It was one month ago we returned home to our beloved Almonte from our winter retreat on the Atlantic barrier island in South Carolina. The transition has been virtually effortless and generally gratifying. We have accomplished what we planned to do during this initial period; namely, income tax filings, financial planning, reuniting with family and friends, medical, eye and dental appointments and extending our residential apartment lease. Only once have we conducted the ceremony of an afternoon drive to the St. Lawrence Seaway but that will shortly become part of our weekly routine now that the gears of habit are re-engaged. Our global objective here is parochial when compared to the ambitions of most during the summer months but we rejoice in this small-town vernacular.
We are about to settle into the quiet indulgence of a gentle summer in Almonte. This includes savouring our much longed-for personal effects, the oil paintings, the Persian rugs, the mahogany furniture, the brass lamps and the fine crystal. I have missed the gem tones in which we are now immersed daily. The ambient temperature is improving at a painfully slow pace but heat is promised within the next couple of days in perfect time for the Victoria Day Weekend. We maintain our daily bike ride regime in spite of having had to don sweaters, coats and woollen gloves. I miss the sea level paths of Hilton Head Island; even the most inconsequential hill here is work! Privately I wonder how much longer I shall be able to continue this vulgar display of strength by bicycling every day. For the time being however I am convinced I derive benefit from it and I continue to yearn for it like an addict for a soothing drug. Now that I have totally quit taking my heart and cholesterol medication I am even more inclined to keep at it.
My elderly mother – whom I telephone or visit every day at her retirement residence – is progressively declining. She has lately adopted the vernacular my late father assumed months before his death; namely, spending more and more time in bed, eating less and less and showing a marked disregard for personal hygiene and general grooming. When I saw her today she had been in bed all day. She said she had had lunch (delivered by the staff on demand). A Personal Care Worker visited while I was there and took my mother’s (reluctant) order for this evening’s meal (which I coaxed mother to accept). Mother’s current mantra of complaint is no longer hip pain (apparently the frequent recent visits from the physiotherapist are bringing about an improvement in that regard) but rather alleged dizziness (which she has decided is vertigo). Apparently mother’s physician attended upon her to review the matter and has decided against prescription of any medication. The next big event on mother’s narrow horizon is her 90th birthday in mid-June. My sister is already weighing alternate plans but of course under the circumstances we can only wisely wait until we more closely approach the day before making any decision. Meanwhile I pass my time with my mother by reviewing her financial affairs (repeating the identical details daily, assuring her she has enough money and that she owes nobody anything) and by showing her the catalogue of photographs I amassed over the past winter (the repetition of which she seemingly never tires). After each visit or conversation with my mother, I speak with my sister to keep her abreast of the latest intelligence.
A couple of days ago I learned that our Landlord purchased a new Jaguar automobile. He was formerly my most valued legal client; I worked for him throughout my entire 38-year career here. Normally he had driven Cadillac sedans similar to the one I now drive. Over the past number of years he expressed an interest in the Lincoln sedans (Town Car and MKS) that I then drove, but I hadn’t imagined he’d make the leap to Jaguar. By coincidence he was parked in his new car on the property here yesterday as I returned from my constitutional bike ride and we therefore engaged in the customary walk-about to examine his vehicle. The following day I encountered our neighbour who is also a friend of our Landlord. He too is a car aficionado and we had a gab about the new Jaguar as well. It is pleasing to abandon oneself to the indulgence of “car talk” when in the company of fellow enthusiasts.
Because this is almost the first time in the past month that things have settled enough that I don’t have any immediate plans to preoccupy me, I welcome the opportunity to reflect upon recent events. We have no hesitation in recounting that it is good to be home. In fact I cannot imagine a more desirable circumstance upon which to conduct one’s life. Almonte and Hilton Head Island are for me two pieces of the puzzle and they fit extraordinarily well in my opinion. I am already looking forward to the many outings within about a 100 mile radius we hope to accomplish this summer. The icing on the cake will be our planned jaunt in early September to St. Andrews-by-the-Sea in New Brunswick. My attachment to Eastern Canada partly derives from my father’s family connection with the Province of New Brunswick and partly from my own association with the Province of Nova Scotia when I attended law school there. What little I recall of that area of the world is memorable and compelling.
The wallpaper to my existence is an on-going reassessment of my personal relationships; specifically I am re-thinking many of my so-called friendships. This preoccupation is not entirely new; I have burdened myself with similar concerns for the past two years since my retirement. On the one hand I believe it is important to understand the substance of any relationship; on the other hand I do not think it is necessary to deal with people like commodities. Between these two poles is the arena in which relationships exist, where people are polite to one another (without being gushy and phoney), where human compassion and understanding play a role in the mutuality of people. Ultimately however some critical examination is appropriate and perhaps some paring is required. It is for example no disfavour to admit that when a business relationship is at an end, then the continuance of the former association will of necessity either dwindle or evaporate. I am discovering that other less commercial relationships have a similar amortization though it is more difficult to characterize. By the same token, reflection upon long-standing friendships can do much to revive the continued importance of those nexuses. There is invariably opportunity to perpetuate what is worth preserving, but of course it requires attention and some focus.