Saturday, March 28, 2020



Nobody would have predicted it--that my daughter’s 61st birthday would turn us all into magicians. And manage, somehow, to create memories that will last forever.

How different it was last year, when eight family members flew to Tahiti to celebrate Tracy’s big milestone and for nearly three weeks cruised back to the states.  And how glad we are (we veteran cruisers), that this was a no-cruise year.

Still, a large party was planned for Tracy—until it turned out the whole state of California was under decree to hunker down.  “Shelter in place”  did not mean that the state, or even a tiny fraction thereof, was supposed to shelter in Tracy’s family room for food and games.

Instead, a large group of friends took individual videos of themselves dancing and cheering, sent them to a clever friend, who spliced the videos onto a single tape, and forwarded them to our daughter as a token of enduring friendship.

Which still left hours for an electric bike ride to the beach for Tracy and Paul and a friend over bike paths they described as so serene, so wild and rustic, they resemble a countryside that most non-bikers aren’t aware exists—at least not within a few miles of Newport Beach.

And still . . . what about dinner?  With that, the story gets complicated. Tracy invited Chris and Betty-Jo, Dane and Zhanina, and Rob and me over for a special chez Paul created  dinner. I asked my son if he and Betty-Jo were going.

“No,” Chris said sternly, “and you and Rob shouldn’t go either.” He was adamant. Thanks to his doctor colleagues and a lot of private medical communications, he knows better than any of us the dangers that lie in wait for people our ages. “Countries with more ventilators per capita than in the U.S. have to make choices about who to give them to—and you know which group never gets them. ”

With that, Rob and I decided to stay home.  But later Tracy called. “We can pull this off,” she said. “But it’s cold outside. Be sure and wear heavy jackets.” 

Later Dane called. “Don’t come through the house, Grandma,” he said. “Use the side gate and go straight to the patio. And oh . . . ” he paused, “it’s really cold out.” 

Another change of direction. Rob found his huge leather jacket and a leather top hat, and I wriggled into two layers of fleece, and we both drew on blue plastic gloves, and off we went to Paul and Tracy’s – and on through their gate. I envisioned the scenario. The two of us would eat inside and the four of them outside on the patio. To me, the “cold” warnings were about getting there.  

All wrong.

Once there, we were told to get comfortable on the patio. And never mind the lowest evening temperature we’ve seen in weeks and a nasty wind blowing off the nearest snow pack.

Tracy opened the closest dinette window.  “The food will be there in a minute,”  she offered. Then she took another look at me. “You look cold, Mom,” she said. “I’ll bring you a blanket.” Soon she was out the door, wearing gloves and an N95 mask. First she tossed me a furry white blanket, then from behind, jammed a cap down over my head. “I love Dad’s hat!” she said.  

Minutes later, she and Paul, both wearing masks, slid a seafood jumbo down the long wooden table, followed by plates of excellent steak, asparagus, and mashed potatoes. Meanwhile, the dinette windows remained open.  Soon the four of them—inside--sat down to eat.

The whole scenario was eerie. We were “with” them, yet we weren’t. We were at least 18 feet away. Through the open windows we could hear each other perfectly—while observing that they were all trying not to make it obvious that the same breeze which was chilling us wasn’t exactly kind to them. We all pretended otherwise. The dialogue flowed back and forth semi-normally, though I noticed we didn’t stay on one topic long. 

In spite of all those donated extra layers, I was not in a stay-here-long mood. Yes, the backyard was beautiful. And the setup was ingenious, kind of funny, probably safe.  But my thoughts lay in telling Chris how cleverly (and, how freezingly),  it all worked out.  I wanted to brag about Tracy and Paul’s ingenuity and their great food and how remarkably we kept the virus at bay.   

Pulling the blanket tighter, I told a few stories I suspect I’ve told before. From inside they rewarded me with laughter. Then Tracy read her birthday cards—especially poignant from Dane and Z.  Still, dessert couldn’t come fast enough . . . brownies and ice cream. As we all finished, Dane stood, and from inside he took pictures of the family. Happily, they included all of us—but Rob and I were distant spectres, almost ghosts lurking somewhere in the background, barely in view. Most remarkable of all was Rob’s hat.

