Author Archives: Sandra Pesmen

Delete Guilt

We have no room in our brains for guilt–so delete it!

In the last few weeks I’ve spoken with two recent widows, one in her sixties and one just turned 90!

They both had long, happy, satisfying marriages and still  enjoy the love and attention of their children and grandchildren.

Everyone feels particularly sad about the  younger woman’s situation because she enjoyed a remarkably loving relationship. She says, “I Ifeel as though I’ve lost half of me.”

And yet, she confessed, “I also feel guilty because I’m relieved. My husband suffered for seven years, struggling to keep all those very sick days and constant  trips in and out of hospitals, and to doctor offices, more or less secret because he didn’t want to upset everyone. It’s peaceful now. I’m mourning a loved one and also the death of the  beautiful life  we lived almost 40 years. So I feel guilty that I’m actually relieved that the stress and  tension of watching his constant pain is over.”

The other woman believes she did everything possible to make her husbands last years and days as happy and comfortable as she could’. They were both in their late 80s when he became ill, and it was a physical as well as emotional strain for her. She kept him home with caregivers as long as possible, then placed him in a nearby nursing facility she visited twice daily.

“I feel guilty because on my 90th birthday I decided  this is my ‘happy year.’ I’ve been the caregiver all my life. First I raised our four children, then cared for all our parents, and now I’m always worrying about our 13 grandchildren. It never stops until you make it stop.

“So I decided this year is for ME! I am doing only things that bring me pleasure.”

Then she added, “But I can’t help feeling guilty about it.”

Well, she shouldn’t. We only pass this way once. And since she’s spent 90  years giving care and love to others it would be a sin NOT to spend whatever time is left to her doing everything she can to have fun. .

No guilt. Just enjoy!


A Perfect Sunday

I woke up when I finished sleeping–with no alarm or obligations –and met a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid to high seventies.

While coffee was brewing, I  walked  down the driveway to pick up my  Sunday New York Times. Because it was such a gorgeous morning I carried paper, coffee and  toasted bagel out onto the patio to begin my daylong reading of it.

I kept glancing at the garden surrounding me, with amazement that it somehow survived our heat spell and once again was glorious. There is nothing like a few tree branches overhead to make you feel “safe.”

And I did, until later when I put the paper aside and went into watch an hour or two ofd recorded Sunday morning news shows. (ACCCCCCHHHHH!!!!!!! That will dkash your feelings of safety and security.)

After more reading outside, I realized it was time to visit my new neighbor’s “Sukkah”  a  small temporary hut set up in honor of the Fall season’s harvest ,and i spent a pleasant  half hour meeting even more new neighbors.

I could feel myself becoming more and more relaxed as I went back home, changed into sneakers and took my daily mile and a half hike through nearby West Park .  How lovely were all the other gardens and lush trees I passed  that were just beginning to change color for our famous  Midwest mural of colorful falling leaves.

Back home  I went, and back to reading the Times until supper.

I took my simple meal back to the patio along with  a half bottle of leftover red wine, and finished  reading the book section as I ate.

Looking around again, I thought, ” How lucky I am to have the freedom, at long last, to feel I’ve taken care of everyone  I love, and now have only to take care of me.”

Its another kind of liberation, if you will: choosing what I want to do whenever I like—and doing it.


Staying Put–Again

For several years I’ve vacillated over whether to move to a condo where I won’t have to be responsible for snow, lawn and house maintenance, or stay in the family home I’ve been in 54 years.

The arguments for moving seemed obvious, especially this year when I had to replace a leaking roof, redo the paved driveway, replace 30-year-old carpet and constantly call trusty repairmen to attend to HV/AC, plumbing and electrical problems.

Seemed like an expensive, tiresome year and I yearned for the carefree life in a condo that I thought would probably cost about the same as keeping up this place

Then I met Barbara. She made that transition when her husband died several years ago, moving to a two bedroom, spacious condo in an upscale, gated community.

“I have a mortgage because my accountant said it would help with write-offs, and a monthly assessment. I’m very upset because the assessment was $200 when I move in and now its $600. Also, we’re getting a special assessment next year for new roofs on all the buildings.”

