Saturday, March 30, 2019

A singularly agreeable Saturday

The prospect and inevitability of returning to Canada precisely one week hence does not sadden me though admittedly it heightens the rapture of Longboat Key. A quick glance a moment ago at my iPhone weather app informs me that with the exception of Monday and Tuesday the entire week is forecast sunny and warm. Today was an altogether grand day, another cloudless dome of blue and a light breeze from the southwest. Already the season appears to be winding up, seemingly fewer people about, a pervasive atmosphere of tranquility and purposelessness.

My shameless self-absorption took no more time off this morning than any other. Today's inquisition - initiated as usual upon the commencement of my bicycle ride along Gulf of Mexico Drive to Bayfront Park - was in the nature of a summary, a summit to which I have been scrambling for months. At last I succeeded to abridge the ten episodes of my "prior" life - that is, before retirement - by capturing the core recollection of each period.

10 episodes 1948 - 2013

1. Early childhood
2. Washington, DC
3. Early adolescence
4. St. Andrew’s College
5. Glendon Hall (BA Philosophy)
6. Dalhousie University (LLB Law)
7. Macdonald, Affleck (Articling)
8. Osgoode Hall (Bar Admission) and Devonshire House, University of Toronto (Don)
9. Macdonald, Affleck (1st year law practice)
10. Almonte, Ontario (private law practice)

Retirement 2014 - 2019 et seq.

It has occurred to me that no less significant than retirement is my transition from being a child to being an orphan. This is a peculiar observation for me in particular because I was patently estranged from my parents at 14 years of age and never returned home thereafter; and in fact always continued to live a considerable distance from my parents, always in a different city, sometimes in a different Province. The alliance of my orphanhood with retirement is also oddly serendipitous as both began and blossomed in the same period. I deliberately use the word serendipitous to include the feature not only of chance but also advantage. The blunt truth is that for most of my life the ostensible alienation from my parents - both physical and intellectual - was a weight upon me. That weight has naturally diminished as a result of their deaths in 2014 and 2018. I was closer to my mother than my father in some ways.  I never recall either I or my father having told the other "I love you". It was practically an effort to shake one another's hands at Christmas; and we certainly never embraced one another. Balancing that formality - which could arguably be aligned with my father's strict military background and my prolonged separation - he was in less demonstrable ways sympathetic to my personal nature, just as I unwittingly accepted his aloofness and reservations. And to be clear I never once envisaged that any parent could have been better than my own - though this does not constitute an ignorance or disregard of the reality of the relationships.

There is nothing to be achieved by the enunciation of what constituted the intolerable differences which existed between me and my parents. It is sufficient to observe that I probably disappointed them just as they disappointed me - but undoubtedly for different reasons. My mother for example - and probably my father but less noticeably - was likely embittered that I hadn't married and produced grandchildren. Even if that were not true - and I fully believe that it was - it nonetheless nurtured a feeling of discouragement within me. Obviously neither that sentiment nor any other disapproval that may have existed ever rankled me but it certainly relieved me upon their deaths to be released from the callous of those thoughts. I have either the ignominy or good fortune to satisfy myself that I did for my parents all a son could reasonably be expected to do. Never did I chastise them for anything they said or I might have imagined they were thinking. Yes, I may have left the dining table abruptly on occasion but I never resorted to histrionics to cement the objection with punishing words. My parents reacted similarly; and, neither of us ever descended to the intimacy of apology.

Orphanhood has carried with it a license to disacquaint myself with familial alliance generally. Though I continue to manifest my affection for my sister and her family it is an act of impulse not moral imperative. Otherwise I have entered an era of unimagined and unrepentant individuality and freedom. This may sound unduly spirited - even to me - but in retrospect it speaks to the depth of my erstwhile filial commitment and sense of obligation and gratitude.

The really disturbing feature of the deliberation is that it has all the appearance of a deathbed confession, the last attempt to excise the cyst of contamination. I suppose if that were so, then lucky for me to have attended the matter in time. The practical effect - itself coterminous with approaching end of life - is that it enables me to close that door and move ahead without having to look back. In that respect everything we've lately experienced on Longboat Key - including pointedly the arrangement to return in six months - is utterly rapturous. The unbounded elation was orchestrated as lately as this afternoon on the beach where I congregated casually with several of the residents, people whose singularity and affability are undeniable, a veritable hybrid of fetching Americanism. The enchantment continued as I walked along the seashore then swam back in the turquoise, crystalline sea among the frothing waves.

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