Tag Archives: Marriage

Valentine’s Day – not only for the L-O-N-G Married

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On this Valentine’s Day my husband wants me to share with you the fact that he is disappointed.

By certain long-standing habits of mine that I refuse to modify.

  • One recent morning he came downstairs for breakfast and reached into the refrigerator for blueberries to eat atop his cereal. (as do I.)  What he found were two plastic containers of blueberries, side-by-side. One contained six or seven forlorn, slightly shriveled old blueberries. The other box was brand new – full of fresh, plump berries.

It was also clear, so he told me that evening  (he has an amateur sleuth badge from our mutual habit of watching far too many BBC detective shows) that a person he knows all too well had obviously opened up the new box of berries without taking the time to finish what was left of the old berries. Which is – according to him – a sad commentary on the differences that remain  between us even after almost 39 years of marriage.

That I would brashly dig into the sweetest of berries, because I knew I could leave it to him to polish off the older sad-looking berries.

And wouldn’t you do the same?

Given all of life’s difficulties (have you been watching the national news lately?), isn’t it reasonable, when presented with the choice, to go with the most tempting option?

I mean, I’m thrifty when I have to be – but when I don’t have to be, I do like to eat the freshest food first.

  • On a related note, he also likes to point out to anyone who will listen that I possess all of the necessary qualifications for immediate hire by whatever  division it is of the U.S.Department of Agriculture in charge of putting sell-by dates on food. Because he believes (wrongly) that a person can    confidently and safely consume food that is well past said sell-by date.

He quibbles with my predilection to toss out food that shows even the most recent of expired dates. We have – and I’m not proud of this – argued at length about what “sell by” means versus “use by.”

But don’t you also want to stay healthy?

I try to reason with him by explaining that if I were to eat very old food I could end up in the hospital – again.  (a place I do not want to re-visit having spent far too long there in 2012). If I were to become ill because of eating spoiled food, my husband would have to visit me in the hospital and that would cost him both time ( I can’t miss that much work!) and money (do you believe how expensive this hospital parking garage is?)

So I am only trying to be helpful by eating the freshest of food.

Unlike my husband who truly does love old food. And I don’t say this snidely. In all seriousness, he prefers to eat leftovers. Previously cooked food that resides inside little plastic containers inside our refrigerator for days, even for weeks, tastes good to him.

And if the most ancient of leftovers have a slightly blue tinge, all the better. (“it’s fine, it’s just like blue cheese. you like Roquefort cheese, don’t you?” he will say in his defense as he chomps down.)

Am I spoiled because I like to eat fresh food, prefer not to eat leftovers – and have a somewhat tightly wound approach to tossing out foods immediately after their use-by date? Perhaps so.

If he were a writer – he would want to edit this post – to tell you that his preference for older (a polite way of putting it) food comes to him by how he was raised. He is the child of immigrants who came to this country in the early 1950’s and worked extraordinarily hard in their factory jobs to raise a family who knew how important it was not to let any food go to waste.

I am a few generations removed from the immigrant experience and maybe that is why I am less thrifty about food than I should be. While my stay-at-home mom was hardly extravagant with her supermarket food purchases,  leftovers do not feature as large a role in my childhood memories as they do in my husband’s.

On this Valentine’s Day we consider ourselves lucky that we can share a laugh about a few old berries. Because last year was a very rocky one for us as parents. Life events tested our differing perspectives on far more serious concerns than the shelf stability of food.

It’s very important to laugh about left-overs. I highly recommend it to everyone, parents or not, l-o-n-g marrieds or not. Finding the funny in blue-tinged food can get you through the toughest of times.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Kids, Aging, Family, Holidays, Husbands, Marriage, Men vs Women, Parenting, Relationships, Women

9 Rows to Oar If You Want to Reach 94

November yale467x490

(*happily updating my original post from February, 2015 when my Dad had his 92nd birthday. Now it is nearly February 1, 2017 – his 94th!)

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  He will celebrate his 94th birthday this Wednesday, February 1.

