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

Spring in the Cemetery

When an eighty-one-year-old goes to a cemetery on her own two feet, that’s good.   When the cemetery is the nation’s first garden cemetery (Mt. Auburn, founded in 1831), it’s even better.  And when the trees and flowers are just blooming, it’s spectacular.

On a sunny end-of-April Sunday, Peter and I visited Mt. Auburn for the first time since our return to Cambridge last August.  Peter’s bright red walker made it possible for us to stroll leisurely up and down the winding roads, stopping to read the labels when we weren’t sure which kind of tree we were passing, or to get a close look at the lacy red leaves of the Japanese maples, or to gaze in awe at a distant hillside covered with trees blooming in shades of pink to purple, one of which looked like a huge serving of cotton candy.

We said “hello” to everyone we passed—kids in strollers, seniors like us, young lovers--and a lot of dead folks.

 


Walkin' in the Rain

Although the sky was threatening, I was determined to keep my date with a favorite walking pal.  Just as we met for our two-mile jaunt along the Charles River, the heavens opened.

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said in unison, “Why not?”  Neither of us had an umbrella, but our coats were “waterproof,” so off we went. 

Although we had to strain our ears to hear each other for the first half of our walk because the rain, our hoods and the traffic noise made it hard to hear what our walking partner was saying, we managed to keep up our constant chatter, solving our own and the world’s problems.  It got worse after we crossed the River.  More traffic, speeding through huge puddles got us thoroughly wet.  We had to repeat ourselves or shout to be heard, but we were unstoppable.

Forty-five minutes later, shoes squishing, sweat pants soaked, (my top kept dry thanks to LLBean’s waterproof rain jacket), like a drowned rat I appeared in our apartment.

I felt great.


Letting Go

In this age of multi-tasking, our children never just “call”.  They may be doing the dishes (I hear  water running) or driving somewhere (I hear an occasional curse when a turn is missed).  At least they call.

One morning last week, Jeremy called on his way to work.  He reminded us that our fifteen-year-old grandchild was leaving on his first by-himself airplane flight that morning to visit a neighbor who is a freshman at the University of Texas.  Jeremy sounded a bit uneasy about Leo taking off on his own.

Immediately my head filled with memories of “first times”.  When our older son Seth went off to Kenya at age fifteen with a group of kids from his camp to do “a summer of service”, he wasn’t flying alone, but he was going someplace far away and there weren’t cell phones back then.  And Jeremy at that same age two years later was off to Sweden and Russia.  Worst of all were those first times they were behind the wheel of a car with a new driver’s license. 

I reminded Jeremy that even now that he is 47, I tend to check “Find Friends” an app. on my phone that tells me where he is.

Once a parent…


Ice Age

Before retiring, I rode my bicycle to work every day except when the temperature fell below 26 degrees Fahrenheit.  (I did switch from gloves to mittens when the temperature was under 30.) I was pleased not to be polluting the air, and the ride was invigorating.

That was then.

Now, on a remarkably-warm-for-April day, I switched from my warmest jacket to my 40-degrees-or-over jacket for a walk to the library.  It seemed like all of Cambridge was out walking to celebrate spring, but I was the only one wearing a jacket.

 

 


Ridges

When this was the 70-something blog, I regularly updated readers on the status of my body.   It’s not my favorite subject now, but today I do want to talk about my fingernails.

While our children were still at home, I polished my nails bright red (The Thrill of Brazil) on Sunday evenings sitting in my favorite chair in front of whatever was on Masterpiece Theater.  You would think I’d been to the beauty salon.

No more.  My nails break easily and, more troubling, they are full of ridges.  A Google search tells me that ageing can cause nail ridges.  And they usually do no harm (except to one’s ego).

However, something reassuring happened.  You may have seen the reviews of 82-year-old Glenda Jackson’s fabulous performance as King Lear that is currently wowing Broadway audiences.  A large photo of her in this role appeared in the newspaper recently.  Her hands were thrust in the air, their fingernails streaked with ridges. 


