Monday, September 23, 2019

"Tell me something I don't know!"

My mother died in 2018 at 92 years of age mere weeks after a stroke. Her final respite was I am informed in an exceedingly attractive hospice though I never saw her there after she left the hospital. By that time I was on Longboat Key in Florida for the winter and had no intention of returning to Canada for a token funeral. I had done what I could for her while she was alive.

Previously I regularly visited my aged mother at her retirement residence (what she called "the nut house") on Colonel By Drive.  She resided there since 2015 when I finally succeeded to remove her from her beloved house of 50 years following the death of my father in 2014. In spite of her professed disinterest I was usually able to cajole her into going for a stroll to the park bench overlooking the Rideau Canal. I wheeled her in a folding chair bumpily along the garden path to the nearby outlook.  There we sat silently and pondered the trees and bees and what we could see of the movement along or adjacent the Canal. She customarily smoked a cigarette. Seldom did we talk at any length. Nor did I ever take the occasion to ask my mother, "Tell me something I don't know!" though in retrospect I wonder whether I should have.

Even if I had posed the question I doubt whether she considered anything she did or experienced enchanting - though that is not the point. Mother was self-effacing notwithstanding she could be incredibly bigoted. She adopted an apparent entitlement and aloofness which I never appreciated based on the little I knew of her background and lifetime achievements.  I suppose it goes without saying that bigotry and intolerance are indiscriminate. To my knowledge hers was a life dedicated to family. She was extremely good looking when she married my father on May 29, 1948.  I was born on December 11, 1948 less than nine months later.  I was always told I had been born prematurely though it may only have been a stratagem to disguise hanky-panky. It intrigues me there is a remote possibility my parents' marriage was prompted by honour. Part of the story is that I was in an incubator for two months following my birth. It is a detail I have never confirmed.  What I was told by my mother about my parents' wedding is that her parents refused to attend it allegedly for the reason that she was a Catholic marrying a Protestant. The preposterous nature of that intelligence makes me query the underlying detail. I know little about my parents' courtship other than they worked in proximity in Montreal where I was born. Fuelling the conspiratorial theory of the marriage is my long-held view that my father barely tolerated marriage and family. I saw him evolve much more closely to the familial theme when his first grandchild was born.  Perhaps it ignited his not unnatural amusement regarding perpetuity.  As for me, I felt he could bear the deprivation of my company as equally as I could his. I accept that it sounds to be a horrid slight but one must recall that my father was a military man and he knew the bond of duty. I am also quick to add that I never suffered any loss as a result.  This isn't to say a closer relationship might not have been a pleasant thing; but the lack of it was never something I regarded as a deficiency. In any event I had early on developed my own independence. I too had my martial filters.

Aside from capturing the ingredients of the past the more pressing interest for me is doing something for the future.  I find it singularly peculiar that after a lifetime of focus on achievement and production I have suddenly lapsed into a colloquial existence wherein my primary concerns are the trifling matters of diet, diversion and gossip. On another level I accept that my strength in doing anything worthy of commercial acclaim is highly unlikely. I at least have the privilege of saying that I am prohibited to practice law notwithstanding that I retain the dignity of being a member in good standing of the Law Society of Upper Canada by virtue of having retired after 65 years of age.

My current devotion therefore centres upon an investigation of what if anything I can do to merit the description of activity without the bane of effort. It has to be the advantage of retirement that one can do what one enjoys without the necessity of enduring fatigue in the process.  This however requires critical examination of the possibilities.  There are some who persist to idolize what they consider illustrative of success.  This can be anything from involvement in charity to politics to theatre. My scope as usual is far less cooperative and more detached. Likely this is nothing but an excuse to remain uncensored. Yet from the most casual undertakings there can derive both creation and recreation; but removing oneself from the erstwhile attributions of exams, money and appearance can present a challenge.

I consider an assessment of my present state of being is not altogether unwarranted. One of the things I recall during my years of employment is that I seldom took time to relish what I had. I was always contemplating what more I could do, get or accomplish. Certainly some of this conviction was both tolerable and commendable.  After all it is progress which makes things happen. But unmistakably the advancement was frequently at the price of absorption in the future only. Now at least I have the luxury to look back upon the past and to appreciate what remains. This is particularly significant not only because we have "downsized" (which basically means getting rid of whatever didn't go in the dishwasher) but also because my family dynamics have changed so radically following the death of my parents. In both instances the result is a categorical dilution, an elemental reduction. The convenience of the alteration is inescapable. I have forever sought to decontaminate a matter by removal of complication. The fact that this has evolved naturally is an unqualified attribute which strengthens the catharsis.

It is for me an unparalleled delight to summarize at a glance my remaining personal property. This is my reward for a similarly complacent lifetime of study and work. Nor is it an objection that small things amuse small minds. Indeed I rather approve of the fact that my life has evolved to the point of utter simplicity. To recall my old mother's adage, "What's not to like!"

Some Other Time

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