Not long before he died my father reportedly said, “I might as well be dead; I’m just a nuisance“. Granted he was 94 years of age, in a veterans’ retirement home, virtually bed-bound and threatened by renal failure. Apart from the philosophic issue surrounding the utility of what he said, my father was normally inclined to be kind and generous to others. I viewed that mournful expression of his illustrative of the underlying feature of charity. A more curious recollection concerning my father is that he had the courtesy to die on April 8th – which is my sister’s birthday and therefore easy to recall – but which more importantly from my vantage is its alignment with my retirement from the practice of law.
It’s such a warm and breezy late summer day, yet so manifestly autumnal with the flying orange and yellow leaves dropping from the trees! My mounting complaints of old age noticeably hindered me this morning when attempting to get going before another chime of the grandfather clock. With the assistance of Tylenol Arthritis and THC – plus a green apple en route – I succeeded to mount the bicycle and to roll along the well-worn fine gravel path of the erstwhile railway right-of-way which trims the Mississippi River and borders vast open fields.
It isn’t often I feel even remotely qualified to weigh in upon the subject of gastronomy. There are endless magazines, television shows and scientific reports which seem adequately to address every possible element of what constitutes not only the practice or art of cooking but also of choosing or eating good food. Though I have a limited but satisfying repertoire of recipes, it would constitute a misrepresentation to say I am a cook. First and foremost I don’t actually read recipes. Second, I am a robust chopper – meaning, I chop with as little effort as possible to secure bite-size pieces. Third, when it comes to eating, by far and away my favourite meal of the day is breakfast.
Considering how much we pay for cars it occurs to me that feigning they’re not there, pretending they blend in with the wallpaper, is just short of outlandish! Years ago I chatted with a fellow who drove his Rolls Royce across the continent from east to west. Along the way he would stop at drive-in restaurants and pretend to be the chauffeur – just to avoid having to shelter himself from others who felt entitled to register their disapproval or jealousy of the worldly display. Unquestionably anyone whom I have known who bought a new car – whatever it was – was proud of it even consumed by it. The modern contraption is a mechanical and technical wonder! I have yet to surmount the pinnacle of current manufacturing achievement. The further projected ascent to the electric hybrids is presently beyond my imagination.
“Just so” is the obsessive’s vernacular for fussing. Its less than scientific quality means it is a term commonly uttered by old maids or other similarly marginalized fuss-pots not normally aligned with business but who by accident of nature appear to possess an acute awareness of the necessity of everything. The expression is magical. It says absolutely nothing. Yet it sustains an undeniable element of propriety.
For as long as I can recall I have attached import to the phases of the moon and their affect upon the seasons. It is an obsession likely rooted in my paternal grandfather’s zeal for time pieces. When he died he owned about forty watches, three of which (including an enormous antique sterling silver pocket watch) were bequeathed to me from his estate.
“The equinox will arrive on September 22, 2020, at 13:31 UTC. That’s when the sun will be exactly above Earth’s equator, moving from north to south. … Around the time of an equinox, Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally.“
There’s a malaise affecting us all. If it hasn’t infected us it most certainly and almost universally has bored us to death. Yet with the same energy which accompanies my refusal to save for my funeral I am similarly compelled to anticipate the result of the upcoming US presidential election. Admittedly it is a small confession though historically political battles – even those not involving daytime’s current comedian – have afforded impetus for at least regimental survival.
I am with Albert Camus, not the cheeriest of sorts, who noted that “to have time was at once the most magnificent and the most dangerous of experiments. Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.” And it is the potential magnificence of idle retirement that appeals to me.
Considering the dizzying gusto with which some address retirement I am unconvinced of any threat of idleness to the evolving “experiment“. Traditionally the perils of retirement relate to lack of purpose or meaning, fear of irrelevance or plain boredom. Perhaps the change of demographics to encompass an aging – but a seemingly perpetually productive and athletic population – has afforded a new preoccupation in retirement; namely, the meaning of life. It is a far less immediate contortion. It is patently galactic and therefore nourishes an exoticism such as distinguishes travel.
While bicycling on the erstwhile railway right-of-way this morning I encountered Ingrid whom I have known for more years than I can accurately recall, say at least 40 years. I was her lawyer. Ingrid and I have been through many tribulations of mutual interest, primarily revolving around real estate and business transactions. In addition to my specific professional duties I made it a curiosity of mine to enquire after Ingrid’s son Nils whom I have known since he was a mere child. Ingrid told me that Nils has lost his job and is living in her basement. This is now not an uncommon situation among many families. Aside from the obvious distress for the both the parents and the child, they are missing the same palliative ingredient we all lack in the current pandemic; namely, hope and prosperity for the future. Talk to anyone these days and apart from their initial report to being singularly bored, they haven’t any intelligence whatsoever regarding the future. There are certainly no travel plans. Local clubs have shut down. Education facilities are altering to remote alternatives. Restaurants and many retail shopping venues are suffering catastrophic challenges from which many of them will not survive. Many of us doubt the expediency of dining or socializing with others – whatever the proximity. The list of terminated employment is endless – and unfortunately now the norm. There is the very real possibility that the fabric of communication among businesses will be strictly electronic. Brooks Brothers is bankrupt.
Until very recently I hadn’t taken the time to cultivate an acquaintance with the back yard of our condominium apartment building. The allure of the stone walls, deck chairs and the cobbled walkway throughout the garden amidst the shrubbery and foliage at last drew me to subtle inquiry. Months of having being housebound by Covid-19 and suffering the blunt reality of perpetual inactivity meant that even a languishing recline in the late morning sunshine without interruption or conversation was sufficient and meaningful diversion from the hapless routine. This characteristically infrequent and solitary resource changed today when Marny telephoned and proposed that we rally for coffee on the patio. I naturally accepted with glee! The indisputable value of society is now considered the nec plus ultra! And well it should. Society is an envelope of untold size and content – that is, depending upon the constituents!