Category Archives: LINES FROM LYDIA

OCTOBER LINES FROM LYDIA: A Memorable Dinner Date

A Totally Un-Memorable Dinner Date

by Lydia Bogar

Howling laughter from my tweenage daughters–one in the dining room window and the other peeking out from the shutters in the living room, scoping out my date, Tom. “Oh Mom, you’re gonna die!”

My friends Cheryl and Jay said that Tom, an engineer, worked with Jay in Foxboro and lived on “The Lake” in Webster.  Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.  (Yeah, that Lake. Even the New York Times has written about it.

Only child. Never married. No kids. Wicked smart. Very shy. Dour expression.

We spoke once on the phone before that Sunday night dinner date but did not get beyond directions to my house and what a nice guy Jay is.

I have no memory of the drive from my house to the dining room at the Marriott in downtown Worcester. Maybe fifteen minutes that I will never get back.

I do remember the table for two but not the conversation.  I have no memory of appetizer, entrée, or dessert.  Was there wine?  Oh God, I hope so.

Quiet ride back to my house. Walked me to the door. I shook his hand with the other hand on the door knob.

The tweens were waiting.

“What? Really, he seems like a nice guy–but boring.”

The howling started again.  “Mom, we could have told you that as soon as we saw his pocket protector!”

I didn’t tell them about the second pocket protector (for mechanical pencils) he had clipped to his shirt pocket.

Tom married a few years later, a diminutive Asian lady with a PhD in something. It was a society wedding by Worcester standards because of the family compound of homes on The Lake that he inherited when he turned 50.

Yes.  Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

Block. Copy. Paste.

Sure, beats having to spell it.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

 

SEPTEMBER LINES FROM LYDIA: I REALLY HATE THAT

I REALLY HATE THAT

by Lydia Bogar

“Leaves of three, let it be.”

It loves the sun and is common by the roadside, spiraling up trees and across trellis grids. Poison ivy, the cousin of oak and sumac, targets my skin from across the yard. After several summers of painful blistering and oozing rashes that travel from the webs of two fingers and spread across my arms, the backs of my hands, and once to my neck, I hire people to do my spring cleanup. A rite of passage, smelling mulch and stretching muscles toned by a snow shovel; those first exquisite days of warm breezes and pink sunsets. Packing tools into the wheelbarrow and unloading bags of mulch and lime from the trunk is as far as my solstice ritual goes. I have become an observer, and I really hate that.

I am not old, but I am fragile. I really hate that.

Even with a strict regimen of double gloves and washing, using Lysol wipes on my hands and arms, the little pink bubbles will greet me the next morning. If I have rubbed at it during the night, it has marched across my forehead or onto a knee. Frequently, the rash appears like a straight line, as my arm has brushed against a leaf, or a squirrel has carried the urushiol into the mulch pile. My skin swells and burns. Wearing my old white church gloves to sleep at night doesn’t help. Somehow, I do manage to keep the plague from my mouth and ears, and other unnamed places.

Medical websites preach that the blister fluid doesn’t spread the rash, but I am not a believer. My forearms are battle scars, stopped only in mid-march by a quick visit to my doctor and five days of steroids. The gels and creams provide only minimal relief.

My dermatologist at Dana Farber exams the remains of this plague. In combination with my family propensity for skin cancers, she writes two scripts that will stop or at least mitigate any cancerous growths. Long sleeves and a higher SPF will help; a second battle that I will wage for the remainder of my days.  And I really hate that.

After several summer battles for which I bear discolorations, a landscaper tells me that I am fighting the wrong plant. I have been overrun with Virginia Creeper with five distinctive leaves. My doctor makes the entry in my electronic medical records as I await a deep freeze that will kill the beautiful red vines climbing the hemlock outside my bathroom window.

“Leaves of five, which I must survive.”

BOLLI Matters feature writer and co-chair of Writers Guild Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

NOVEMBER LINES FROM LYDIA: MY JUNK DRAWERS

MY JUNK DRAWERS

by Lydia Bogar

The junk drawer in my kitchen holds the tools that are not down cellar in my pink tool bag. Screwdrivers, both flat and Philips, a blue hammer, green florist tape, black electrical tape, twist ties, elastic bands. And then there are the Band-Aids, the razor blades, the box of matches from the Goat Island Grill in Georgetown SC, night light, broken night light, stapler, 3 boxes of staples, scissors, my Stanley tape measure and a carpenter’s pencil, a souvenir from my 2015 kitchen reno.

