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May 2021

A New Friend

I visit Peter every day in Spaulding Rehab Hospital.  He is only allowed one visitor a day and that’s me. 

Each time I enter the hospital, I am required to answer questions on a computer screen. It’s a necessary precaution, but it’s tedious to type the same information over and over.  If that’s tedious for the visitor, there is a person, masked and behind a plastic screen, who asks even more questions before she issues you a sticker allowing you to enter. Not much fun.

I worked on establishing a relationship with her just to make both of our lives a little brighter.  First day, I made a point of thanking her and saying goodbye when I left. Then I started saying “Hi. How are you?” and she responded appropriately.

At Friday’s check in, I asked her if she had to work over the holiday weekend.  “Oh no,” she said.  “I’m not working tomorrow, it’s my birthday.”  I responded, “Oh, tomorrow is my son’s birthday and his sister-in-law’s birthday too.” (I didn’t mention that it was John F. Kennedy’s birthday also.)

We are now friends.  It makes the sign-in a much better experience.

Adventure Report

Peter is recovering from his May 10th stroke in Spaulding Hospital in Charlestown, MA.  Visiting hours start at three.  This week I’ve had two adventures on my way.

I took the subway to the Boston waterfront, expecting to walk from there to Charlestown.  But I was disoriented and walked a mile in the wrong direction.

Back where I started, I followed the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a beautiful park that parallels the Boston waterfront. I was looking for the “Boston Harbor Walk” that goes to the Naval Yard in Charlestown where Spaulding (hospital) and the Constitution (boat) are located. The first two times I saw a sign for the walk, it led down a pier to the water and I had to retrace my steps.  When I finally figured out how to go, I still had a long walk. I arrived, one wilted wife.  I had walked over six miles.

The next day’s plan was less ambitious.  I took the subway to the foot of Beacon Hill, my first home in Boston, and walked along Charles Street.   Both it and I have changed, but the place where I bought my first car in 1965 is still there (although now a parking garage).

A shuttle to Spaulding leaves from nearby Mass General Hospital. This time I arrived in much better shape.

My next plan is to go to Spaulding early and walk around historic Charlestown until visiting hours begin.

(If I can find it.)

Bea's Unstuffed Cabbage

Page 180 in my copy of Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet is wrinkly and stained.  It contains a recipe for unstuffed cabbage, a Kugel family staple since the cookbook came out in 1990.

 Born in 1941 and just celebrating her eightieth birthday, Brody writes a column called “Personal Health” that covers health issues for all generations, but especially for ours.  She has been a science and medical writer for The New York Times since 1965.

Brody recently talked to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the best-known name associated with the covid pandemic, about how to be a healthy, productive octogenarian. Listen at

And try Bea’s unstuffed cabbage.

Many thanks to all of you sending good wishes to Peter for his full recovery. It’s a journey in progress.

My Morning Moment

For years, our alarm clock went off at 6:10 a.m. on workdays. I would be on my exercise bicycle by 6:20, at breakfast about 7:30, and off to work a little after 8:00.  Back then, I knew what day it was. Now, not so much.

What I have instead I call my “morning moment”.  I lie in bed and let my mind take me wherever it wants to go.  I plan my day if I remember what’s on my calendar.  I seem to be dreaming more lately, and I try to recall last night’s dream. I think about how my analyst might interpret it (if I had an analyst). 

My morning moment is a luxury.  It’s here to stay.

Another Challenge

In the late evening on May 10, Peter collapsed, and although he said he was fine, we couldn’t get him off the floor.  The EMT’s (who are amazing, but have been here too often) took him to the hospital, and it wasn’t until 2:00 a.m. that the ER doctor was able to tell me anything.

It seemed that Peter had a mild stroke, but because of all his other issues, they couldn’t do all the testing they would have preferred to do at that time.

Jeremy flew up to be with me on Wednesday. He can make me laugh even in the darkest situation, although he too was very concerned.

It looks like my amazing husband who said he would never go to rehab again will go early next week.  Despite his condition, his nurse Nikki told me that going into his room always brightens her day. 

He’s been doing that for me for fifty-six years.

1.3 Thousand Comments

George Will, well-known Washington Post conservative columnist, turned eighty on May 4th, and wrote a column called “What My Eighty Years Have Taught Me”.  An “Eighty-Something” reader sent me a link.  Then a cousin sent me a link. So I read it.

The column got 1.3 thousand comments. See

Everyone processes a change in decades in his/her own way.  I left town with our family to celebrate my 50th at a Club Med.  I can’t remember 60, but we gave a party for my 70th.  We celebrated my 80th in a hospital room because of Peter's  broken femur.

Peter sometimes talks about his impending “Use By” date, and at 91 that’s OK.  George Will tells us that one of the pluses of turning 80 is that one is well beyond the danger of dying young.  Good point.

Some final advice:

“Exercise regularly.  Eat sensibly.  Die anyway.


Birthday Party

Peter and I went to a birthday party.  (Remember them?)  Ten vaccinated residents of our condo gathered in one of its largest units to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of a neighbor. I co-chaired the two-person-food shopping committee. Others took care of the cake, flowers, decorations, and entertainment.

I wore a special sweater that I hadn’t taken out of its drawer since the start of the pandemic.  I put on lipstick.  Unmasked, we could see each other’s smiles.  We sang silly songs and found good words starting with every letter of the alphabet to describe the birthday “girl”.

No brass bands. No heavy drinking. Just a reminder that good times lie ahead.  

The Maestro's Garden



                                                                                                    (Photos by Seth Kugel)

Last Sunday under a cloudless sky, we wandered over to nearby Brattle Street to show Seth some of its stately homes, most hidden behind tall fences or fence-like bushes. The modest home of Benjamin Zander, conductor of The Boston Philharmonic has a 2-ft high brick wall in front that frames a garden of hundreds of flowers.  A small sign invites people to go to his back yard “for more beauty”.  And if you are lucky and he sees you from the double doors to his music room, he might come out and greet you there.

We sat on the front wall and watched the flowers and the people watching the flowers.  A couple of the watchers, assuming we were in front of our own house complimented us on our garden.  One woman spent a lot of time taking close-up pictures.  It turns out it was the gardener herself coming to see the garden in just the right light to take pictures.

A picture is worth 1,000 words.  (For 2,000 words see above.)

Thirty Per Cent

There is no upside to a broken hip.  Especially if you are 91 years old and have Parkinson’s Disease.  The one plus is that it brings your sons home for a visit.  And that means a lot of laughter because our kids are funny even at middle-age.

As I write this, Seth is here for the second time since February and Jeremy visited a few weeks ago.  They think they are here to help, but they are really here to entertain their parents.

At breakfast, I asked Seth if he agreed that his father was about 30% more himself  than when he last visited,  Peter answered before Seth.  “Yeah,” he said, “the bad 30%”.

Seth’s “good one Dad!” made my morning.