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his friend, the doctor, quite frequently – but for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a well-regarded-in-his-community lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died far too young. Taking great joy in his four grandchildren, his three-year-old and nearly one-year-old great-grandsons  – and bestowing tender care upon his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Rows To Oar If You Want to Reach 94

It is not easy to turn 94

You have to know how to soar.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your “kids” every Sunday morning at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide wise counsel for many without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine rows you must oar,

If you want to reach the wise old age of 94.

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life you will have had.

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9 Ways To Be If You Want to Turn 93

November yale467x490

(*happily updating this original post from February, 2015 when my Dad had his 92nd birthday. Now February, 2016 – his 93rd!)

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  He celebrated his 93rd birthday this Monday, February 1.

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his friend, the doctor, for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died young. Taking joy in his four grandchildren, his toddler great-grandson – and looking forward to the arrival of another great-grand child next month.  Bestowing tender care upon his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Ways To Be If You Want to Turn 93

It is not easy to turn 93

You have to know just how to be.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your kids every Sunday at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide wise counsel for many without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine things you must be.

If you want to reach the wise old age of 93

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life you will have had.

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9 Things To Do If You Want To Turn 92

November yale467x490

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  His 92nd birthday is this Sunday, February 1.  (and yes, it does fall on SuperBowl Sunday, perhaps not a coincidence.)

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his doctor for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him actually say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died young. Taking joy in his four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and one toddler great-grandson. And now taking tender care of his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Things To Do If You Want to Turn 92

It is not easy to turn 92

You have to know just what to do.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to do to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your kids every Sunday at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide counsel for many, without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine things to do

If you want to reach the wise old age of 92.

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life, you will have had.

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The Nice Jewish Girl and the Macedonian Mother-in-Law

tina bake

Today is Day Six of a Nine Day visit from my mother-in-law –  and you know what? I am fine, really, I am. I am actually enjoying her visit.

This was not always the case.

When I first met my husband-to-be’s parents when he and I were in grad school, they were pretty sure I had just dropped in from outer space. They were welcoming and friendly but I still felt like an alien in their world. Let’s count some of the ways in which we differed:

  •  I grew up in a green-lawned suburb in Connecticut. His parents lived in a working-class town outside of Detroit.
  •  I am a college graduate (then grad and law school too.). His parents ended their schooling in 6th grade.
  • My parents were born in the U.S. His parents were in their early 20’s when they immigrated, with a toddler in tow and my husband in utero, to the U.S. from a small village in the Macedonian region of northern Greece. (look it up, it exists, I had to look it up too.)
  • I was (still am?) a nice Jewish girl. His parents belonged to their Macedonian Orthodox church.

The only thing in common, I thought back then, was that we both were deeply in love with the same person. My husband-to-be. Her son.

It took me some time to get used to their ways of doing things.

And it took them some time to get used to my ways, too.

On an early visit to my husband’s house, we went with his parents to visit relatives. When we arrived at their house, I saw that the dining room table was all set up with platters of food, a few uncles were already sitting around the table. I took a chair. My husband whispered in my ear, “Uh, no, you don’t sit down at the table. That is for the men. You are expected to go into the kitchen and help the women with the food.”

I bristled (Ms. magazine, I was an early subscriber) but dutifully followed my mother-in-law into the kitchen.

A few years later I went with my father-in-law to the supermarket where he was a regular to stock up on kid-friendly snacks for our week long visit (my kids were too little then to appreciate feta cheese and pickled cabbage.) When I put my bottles of Perrier water down on the conveyor belt, the supermarket check-out lady raised her eyebrows at my father-in-law, and he nodded sagely at her, “That’s my daughter-in-law, she’s from Washington.”

Yes, that pretty much explained everything. I can see now how they must have seen me – I thought bottled water was sophisticated, they must have thought I was a being a snob.

We are a Jewish family (my husband converted) so we didn’t feel right joining his family for their Christmas day family celebration.  Instead we would make the 11 hour drive to Detroit on December 25th, telling his parents to please go ahead and have Christmas dinner without us. But if we arrived at 9 p.m., Christmas dinner would still be waiting as were the presents under the tree. The next year we arrived at 10 p.m., still the waiting dinner and the presents. I didn’t want his parents to give my kids Christmas gifts. I insisted my husband convey that message.

