Autumnal Sunday

In an unrehearsed moment of synchronized lightheartedness as we hovered about the kitchen to finalize the preparations for this evening’s meal, we both announced how pleasant it would be to drink a frozen vodka Martini! No doubt because of the uncommonly cool air today, this Sunday has reminded me of an autumn Sunday. And that inevitably engenders fond memories of crackling fireplaces, grey tree branches tossed about in the wind and yearnings for drawing room coziness generally. The very sight of the sparkling Sherry decanter moves me! Earlier this morning we had cranked the heat on to remove the chill from the apartment. Nonetheless undeterred we went for our routine morning bicycle ride (complete with wool cardigan, jackets and gloves) along the nearby country roads; and afterwards when I went for a drive in my car to visit my elderly mother I insisted upon wearing my short pants (something I began to regret when standing in the icy wind by the gas pumps to fill the tank).

For about the past five days I have been suffering what I believe to be the effects of contamination from my mother’s retirement home. Her place is on an alert from the Department of Health about a respiratory infection which I suspect I may have contracted during one of my daily visits. When I first felt the effect, I stayed away and basically slept day and night. Even now when I think I am all but recovered I would be quite happy to crawl back onto the green leather couch, don my black satin sleeping mask, cover myself in the jade coloured throw and succumb to a couple of dreamy hours of sleep. While I always awaken refreshed, the problem of course is that it rather kills the appetite for sleep when the hands of the clock later stretch toward the higher central numbers and the clang of the hours on the grandfather clock becomes mockingly louder and correspondingly less soporific.

Since last Tuesday when I met with my physician (and decided I could quit taking all my meds) I have been concentrating of necessity upon accommodating my body’s lack of prescription and non-prescription drugs. Certainly there I feel the pain of arthritis (and I therefore pine for the Celebrex and Tylenol Arthritis pills) but equally there are other moments when I marvel that either I am feeling no pain or the pain is no worse than I normally felt when I was taking the medication. Overall I consider that my body is buoyed by the withdrawal from the drugs. I do not have any idea what the side-effects of the Lipitor of Coveryl are but I am convinced I am better without them. I previously had the distinct opinion that I had begun to resemble a toxic waste site.

Meanwhile, as this taxing physical ceremony plays out ceaselessly in the background of my existence, I am likewise adjusting to the inseparable manifestations upon my mind. Purification would too generous a term to describe the sensation, but clearly something approaching elimination is justified or perhaps the more poetic catharsis. It is the irrepressible element of purgation and cleansing, at the very least relief. Unlike most problems in life, I am having difficulty identifying the details of this process (being free of drugs) because I haven’t an exact idea of the nature of the original contamination (from the drugs). I acknowledge it is yet possible that my revival is destined to some rough roads; and as a result I regularly contemplate going for a bottle of pain killers. However by and large I perceive that the answer to what I instinctively imagined was the overpowering influence of the drugs lies in removal of the contaminants and drinking a great deal of water.

When we dined with my former physician and his lady on Thursday evening last the topic of the Mediterranean diet surfaced during our aimless 4-hour chinwag. They like us are vastly interested in matters culinary and dietary. It was agreed by all that the Mediterranean diet (which – in the unlikely event that you do not already know – is heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes and fish and less affectionate as to both the mettle and quantity of eggs, cheese, yoghurt, meats and sweets) is the one which will sustain us most judiciously and with the least unwanted corollaries. Except for the cheese and sweets I am a ready convert and in fact we largely govern ourselves accordingly. Removing myself from the pharmaceutical wagon has heightened my inclination to the diet, much to my surprise and added relief. Being able to by-pass the bakery counter today without a struggle was a vast improvement; and similarly the sectioned Navel orange and raw cashews I had at the conclusion of my evening meal was perfectly satisfying without the vulgarity of sweetened condensed milk or maple butter by the spoonful!

All other features of my inconsequential existence naturally continue uninterrupted during this otherwise paramount alteration. My daily routine is now so hackneyed as to border upon embarrassment to repeat it. I have condensed my entire life into but a few compartments most of which are directed to nothing more glamorous than managing our personal affairs and those of my elderly mother, literary diversions (reading and composition), bicycling and closely knit social gatherings. By design – and not without some reluctance – we avoid organized recreation or commitment to projects of any description. I do well to remind myself that there was a time in my career when I was so preoccupied with social activities that it was nothing to eat dinner out of a can while leaning over the kitchen sink. In those days I considered it a fraud to allow oneself the privilege of membership if one were a “knife and forker” only; I had to put out and that usually meant a lot of work. As I approach my 68th birthday, and after two full years of retirement, I seriously debate any talent I might have for anything in any event. Operating on any other than a low-level trajectory is not likely. Besides I am anxious to draw upon every possible virtue of this current state of inactivity. While it is nothing but a quip, it has been said that there is nothing more difficult to do than nothing. It requires at the very least a degree of submission; and once achieved, then the cleverness to extract the essence of what is within the scope of one’s immediate gaze. Everything about our decisions to put us where we now are has demanded focus, refinement, precision and choice. Nothing we have or do is by accident or by default. There is no room for surplus in this critical environment.

Time and again I reassess the direction of my behaviour. When occasionally I lapse into the patterns of behaviour which have characterized me for many years (old habits and tastes seldom disappear I am discovering), I stop myself and conclude there is no point in reviving things whose time is already spent. I shamelessly flatter myself to presume that what remains of my material world and my own mettle is the distilled nectar of a lifetime. Just as my objects are a metaphor for the best of all I have once owned so too my character is the synthesis of whatever I aspired to cultivate. Approaching as I am the apex of maturity there isn’t wide scope for anything. Frequently I catch myself falling short of estimable conduct, a failing I as regularly attribute to being curmudgeonly from age. It is true I have lost my sense of humour for almost anything that derails the urgency of studied contemplation and this I admit makes me a prig of the first order. I may perhaps sweeten the consequence of such motivation to advance my hope for improvement and accommodation.