The junk drawer next to my bed holds pens and pencils, Sudoku puzzles, an extra pair of glasses, Chapstick, bookmarks, small pads of paper, more Band-Aids, Mass cards, hand cream, mechanical pencil refills, flashlight, 2015 Ellis Island Membership card, TV remote, Halls’ Lozenges, face cream, paperclips, and a miniature map of the Manhattan subway system.

What do these drawers have to say?  That I’m a little OCD and that there’s an obvious difference between the private drawer in my room and the larger, public drawer in my kitchen. Strange and personal, but under control.  After all, these contents are not on my bureau, kitchen counter, or the floor.

I think of my friend Theresa whose life resembles a junk drawer, one that she cannot unpack without professional support. So many trials.  So much self-destruction.  Not in the same ballpark as the items in my drawers that I call junk.

I have now consolidated the boxes of staples—some have been reunited with the staple gun while others have joined the stapler in my desk.  The loose razor blades are back in the box. The twist ties and broken night light have been tossed.  And the tape measure is back in the car, where I was compelled to purge the glove box and the console compartment.

I am thankful for my junk spaces–that I can unpack at will.

BOLLI Matters feature writer and co-chair of Writers Guild, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

 

AUGUST LINES FROM LYDIA: MY FIRST SGL

MY FIRST SGL

by Lydia Bogar

Liz David was my first SGL at BOLLI.  Her warm words and easy smile welcomed me, an outsider, from west of 495.

Having studied many different cultures, Liz had worked in hospice for years and written extensively on the different stages of life. She taught us about digging deep and not being afraid to embrace words of wisdom from Rabbi Kushner, Oliver Sacks, and Dr. Seuss as we age.

“As your study group leader. I see us as partners and will take my lead from you as we get to know each other …”

I take frantic notes as many of these references are beyond the front burner in my brain. She openly discusses her physical activity including running, walking, and workouts with a trainer. I strain to hear every single word when she tells us her age.  Really? OMG, you look marvelous.

“What does the sentence ‘home is where the love is’ mean to you?”

Liz has embraced Native American culture in her reading, writing, and lifestyle.  A magnificent rug showing the cycles of life rests on the floor of her second-floor home office.  Made for her 30 years ago, it features the phases of the moon, the owl, the eagle, and a woman.

To be invited into this place of refuge and strength silences me. And then there are the owls–hundreds, maybe more; many have even been sent home with friends and visitors.  Her generosity goes beyond her teachings and her smile.  She may be the most approachable teacher I have ever had.

“Have you ever felt that you were in a state of grace?”

Having raised five children in this large colonial deep in the woods of Sudbury, Liz and her husband Barry now enjoy the serenity of their flowers, trees, birdsong, and chimes. During lunch on their screened porch, we talked about BOLLI, particularly the evolution of classes and community in the ten plus years of the couple’s membership.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Liz has taught the art of legacy letters to friends and neighbors in her different communities, including BOLLI. Her approach is clear-eyed and joyful, a perspective that I am not ready to attempt during that first semester, from which the quotes above are taken. She tells us all that times change, and we change, that there is time to write and revise legacy letters.

“What about taking the measure of oneself? Fulfilled dreams/shattered dreams.”

I have learned so much in classes with Liz.  And now, as someone she calls a friend, I am learning even more.

Co-Editor and frequent BOLLI Matters blogger Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN…

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN!

By Lydia Bogar

Yes, it’s that time again, BOLLI friends – sunscreen!  Good sunscreen of the right strength prescribed by your doctor. If you have been leaving it off your daily ablutions during the winter months, now is the time to check the dates on the bottles or cans in your bathroom cabinet, car, and purse. You should have one available at all times, especially when traveling with grandkids!

Feel the Burn? That’s Called Skin Cancer.