Spring

Our apartment’s floor to ceiling windows overlook the Charles River and provide us with a bird’s-eye view of the changing seasons.  A friend said it was like a screensaver. It is—but even better.

Last week a sea of yellow daffodils blossomed overnight on the banks of the river.  The rowers in their colorful racing shells are back from their winter break, slipping through the water, their oars in perfect cadence.  The cars winding along the road on the other side of the river will soon become invisible as the buds on the trees between them and us burst into leaves.  Runners, bikers and walkers have shed their winter jackets.

Yes, a chill wind still blows, but spring is here.

 


Coming of Age

For me, reading about aging never seems to grow old.  (And I can’t seem to resist writing about it!) In my last post, I reviewed a “how-to” book about aging (Women Rowing North). 

Coming of Age:  My Journey to the Eighties by Madeleine Kunin, is not a how-to-age book.  Nor is it about politics.  It is a former three-term governor of Vermont sharing her experience of growing old.

Now 85, Kunin is a woman who read the same feminist books I did in the sixties.  Unlike me, she acted on what she read.  She is still a role model for women seeking leadership roles and must be delighted to see so many new women leaders in our state and federal governments.

I read this book in an afternoon.  It is completely charming.  A newcomer to writing poetry, Kunin leads off each chapter with a relevant poem.  The first, “No Longer” starts like with:

No longer will we make love

                                                                       before breakfast...

The book jacket is a recent photo-portrait of Kunin. There is a wise grin on her wrinkled face.


Women Rowing North

I just finished reading Mary Pipher’s book Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age.”  Pipher is a clinical psychologist and author of Reviving Ophelia, a 1994 best seller about the challenges of raising today’s teenage girls. 

Pipher illustrates her observations about aging with stories about her own experience and that of a diverse group of women, mostly from around Lincoln, Nebraska where she lives.  She acknowledges the mistakes that led to her insights, and we benefit from her experience.  She urges us to seek new sources of joy as we age and shows us where we might find them.

According to Pipher, recent census data from the United Kingdom tells us that women between the ages of 65 and 79 are the happiest people of all.  Not sure what that means for us 80-somethings. 

 

 


A Friend Turns Eighty

 “Today is my last day as a 70-something,” a friend emailed. “I thought you might have some words of wisdom to share with me.”

“Don’t do it,” I wanted to reply.

Having now been an octogenarian for a year, however, I do have a few thoughts.

*Be grateful that you are still around. Remember that many others haven’t shared your  luck.

*Accept that eighty is different. No matter how good things have been so far, they'll be less good in the coming decade.

*Accept that (1) It takes longer to do things (2) your opinion may be sought less often and (3) the person you see in the mirror is really you.

*Seek joy in new places.

*Remember that it’s all about managing expectations. To quote Aunt Grace in Mary Pipher’s book, Women Rowing North, “I get what I want… but I know what to want.”

*Finally, don’t try to recreate your old life.  That was then and this is now.

 


Walkin' in the Rain

Although the sky was threatening, I was determined to keep my date with a favorite walking pal.  Just as we met for our two-mile jaunt along the Charles River, the heavens opened.

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said in unison, “Why not?”  Neither of us had an umbrella, but our coats were “waterproof,” so off we went. 

Although we had to strain our ears to hear each other for the first half of our walk because the rain, our hoods and the traffic noise made it hard to hear what our walking partner was saying, we managed to keep up our constant chatter, solving our own and the world’s problems.  It got worse after we crossed the River.  More traffic, speeding through huge puddles got us thoroughly wet.  We had to repeat ourselves or shout to be heard, but we were unstoppable.

Forty-five minutes later, shoes squishing, sweat pants soaked, (my top kept dry thanks to LLBean’s waterproof rain jacket), like a drowned rat I appeared in our apartment.

I felt great.