years is available here.


The New Knee News

Everyone who has a joint replaced has his or her own expectations of recovery.  Since this is my second new knee (the other was replaced twelve years ago), I knew the post-operative physical therapy would be challenging, but I had forgotten how much it actually hurts.  A lot.

Before I went to the hospital, I put a bunch of meals into the freezer and filled my cabinets with enough food for an army.  I gathered a half-dozen books that have been on my to-read list and did a quick re-read of How to Prepare for Surgery, a book that I bought for my first knee operation.  My preparations would make the recovery easy.  Or so I thought.

In reality, I was barely able to get through the paper for the first few days.  Even though I did not have full anesthesia, I was a bit confused after the surgery.  I forgot some key words, like Tylenol. I know we streamed a film after I got home, but I can’t remember the ending.

But now, I feel terrific.  I am not reading much yet because forty-five minutes of exercising three times a day takes a good chunk of time.

Sure, my knee still hurts, but I’m thrilled that my surgery is over. In a few weeks, I would expect to go dancing, that is if I had a husband who danced.

P.S. Thanks to all for cheering me on.


On Becoming a Better Person

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions for 2020, but I am open to becoming a better person.  I recently found some good suggestions in an article (13Ways to Be a Better Person in 2020) in The New York Times.  Here are my favorites.

Just Be

We could all use more time to just exist, to not be pushing to fix anything that’s wrong in our lives or the world.  We should try to focus on what is right—for ourselves.  Just Be.

Let Your Kids Fail

I shudder when I think of all the college-application-building activities kids do these days to demonstrate their near-perfection. Having evaluated thousands of graduate school applications in my work, I’d much rather read about how kids overcome setbacks.

Hug a Baby Boomer, or a Generation X-er (or anyone who sees life somewhat differently)

It is enriching to learn about challenges facing future generations or to share your own experience with a younger person 

Buy Stock in Leggings

Leggings are great for everyone.  Best thing since sliced bread.

Happy New Year!