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

Home Alone

For five months, I’ve been home alone most of the time. Believe it or not, there are some upsides (which I would happily give up if Peter could be with me).

First, I don’t have to worry about leaving him alone while I run an errand. In addition, at breakfast, I get the front page of the newspaper first.  I eat when and what I feel like, and sometimes I don’t have a protein, a vegetable AND a starch on my plate at dinner.  Our apartment is tidier, and I do less laundry.

But now that the pandemic restrictions are lifting, and I am having some social life, I recall that when my father died decades ago, my mother hated that she came home alone after a social event and couldn’t gossip about it with him.

In the past week, I have been to two social events that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

But coming home alone…not so much.


Rehab

 Rehabilitation is care after an accident, a surgery, or stroke that can help get back, keep, or improve abilities that are needed for daily life.  Since the end of January, Peter has been in rehab facilities for a total of ten weeks. He is now in his fourth rehab institution for an undetermined period of time.

Because of Covid restrictions, I could not visit at all at the first one (though I did drop off treats regularly); at the second I could visit, but I had to take a covid test each time.  At the third, I could visit every day by myself as long as I wore a mask they gave me and answered questions about Covid symptoms daily. In Peter's current rehab, I can visit every afternoon but Friday and Sunday for forty minutes IF I make an appointment in advance.

Making sure that Peter is getting the help he needs in rehab is my new full-time job, a job I didn’t apply for.  My heart goes out to all those who work so hard to help people get their lives back.  For the most part, they are kind and caring.  But it takes an advocate to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.

And that’s me.


The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The North End is a top Boston tourist destination, if not for Paul Revere’s House or the Old North Church, then for the many small Italian restaurants that spill into its narrow streets.

It’s been years since I’ve visited the North End, but it is my daily destination now that Peter has moved to a sub-acute rehab center there.  I take the subway because it is impossible to park nearby.

On my first visit, I was astonished to see the number of tourists wandering around the area. It was a beautiful summer-like day, and it seemed that everyone decided that they’d had enough pandemic.  I intended to bring Peter some goodies from Mike’s Pastry, but the line was two blocks long, and I didn’t want to miss my visiting time.

On the way to the subway home, I stopped at the Haymarket Square produce market. As new college graduates living on Beacon Hill, my roommates and I used to shop there on the weekends.  The prices are higher now, but the ambiance hasn’t changed.

I bought an avocado for old time’s sake.

The subway home was crowded with people in Red Sox shirts on the way to Fenway Park now that it is possible to see baseball in person.

Boston is open for business.


The U-Curve

Perhaps you’ve heard about the U-Curve, the theory that the happiness we have at birth begins to decline around age eighteen.  At age fifty, happiness returns to an upward trajectory and peaks at the end of life.  I was somewhat skeptical of this theory.  How could you be happier as your options become fewer?

I’m less skeptical now.  The past six months have been very challenging ones for me due to Peter’s health and the Covid 19 pandemic.  Yet, I am not unhappy.  I do miss many of the things that a younger me could do.  But there are so many things that I can do.

It’s all about expectations.


Taking a Break

Logan Airport was bustling last Friday morning. And I was flying for the first time since Thanksgiving 2019!  My flight was full.  Jet Blue’s corn poppers were available.  Almost like old times.

Our family has done a lot of Facetime, but there is nothing like seeing grandchildren in person.  Leo, our older grandson has a driver’s license now.  He drove his brother and his grandmother to Dunkin’ Donuts.  Grady is taller than his older brother, maybe 6’3”.  They each allowed me to hug them for about five minutes before they retreated to their bedrooms—where they spend most of the time that they are not in front of the refrigerator.  Of course, I loved hanging out with their parents. Even Bucky, the dog, seemed happy to see me.

Two other notable events: 

  • Being asked to take my shoes off at security, meaning someone thought I was under seventy-five.
  • Jeremy’s response to my offer of help with dinner: “It’s about time somebody did something for you.”

Is This Old Age?

I can picture our then-eighteen-year-old-son Seth standing in front of the open refrigerator door in our kitchen saying, “What did I come in here for?”  That sentence has comforted me for over thirty years when I have had similar occurrences.

Is forgetting what I was about to say or what I came into a room for happening more often lately?  Am I knocking over things or dropping things more these days?  There is no doubt that my handwriting is deteriorating.  Are all these age-related failings?

Perhaps worst of all, was the morning a few weeks ago when I started our 12-cup coffee maker and headed upstairs to get dressed.  I came downstairs to find that I had forgotten to put the carafe in place, and the whole kitchen was a sea of coffee—the floor, the inside of cabinets under the counter, and in a bunch of pots and pans. 

Worst of all, I had to clean it all up before I had my coffee.


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I hang out mostly with my peers.  This is not my preference.  It just happens.

Lately, I’ve noticed that most of our conversations are about the past.  At our age, looking forward is less interesting (and scarier) than looking back.

The other day, Peter and I were talking about the best and worst decisions that we have made over our fifty-six years together.

Best Decisions                                         

Marrying each other                                  

Having two children                                 

Having careers in education                       

Moving back to Cambridge to be with our friends           

Worst Decisions

 Not marrying each other sooner

 Stopping at two children

 Not taking a family sabbatical year abroad

 Leaving life-long friends to move closer to children

We’ve had a great run.

 


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 https://nyti.ms/3f7oo0x

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.