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June 2020

Father's Day Surprise

A few months ago, our older son Seth, who lives in New York City, told us that he had a new friend.  Shortly after that, he told us her first name and the week after that, her last name. As an experienced mother, I knew that I could not ask for more, so I was pleased when Seth sent a picture of the two of them taken on a walk in the park.

You can imagine how excited I was when Seth called on the Friday of Father’s Day weekend and said that he and his friend were going to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and that they would visits us in Cambridge on Sunday before returning to New York, adding a mere five hours of driving to their weekend.

The four of us spent a delightful three hours together.  Seth’s new friend charmed Peter from the get-go and me within minutes.  They wanted to be carefully socially-distanced so there was no hugging, but  conversation was easy, as we had iced tea and snacks in the garden behind our apartment building.  They brought alfajores, a Brazilian sweet, for Peter and an orchid plant for me.

The three hours flew by.  There were no good-bye hugs, but we’ll make up for that next time.

I can’t wait.

The Five W's

Journalists are taught that every newspaper article they write has to answer the questions: “Who, What, Where When and Why?   In conversations between Peter and me, one of those “W” words is used more than the others.  Can you guess which one?

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we don’t hear each other so well anymore. “What?” is the usual response when one of us speaks. We seem to spend a lot of verbal energy repeating ourselves.

People used to comment about how much Peter sounded like Hawkeye Pierce (aka Alan Alda) in "Mash".  Little by little, Parkinson’s has taken the boom out of both their voices.  As for me, I am a new hearing aids owner who hasn’t quite got the whole system down yet.

Just another ageing challenge. More to come…

So Near and Yet So Far

When our grandchildren and their parents were invited to spend a week at a friend’s vacation home in western Massachusetts, only two and a half hours away from us, we talked about how we could get together.  Normally, we travel to Maryland to see them several times a year.  But this is not normally.

At first, we thought that they would drive to Boston to spend an afternoon with us.  Then the grandchildren began to worry that they would infect Peter and me with Covid-19, even if they had no symptoms. 

Then Peter and I considered driving to the Berkshires for an afternoon no-touching visit, but for us, five hours of driving roundtrip when we couldn’t even hug the kids ruled it out.

Instead, we had a long Face-Time visit.  We “toured” the house and grounds and chatted with everybody.  It was almost like being there.

Still, I spent the week thinking that they were only 101 miles away.

The Best of Times/The Worst of Times

Our bedroom window overlooks a small private park for the residents of our condo building.  On a bright mid-June morning with a blue sky and a scattering of fluffy clouds, it feels like everything is right with the world.

But it isn’t.

As I stood looking out the other morning, I thought, there are good times and bad times for us, but the sky and the clouds and the tall trees stirring in the breeze don’t know the difference.  It’s hard to believe how radically our lives have changed in the last three months. We have enormous challenges ahead. 

Times have been bad before and we will get through this and return to a much-changed new “normal”.  

But when? If we had an end-date, this would be much easier.


Peter’s Parkinson’s Disease was diagnosed thirteen years ago. At the time, we were relieved to have a cause for his increasing fatigue and to learn that although there was no cure, there are some effective medications that would help him function.

But there are no effective medications for caregivers. 

Our first major change came when Peter decided that he shouldn’t drive anymore.   I had been the designated night driver for a while, but this was different. I became his Uber. 

When we rented a house in Bethesda, Maryland to “try out” living near our grandchildren in 2016, we spent most days on the Mall in DC, visiting the museums and other sights.  When we moved to DC eighteen months later, it wasn’t the same because Peter broke his femur shortly after we arrived and was hospitalized for six weeks.  His mobility declined significantly and that was a real setback.

Returning to Cambridge nine months later was difficult for both of us but it was the right thing to do.

But my amazing husband who never complains has not been able to stave off his increasing immobility, so we had limited our activities considerably even before the pandemic.  We used to have a joke—when one of us asked the other to do some trivial task, the other person would say, “What, do I have to do everything around here?”

Now, I do have to do everything. 

If the situation were reversed, Peter would do more than everything.


While I Was Walking

The other day I noticed an adorable toddler in a fenced-in yard as I walked by.

Although I was wearing a mask, he came right up to the fence and grinned at me.  We waved to each other and “conversed”, he in baby babble; me in Grandmotherly babble. Then he was off to his mother at the other end of the yard.

The next day there were two toddlers in the yard with the mother near-by.  So I said something like, “Wow, you have your hands full with two so close in age.”

“Actually, they’re twins,” she said.  “Oh”, I replied.  “Are they identical?”

“No,” said their mother.  “She’s a girl.”

Our First-Born Son

I’ve spent a lot of the last month on “Memory Lane”.  It started on Mother’s Day when I found a faded color photo of myself standing in our front yard under a fully-blossoming cherry tree with a fully-blossomed belly.  That Mother’s Day fifty years ago was the due date of our first child. 

Ten days later, after a big steak dinner, I thought my stomach pains  could be labor and called the doctor. He told us to go to the hospital. We arrived about 10:30 pm.  My labor was long and difficult, but just as I was about to deliver the next morning, Dr. Sexton (yes, that was his name) invited Peter to come into the delivery room. Fathers-in-delivery-rooms was a new practice then.  I think if Peter had time to think about whether he wanted to watch, he would have declined, but he didn’t get any time so he pioneered.

Seth was born at 7:30 a.m. and fifty short years later, I can remember our joy as if it were yesterday.

The Matriarch

I just watched a YouTube video of an interview with my Aunt Ruth when she was 101.  (She lived to 104.)  She was the widow of my mother’s brother, and the matriarch of a large family.  (My mother was one of six children.)

Mother and I spent several summers in her home in Buffalo, New York while my father was on the road for work and my brother was away at camp, so I knew her family quite well. I loved spending time with my three male cousins, two, four, and six years younger than me.

In the interview, Aunt Ruth tells us that in 1935 she was a buyer in the coat department of The May Company in Denver where she grew up.  When her employer asked for volunteers to look into whether the company’s buyers should fly to New York or continue taking the train, she volunteered.

She described the plane with its bench-like seats arranged along its sides.  When they were about to take off, her colleague worried about how close they were to another plane on the runway. Aunt Ruth had to explain that that was the light at the end of their own plane’s wing.

She was beloved by so many and I still miss her.