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

When Terrorism Comes to Our Backyard

I took a class this fall in which we studied terrorism, focusing on Ireland, South Africa and New York.  We learned that terrorism is complex, and that we can expect to see more of it in the future.

At our last class, we heard from the Chief of Police of Watertown, MA and one of his deputies who played key roles in the apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev one of the Boston Marathon bombers.  They vividly described the search for and capture of Tsarnaev who was discovered hiding beneath a boat tarp in a Watertown back yard.  They recounted the confusion caused by social media and the influx of police from nearby towns who were trying to help. 

Much of what happened was captured in the 2016 movie, “Patriot’s Day,” but hearing about it from the people who lived it was quite different.  There have been three Boston Marathons without incident since that day and our memories of the bombing are fading. But they will remain strong in the minds of the Chief and his deputy.

Not long after he spoke with us, the chief was due to appear in court to testify in Tsarnaev’s appeal of his death sentence.

Smart Phone; Careless Owner

We were meeting friends for dinner before a concert last Thursday.  They were late so I decided to call them to see where they were, but I couldn't find my phone, probably left at home. 

Alas, when we got home after the concert, it wasn’t there.

I turned on my computer to look for the “find my phone app” and saw an email from a Jack Smith who said he had found my phone near the Harvard Business School (where we had attended the concert) and would I please email him so that he could get it back to me.  It was late, so my email remained unanswered until after he had got out of his Friday morning class.

(Here’s where I have to thank my son Jeremy for suggesting I tape my email address to the back of my phone.)

We arranged a time and place for me to pick it up, and when I got there, I called Jack (using Peter’s phone).  In moments, he appeared at my car, my phone in his hand.  I had intended to take a bottle of wine to him but I forgot, so I apologized for that and thanked him profusely for his kindness.

I loved his response. “My mother would have had it no other way.”


Kids Do the Strangest Things

I’d like to report two recent events directed by our son Jeremy.

1.  A black squirrel with only a half of a tail whom they called “Blackie Half-Tail lived for years in the yard of our kids’ friends. Then one day recently they discovered his run-over body on the street in front of their house.

This was no ordinary squirrel, perhaps best known for somehow getting down the chimney and running through the friends’ house.

So Jeremy master-minded a funeral.  The two families dressed up for the occasion. (Jeremy wore his lilac tuxedo.) They made a printed program. (below)  Several speeches were delivered followed by the burial.

It was a memorable occasion.

2.  Close neighbors of Jeremy and Katrina joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. Their two daughters, Tess and Emily have been role models for our grandsons. Tess, a sophomore at UT-Austin, was celebrating her birthday the next day, and Jeremy decided to make a special cake to celebrate the coming event and as one of our Thanksgiving desserts.  Its architecture:   A bottom layer of brownies, a layer of ice cream, a layer of chopped up Snicker’s candy bars, a layer of peanut butter, a layer of Kashi chocolate cereal, a half-layer of sliced bananas, a layer of Vanilla Wafers, and another layer of brownies, topped off with marshmallows and sprinkles..

I joined everyone in singing Happy Birthday to Tess, but I stuck with the gluten-free apple pie.




The Visit




Sixteen months ago, we returned to Cambridge, MA after living for nine months in a retirement community in Washington, DC.  We came home because we missed our close friends of more than fifty years and our superb doctors.  And we didn’t take to institutional living.

We had moved to Washington to be near our kids and grandkids and because we thought we’d enjoy being taken care of in a retirement community.  But our kids and grandkids  have their own lives and we didn’t enjoy living in a place where everybody was old.

But we did make some friends in our DC community and we arranged to drop in on them during our Thanksgiving visit to our kids in Maryland.

It felt odd to be back in the community I had rejected.  As I walked the long corridor near the apartment we had lived in, I remembered thinking when we moved in, “Am I going to walk down this corridor for the rest of my life?”  Not a good feeling then, and it wasn’t long before I realized that living there wouldn’t work for me.

But visiting there was terrific.  We had lunch with the five people we felt closest to when we lived there. A lot of people recognized us in the café and greeted us warmly.  Three lovely new buildings have been completed on the campus, giving it new apartments, a new gym, and a new auditorium. It’s a terrific place.

But not for us.


