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April 2020

P is for Pandemic

On a recent Saturday night, someone I know (who shall remain nameless) came up with what I think it’s fair to say is a unique form of entertainment for these coronavirus times. Sixteen people, ranging in age from thirteen to fifty, agreed to drink ten ounces of water every ten minutes without going to the bathroom. The last person to pee would be the winner.

Because the participants were in different states, there was an honor system.  All communication was by text.

The winner, who lasted 124 minutes, marked his victory after drinking eight pounds of water by sending an upper-body-only video recording the sound of his very long pee.

What can I say?

Spot On

When I was 70-something, I often posted blogs about my body, usually sharing bad news.   Like the time my dermatologist suggested that I get rid of my 5X magnifying mirror so I couldn’t see all my new wrinkles. Like the day I realized my rear end had disappeared or when my doctor told me I had too many white blood cells, a pre-cancerous condition. 

However, in my two years as a blogging 80-something, I haven’t said much about my body, other than it has a new knee.  Until now. 

From out of the blue, the back of my right hand has an artful display of the unfortunately-named “brown spots”.  Even worse, I’ve just discovered a nickel-sized brown spot right above my jawbone.        

Luckily, my coronavirus mask does a great job of hiding it.

Frontline Hero

Our struggle against the coronavirus has many heroes: doctors, nurses, hospital housekeeping staff, bus drivers, police officers and others who are putting their own health at risk.      

One of them is our nephew Jeffrey, a physician who lives in Colorado. Jeffrey came to Queens, N.Y. this month to spend three weeks in the overwhelmed Emergency Department of Jamaica Hospital, where ambulances were bringing in eighty to ninety suspected COVID-19 cases daily.

Jeff has gone to Haiti, Nepal, the Philippines, Houston (after the recent flooding) and more to help organizations like Heart to Heart and the International Medical Corps provide emergency medical services after disasters.

Our son Seth interviewed Jeff for his Amigo Gringo YouTube channel after one of Jeff’s twelve-hour shifts in the emergency room.  You can watch the interview here.

Brave New Words

About six weeks ago, our world turned upside down. Offices, stores, restaurants, theaters and schools were closed. Events were cancelled or postponed. We were told to stay at home if we could and to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart if we couldn’t. We learned of people dying or losing loved ones.

People are quite resourceful at times like these, and even among all the bad news, there are hopeful nuggets—people leaving hospitals, fewer ICU admits, crowds cheering those on the medical front lines in a war they had never imagined.

We heard new words and unfamiliar phrases. “Zoom meeting”, “pandemic”, “coronavirus”, “social distancing”, “Unmute” (Zoom),   “Abundance of caution”, “Flatten the curve”—all now part of our everyday vocabulary. Not to mention “quarantini”.

I long for the day when all communications don’t end with “Stay well”.

Three Pencils



A white plastic box containing pens, pencils, and a pair of scissors has occupied a drawer in out kitchen through three major household moves. The pens advertise our former employers, hotels, schools or conferences attended over decades. The pen population has grown. The pencil population has not.

Many years ago, our then eight-year-old son Seth gave us a package of pencils that he had proudly selected as a holiday gift. They were not your ordinary every-day yellow pencils. (See above.) Originally there were a dozen.

The other day when I reached into the drawer for a pen, I picked up one of those special pencils. Most of it had been sharpened away. When I went through the whole box, I was relieved to find two more, also no longer full-sized. I am determined to keep one forever.

That child will be 50 next month.


I’ve always been a bit risk averse. I don’t smoke. I wait for the “walk” light before I cross the street (usually). And, unlike our older son, I declined the opportunity to bungee jump 384 feet into the Zambezi River when we were at the Zimbabwe/Zambia border twenty years ago.

But these are desperate times that call for desperate actions.

So when I discovered that I was out of Trader Joe’s coffee ice cream, a staple of my diet that brings me to my “happy place,” I realized I had no choice. I had promised myself that when I turned eighty, I would have it for dessert every night, and for two years, I’ve mostly kept that promise.

So with masked face and wearing a pair of disposable gloves I went to Trader Joe’s during its early hour for seniors. People there politely stayed apart. About half wore masks.

If I had a bigger freezer, I’d be set.

Even the Mighty Shall Fall

I do a lot to ensure my balance. Not just standing on one foot while brushing my teeth, but serious efforts. And they have worked. Until now.

Early last week on a walk with a friend, I was looking at her instead of keeping my eye on the ground as I always do. I tripped on the uneven sidewalk and landed on my face.

I blamed the coronavirus—if we hadn’t been walking six feet apart, I would have been looking where I was going.

Despite a cut above my mouth, I was sure I was OK. So at my request, we continued walking. When I got home, I surveyed the damage. I gave some thought to going to the doctor, but decided that I didn’t want to be in a medical center at this time unless my life was in danger.

The next morning, the left half of my face looked like it had been attacked by a brush dipped in black and purple paint, and my lip looked like I had been boxing with Muhammad Ali.

But gradually, I began to look more like myself. A week later, I walked again with my friend. When we met I said, “Hold on, I want to take a good look at you before we start walking.”

Lesson learned.

CARE Package

I just ate a mandarin orange. It was sweet and juicy. It hit the spot. But more important is how I got it.

Neither Peter nor I remembered ordering anything so when we got a “you have a package” notice, he went down to the mailroom to pick it up immediately. The package was from our Maryland family. It was what we used to call a “CARE” package, like those often sent to a homesick child at camp or to members of the military overseas.

Buried amidst the bubble wrap were  a “we miss you” card, a large roll of toilet paper, two mandarin oranges, two dried fruit bars, several packets of eyeglasses wipes, a box of gluten-free chickpea rotinni and a quite good pencil portrait of Joe Biden by our 13-year old grandson Grady.

The highlight of an otherwise ordinary day.

Peter's Sweet Tooth

A few years ago, my friend Joan and I bumped into my husband Peter coming out of a CVS store in Harvard Square just after a Harvard class that we three audited together ended. His mouth was full of candy from a bag he was clutching.

The other day, Peter took his bright red walker to Harvard Square to get some exercise. There weren’t many people around, but he bumped into our friend Joan there and they chatted a bit. Before he got home, she called me to tell me that she had seen Peter. Remembering our encounter with him outside the CVS, I asked her if he was chomping on some candy and she said, “No, both of his hands were holding on to his walker.

A few minutes later, Peter came home. I went to greet him. On the dining room table was a bag of black licorice. He had “forgotten” that licorice has gluten (which I can’t eat) so he had to eat it all himself.