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July 2022

Mom's Contemporary

My mother was born in 1903. So was Kane Tanaka.  Mom died in 1989. Tanaka died in 2022, the oldest woman in the world at the time of her death.  Born in Japan, Tanaka lived in a nursing home during her last few years where (it is said) she maintained her sense of humor and her love for math problems, Coca Cola and chocolate.

When asked her secret for living so long, she replied, “Being myself.”

I don’t aspire to be the oldest woman in the world, but I wouldn’t mind sticking around a while if I can stay healthy and keep my sense of humor. 

If I could talk to my mother now, there are so many things I would want her to know—like how great her grandchildren and great-grandchildren are, and how we have remained lucky in the years she’s been gone.

If she had grown old in Japan like Kane Tanaka, she would have been feted yearly at Japan’s annual "Respect for the Aged" holiday. 

We could use such a day in the U.S.A.


Fifty-four years ago today, Peter and I got married.  Much to my mother’s disappointment, we had a small wedding (eleven people including us). I wore the most expensive dress of my lifetime.  It was a Geoffrey Beene design, and if you haven’t heard of him, he designed for such dignitaries as Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon and Nancy Reagan.

The dress was white.

Our wedding day started badly.  Although we had rented the third floor apartment of a house in Cambridge, we weren’t living there yet.  However, for a reason I can’t recall, my wedding dress was there awaiting this occasion.  (It may be that I was supposed to be living there alone until we married, but I was staying with Peter.) Unfortunately, we only had a key to the back door of the house, and our landlady had locked the screen door.

No cell phones then.  As I recall, we roused her by banging on the door.  She was kind enough to keep her thoughts to herself.

Everything else went fine.  As did our marriage.

A Memory of Peter

I’ve been a widow for almost ten months.  I don’t like that word because I picture a slumping little old lady in lace-up black shoes with thick heels, unruly gray hair and a sad face. And that’s not me (yet).

Among our closest friends, I am the first to lose a spouse.  But that unwanted distinction won’t last.

Peter lives on in our hearts and in photos all over my apartment.  And not just in our hearts.  Last week, Jeremy wrote to a former colleague of Peter’s in the Boston College Computer Science Department because he (Jeremy) was reading the colleague’s book.  The author thanked Jeremy in an email and added... 

“Peter was one of the best professional friends I ever had – and one of the world’s brightest – and nicest people. He was the heart and soul of the Boston College Computer Science Department. “

Made my day!



Last Sunday night, I took my dish of coffee ice cream (yes, coffee ice cream is back!) out to my balcony.  There was a wonderful breeze blowing, a relief from the heat of the day.  People were running or biking or kayaking or walking dogs along the river.

Earlier in the day, I talked with both of my boys, and they sounded great. I also had approximately my 1, 716th weekly call with my ex-neighbor who moved away in 1989.  Unless one of us is out of town, we talk every Sunday.

And, I finished a wonderful new novel by Pulitzer Prize-Winner Geraldine Brooks.  It’s called Horse.

Although Sunday has been my favorite day forever, of late, I have a new reason to love it.

No doctor appointments.

Follow-up to Falling

Who would expect that an 80-something-year-old-woman would fall flat on her face on a huge slab of plywood and not break a single bone?  I thought of that when I returned to the “scene of the crime” on Wednesday.  It was sort of like getting right back on the horse once you’ve fallen.  Much to my surprise—and relief—the plywood was gone.  Someone with authority must have heard the ambulance and decided to do something about the hazard.

Fifteen years ago, Peter tripped on a sidewalk and pulled me down with him.  He was fine.  I fractured my hip.  In the emergency room, the doctor on duty said, “You know, most people aren’t alive a year after a fall like you’ve had.”  Thank goodness, I’m not most people.

But this fall was a wake-up call.  No matter how scintillating a conversation I am having on future walks, I will keep my eyes glued to the sidewalk.

We all should.


I stay away from writing about heart-breaking crises in the world.  Others are better than I am at that.   But I am not shy about sharing personal crises, and –get ready—this is a big one.

Trader Joe’s is out of coffee ice cream!  When I went to replenish my supply just after the fourth of July and saw none, I asked a helper to check “in back”, but no luck.  I figured the fourth of July had emptied the freezer shelves.  He assured me it would be in the next day.

On my second visit, I got more information, but no ice cream.  It seems that there was a production issue and all Trader Joe’s stores are ice cream-less AND they are not sure when it will be solved. 

The next day, a friend was going to Trader Joe’s and agreed to check.  No luck.

That night, out of desperation, I took some vanilla ice cream that I save for hot fudge sundaes from the freezer and poured left-over brewed coffee on top.  It wasn’t bad.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Fear of Falling

It happens all the time.  Little kids fall and middle-sized kids fall.  Football players fall.   My peers fall.  At some point, everyone falls.  

On Monday, I fell.

I was walking with a friend.  We were entering an outside track.  For some reason there are two huge slabs of plywood that must be walked over at the entrance gate.  I have walked over that plywood many times.  I don’t know why it is there.  I tripped on the space between the two pieces and landed face-down on the plywood. 

Miraculously, I broke nothing.  My friend and a passerby insisted I get checked out at an ER, and called an ambulance.  I will skip the details other than to say that I am black and blue in a lot of places, and I have a split upper lip that looks like I just lost a prize fight.  (I have resisted saying to those inquiring, “You should see the other guy.”)

I have friends who only walk alone so they can keep their eyes focused on the ground.  Not a bad idea, but not for me.  However, in the future, I will concentrate on…

Staying vertical!

Solo on July 4 Weekend

The July 4th holiday weekend was always a big deal for Peter and me.  Often, we joined friends at their vacation homes or at local parties.   Peter was a big fireworks fan. Me too.    

This year I was at home. It wasn’t so bad sitting on my balcony with the newspaper and watching the action on the Charles River—rowers and kayakers and folks walking, running, biking, or skateboarding along the closed-to-cars road.  I finished some paperwork related to losing Peter, and failed at trying to epoxy a broken piece of pottery—epoxying was always Peter’s job. 

I read a book purely for pleasure, fixed myself a delicious new recipe and felt grateful for all I had and have.

Camp Wingfoot Forever

When I was nine, my parents sent me to Camp Wingfoot for Girls in Madison, Ohio for two-months. I loved it.  Most campers cried when their parents dropped them off.  I cried when mine came to take me home.

My favorite activity was horseback riding, and I can still remember Ginger, Blacky and Ghost, three of my favorites. But I loved everything about camp for the five summers I spent there.  

Recently, after dinner with friends, we started singing camp songs we remembered from whatever camp we attended.  The next day, I Googled Camp Wingfoot to see if it still exists. No, it closed in 1985, but its brother camp (Roosevelt) is still operating. 

And there is a Facebook group of Wingfoot alumnae!  To join, one has to answer some questions about the camp, like the name of the building where the owners lived.  I didn’t know that, but I wrote a couple things I did remember and said my brother had gone to Roosevelt, and they accepted me!  The group has 366 members, counting me and a not-too-bad website.  I’m probably the oldest member because the Facebook page is only fourteen years old. However, because it is a Facebook group, it tells you if anybody is a friend of a friend of yours and sure enough, a good, younger friend of mine, is friends with a Wingfoot alumna.

Of course, the website has a few pages devoted to Camp songs. Fortunately, I was alone in my apartment because…I sang them all.