The 70-Something Blog is now The 80-Something Blog. Stay tuned in ten years for The 90-Something Blog!

Brave New Words

About six weeks ago, our world turned upside down. Offices, stores, restaurants, theaters and schools were closed. Events were cancelled or postponed. We were told to stay at home if we could and to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart if we couldn’t. We learned of people dying or losing loved ones.

People are quite resourceful at times like these, and even among all the bad news, there are hopeful nuggets—people leaving hospitals, fewer ICU admits, crowds cheering those on the medical front lines in a war they had never imagined.

We heard new words and unfamiliar phrases. “Zoom meeting”, “pandemic”, “coronavirus”, “social distancing”, “Unmute” (Zoom),   “Abundance of caution”, “Flatten the curve”—all now part of our everyday vocabulary. Not to mention “quarantini”.

I long for the day when all communications don’t end with “Stay well”.


Three Pencils

 

 

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A white plastic box containing pens, pencils, and a pair of scissors has occupied a drawer in out kitchen through three major household moves. The pens advertise our former employers, hotels, schools or conferences attended over decades. The pen population has grown. The pencil population has not.

Many years ago, our then eight-year-old son Seth gave us a package of pencils that he had proudly selected as a holiday gift. They were not your ordinary every-day yellow pencils. (See above.) Originally there were a dozen.

The other day when I reached into the drawer for a pen, I picked up one of those special pencils. Most of it had been sharpened away. When I went through the whole box, I was relieved to find two more, also no longer full-sized. I am determined to keep one forever.

That child will be 50 next month.


Risk

I’ve always been a bit risk averse. I don’t smoke. I wait for the “walk” light before I cross the street (usually). And, unlike our older son, I declined the opportunity to bungee jump 384 feet into the Zambezi River when we were at the Zimbabwe/Zambia border twenty years ago.

But these are desperate times that call for desperate actions.

So when I discovered that I was out of Trader Joe’s coffee ice cream, a staple of my diet that brings me to my “happy place,” I realized I had no choice. I had promised myself that when I turned eighty, I would have it for dessert every night, and for two years, I’ve mostly kept that promise.

So with masked face and wearing a pair of disposable gloves I went to Trader Joe’s during its early hour for seniors. People there politely stayed apart. About half wore masks.

If I had a bigger freezer, I’d be set.


Even the Mighty Shall Fall

I do a lot to ensure my balance. Not just standing on one foot while brushing my teeth, but serious efforts. And they have worked. Until now.

Early last week on a walk with a friend, I was looking at her instead of keeping my eye on the ground as I always do. I tripped on the uneven sidewalk and landed on my face.

I blamed the coronavirus—if we hadn’t been walking six feet apart, I would have been looking where I was going.

Despite a cut above my mouth, I was sure I was OK. So at my request, we continued walking. When I got home, I surveyed the damage. I gave some thought to going to the doctor, but decided that I didn’t want to be in a medical center at this time unless my life was in danger.

The next morning, the left half of my face looked like it had been attacked by a brush dipped in black and purple paint, and my lip looked like I had been boxing with Muhammad Ali.

But gradually, I began to look more like myself. A week later, I walked again with my friend. When we met I said, “Hold on, I want to take a good look at you before we start walking.”

Lesson learned.


CARE Package

I just ate a mandarin orange. It was sweet and juicy. It hit the spot. But more important is how I got it.

Neither Peter nor I remembered ordering anything so when we got a “you have a package” notice, he went down to the mailroom to pick it up immediately. The package was from our Maryland family. It was what we used to call a “CARE” package, like those often sent to a homesick child at camp or to members of the military overseas.

Buried amidst the bubble wrap were  a “we miss you” card, a large roll of toilet paper, two mandarin oranges, two dried fruit bars, several packets of eyeglasses wipes, a box of gluten-free chickpea rotinni and a quite good pencil portrait of Joe Biden by our 13-year old grandson Grady.

The highlight of an otherwise ordinary day.


Peter's Sweet Tooth

A few years ago, my friend Joan and I bumped into my husband Peter coming out of a CVS store in Harvard Square just after a Harvard class that we three audited together ended. His mouth was full of candy from a bag he was clutching.

The other day, Peter took his bright red walker to Harvard Square to get some exercise. There weren’t many people around, but he bumped into our friend Joan there and they chatted a bit. Before he got home, she called me to tell me that she had seen Peter. Remembering our encounter with him outside the CVS, I asked her if he was chomping on some candy and she said, “No, both of his hands were holding on to his walker.

A few minutes later, Peter came home. I went to greet him. On the dining room table was a bag of black licorice. He had “forgotten” that licorice has gluten (which I can’t eat) so he had to eat it all himself.


Gratitude Expressed

I am a caretaker now. I did not envision myself in this role even when we learned that my husband Peter had Parkinson’s Disease a dozen years ago. I am grateful that I am able to do it.

I usually don’t mind that I have to do things that Peter used to do. Fortunately, we don’t have a yard to care for anymore and we don’t have to worry that a snowstorm will cancel school or make us late for work. But I do most of the planning and the cooking, and all of the grocery shopping for us. I take Peter to doctors’ appointments and drive him to his classes when he can’t walk to them.       .

But every once in a while, I feel taken for granted. So the other night, I suggested that it would be nice to feel appreciated. I forget what I had just done for him, but I didn’t get thanked. So I thanked myself out loud in his presence.

Peter looked up at me and said, “If I thanked you for everything you did for me, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else.”

 


"Corky"

In these difficult times, I try to focus on the moment. It’s too hard to think about what next week might bring.

So on my walk the other afternoon I was focusing on the signs of spring—crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils, budding trees--when some little kids and their father came toward me on scooters or other wheeled devices. I stepped aside to let them pass and heard the dad call out “Corky!” to one of the children.

Suddenly, it was the late 1940’s when “Corky” was the riding instructor at Camp Wingfoot and riding was my favorite activity. I visualized the path to the stable. I could see the horses’ stalls with their names carved in wood above them. I could remember the horses’ names: Blueberry, Blackie, Ginger, Ghost and more. I learned how to jump on Blackie, and saved the blue ribbon I won with Ginger for decades.

I smiled all the way home.


Our New World

On Wednesday, our daughter-in-law Katrina used her neighborhood listserve to trade a carton of cream for a neighbor’s can of beans. Last month, that would have sounded ridiculous. But that was before the coronavirus changed our lives.

On Thursday, I decided to make some lentil soup. With everything cancelled I had all day. I had a bag of lentils. I had carrots and onions. But I was missing crushed tomatoes, a key ingredient.

I debated, but I decided that if I kept my distance from others and never took my gloves off, I could chance a trip to the supermarket. It was surreal—people looking at each other suspiciously, trying to keep their distance from one another. The prepared foods and salad bar were empty for good reason. But people had been working very hard to keep our supermarket shelves relatively full.

And the lentil soup was delicious,


Uncertainty

If I know what to expect, I can usually deal with it. But I’ve never seen anything quite like the coronavirus. It’s spreading quickly, and the rules are changing by the minute. On Saturday, the Governor of Massachusetts banned all gatherings of more than 250 people. On Sunday, it was down to gatherings of more than 25.

A friend wrote on Facebook that with all the happy birthdays he’s wished himself while washing his hands he’s now 286.

What about all the weddings that were planned? The vacations? The Graduations? The marathons? What about so many things?

The potential loss of lives could be staggering with the people of my generation bearing the brunt of it.At at our age, we know we are not going to live forever but not knowing what to expect is worrisome.