Looking back I wish I had been a little less strident on the subject. A few packages wrapped in green and red from their grandparents would not have harmed my kids’ Jewish identities.

It was also obvious from the start that my household standards were more casual than those of my mother-in-law. At her house, the phrase “it’s so clean you could eat off the floor” had real meaning. During our family visits wastebaskets seemed to be emptied hourly and laundry was done daily, with sheets folded just so.

When she visited our house, she would venture into my husband’s sock drawer to see if any socks needed darning.  She would rearrange my linen closet. And looked disappointed when she learned we don’t own a mop. (Does an old Swiffer count?). After she left, I would grumble a bit when I found stray objects put away in odd places, her trying to help but it made extra work for me.

My mother-in-law has also always outshone me in the baking department (easy to do.) Her chocolate chip cookies (so much butter!) are legendary. My friends and their kids come to our house during her visits to sit and talk with her and enjoy the warm cookies.

And best of all, she makes Macedonian cheese and spinach filled phyllo pastries, “pitas” she calls them – with the phyllo dough made from scratch. That would be by combining flour and yeast for those of us who don’t get the baking thing.

During this week’s visit she made a batch of cheese pitas to bring to a family party on the weekend.  72 of them disappeared within an hour.  The weekend over, my husband went back to work downtown and my mother-in-law and I have spent the weekdays together at home.  We watch and talk about the news (CNN should give her a merit badge for her daily loyalty). She is fascinated by world events and asks great questions. (“Why can’t Ebola be cured?” and “How could the Secret Service miss that guy?”). We look at old photo albums and play with the dogs. She makes dinners that my husband likes to eat. While she says she is fine being at home with me, I see how her heart brightens when my husband arrives home from work each night.

At night they sit on the couch in our family room and chat mostly in Macedonian, with some English thrown in for my benefit, about how relatives are doing, who is ill and who isn’t, how could so-and-so get divorced and what her two other sons, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren are doing. My husband loves to talk with his Mom about her memories of the old days, life in the village –“and then I took the rooster by the neck, stepped on its feet and killed it. ” and she remembers that her own mother-in-law, when she met her at age 18,  “thought I was too skinny; she told me that my fingers were too thin for cooking.”

We are now at ease with each other. It no longer bothers me that she can’t eat off my floor as I could off of hers. I am more patient with her questions and she is more satisfied with my answers. We have learned much over 36 years from each other.  How much we really do have in common.

She makes the phyllo dough, I eat the pitas, we both her love her son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Defense of the Empty Nest by a Defensive Mom

bigstock-Empty-nest-on-green-grass-44741620

It was at a college night meeting of  high school parents when I realized that how I felt about having an Empty Nest was not the majority view.

September of our son’s senior year in his small high school, the college counseling office held a meeting for parents. Noting that for some of us, it would be our last kid off to college, the counselor asked us how we felt about becoming empty nesters the next fall.

I was the first to respond; not a good idea in retrospect.

“Frankly I can’t wait, I’m looking forward to having time alone with my husband again.”

The other parents looked at me aghast, you would have thought I had just vividly detailed the various new sexual positions we planned to try on the first night after our son left for college. A ripple of dismay filled the room.

One by one each of the other Moms chimed in, “Really? I don’t feel that way at all. Oh, I will miss my daughters so much.” and “I am just dreading having an Empty Nest.” and “It will be so awful not having them come home from school every day.”

And the Dads spoke up, too.  “Who will I watch baseball with? I’m really going to miss my son.” and “Our family has lots of fun together on weekends. I don’t want that to change.”

I slunk a bit lower in my seat. My husband, embarrassed by my typical over-sharing, patted my hand feebly.

It has been almost a decade since that college night meeting and you would think that by now I would have gotten less defensive about my stance on the Empty Nest – but I haven’t.

