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Seasoned Traveler

In 1964, I broke up with my then-boyfriend, quit my job and flew to Lisbon, Portugal alone.  I stayed in Europe for three months.  That did not please my parents.  There wasn’t any email then, and I know they worried. 

After Peter and I were married, the only trip I made to Europe on my own was a work trip to London. Other than that, I traveled abroad with family or friends until earlier this month when I went to a family wedding in Medellin, Colombia without Peter.  Our son Seth was with me on the way down, but I was on my own coming back because he was staying longer. I have to admit that I was a bit anxious. 

I ran into my first problem in the Medellin airport.  I had checked in online, but I could not find any sign that told me what gate my flight to Panama would be leaving from.  Fortunately, a kind customs official literally walked me to my gate.

I had an easier time in the Panama airport. I was able to find my gate on my own.  (It helped that my flight from Panama had arrived at the same gate).  Once I was on the flight home, I felt like   a seasoned single traveler again. 

It’s never too late to step out of your comfort zone.

Five Day Withdrawal

You would think that a country that exports two and a half billion dollars’ worth of coffee annually would have coffee ice cream stands on every corner.  As an every-night consumer of a scoop or two at home, I couldn’t imagine that I would have a problem finding coffee ice cream in Colombia.

Not only did I live without coffee ice cream for five days, I had no ice cream at all.  For a woman whose sophomore year college roommates gave her a gift certificate for five pints of gourmet ice cream on her birthday, this could have been tragic.

To be honest, I couldn’t get enough of arepas and freshly-squeezed fruit drinks in Medellin so that was where I focused my attention.  And all the wedding events had much more spectacular desserts than ice cream.

It helped that our hotel had a huge basket of delicious wrapped coffee candies in the lobby. Every time I walked by, I picked up a new supply.

Although the first thing I did when I got home was hug Peter, the second was to grab a big bowl of you know what. 

It’s good to be home.

Destination Wedding

On May 2nd, I bought a round trip ticket to Medellin, Colombia to fly to a cousin’s forthcoming wedding at the end of August.  On the same day, I bought trip insurance. I didn’t really believe I was going until I was on the Avianca Airlines plane.

Peter was OK with being left on his own.  I was not comfortable about it until we got him a “First Alert” button to call for help, if needed, and multiple friends agreed to check up on him.  Still, I worried.  We hadn’t been apart for six days in our more than fifty-one years of marriage.

Medellin, Colombia is known for its drug wars and poverty. They have a huge influx of Venezuelans fleeing their home country, many of whom are selling candy on the streets holding babies in their arms. But the city sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, and there are some very rich people there too.

The outdoor wedding ceremony took place high above the city, and as the sun went down, lights from the favelas sparkled up and down the opposite mountain.  It was breath-taking.

My cousins and I spent non-wedding-event time seeing some of the city’s best sights, led by Seth (my son and date) who got us on and off the Metro, cable car or whatever like a seasoned guide.

It took me sixteen hours to get home on Tuesday.  The trip insurance was the best money I’ve ever wasted.


Back to School

To me, the day after Labor Day is New Year’s Day. When school begins, my calendar year begins.  That’s how it was when I was the student.  Then our kids were the students.  And Peter and I both worked in academia for more than thirty years.  Fall is the year’s beginning to us.

Last week, I decided to walk over to the Farmer’s Market on the Harvard University campus for some end-of-summer corn and maybe some beginning-of-fall apples. I didn’t realize that it was freshman move-in-day.  Harvard Yard (surrounded by freshman dormitories) becomes a parking lot.  Signs warn that you only have twenty minutes to unload the belongings of your member of the class of 2023.  Harvard’s maintenance vehicles can’t keep up with the mountains of empty cardboard boxes on the walkways.

I’ve just finished reading Grown and Flown, a new book that prepares parents for the very event I was observing. I smiled to myself as I recognized the usual emotions that accompany saying good-bye to a child.  I can’t even remember my own college drop-off, but I bet my parents did.

I did notice something different this year.  There were strategically placed police eyeing the crowd.  Thoughts of mass shootings rushed into my head and I quickened my steps.



Becoming a Caretaker

When we are young and in love, even though we promise “in sickness and in health,” it doesn’t occur to us that when we age, the “in sickness” clause might kick in requiring one of us to become a caretaker, perhaps for years.

Luckily for us, Peter’s Parkinson’s Disease, now twelve years past diagnosis, has progressed slowly and he has been diligent about doing what he could to keep it at bay.  And he is appreciative of all that I do for him. 

About two years ago, I took over all of our driving.  Peter is a great co-pilot and excellent company, but I no longer get to file my fingernails on the way to somewhere. I do all the heavy lifting (thanks to my compulsive weight-program, that’s not too difficult). And more.