I thought that was all, until she added, “Then my refrigerator broke, flooding the kitchen, and I had to replace the entire floor. That was covered by insurance, but the maintenance man saw my workmen, and reported it to the building management company which threatened me with a lawsuit because I didn’t ask their permission first. I hate them and I hate the maintenance guy.”

Well, stuff happens. But then she got going again: “Then the lady upstairs had a broken toilet that dripped down through my ceiling and ruined the paint on all the walls and ceiling. This time I did ask management about the insured repairs, and they insisted they only had to repair the area over the tub and I argued that the whole room was a mess. The inspectors came out and agreed with me and it’s finally settled. But I spent two weeks with each incident on the phone and waiting around for workmen.”

So that convinced me to stay put, because I believe the same problems follow us wherever we go. And this way my family can still enjoy holiday dinners around the same big old table we’ve been eating and laughing around for 54 years.

Did you have a downsizing experience different from Barbara?


A Time to Love–and Forgive

During this  time between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, Jews ask forgiveness from those they feel they have wronged and forgive those they believe  wronged them.

I thought about that this week when a friend complained that her wonderful 26-year-old grandsoi didn’t call to wish her a Happy Birthday. She said she wasn’t going to speak to him until he did.

I asked who she thought would suffer more, the happy, busy, hard-working  young man – or his old widowed grandmother sitting alone in her apartment.

I suggested she send him an email saying, “Happy New Year, Love Grandmother.”

He probably forgot about  her birthday, I added,  and will be delighted to get that nice message. (I also think he’ll either send a reply or–even better–phone her!)

As my wise father once said, “Love flows from parent to child to child to child…” (And if we’re lucky, some flows back.)


Kiss This One Goodbye

She’d been a widow six months. He lost his wife two months before. So when they met through a mutual friend, it was natural to plan a dinner date.

Then another. And another.

“It was wonderful to have a friend to talk to who understood exactly what I was going through and we helped each other get through the same problems,” she said.

But girls will be girls and, as Melania Trump says, “Boys will be boys.”

“I was shocked last night when we got back to my house and he wanted to become intimate,” she confessed. “I enjoy a hug, a kiss on the cheek, his arm around me. But I’m not ready for anything more and I was shocked that he didn’t know that.”

Why would he?

She comes from an era when nice girls didn’t “do that” and no one really expected them too. But she felt sad that she couldn’t “accommodate” her friend.

She doesn’t have to feel sad about it. We all should realize that’s what happens when two people “keep company” for any length of time, and it takes physical attraction as well as kindness to respond.

Because there are so many more widows than widowers, he’ii find any number of women to take to dinner who WILL want to become intimate with him.

She, on the other hand, can enjoy pleasant evenings out with some of the smart, wonderful women who meet at the events in senior centers, libraries, churches, and local colleges.

And who knows? A man she CAN respond to emotionally  may just turn up at the next bridge  table.###

No Place Like Home?

My friend Marilyn has always been the leader of  our pack.

In high school she was a cheer leader,then the first married, first to have babies. Everytime we had a club or school reunion–Marilyn was in the center of each crowd, our cheer leader again and always.

It was fun to just be around her.

Now that she’s in her 80s, her family and friends who are left still rally around her and always try and get her to come to reunions–no matter how far.

So last month her 91-year old aunt and 97-year old uncle asked her to join a family reunion  across the country in San Francisco.

You couldn’t stop her. All the sights just waiting for our Marilyn to visit. So off she flew with her daughter and they settled into a nice hotel for a week.

Did they have fun as usual????No way.

“My aunt’s become so crabby and demanding. My uncle doesn’t know what’s happening, two others had to fly back home to Florida because of the hurricanes. It was just awful. We did a little sight seeing and couldn’t wait to get home.”

That was unusual for Marilyn–who always has the best time anywhere because SHE’s there.

But you know what? As we get older and finally do adjust to the life we’ve made by ourselves—-sometimes there’s just no place like home.

There’s a new sense of freedom most of us never knew before.


Laughs from Rabbi’s Lips to Your Ear

I was fortunate to be in the audience Sunday when Rabbi Barry Schecter, of  Kol Emeth Synagogue in Skokie, IL presented one of his free  “jewish Laughter” programs.

