One of the non-WordPress blogs I follow through email is The 70-Something Blog, by Judy F. Kugel.  A recently retired assistant dean at The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Judy has been posting twice a week for six years, since she turned seventy.  I only discovered her, though, when I began blogging last November.  Her posts are an astringent antidote to mine.  She is neat, organized, efficient.  Or presents that way online.  Reading her is good for me.

Several days ago, Judy asked her husband Peter to do a guest post.  Peter, a professor of cognitive science at Boston College (who I believe has now also retired), is in his eighties. His post therefore had a great deal of resonance for me. [“Resonance” is his word, and also Martin Amis’s, as you will see below.] The post isn’t just for old folks, though.  Which is why I’ve re-blogged it here. I do wish he hadn’t referred to his seventies as a “catastrophe,” but maybe he was just playing funny guy.

Tasting the Marmalade

Hi.  I’m Judy’s husband, Peter, and she has invited me to be a guest blogger again.  Perhaps she thought that I might have some more wisdom to share about life in one’s seventies, since I’m in my eighties and I’ve been through the full catastrophe. But I’d rather talk about life in my decade.  Judy’s next one.

This morning, at breakfast, I stopped reading the newspaper and paid attention to what I was eating – a good piece of bread, toasted, spread with unsalted butter and topped with orange marmalade.  I’ve been ignoring my breakfast while reading the paper for years.

But when you’re in your eighties, you realize that the number of breakfasts you’re going to eat is finite. Oh sure, they’ve been finite all along, but small numbers are more finite  than big ones.  As there are fewer of them left, they are getting more precious.

It’s not just the days that are getting fewer.  So are the things I can do and enjoy.  I can no longer ride my bicycle to Harvard Square, let alone down the “D” roads of France.  I can no longer see well enough to drive at night and one of these days I won’t be able to drive at all. I’m losing my sense of smell.  My memory isn’t what it used to be.

However, having less left is making what I still have seem more valuable.  I think Martin Amis got it right when he said  “I find that in your 60s everything begins to look sort of slightly magical again. And it’s imbued with a kind of leave-taking resonance.”

I’m finding that leave-taking resonance in my 80s.  I suspect that it’s findable at any age.

Isn’t it nice to hear from a man for a change?  If you have time, check out the link to the Martin Amis interview, too.  Lots of good stuff there to mull over, even if — for you — “getting old” is still pretty far away.


  1. It certainly resonated with me. I put everything to the back of my mind because my mother is still alive so, as the ‘child’ I can still go on. I did make one concession when I tried to contact my estranged son. No joy.


    • Treasure your time with your mother. When she is gone you will truly be — as Clementine Churchill once famously said — nobody’s child.

      It must be very hard to be estranged from one’s own child. I’m so sorry.


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