Yup, the sunshine warming your face as you drive down the Turnpike is full of ultraviolet radiation which causes serious damage to your skin, even if you aren’t blonde. Until a dozen years ago, medical experts did not differentiate between Ultraviolet A and Ultraviolet B, but we now know that UVB is blocked by the glass and windshield in your car and that the persistent UVA is responsible for over 90% of skin cancers in America. “The increase in left-sided skin cancers may be from the UV exposure we get when driving a car. It is likely that the older women in our study were primarily passengers rather than drivers, and therefore did not show a [significant] left-sided predominance,” explained Dr. Butler, of the California Skin Institute in San Mateo.  Over 70% of all melanomas in situ (non-invasive, early detection that have not spread to lymph nodes and other organs) are found on the left side of your face and neck. And yes, there is such a thing as Stage zero Melanoma.

Don’t Let Cancer Get Under Your Skin.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 96,500 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2019, and as many as 7,230 people are expected to die of melanoma this year.

Cancer. It’ll Grow on You.

BOLLI Matters’ Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: THINKING ABOUT HEROES AND IDOLS

Thinking about Heroes and Idols

by Lydia Bogar

With the clarity of 20-20 vision, the Police Action in Vietnam was my first war. I was too young to know anything about the earlier Police Action north of the DMZ.  M*A*S*H provided me with an education about both fronts.

Daddy was in the Army before I was even thought of;  uniforms, photographs, souvenirs, and tangible memories were stored down cellar.  At the age of eight, I watched and learned about Cossacks who were murdering students in my father’s homeland. When the cousins arrived in late December, I practiced my Hungarian phrases on them.

Here’s where the 20-20 gets a little foggy. There was a man on television—a sailor, a soldier, a cowboy.  A super hero.  Our parents told us that John Wayne was the real deal.

But he wasn’t.

His films taught us to hate and fear Indians. And Japanese people.  And German people.  And then, in real life, Communists.

And while Duke was considered a patriot, appearing on posters for savings bonds, seeming to live a life of True Grit, he never served in the military, in any capacity, in any war.

At the end of the day, the man never wore a uniform of his own.

BOLLI Matters co-editor Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta–and is educated at BOLLI.”  Lydia co-chairs BOLLI’s Writers Guild and takes writing courses every term.

JANUARY LINES FROM LYDIA: My Holiday Time Capsule

MY HOLIDAY TIME CAPSULE

By Lydia Bogar

Nostalgia grips me when it comes to the holidays–even when they come to a close in January.

Memories of my childhood ease my stressed-out mind.  In those days, we wrote holiday cards which we stamped and mailed on Thanksgiving weekend. Our family was not a big one, but Mom’s list was very long and including probably a hundred of our family’s beauty salon customers.

Anyway, the cards – glossy, religious, pastoral or with glitter – were usually 4 x 6 inches in size.  My job was to write our return address on the back flaps, make sure the flaps were tucked in–not glued because that cost an extra three cents–and sort them into local and out of state piles.

After Mom mailed them downtown,  the bounty would return within days.   Our letter carrier, Mr. Rodgers  (no kidding) would sometimes have to leave a large plastic bag of mail on the doorknob.  But the real motherlode came the week before Christmas when mail was delivered twice a day and once on Sunday.

There was a real touch of magic when it snowed.  On those nights, white and red lights, woven in through shrubs, sparkled on the crisp white yard, and green light bulbs in both patio fixtures gave everything a festive glow.

The tree at home was real and decorated with handmade children’s ornaments, four or five kinds of lights, and at least two boxes of tinsel. The tree in the shop was silver and adorned with decorations that changed style or color every couple of years; one year pink and red, blue and silver the next. And in the sixties, it was highlighted by a show-stopping, rotating multi-colored light.

My mother was a fabulous baker.  Supervised by my grandmother, she made Swedish cookies and bread.  She made Hungarian and Austrian pastries, including Linzer Torte, from my father’s side of the family.  When cooled, these wonderful treats were wrapped in wax paper and placed in air tight cans that on the shelf in the garage. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I discovered the joy of quality control;  I brought in the birds’ nest cookies and dropped a dollop of jam–usually apricot or strawberry –into these marvelous, one-bite delights.  Everything assembled on my mother’s cookie tray was full of sugar and butter and love.