My favorite takeaways, that left me laughing out loud overnight and into morning are the following:

1.A woman stole a can of peaches from the store and was arrested.

The judge asked how many peaches were in the can.

When she said “six” he sentenced her to six nights in jail–one for each peach.

That’s when a man in the front row stood and said, “Judge, I’m her husband! She stole a can of peas too!!!”



2. A young man called his mother and said, “Hi Mom, How are you?”

She answered, “I’m fine, Son. How are you?”

And he said, “Oh, I see you have company. I’ll call back later.”


Does that last one sound familiar?


Remembering Long Ago Rosh Hashanah

This is Rosh Hashanah, the season when Jewish people celebrate a new year.

Men go to temple or synagogue to contemplate their relationship with God, and glory in starting a fresh year with good intentions and a clean slate.

And women go to the kitchen to contemplate their relationship with a beef brisket, roasting it in a pan handed down, along with the family’s secret recipe, from grandmother, to mother, to daughter. (Often, it’s also given to a daughter-in-law, who much prefers her own mother’s recipe, but uses this one to keep peace.)

That recipe may involve carrots, prunes, onions, garlic, dry onion soup mix, or even beer.( That right, beer.) After it roasts all day in a 300 degree oven, we spend another half hour letting it cool and yet another trying to carve it neatly against the grain before decorating it with those soggy, overcooked carrots and prunes–and setting it on a holiday table, to be served to the family sitting around it.

And that, in a nutshell, (nuts being served after dinner just in case everyone hasn’t had enough) is the essence of being a Jewish Mother.

Unfortunately, many of us are facing a new situation, now that our husbands are no longer at that table and our children have taken over this and all other holiday meals.

But that doesn’t stop most of my friends from getting out that pot, along with the prunes, carrots and/or onion soup, and making the brisket to drag over to their kids’ holiday table whether it’s wanted or not.
It’s’s called “identity.”

And that always reminds me of the time I covered a holiday program at the Bernard Horwich Senior Center in Skokie, Il for my newspaper. I was a young, Jewish, married mother/reporter, and thought it was a charming idea for a feature story .

But when I got to the buffet table and reached over to put some brisket on my plate, a lovely, white-haired senior gently tapped my wrist with her large silver serving spoon and said, “”I”m the server.” And she proceeded to fill my plate with much more brisket than I ever could eat. (That, too, is the essence of being a Jewish Mother.)

The social worker standing at my elbow later whispered. “You have to remember that Rosie once sat at the head of her large family’s holiday table and served each person brisket with love. Now she lives in a back bedroom in her eldest son’s home, and she rarely is allowed in the kitchen. This is where she comes to be ‘the server’ again. ”

I never forgot Rosie, and her memory is refreshed every time I hear one of my friends say, “I have to get home and start the brisket for my daughter’s holiday dinner.”

Even if they don’t get to be “the server” they all get compliments on their brisket, and can share at least one of its secret ingredients.



Have Meds Ready to Go for Disaster Evacuations

Most of us have given thought to what we should do to prepare for emergency evacuations. But I don’t know anyone who considered the points in the following report from The American Heart Assn. News blog.

It offers several suggestions on what to take along for cardiac, and other health issues.

And I suggest including a “med pack” for your pets too.

Read on:

What Katrina can teach us about disrupted cardiac care after Hurricane Harvey


When patients with cardiac health issues face evacuation due to flooding, fire or other natural disasters, a spike in stress and anxiety levels may be only the beginning. For sudden, jarring, life-changing events—like that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana this past week—can markedly disrupt months or years of steady treatment and control of heart disease and other conditions.

At last count, FEMA officials estimated 30,000 people will have evacuated their homes for shelters due to Harvey.

And just like that, what yesterday were quite manageable illnesses and conditions like high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and diabetes can become life-threatening in an extended emergency. When people are forced to flee their homes without time to gather medicines, records, prescription refills and glucose monitors—plus essentials like batteries for medical devices and mobile phones—anxiety and complications can surge.

In times like these, patients and caregivers, in addition to first responders, can learn from doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians who have been through similar trauma before.

