Voice from the past

Today is the 4th of April, 2024. It is a period to which I would normally attribute flowery thoughts of springtime and the wistful advent of summer. However we’re presently having to abide a minor snow storm. I doubt the snow or the storm will last much longer because the Weather App on my iPhone 15 indicates that within the next two hours the temperature will climb above freezing and the sky will begin to clear. An abstract view of North America indicates that we’re on the edge of a vast storm throughout the northeast surrounding Boston, Toronto, Montréal, Québec City and New Brunswick. From three o’clock today the weather forecast is temperate. I venture to say that today marks the last we’ll see of winter this season. I specifically mention three o’clock today because I have a long-awaited appointment with my trusted optometrist in Carleton Place at 3:15 pm. In addition to having my eyes tested I’m planning to get my Shuron Ronwinne with Cable Temples (“granny” glasses) fitted with an updated prescription. This will constitute a throw-back to my past in undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall, Toronto where I was introduced to the seamless efficiency of rimless glasses and cable temples. Or it may have been at Osgoode Hall.  I don’t recall. It was a long time ago.

As I languished at my desk this morning, reacquainting myself with the rudimentary features of my indolence, I received a telephone call from a well-recognized voice from the past, a colleague and fellow country lawyer with whom I had practiced law (that is, in the County of Lanark) for 38 years.  Coincidentally I believe we were at Osgoode Hall together when called to the Bar in 1975 though we didn’t meet until 1976 when I transferred from 100 Sparks St, Ottawa to  74 Mill St, Almonte. We shared today succinct tales of memorable persons throughout our practices, including Judge Charles James Newton QC, Jim Collie, Cindy Edmonds, Raymond Algernon Jamieson QC, Michael J. Galligan QC, Patrick J. Galway, Evelyn Wheeler, Barbara Couch and Mona Irwin. The blunt truth is that we’re all on the decline if not already there – though admittedly my bountiful friend is clearly reducing the odds. We’ve concluded that there are both advantages and disadvantages to aging. There wasn’t however any talk of catastrophic amendment; so for the time being it’s steady as she goes. I naturally complimented my friend and his longtime legal assistant upon preserving the mooring of the present with the past. It will not be long before our corporate recognition is historic at best.

My colleague opened his discussion today by asking what I am doing with my retirement time. He and I are of an age but I retired ten years ago and he is still going to work every day (though he said he now leaves the office earlier than before – an intelligence I swore not to disclose to his legal assistant). Perhaps fatefully or luckily, my friend never pressed me for an answer to his opening query about my retirement activity. Instead the conversation subsided into a tearfully entertaining walk through the corridors of the past. Indeed I find it difficult to communicate anything of consequence or substance about what I now do. I related to my friend an apologetic summary of my activity which is anything but beguiling, involving reading, writing and driving. Shamefully perhaps I haven’t any remorse whatsoever surrounding the pettiness of my daily absorption.  In fact I confess there are moments I positively compliment myself upon what I consider to be the luxury of my retirement. It is certainly a posture for which I am thankful. That alone may be sufficient strength to an otherwise feckless existence.

On occasion one hears of the overwhelming sense of defeat and unworthiness which attends those who have recently retired.  Some people have even returned to work after retirement.  Seemingly they feel obliged to perform a ritual act of productivity and earning to authenticate themselves. Perhaps they haven’t a resource of any other capital to sustain a complementary achievement. My personal challenge is avoided because I have what is perhaps an unfortunate condition; and that is that I doubt very much I would be able to perform any undertaking of value with assiduity. In a word, I’m cooked. Finito. Done. The only amusement I have from working is the occasional recollection of what I did; but even that is terribly misty and lacking in critical detail for any legitimacy.

Accelerated as we old fogeys are to the top of a narrowing pinnacle, it is immeasurably enlivening to imagine that by virtue of our endurance alone we have graduated to a state in which we are at liberty to draw whatever conclusions to us seem reasonable.  I mean, Who is going to contradict you?  And by what authority?  Anything after 75 years of age is by definition prescriptive and insightful. The mere cosmetic of age is persuasive. Aging, like any abstraction, enables ready definition and assessment. Sometimes I overhear people pondering their intentions “if we could do it all over again”. I am uncertain whether the answer to that question reflects upon one’s current state of affairs or whether it is purely debatable. What I do know for certain however is that I have not now, nor have I ever had, nor will I ever have, any intention of repeating even the last 30 seconds of my life much less any broader recapitulation of time. This is not to say that I have one foot in the grave already; rather it merely captures my willingness to embrace the mercurial seasons of life just as I am today confounded by the weather. To make an impression upon the geography which surrounds us is not assured. But it is undeniable that there are those among us who will leave their mark. Cataloguing that beneficence is the work of historians. Whether one format of written detail is preferable to another is moot. It is though probably safe to say that blogs, memoires and diaries (except for those of Anne Frank) are to be forgotten or submerged in the abyss of human knowledge.

Annelies Marie Frank; 12 June 1929 – circa  February or March 1945) was a German-born Jewish girl who kept a diary in which she documented life in hiding under Nazi persecution during the German occupation of the Netherlands. She is a celebrated diarist who described everyday life from her family hiding place in an Amsterdam attic. One of the most-discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously with the 1947 publication of The Diary of a Young Girl (originally Het Achterhuis in Dutch, lit. ’the back house’; English: The Secret Annex), in which she documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944 — it is one of the world’s best-known books and has been the basis for several plays and films.