This fall there’s been the usual flurry of articles offering advice on how to adjust to life in the Empty Nest. Wisdom for parents whose kids were now off to college, you will miss them like crazy, you will be sad that they don’t need you as much, your role as a Mom or Dad has changed. You and your spouse may sit in silence at night wondering what to say to each other. The articles encourage you to develop new hobbies, new interests, take up running, learn to knit, join a book club, anything to take your mind off of the dreadfully quiet house, the empty rooms, the loss of your children.

Ummm, that wasn’t my experience.

After 18 years of 24/7 parenting, I was more than ready to for some well-deserved (IMHO) time off.  And I wanted to get back to the reason I married my husband in the first place. Because I loved him, he’s smart, funny and clever; I wanted to spend more time with him. Just with him. How we used to be, before kids, if I could recall what that felt like.

I love my kids very much, just as you love yours (there goes the defensiveness again!). I loved being a Mom, all of it, from that early exhaustion of toddlers and nap time, to school days, lunch packing, spelling tests, to high school with homework stress, talking about drinking and sex, and wondering if they were listening, and worrying over college applications.

But children do fill up all of your mind space, so much so that there is little room leftover for whatever interesting conversations you may have once had with your spouse on a non-child-related subject.  Who will take David to Tae Kwan Do? Do you have time this Saturday to get Dana new sneakers? Don’t forget that next Wednesday, or maybe it is Thursday, let me check, is Back to School night? I forgot to send in the permission slip for that field trip, aaargh. Did you bring home the posterboard for the science project? And David could use another hair cut…

At least that is how it was with us. My husband was a very involved Dad. He didn’t miss a school play, coached soccer and basketball and helped with algebra. (the latter most important since my math knowledge stopped at fractions.) We spent lots of time together as a family, going on outings to museums, concerts and fairs. My husband and son went camping, my daughter and I bonded at Nordstroms. While my husband and I did spend as much time as we could as a couple, we would often find that we spent our precious hours out of the house talking about, you guessed it, the kids. One night at dinner we tried to see how long we could go in a conversation without one of us mentioning one of our kids or something kid-related. I don’t recall who won that contest. But it was over in less than three minutes.

Back to senior year in high school when I looked forward to finding out if my husband and I could be alone as a couple again.  Sure, I was worried that we wouldn’t manage so well. We didn’t have, and still don’t have, a marriage that to the outside world appears harmonious. At our wedding reception 36 years ago, many of the guests, I was later told, took bets on how long our marriage would last. Lots of yin and yang in our relationship. We squabble, we bicker, we disagree.

Once our teen daughter spent a weekend with a friend at their family’s vacation house.  I asked her when she returned how the weekend went – “Oh, Mom”, she said, “It was fine, Jessica’s parents fight just as much as you and Dad do.”

So it was with both anticipation and trepidation that I approached the Empty Nest. Of course, I missed the kids after they left for college. I was always happy to hear from them, worried when they got sick, thrilled when they visited, even content doing their mountains of laundry and dealing with the messy rooms they inevitably left behind. But I knew that they would be fine. We had prepared them as well as we could. They were off to lead their lives, as it should be.

The Empty Nest meant that we were given a chance to lead our own lives again – as husband and wife. Yes, we’d be parents forever, but just being  a couple, no guarantee. I’d seen plenty of my friends’ marriages struggle once the kids, the glue between Mom and Dad, were no longer in the house.

Thankfully our marriage thrived. It didn’t take us long to adjust to the Empty Nest. At first it felt like we were playing hookey from school. We both worked downtown, and after work one night, it occurred to us that we didn’t have to rush home. We could go out to dinner.  Downtown. On a weeknight. Imagine that. Without checking in with anyone. Just us. So we went to a restaurant that neither of our kids particularly liked. And we talked about subjects that they didn’t particularly care about. And we didn’t discuss either of them, at least not for the first 10 minutes. The Empty Nest, it turned out, was as I had thought it would be at that college night meeting, well worth waiting for. And hardly empty either. The two of us have filled it up just fine.

 

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