“With [Hurricane] Katrina, the biggest issues were not the event itself, but trying to provide the [sustained] medical follow-up” said Paul Pepe, M.D., professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who served at the command center for Katrina in Baton Rouge and in on-scene reconnaissance of medical needs.

When citizens with existing medical conditions arrive in a distant city or makeshift shelter, even when they have not been able to pack a proper “go” kit, they can bolster their health status almost immediately by simply bringing existing medications in air-tight, waterproof plastic bags or containers.

Many electronic medication records maintained by national pharmacies can offer assistance in reconstructing key patient records, diagnoses and dosages from afar, said Pepe, who is also City of Dallas director of medical emergency services for public safety, public health and homeland security.

“The interruption of care needs to be handled as best as possible,” offered Keith Ferdinand, M.D., of the Tulane University Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans and immediate-past chair of the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

“The stress and anxiety related to a natural disaster can be overwhelming to patients—not only those immediately impacted by flooding, but to those who have seen their family and friends affected,” said Ferdinand. “This is especially felt by elderly patients moving, maybe for the first time in years, which can also lead to disorientation.”

Ferdinand knows firsthand. During Hurricane Katrina’s landing in 2005, he treated patients in Atlanta who were evacuated from New Orleans, nearly 500 miles away. “It was a loosely organized evacuation,” he recalled. But it was effective.

Emergency medicine doctors advise evacuees with existing conditions to:

–take an ample supply of medications while transferring

–have phone number of doctors, health insurance companies and a pharmacy available, separate from that saved on a cellphone contact list

–write on paper all diagnoses and recent treatments recalled, as well as histories of blood pressure or blood glucose levels that can be recalled, and enclose those papers in plastic to take with you

“When they get to the evacuation centers, the most important [readings] are blood pressure and glucose,” said Ferdinand, “because these can fluctuate greatly in a short time.” He adds that most pharmacies have interstate delivery systems that can operate efficiently across borders in emergencies.

Endocrinologist Tina Thethi, M.D., a colleague of Ferdinand’s at Tulane, points out that when diabetes patients arrive at a shelter or evacuation site after a hurricane, they are apt to be in “survival mode,” and greatly stressed. They may not have the option to be selective about what they eat, or to keep their routine, Thethi said. This then affects blood sugar maintenance and wound or infection healing.

In a 2010 study led by Thethi that appeared in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, she and her colleagues found that measures of blood pressure and lipids showed varied rates of recovery post-Katrina “to predisaster levels.”

Anand Irimpen, M.D., chief of cardiology at Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System in New Orleans, advises heart failure patients to be as diligent as possible in keeping prescription schedules during a flood or emergency.

Irimpen noted that “being separated from one’s medications can be catastrophic for diabetic and cardiac patients both short- and long-term.” In fact, a 2016 study in Circulation found an average three-fold increase in heart attack admissions at Tulane Medical Center in each of the 10 years after Katrina, compared with the two years before Katrina.

“We realized patients with heart attacks post-Katrina had higher incidence of hypercholesterolemia, medication noncompliance, smoking, substance abuse and psychiatric disturbances,” said Irimpen, who was the study’s senior author.

“Most patients [temporarily] neglected their health and tried to rebuild their homes and get their lives in order. Health was generally low in priority,” he said.

Super Crazy from Krazy Glue

Had a pipe leak in the bathroom cabinet, that loosened the wood strip on the bottom, so I decided e to get some Krazy Glue, drop in on the strip and hold it there 30 seconds.

My husband did it all the time., At least that’s how he told me about it later.

So I went to Home Depot, bought the Krazy Glue, opened it as the package directed. Did every single thing it said, and guess what? The wood strip stuck! Good as new!

But all ten fingertips also were caked with Krazy Glue that hardened in 30 seconds too.

Searching the Internet for removal directions I found several, but took the quickest route: nail polish remover.

Soaked them a few minutes, then rubbed with doused cotton balls as I do to remove nail polish and most of it did come off. An emory board pretty much cleared off the rest, and I can  once again tell where my fingers end when I tap the table.,

I confess I never actually WATCHED my husband do that repair and now I’m sure he wore work gloves. Otherwise I’d have heard about that too.

So why in the world doesn’t the Krazy Glue package carry one more line in its directions: