WHERE HAS SHE BEEN? WHAT’S SHE BEEN DOING?

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Reading a Shakespeare play every week in a six-week seminar attended exclusively by “students” well over 55 where everyone but me seems to be an expert. I thought it would end about now, but it’s been such a success the professor agreed to extend it by one more week. So instead of being over last Monday, we’re ending next Monday. With The Tempest.  (There goes much of my weekend.)

Trying to learn the first movement of a Beethoven sonata. A very easy sonata. (No. 20) Not easy for me, though. I can’t play the rest of it as fast as I can do the rolling triplets in the left hand, and when I slow down the triplets to the speed at which I can sort of manage the rest of it, they don’t sound so good.

Adding an “easy” Chopin Prelude (No. 7) to the Beethoven. Chopin’s fingers must have been much longer than mine. I am extremely grateful to YouTube performers of this Prelude, from whom I discovered I could roll the one truly impossible chord and take the top two notes written for the right hand with the left hand by crossing it over. (A maneuver which also looks impressively graceful.) I’m also relearning how to pedal. I never realized one needed to script the pedaling. Well, maybe not everyone does. But I do, marking the score each time the foot comes up and goes down again because teaching an old dog new tricks isn’t easy without visual aids.

Tutoring English conversation again, with a fun post-graduate from Italy. She’s at Princeton collecting a living-expenses stipend to turn her dissertation (written in Milan in Italian) into a book for the general (English-speaking) reader. She’s attached to the Department of Politics; her topic is International Human Rights. At the beginning we talked only about human rights. (And a little fashion.) But then I took her grocery shopping in my car last week and we talked about tomatoes and whether it was better (and cheaper) to buy a package of twelve pieces of frozen Atlantic salmon that were going to be baked piecemeal or twelve pieces of fresh Atlantic salmon, freeze them, and defrost as needed. We also pinched avocados together. She’s a big texter and an old-style shopper – weighing everything and calculating prices minus or plus an apple. So I’m learning almost as much from her as she is from me.

Clothes-shopping for a few nice new things to replace the many not-so-nice, not-so-new things that moths had a picnic with last year when I wasn’t looking and spraying and mothballing because I was thinking about what to write for you. Gone: too-tight narrow skirt, old grey wool out-of-style pants, very old Calvin Klein pant suit that was always too good to wear and thus never got worn much; unloved black sweater set from Brooks Brothers; red cashmere turtleneck sweater. May it all R.I.P. Welcome: terrific “passionflower” merino jersey dress; bluish purple poncho-ish sweater (hides all signs of overeating); new charcoal sweater set with kimono-style long cardigan that looks like an elegant short coat without buttons.

Collecting notes, as class correspondent, for the twice-a-year magazine of the college I attended, and discovering two more classmates, plus a third classmate’s husband, have died since the last issue. This is now getting scary. Of the seven of us who took an off-campus house in our last year (which was 1951-52), leaving three places for foreign students, five are gone, and eight years ago, when last I spoke with her, the sixth was badly crippled with arthritis. I have no way of reconnecting with the foreign students, but as they were our age, it might be just as much a downer if I could.

Also reading two crappy novels for book groups I still belong to because I like the women in them; having personal struggles with the leftover Halloween candy until I bit the bullet and threw it out; making a pot roast that took too many days to finish eating; fearing annual cardiologist and pulmonologist visits because of the increasing risk of bad news each year; watching many economists give talks on YouTube in which they explain what’s wrong with the world and which particular basket it’s going to hell in – because it makes Bill happy to hear these deeply learned experts agree with him.

And wondering what I should do with TGOB going forward (besides getting older while writing it).   I feel it needs a plan, or a mission statement, or something more unifying than just what bubbles out of my head. No answer to that one yet, but at least now you’re all caught up.

And what have you all been doing?

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14 thoughts on “WHERE HAS SHE BEEN? WHAT’S SHE BEEN DOING?

  1. There I was worrying and you were outdoing us all. Go for the fresh Atlantic salmon, Layer them in between sliced potatoes with some vegies, cover generously with grated cheese and than bake in milk. Think of me a little while eating.
    A hug from Gerard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are a sweetie, Gerard, and get a hug back (if Helvi doesn’t mind). The shopping was for my Italian post-grad, who’s watching her pennies and has no car so can’t get to the good markets, not for me. (I would never buy frozen salmon if fresh were available, and prefer Pacific salmon to Atlantic.) However, I will bear your recipe in mind and broach it to Bill before embarking on its preparation. We tend not to be big on cheese sauces on things, but it does sound good, especially now that winter is coming to our Northern Hemisphere. If it reaches our plates, I will certainly think of you. (Your request sounds so wistful…..)

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    • Thank you, Janet. However, living need not preclude blogging. I sense, though, that most bloggers seem to have an organizing principle that I (and for that matter you) lack. They write about being a parent of one or more young children, or about being an aspiring writer (usually self-published but not always), or about living with a challenging disease or other physical problem. Some focus on self-discovery, or retirement issues, or “fashion” or “beauty” or a singing career. I once stumbled on a blog that was all about penises, with illustrations. Other bloggers just take photographs, or focus on being funny. There are two I’m aware of (“As Time Goes By” and “The Over-Seventy Blog”) that are both well-written and seriously about getting old (neither on WordPress) — one reportorial and informational, the other uplifting and always looking on the bright side — but neither blog is even remotely like mine, which is all over the place. (And both of these bloggers are only in their seventies!) TGOB isn’t even entirely honest or transparent about what it really feels like to be so near the end of one’s probable life span, mainly because I’m not sure how to articulate that but also because I have nothing helpful or encouraging to say about it and still have the desire to interest people in what I write. So that’s why I feel I need to discover a new direction for whatever I’m doing here, and, if only like Hamlet, “…by indirection find direction out.” But then, I’ve always been a malcontent, with myself as well as with much about life in general. So these feelings are nothing new. Anyway, here I am again. I don’t give up easy.

