After my bicycle ride this morning I sat on a bench seat of synthetic cane weave on the patio located in the back yard of the apartment building. I closed my eyes and faced directly into the rising sun. It was approaching 9:00 am and the sun was positioned just barely above the tops of the row houses in the distance. The heat began rising perceptibly. The forecast today is for a high of 13°C by late afternoon; then progressively higher over the next several days before beginning to descend a week hence. We’re in a noticeable high with sunshine predicted throughout. Already I am imagining what it will be like to wear shorts again!
The bike ride had nicely exhausted me. The ride was slightly further (8.45 Km) and faster (9.8 Km/H) than usual. Instead of staying within the subdivision I ventured along Country Street to the point where it meets the hydro station then turned back. The view along the road is bucolic but the road has deteriorated. I imagine the residents along Country Street are happy to live with a bumpy road because it keeps others from using it as a speedway to connect to Hwy#29 at Rae Road. I confined myself to the narrow strips of pavement which have escaped the relentless potholes; or I tried cycling upon the outside margins where the dirt is still hard from the frost. When I came to Almonte in 1976 I cycled on Country Street when it was entirely gravel. I once fell on the gravel and cut my hands so severely that I had to go to the hospital where I was wrapped in cloth after getting a rabies injection. It was a singularly inconvenient addition to my apparel because that evening I attended a black tie charity fundraising dinner.
While I rested on the bench in the sun my thoughts percolated. Not atypically my rumination began with the sign post that is my parents. They died within about four years of one another. My father was separated from my mother only during the last six months of his life when his care demanded that he go to the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre. At 95 years of age he became bedridden and so dilapidated that he said it were better for everyone if he died. This finality echoed what I had heard my maternal grandfather say decades before as he also lay bedridden. Within a year of my father’s death my mother moved to Colonel By Retirement Residence at which she spent what I can only imagine was a difficult three years having to adjust to a new environment and “old people” (as she said). She died a precipitous death after suffering a stroke and was very ably managed in her few dying days by the Ruddy-Shenkman hospice in Kanata. They were both cremated and their ashes buried in Beechwood Cemetery. It is impossible for me to assess what my parents meant to me other than that their well-being was always first on my list. While I thought that my niece (goddaughter) was closer to my father than I, this never presented an impediment of any degree since I willingly acknowledged that my father and I had nothing in common other than that we’re so much alike. My niece’s stubbornness and devotion to individuality unite her with me and my father; and her closeness to my father makes up for my lack of it. I consider their relationship was a vicarious one for me.
My mother and I on the other hand shared a myriad of interests though I was far less tolerant of her inadequacies. Both parents were always the standard by which I measured myself. They were the first to whom I communicated anything of importance. I guess I unwittingly did my best to please them. In their dying days I did more for my mother than my father; and, my niece did more for my father than I. She surreptitiously withdrew my father from his nursing home and brought him for one last visit to his erstwhile residence. Naturally everybody in the family pretended to be upset, suggesting possibilities of disaster, etc. but secretly I think we all felt it was a retreat reminiscent of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest“.
When Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) gets transferred for evaluation from a prison farm to a mental institution, he assumes it will be a less restrictive environment. But the martinet Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) runs the psychiatric ward with an iron fist, keeping her patients cowed through abuse, medication and sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. The battle of wills between the rebellious McMurphy and the inflexible Ratched soon affects all the ward’s patients.
My rambling thoughts never get far beyond this starting point. Summarizing the universe in seconds is disabling. It all seems rather superfluous in any event. Not for the least of which reasons that the assessment of one’s life is an impossibly tarsome pursuit. People are not dominated by their immediate surroundings so there’s no rationale behind their conduct. We each harbour an instinct as ancient and as incomprehensible as the annual salmon run from the ocean to the inland waterways. It is by any measure a magnificent performance!
The salmon run is the time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. After spawning, all Pacific salmon and most Atlantic salmon die, and the salmon life cycle starts over again. The annual run can be a major event for grizzly bears, bald eaglesand sport fishermen. Most salmon species migrate during the fall (September through November).
The inevitable conclusion is that we’re all headed in the same direction. What we choose to do in the meantime is for us to decide. Whether one opts for the epicurean or altruistic model is irrelevant to the outcome. In the end, nobody’s listening, nobody cares.