The wreath  on the front door was adorned with tomtegubbas (Swedish elves) and small bundles of straw. The wreath at the back door was the traditional New England variety with red ribbons and silver bells.

No matter what holidays we all celebrated when we were children, those were the days when the milk man came every three days. The bread man came twice a week. The egg man came on Fridays, and the dry cleaner came on Mondays.

Light years ago.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says that, while she “hails from Woosta,” she’s been “– educated at BOLLI.”  She serves as co-chair of BOLLI’s Writers Guild. 

NOVEMBER LINES FROM LYDIA: SAD NUMBERS…

SAD NUMBERS–NOT WRONG.  JUST SAD.

By Lydia Bogar

I am very proud that my hometown of Worcester is host to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Green Hill Park.

The Place of Flags, at the entrance to the Memorial, hosts the American flag, the flag of the Commonwealth, and, of course, the black and white Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag that has become a universal symbol of the wounds and strife of the twenty years that our troops were in Southeast Asia.  1955 to 1975.

The Place of Names, in the deepest section of the Memorial,  is surrounded by a wall that can serve as seating for the young and old who come to this sacred place. The names of the dead and missing are first listed on “The Wall” in Washington before they are accepted onto these local granite guardians next to the flags and words.

The Place of Words is the most powerful on these four acres. Etched into these gray monoliths are letters written from thirteen service members to their mothers and fathers, girlfriends, and younger brothers. You must see these words yourself; I could never do justice to them in this small space.

One thousand five hundred forty-seven Americans.

One thousand five hundred forty-six men from Massachusetts who died in combat or later from their combat injuries.

One woman, Second Lt. Pamela Donovon, R.N. from Brighton MA.

Nor should we forget the two hundred thirty-five thousand service members from Massachusetts who came home from that conflict. Do they walk these paths? Do the parents and siblings come to this hallowed place, or does it continue to be too difficult to bear?

Construction cost: One point four million dollars.

Dedicated: June 9, 2002.

On September 18, 2011, the War Dog Monument was dedicated to the four thousand dogs–search dogs, guard dogs, tunnel dogs, bomb dogs–who served between 1965 and 1975.

“HE IS YOUR FRIEND, YOUR PARTNER, YOUR DEFENDER, YOUR DOG.  YOU ARE HIS LIFE, HIS LOVE, HIS LEADER.  HE WILL BE YOURS, FAITHFUL AND TRUE, TO THE LAST BEAT OF HIS HEART.
YOU OWE IT TO HIM TO BE WORTHY OF SUCH DEVOTION.”

These dogs were classified as equipment and were routinely euthanized or left behind when our troops came home. It is a conservative estimate that these canine warriors saved over ten thousand lives during their ten years of service. When federal law changed seventeen years ago, retired military dogs could be adopted by law enforcement agencies. The first civilian adoption took place in Massachusetts in 2002.

I’ve used numerals only for dates in this piece.  I have written out the numbers representing our fellow Americans, the casualties of that conflict, who should never be considered just numbers.

For more information or to provide a donation, go to  http://massvvm.org/

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: SKYWARN SPOTTER Rob Macedo

SKYWARN SPOTTER ROB MACEDO

Rob Macedo at the National Weather Services Headquarters in Taunton

by Lydia Bogar

Red Sox, lobsta, Vineyard v. Nantucket, chowdah…and weather! Topics we New Englanders love to talk about—with the weather and its local propensity to change every ten minutes coming in at the top of the list.

This summer, we have seen a heat index of 106 degrees.  So, will we see a wind chill of 18 degrees below zero this winter?

On Monday October 22nd, we will hear from a self-professed weather geek, Rob Macedo, Amateur Radio Coordinator for the National Weather Service Boston/Norton SKYWARN program.

Rob has always had an interest in weather, a passion that peaked when his father gave him an Amateur Radio when he was 8 years old.  His uncle was an Amateur Radio Operator, and when Ron was in high school—with the support of both his dad and his uncle–he earned his Amateur Radio license. During his years at UMass Dartmouth, Rob wove a fabric of electronics, algorithms, graphs, and meteorology into a degree in electrical engineering technology. Since graduation, he has been employed at EMC/Dell.

