This is what I do

After two days of unbroken interference by extraneous elements with my daily routine – a length of time which I stigmatize as an unforgivable eternity quite apart from the personal trespass – I have gratefully resumed the privilege of my regular habits, specifically the quondam tradition of a morning bicycle ride.  The ritual jaunt is a mere 11.3 kilometres which takes 45 minutes on average to accomplish.  It is for me as mandatory (and revitalizing) as the morning shower!  Increasingly I am plagued by the aches and pains which attend aging but the bike ride assuages my gnawing disturbances on every level, physical, mental and – perhaps most significantly – spiritual.  There is endless science about the advantage of exercise but I don’t need to be convinced.  I have embraced the theory for years!  While I do not describe myself as athletic, if ever I lost the ability to ride a bicycle it would be a deprivation right up there with losing my driver’s licence (which for me is an equally horrid thought).  Already I am contemplating what tricycle I’ll purchase when my equilibrium starts to go.  There are some racy models on the market and they are becoming increasingly popular with sexagenarians and upwards.

I am still in that moment of life when people ask me how I find retirement. It reminds me of a young mother with a new child whose first two years of life are measured in months as though the unfathomable ecstasy were more elongated.  I have not yet fallen into the tedium of pronouncing that I am now busier than ever! Though I confess the vernacular is another universe (and one I never thought I’d attain any more than I’d go to the moon).  I cherish this new-found latitude and I’m not taking any of it lying down!  Instead I am aggressively employing the juncture to round out years of simmering thoughts. I am severely conscious of the limited time that now remains and have every intention of addressing whatever piques my interest. I do not mean that I have the craving to see the world or fulfill impossible dreams.  It is a less preposterous focus of exploring my own inner existence, venting those percolating notions and determining what is within the scope of my compass.

My diligence in this conviction has been momentarily derailed as I have lately undertaken more pressing filial obligations.  But these selfless duties are now nearing their performance and I can once again assume the indulgent delight of uncoiling my own future.  I am sufficiently provoked to seek to lose weight. I have at last awoken to the medical value of the venture (and I am disgusted to think I might otherwise extend the tape measurer another few inches around my already protuberant middle). It is however a singularly annoying quest, one for which it appears the stock observation is, “It gets more difficult with age!” For example I have not had a drop of alcohol in almost two years; for the past year we have bicycled virtually every day, winter, spring, summer and fall; the standard hors d’oeuvres are crudités (no more salted crackers, cheese and smoked oysters); and desserts (other than fresh fruit) are a rarity.  The only relief I have is the intelligence I gleaned yesterday on BBC that there are two kinds of fat, one (the bad kind) which surrounds the vital internal organs, the other (the not so bad kind) that simply insulates one’s body.  Apparently exercise diminishes the bad kind of fat before its benefits extend to the so-called “exterior” fat.  On that premise I can possibly shelter at least some of my dismay.

When I was studying law at Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, Nova Scotia I cavorted with a charming lady and colleague whose father was a local Judge (and whose own father had been a lawyer in Cape Breton defending rum runners among others).  The Judge told me that, if I wanted to be a good lawyer, I would read nothing but the law.  This prescription was certainly no difficulty when I was studying law as the occupation monopolized my time entirely.  Similarly after I graduated from law school and began Articles, then the Bar Admission Course at Osgoode Hall and within two years launched my own law practice which I maintained for about forty years, I continued to have hardly any time to read anything other than the law.  Now my studied recreation is autobiographies, including those of Sir Alec Guinness, Arthur Rubinstein, Benjamin Franklin, P. T. Barnum, Edward Gibbon and Stephen Fry.

One significant element which has dropped off the map is my piano playing. Admittedly my limited (though mildly entertaining) skill had reached its zenith.  Last year I succumbed to the urge to buy an electronic keyboard. With the benefit of technology (and high quality headphones) I have revived my amusement in making music.  I view this most recent diversion as a concession to a visceral need, nothing more.  Its advanced engineering satisfies my curiosity as well; and its portability coincides nicely with our lifestyle which segregates summer and winter habitations.

I have abandoned any pretence for traditional piano playing and supplanted my creative necessity with a more enthusiastic writing commitment. Although it has been four years since the launch of my partnership with The Millstone News I am yet adjusting to the exigencies of a “public” voice vis-à-vis the “private” medium of a diary which, along with an internet blog, was my customary mode of literary expression since the age of thirteen years. Walking the line between general and specific is not as easy a transition as I had expected.

I continue to be drawn into familial affairs, something which rather amuses me considering how little time until recently I spent with my family for most of my life.  I do not for a minute concede that the alteration is a product of misgiving of any sort; I merely enjoy doing what has to be done.  For that at least I can thank my mother who has become exceedingly demanding and expectant in her old age (she’s now in her ninetieth year). On August 17th for example, the anniversary of my late father’s birth, our immediate family trooped to  Beechwood Cemetery to view his grave and lay two yellow roses on it.  The next day (August 18th) marked the exact two-month milestone of my mother’s move to Colonel By Retirement Residence and we pointedly capitalized upon the day to confer with her financial planner following the sale of her house a week earlier.  Today was a more humdrum undertaking.  We visited my mother at the retirement home to ensure her hair-dressing arrangements are in order and to change the batteries of her new hearing aids. Afterwards we picked up a few household provisions for her. The extent of my involvement with the management of her affairs is decreasing daily.  It was an inspiriting change this afternoon to motor to a small café on Mill Street in the Village of Manotick for the fulfillment of no other agenda than a quiet cup of Cappuccino.  When we later arrived home I was entangled in yet another hour or more of diligence following receipt of several letters from Canada Revenue Agency and Service Canada for my mother.  I suppose they are simply reminders that I shouldn’t imagine myself untethered for a while yet.  There was also that little chat I had with my mother’s lawyer’s office early this morning.

Nonetheless it is emblematic of my awakening freedom that I felt moved today to prepare a gazpacho soup.  I have the list of required ingredients on my iPhone because it is one of only three or four recipes which I regularly prepare (that is if you can call working in the kitchen twice a year “regular”). Anyway…I found my way into the fresh vegetable section of the supermarket and bought what I needed.  My attention was abruptly diverted by arrival in the mail of the Canada Revenue Agency stuff (a knee-jerk reaction I confess to have to that particular type of brown envelope) but after an amazingly delightful meal of filet mignon, pan-fried potatoes (in duck fat), beets and feta cheese prepared by His Lordship, I was sufficiently restored to tackle the culinary task I had set before me.  It speaks to the shallowness of my resolve (though in my opinion without diminishing the healthfulness of the dish) that the various vegetables were not all that finely chopped.  I prefer to think of it as a robust “peasant” dish, deliberately lacking in refinement.  I know there are some (without pointing fingers) who are more than a bit snooty about that element of my food preparation, but by contrast there are others who positively commend me for the active choice of ruggedness.  None of this purée rubbish for me!