Last week I had planned to meet my former hairdresser.  I hadn’t seen Kelly in months, and we agreed to meet at a mall about half-way between our homes.  All details were confirmed.

In the morning Peter’s phone wasn’t working. The glass had shattered (we think from sitting down with his phone and keys in the same pocket) and the phone wouldn’t work at all. There was no way that I would leave him alone without a working phone. I texted Kelly and broke our plans. 

Instead, I spent a good part of the morning getting his phone repaired.  Was I disappointed?  Yes.  Did I let it get me down?  No.

That’s what we caretakers do.


My New Friend

There is a garden near a corner that I walk by regularly.  Right now, it has a huge batch of beautiful black-eyed-Susans.  I often think that one or two might not be missed, but I have resisted helping myself.

The other day on my walk back from the library, I spied an older gentleman in shorts and a t-shirt picking up his empty trash barrels in front of “my” beloved flowers.  I asked him if he lived there.  “Yes”, he replied.

I told him that I walk by his flowers regularly and asked if I could pick one.  “No,” he replied, “but you may have two,” He then cut the two I pointed to and handed them to me.

What’s your name? I asked.  “Leonard,” he replied.

I have a new friend in the neighborhood.

Senior Moments

I can picture the scene from thirty-one years ago as if it were yesterday. I was in our kitchen when our eighteen-year-old son Seth walked in, opened the refrigerator door and declared, “I forgot what I came here for!”  That memory has comforted me many times.  If a teenager can forget what he came to the kitchen for, why should I worry when I can’t remember what I meant to do next?

Many of us who are over sixty-five call such lapses “senior moments”. When we do that, we reinforce what Robert Butler was the first to call "ageism".  Now that more of the world’s population is over sixty-five than is under five, we can win the fight against ageism rather than contribute to it.

As Ashton Applewhite points out in her wonderful new book, This Chair Rocks, when she lost her keys in her junior year in college, nobody called it a “senior moment”.



Coral Retires

I was delighted to be invited to the retirement party for my friend Coral who was the Harvard Business School’s Registrar for years.  We worked together on the development of a joint degree program between the Business School and the Kennedy School, and we became friends. 

I had walked between the two schools, across the Charles River from each other endless times for meetings.   But walking to her good-bye reception on that beautiful August morning, I felt a bit uneasy. I’d been retired for six years. Did I remember people’s names?  Would they remember me?  Would I be left in a corner with no one to talk to?  Would I yearn to be back at my old job?

The answers: Yes, I remembered the names of all the people I had worked with, and many greeted me like a celebrity. The tributes to Coral were lovely and very genuine.  She wasn’t the only one with tears in her eyes.

Do I want to be back at my old job?  No, I’ve moved on. 

Back to Becket





In 1980, we dropped off our son Seth for his first summer at Camp Becket in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.  He was ten.

Who knew then that, thirty-nine years later, we would be back there to greet our fifteen-year-old-grandson Leo when he returned from his Becket “summer of service” in Vietnam?

Both Seth and his younger brother Jeremy had flourished at Camp Becket and we visited them there every summer for years. Now Jeremy lives in Maryland, so it took some persuading to convince our daughter-in-law Katrina to send their boys to Massachusetts when there were many fine camps closer to home. 

In the past few summers, we have visited our grandsons at Becket on the Sunday of Dad’s Weekend, but this year was different.

After we visited with our younger grandson Grady on Sunday, we stayed nearby for two extra days to wait for Leo and fourteen fellow campers to return from five weeks of service in Vietnam.

It was a bit nerve-racking because protestors forced the shutdown of Hong Kong airport, their first stop on the way home, but once we learned they had landed in Vancouver, Canada, we were OK.

I had butterflies in my stomach when we returned to camp with his parents to pick him up just as I had when Seth returned from his service trip to Kenya and Jeremy from his service trip to Russia and Sweden decades ago.

Suddenly Leo was there—looking taller, older, worldly and exhausted.  It was a short reunion because the Maryland family had a long drive home ahead and they had to be there in time for Leo’s soccer team tryouts first thing in the morning.



Eyeglass Strap

Have you ever seen anyone under age sixty with a pair of eyeglasses hanging from a strap around their neck?  Well, maybe on water skis or riding a buckin’ bronco.  But to most of us, eyeglass straps bring white-haired grandmothers in rocking chairs to mind.

Those of us who take our prescription sunglasses off whenever we go into a store and frequently have to run back to ask at the cash register if anyone has found them, eventually figure out that replacing glasses is expensive.  There comes a time when you should pay $2.00 plus tax for a plain strap with a loop at each end to fit over the earpieces regardless of the optics.

And I have done so.  One less thing to worry about.