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November 2023

Wrapping Up November

How can this be the last day of November?  And how can there only be two more meetings of the wonderful class I am taking this semester?

Except for Thanksgiving, November is about equal to January as my least favorite month.  It seems to get dark right after lunch.   The leaves are pretty much gone, so I can see the traffic on the other side of the Charles River, usually hidden by a “forest”.  I am barraged by ads to save tons of money on things I don’t need, but just might like.

I had a great week away for Thanksgiving, loving every moment with the next two generations.  I delighted in their nuttiness—like going to see the late show of “Thanksgiving,” a horror movie actually produced by a high school friend.  And my two sons hiking in the state forest during hunting season without wearing orange.  Fun?!!  Lots of laughs and little talk about the sad state of the world and appointments with doctors. All good.

But it’s nice to be home in my sunny apartment and to catch up with my neighbors. Although I don’t like November so much, I plan to stick around for more of them.





When Peter and I sold our Cambridge home in 2017, we gave away all of our travel guides, but not before taking a photo of the travel shelf in our bookcase as a reminder of some wonderful adventures.  At the same time, I gave away most of my cookbooks to a former colleague who was thrilled to add them to his collection.

But I held on to some, especially those written by Julia Child.  (Small diversion here:  on one of our first dates, Peter invited me to his place for dinner.  I noted how stained the pages of his “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” were and decided he must be a frequent user of it. Turns out, he was just a sloppy, though great, cook.)

Last week, I grabbed that cookbook off my shelf.  It opened to a two-page spread on turkey-making on which I had recorded the size and hours-to-cook of all Thanksgiving turkeys I had starting in 1976 (12lbs).  In 1984, it was 23.5 lbs; in 2002, the last year I invited a bunch of foreign students, 22lbs.  Etc.

Talk about a walk down memory lane…

Thanksgiving 2023

Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday forever, comes around faster every year.  And each year, I am grateful to be here and to be able to celebrate with my loved ones.  But it’s also a time when the absence of Peter seems to make me sadder than at any other time of the year.  Thanksgiving was a BIG DEAL for us, and this will be the third one without him.  Seth does a great job as turkey-master-carver, and I imagine Peter looking over his shoulder, giving him instructions.  That helps.

And the Thanksgiving meal is beautifully orchestrated by Katrina (with Jeremy’s help and the help of their amazing boys). 

Once more we will all submit our slips of paper expressing our gratitude, to be read between dinner and dessert.  Like in past years, I hope there will be contributions from Peter, as delivered via Seth.

In this difficult world, we have many worries.  On Thanksgiving, we take time to celebrate the positive. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Do You Want to Live to 100?

I listened to a talk by Ken Dychtwald, an important thinker on aging and author of many books on that subject.  An engaging speaker, he’s been all over this topic for many years, and he asks the above question regularly of his audiences.

As you might suspect, almost everyone raises their hands to indicate “of course”.  His follow up question, “No matter what?”  dramatically changed the response. 

My current thought is that if my life is so diminished that I am a burden to society, if I can’t communicate or think rationally, I don’t want to be here.  And I think many people would agree with me, but not everyone.  In the session I watched, a few people indicated they wanted to be here no matter what their situation was.

But what we don’t know now is how we will feel then.  Maybe our quality of life will be sufficient to sustain us.  Who makes that decision?  Will we be able to?

It’s hard to say.

Say It Isn't So

I have walked through Harvard Yard countless times in my blessedly long life.  Both as an employee of Harvard for thirty-three years and as a Cambridge resident for decades, I have had countless reasons to walk through those “hallowed” grounds.

But on a rainy, cold November morning, as I walked to the nine o’clock class I am auditing, the gate I normally go through to get into Harvard Yard was locked.  Late, as usual, I had to hustle to a more central gate where I was stopped by security and asked for my Harvard I.D.

Earlier that week, I had walked to class through my usual gate and by a peaceful demonstration on the steps of Widener library, a reading of the names and ages of Palestinians who have perished in the war thus far. 

Two days later, I found closed gates and tightened security.  I have no idea if there had been threats of violence or it was just cautionary.

Either way, it’s so, so sad.

The Century Summit

The Stanford University Center on Longevity’s fourth annual Century Summit took place this week.  In two full days of panels, the brightest minds in the field reported on the latest thinking about aging and the changing demographics in our country.

There were way more panels than I could watch on my computer, but I was particularly impressed with one about caregivers.  Having been a caregiver myself prior to losing Peter, I lived through the stress and worry that comes as one watches a loved one decline.  It’s difficult enough to go through this process, but unlike for many, I didn’t have to leave a job and we were lucky enough to have access to good medical care.

Enter WA Cares Fund, the State of Washington’s answer to supporting caregivers.  Here’s how it happens.  All working Washingtonians contribute .58% of their income When care is needed, workers have earned a benefit of $36,500 (adjusted for inflation) to help pay for the services of a caregiver.  This may not be sufficient, but it’s a good start.

As far as I know, there is no such federal program.

There should be.


I find myself having sad moments just about every day even though it is two years since I lost Peter.  However…there are one or two things in my life that are better. I get the front page of the newspaper every morning AND I can buy avocados.

Since 2000 avocados have been mainstream, but not in my house.  Peter found them inedible, and I didn’t buy them.  One measure of their increasing popularity is that in 2018 over 2.4 million social media posts were avocado-related.  And in 2021, 3,220 million lbs. were sold (according to Statistica).

And now they are a staple on my grocery list.  It did take a while for me to figure out the perfect moment to refrigerate them.  Now, my almost-daily salad never lacks a half of one of those delicious delicacies.

In these troubled times, an avocado can make one's day.

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

I have managed to live a lot of decades without experiencing a rummage sale. I know that there are amazing bargains to be had—that other people’s discards can become your treasures for pennies.  A friend of mine has regaled me with stories of her finds over the years.  The other day, she was dressed adorably head-to-toe for around $10.

On Sunday, I joined her and her husband at an annual rummage sale held (amazingly) at the site where Peter and I were married 55 years ago (and I hadn’t been on the premises since).

People were lined up in the rain waiting for the opening. The entry fee was $1.  I magnanimously treated my friend.  She showed me the lay of the land and left me.  It was a zoo.  To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement.  People grabbing things left and right and throwing them into garbage bags.  I saw a small serving dish I liked, but when I went to look more closely, a woman told me that the cardboard carton it was in contained things SHE was purchasing,

My friend insisted I buy a sun hat she found. I didn’t need another sun hat.  It cost $2.00.  But I bought it.  I also purchased a set of colorful bangle bracelets for $1. 

It was a once in a lifetime experience.

And once was enough.

The State of the World

It is the policy of The 80-Something Blog not to write about politics.  I leave that to Heather Cox Richardson or whomever you read for political analysis.

However, like so many of us, I am more than worried about the state of the world today.  About the amount of hatred.  About our warming planet.  About the lack of respect for institutions of all sorts.  And the lack of respect for those who disagree with us.

I wish I had the answer.  I wish the inhabitants of the world would live by the Golden Rule.

I feel we are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It’s a bad feeling.