By then, I couldn’t wait to get into our car’s seat heaters. And besides, I had to go to the bathroom. As it turned out, so did Rob. Clearly, after all that effort, we couldn’t enter the house, and the bushes were no option.

We thanked Paul, Tracy, Dane, and Z profusely—which they deserved. We sent them all fake hugs and hurried away.  It had been a birthday party like no other. 

THE NEXT DAY, WE noticed the new neighbors across the street were entertaining friends—all outside on the front lawn.  Among them were lots of paper cups, some small children, and some older folks. “I hope you’re staying six feet apart,” I called through the car window.

They laughed.  “These are our parents,” they said.  “So yes, we are.”

I PREDICT THAT NINE months from now there will be a lot of babies born to couples who are currently not working, who live together—and who see no reason to remain six feet apart.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020



Of course it’s a crazy world—we all know it. 

But it’s even crazier if you’re a senior in a category of maximum virus vulnerability . . . and suddenly you have no water.

It all began so innocently, thanks in part to my having a superior sense of smell.  (It’s nice, these days, to have a superior sense of anything!)  One day, as I stood near the kitchen sink, I began smelling that musty, give-away odor of something having been wet. With that, I began exploring under the sink. No, our new reverse-osmosis machine  was not leaking. The floor beneath it was dry.

I searched through nearby cupboards. Dry everywhere. Was I imagining the smell? “Are you catching that odor, Rob?”  But he wasn’t. In time I gave up my fruitless search. Yet the kitchen sink kept emanating impolite messages.

A week went by. And then I heard it—somewhere in the house, water was running. A lot of water. I stood and listened. “You can’t hear that noise, Rob?” He tried to accommodate me. “Maybe the soft water tank is recycling. Could you be hearing that, Babe, out in the garage?” He double-checked the garage, our sprinklers, the outside hoses. Nothing. Yet I was adamant. My ears were not deceiving me. When there’s an outpouring of liquid within a house, it doesn’t sound like a faraway concert, or a distant air hammer, it sounds like water.

Sunday night we called Chris, told him our concerns. “I’ll be home tomorrow,” he said. “Can’t help from here.” Mid-afternoon Monday he was standing in our kitchen, ear to the floor. He searched a little further. “It’s under the house,” he said, “and it’s running pretty good.”  It was now the witching hour for doctors and plumbers—5 p.m.

Immediately I called a plumber—but even their emergency number wouldn’t pick up. No recourse but to call the expensive plumber, the one whose bills were a down payment on a car. They must have needed the business.  “We’ll be there tomorrow at nine.”

Meanwhile, Chris went outside and turned off the house water.  The inside taps stopped flowing . . . . . except I hadn’t thought to fill up any containers.  He was home again when I asked if I could stop by and fill a few bottles.  “Just go outside, Mom, and turn on the water briefly—long enough to get what you need.”  Rob was home sick—by now out of action.

“But it’s dark,” I said, “and it’s raining, and the turn-on is deep in wet bushes—if I can even find it.”  He sighed. “So come on up,” he said at last.  He didn’t have to say it. They’ve lived there more than half a century—yet Mom doesn’t even know how you turn off the water.

So okay, I argued silently.  In our house, men have always dealt with spigots.  

The next day, the silver-jeweled plumber confirmed what Chris already knew—for $170 (per crawl), he crawled under the house and reported back that our two-day flood had produced a two-inch swimming pool—under all 4,000 feet of raised foundation. Before anything could be done, we’d need the services of the platinum-jeweled EMERGENCY PLUMBERS, who, after more crawling brought us a contract—this time for a down payment on a condo. Furthermore, his second deep-mud crawl revealed that the house turnoff did not stop the actual below-decks shooting stream. It seems our house turnoff is now so old it has all the strength of a centurion sumo wrestler. Only Tustin’s Water Company could accomplish anything noticeable. More phone calls, more delays.