Ron was SKYWARN trained in 1996. “It’s amazing to be trusted by the National Weather Service to teach SKYWARN to the general public,” he says.  “I feel that technology and weather can be very complementary.”  He goes on to say that “Collecting valuable weather and damage reports is a data science problem that can be solved through technology–and the work of good people. I would say, some weeks, my time commitment to SKYWARN is just a few hours, but in stormy periods, it can be up to 30 hours.” But, he reports, “The stormy times are always the most interesting!”

There are over 7000 SKYWARN Spotters in the NWS Boston/Norton coverage area. One-third are also Amateur Radio Operators.

Rob prefers not to comment on the veracity of the Farmer’s Almanac and continues to be amazed by the mechanics of the National Hurricane Center.

He would like to go storm chasing in the future, but for right now, he’s busy working with a global team on advanced data storage issues in the EMC division of Dell Technologies. In his not-so-spare time, in anticipation of upcoming snowfall totals, Rob collects damage reports and rainfall totals from across the state.

Check out the SKYWARN website at: https://www.weather.gov/box/skywarn

Seasoned sailor or ambitious golfer, the weather impacts our lives every day. Come to the BOLLI Gathering Space on Monday October 22nd to meet Rob Macedo of NWS Boston SKYWARN.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Boga

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

OCTOBER LINES FROM LYDIA: THE HOUSE AT 25

THE HOUSE AT 25

by Lydia Bogar

I can return to the house at 25 because, when I cleaned it out and sold it three years ago, I did so with respect. Respect for the efforts taken by Daddy to buy it. The efforts of Mom, with love and support from Papa, to keep it. Respect for the gardens, the contents of the cabinets, the memories in the cellar. I can sit in the zero-gravity chair at Liza’s house, in my brother’s old room, enjoy the reflexology, and not be intimidated by the room that was his space. The best part is that I can easily say I am going to Liza’s house.  Not home.  Not Mom’s.  Not my old house.

The house is full of life again, a life of a different kind.  A single woman gardener who cooks from scratch but who is not my mother. In at least a hundred ways, she is not my mother.  A nurse.  A massage therapist.  A lesbian.  And yet, she is like her.

Liza has a few of Mom’s cookbooks. It seemed the right thing to do. She keeps them in the same place on the counter where Mom kept hers.  Kindred spirits.  Since Liza believes in and practices alternative, holistic medicine, I wonder if Mom will communicate with her from heaven.  Absolutely in heaven, nothing half way for Ruthie.  Nothing  halfway, I suspect, for Liza either.

Liza is not an ordinary nurse but a holistic nurse working with distressed patients in a community clinic.  In it for the long haul. She is fearless and focused, which at her core, was also my mother. The mother, the widow, the only child.  The survivor.

Two dogs, one old Bassett and one very spunky mongrel. There is dog damage at 25–chewed baseboard and door trim.  A cracked window not repaired.  The garage no longer holds my mother’s odds and ends but Liza’s odds and ends, mostly for her gardening. I have not been in the cellar yet, but it isn’t necessary for me to go there. I know this house, every bit of it, and yet, it is no longer mine.  Mine is at number 8. Mine for 44 years, twice the length of time that I lived at 25.

Twenty-five.  Written out, it doesn’t taste different.  With the exception of the dog fence, the yard looks the same.  Maybe when those big ugly old pines come down, it will look different. The Shasta daisies look the same. The Rugosa roses that trail the ranch fence. The flamboyant Scotch Broom that welcomes spring. The shed–with its tired, ragged doors open–looks abandoned. The birdhouse that I made at camp in 1958 is no longer on the south side of the shed. It is on a tree at number eight. The dogs and cats that live at twenty-five run in and out of the shed, taking refuge from the rain or heat, soon to be snow and cold.

Scout, the frantic Beagle mix, barely reminds me of Bobo, my first dog.  My clearest image of Bobo is a small black and white photo of her with Daddy.  Poor, silly old girl. She kept Mom company as the nest emptied.

That thought reminds me of the crazy Malamute that Steven adopted when he got out of the Air Force in 1973. That dog chewed the headboard and then the smaller, wagon-wheel footboard. What a sad sight that was.

Dogs own houses and people.

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”