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      • So interesting . I of course think everything on your blog ties back to the title. Reflections on life and how the passage of time has sometimes shaped your experience or perspectives. These seem relevant to what it means to grow old – no? I do hope you keep trying to find your comfortable spot online. Your stories are great

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  2. Nina, I am awed by your current activity list! Puts the lazy likes of me to shame. I haven’t been in touch lately because my 95-year-old mother has been in the hospital, and having reliability issues with her aides when home. Her mind is all there but she is riddled with physical infirmities. Then I also help out with my 7-month-old grandson. One day I went from spoon feeding apple sauce to Eren to help with feeding my mother similar mush.

    I’m curious- which were the trashy novels you read?

    Cheers, Martha

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry about your mother, Martha. But there’s nothing “lazy” about visiting her and supervising her aides, nor of feeding applesauce to a 7-month-old. I wish I were doing that again. I loved the way the little mouth opens, like a bird’s, at the approach of the next sweet spoonful. Much more rewarding than “The Tempest!”

      The novels — neither of them new — were Joanna Trollope’s “The Rector’s Wife” (fantasy applesauce for the put-upon housewife) and Susan Abulhawa’s “Mornings in Jenin” (a truly biased tale of Good Palestinians, Evil Rotten No-Good Jews, in which every single bad thing you can think of that ever happened in several wartimes happens to the lovely Palestinian heroine and her dear ones and there’s only one token Jew (really a Palestinian stolen from his mother by a childless Jew when a baby) who is sort of okay, but just sort of. I recommend neither.

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  3. Wow… You’ve been busy. And you’ve been missed, Nina! So glad to see you back here.

    I can’t lay claim to quite as much busyness as you, but I have been away on a 1-week writing retreat and I’ve also met six wonderful psychological suspense authors at my local borough’s inaugural (and very successful) literature and arts festival. Does that count?

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    • It all counts, Julie. But it’s not a competition. Especially as I always go from complete torpor (except, now, for blogging) to taking on too much so that at least one something falls by the wayside while I fall into despair. I’m glad you’re still so energetically at it, and do hope the new (second) book is coming along at a respectable place.

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  4. I read your blog and the commenters and feel like such an underachiever. My accomplishments were much more modest like closing the pond and whining about winter. A blog is supposed to have a plan or direction? Damn! I knew I was doing something wrong! Glad to see you back. BTW I had a few of those “too good to wear” clothes that I gave away. I stopped buying them. One good funeral outfit is all I’ll allow (then hope I don’t need to wear it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, no, never say underachiever! As I remarked to Julie, it’s not a competition, and I haven’t a clue about how to close a pond. (I’ve never had a pond.) I just sign up for a lot of things after long boring (to me) hot summers, and then find myself overwhelmed.

      As for blog mission statements, I probably blew my wad on that subject to “jmpod” (as she likes to be known online). But you’re not doing anything wrong, as far as I’m concerned. I’m amazed how you can always come up with something new. I wish I were that inventive!

      I guess I buy clothes because I like to buy clothes. (The moths are just a great excuse.) I don’t overdo it any more. But there’s that sweet-spot moment when I look at myself in the mirror in something new that’s becoming and feel somehow “rejuvenated.” The feeling doesn’t last long, but then neither does (did?) sex. It’s never for funerals though. I don’t think I know enough people still alive who might die soon that I need a good outfit for. And I already have lots of black pieces for all seasons! The new dress is dark red (“passionflower” on the label) — and it says, “I’m still here!”

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  5. Enjoyed the catch -up. I’m very impressed by your Shakespeare marathon and even more impressed (and envious of) by the piano playing. The tutoring sounds like fun (though I have read too many theses written in English as a second language) to imagine that this will be easy. Cheer up, my recent funeral was for my 102-year-old uncle!

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    • Thanks, Hilary. I don’t have to correct her article or draft of her book. Mine is a volunteer post, in which we converse for at least an hour a week (at a more or less set time, but not necessarily) and I correct truly bad pronunciation, preposition misuse in speech, and like that. I also just generally help her slow down and speak more clearly. She’s already spent a year in Oxford, and half a year at Notre Dame (in Indiana), so she has a pretty good vocabulary and seems to read fairly smoothly. She has trouble with structuring complex sentences with subordinate clauses in them, but we’re working on that. There is no specific goal which needs to be achieved by the end of the academic year, other than to speak somewhat better, so it’s really not hard. And she’s a lively lass who’s full of life, which makes being with her enjoyable, even though she forgets initial “h”s and “Hamlet” often comes out “Amlet.”

      102 sounds good. If I live longer than that, though, I will run out of money (other than social security) and my children will have to support me, which would not be so good. Not that I have any choice about it!

      P.S. The piano playing is yours for the price of a used piano (if you haven’t got one), a few lessons to keep you going, and working at it.

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