So here’s where we stand: no water, but excessive noise from two dry-out-the-water outside fans. “They’re really loud,” the installer admitted.  “Loud” is an understatement.  They practically rattle the house. The noise goes way beyond annoying.    

No hand washing, no dish washing.  To flush a potty, Rob brings in one of his precious buckets of collected rain water . . . or we heat it on the stove to rinse the occasional dish. "This is like an overnight in the woods," Rob said. "I never did like camping." To bathe, we gather shampoos and razors and drive to Chris and Betty-Jo's. At home, every other minute I’m searching for some way to rinse my hands. Do I use rainwater, or nothing?  I called a drugstore. Purell, a hand disinfectant--not available anywhere. 

But even this craziness has its good moments.  Besides the huge helpfulness of our nearby kids (who’ve each offered us a bedroom—but we prefer sleeping at home) . . . was today’s incident at our bank. Still in pajamas, Rob drove me there.  As I sat six feet back from the teller, I eyed the container of Purell sitting on the counter.  First time I’ve ever thought of robbing a bank.  Finally I spoke up.  “At home we have no water. Can I buy one of your bottles of hand sanitizer?”

The tellers looked surprised. (Days ago, they’d called us offering extra help).  One lady made a quick decision—she jumped up and opened a cupboard, brought back the priceless jar. “Here,” she said, and wouldn’t accept payment.

I thanked her profusely, then said to the other teller, “Usually I eye your candy. Today, not at all.”  With that, she reached into an undercounter jar and handed me a fistful of wrapped Easter chocolates. 

Back at the car, I startled the heck out of Rob.  “Look what the bank gave me!”  To me, at least, the Purell was suddenly more precious than money.  Still sitting there, we each had a chocolate.  Which proves there’s magic in even the smallest bit of kindness.

Monday, March 9, 2020



Like everyone, I’m alarmed—at times terrified—of the Corona virus. As great-grandparents, Rob and I are in the worst possible category . . . where for once, wisdom and probable lifelong imunities are no life-saving barrier. 

Making the scenario even worse, since this is a virus and not a bacterium, the CDC and NIH know that antibiotics are useless—as they are for the virus-driven common cold.

Which brings up a point.  Years ago, scientist Linus Pauling found that extra-large doses of Vitamin C, if taken early, are often effective against the virus-driven cold. In fact, we’ve got a highly-respected lawyer friend (a judge), who believes in this “cure” so ardently, that part of her regular routine involves taking a daily dose of Vitamin C—and a bigger dose if she feels ill. Now past ninety, she says, “In my whole life, I’ve never been sick longer than one day.”

With that information, I have stopped many a cold in its tracks—which requires big, early doses of the vitamin—1000 mg. per hour for a few hours--plus a total avoidance of sugar. The good news is that we’ve had confirmed independently by several doctors, that Vitamin C in large doses, (unlike some other vitamins), presents no risk of toxicity.  The kidneys merely excrete the excess—while hopefully, the extra dose does its job.  

Suddenly I’m thinking, If Vitamin C works against the virus-driven “cold” why not against the world’s sudden onslaught of the Corona virus?  Is it possible that a quick end to the risk from exposure might result from a massive dose of Vitamin C?  (And no sugar)?

I’m no doctor, nor pretend to be more than a logical, persistent German who’s had years of first-hand evidence that for me, at least (and a few of my friends and relatives), the Vitamin C “cure” works against one kind of virus--the common cold. Whether it works against this more virulent enemy is open to question.  I’m simply throwing this “out there” as a possibility.

Meanwhile, instead of shopping at Costco and stocking up on toilet paper, I intend to stock up on Vitamin C—the kind in which sugar is not an ingredient.

An Important P.S.  Those very high Vitamin "C" doses are only intended for the first onset of symptoms--way lower for normal, every-day use.