The Movable Feast

My reign as the “Queen of Thanksgiving” ended three years ago when the site of our annual ritual moved from our home in Massachusetts to the Maryland home of our son Jeremy and our daughter-in-law Katrina.

This was the third year that I was not in charge, and you know what?  That’s OK.  Much of the menu was the same because it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my French Silk Pie or our to-die-for brown and wild rice stuffing. But Katrina has added her own touches, and that’s exactly how it should be. 

The neighbors who joined us last year brought a friend and her two young children who were fun and fit right in.  Our older son Seth, just back from Brazil completed our group of fourteen. The “children” ranged in age from seven to forty-nine.   

The Thankful Jar was full of wonderful words of gratitude and appreciation that were read aloud by everybody at the table before dessert, a tradition that gets more amusing every year as our grandsons develop their own versions of their father’s and grandfather’s sense of humor. 

Each Thanksgiving that we are all together is a gift for which I am very grateful.

The Queen is dead.  Long live the Queen!

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Giving Thanks

My cell phone will be turned off on Thanksgiving.  All day. Those I care about the most will be in one house, around one table and/or participating in endless games of football on Jeremy and Katrina’s front lawn.  You don’t need a phone to enjoy any of that.

Thanksgiving is the highlight of the year for me, and I am grateful for another year that we can all be together.  And maybe for this one day we can try to ignore our country’s division and the global issues we face.

And…eat a lot of turkey.

The Kindness of Youngsters

Peter audits a neuroscience class at Boston University.  He is the oldest of the sixteen students in the class. The others are young enough to be his grandchildren.

In class on Tuesday, his nose started to bleed profusely.  As he pinched his nostrils to try to stop the bleeding, he did not notice that the student sitting next to him left the room until she came back and handed him a box of tissues.  Peter was impressed enough by her thoughtfulness to tell me about it.

Two days later, he and I were sitting in a large auditorium where we are auditing a class at a different university.  We arrived late and couldn’t sit together.  He was in the row behind me, and I was not aware that he was having another nosebleed.  The young man next to him did notice, left the class and came back with a handful of wet and dry paper towels.

Two small acts of kindness to a stranger made me feel a little more hopeful about the future.

My Mother Was Quite the Lady

My mother died thirty years ago.  She was a stay-at-home mom, and her uniform was what was then called the “house dress”.  As I recall, hers were mostly in pastel colors, often prints, always perfectly ironed, but not exactly chic.

It was a different story when she went out.  She always looked beautiful.  Her trim figure would show off her tasteful and stylish wardrobe.  Even in her seventies, she wowed everyone when she visited my office wearing a gorgeous navy knit suit, trimmed in red with appropriately-colored handbag and shoes. 

Just for the fun of it, I decided to see if house dresses still existed.  Sure enough, you can get a “Zipper Gingham House Dress/House Coat/Duster/Lounge Dress” from Amazon for $13.99 with free shipping.

I’ll stick with my blue jeans.


What Ails America?

One of the readings for this week’s meeting of a class I am taking on “What Ails America?” was about the U.S. war on drugs and the mass incarceration that ensued.  ( See )

Incarceration has devastating consequences for the incarcerated:  broken families, poverty, few employment opportunities and loss of the rights of citizenship including the right to vote, to serve on juries, to be free of legal discrimination in employment and housing, and to have access to public benefits.

The number of incarcerations in the U.S. grew by 600% from the mid-1960’s to 2000.  President Nixon’s 1970’s tough war on drugs was one of the culprits.  But President Reagan was even tougher. 

While today’s crime rates are at historical lows, incarceration rates are still increasing.   Can we change this?  I’m looking around for reasons to be optimistic.

Sweets for the Sweet

When I met Peter in 1965, it didn’t take me long to figure out that he liked sweets.  We were working at the same place and although I didn’t want to pursue him too aggressively, I spent a fair amount of time walking by the candy bar machine.  I know that if I got the timing right, he would be there buying an after-lunch Snickers bar.

Fifty-four years later, he still can’t pass by a bowl of candy without grabbing some.  And now, because we know it’s so good for us, we always eat a square of dark Belgian chocolate after dinner.

The other night I offered to hang up Peter’s jacket when we got home from an errand.  It felt extra heavy.  Sure enough, a bulging pocket contained a large bag of licorice sticks.

The sheepish look on his face as I pulled out the bag was priceless.  My eighty-nine-year-old husband looked like the little kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.