Winter Came: aging in a cold climate

From The Double Game by Dan Fesperman

He (Bruzek) handed it back. Then, with a grimace and a groan, he worked himself into a more upright position.

“Please help me to stand. I would feel much more comfortable speaking to you from behind my desk.”

I took his arm and helped him across the room to a ladder-back chair behind a huge mahogany desk. Behind it was a wall of bookshelves, stuffed full and leaning slightly, as if they might fall at any moment.
p 313 in my overdrive program on my ipad.

I had to recline as Vlacek Bruzek was doing when Bill Cage wound his way up through the antiquarian book store in Prague to ask him questions about spy couriers during the cold war.

I had to recline and pick up Fesperman’s book because I was exhausted. It was 11 a.m. and I was exhausted because the superintendent had called to tell me to move my car for the snow plow. The older woman -only in her late 60s next to my car – was trying in vain to defrost her windows and clear the 8 inches of snow. Fortunately, I had done that the day before and had by now recovered from that exertion.

It’s worth noting that I am so old this woman is solicitous of me.

Twenty minutes later, I had to put on my boots, my furry aviator’s hat and my -30C hooded coat and go back down to relocate my Corolla. (Full disclosure the windchill was only -15, but old bodies are cold bodies.)

That was it. I was barely able to make Masala chai before I had to rest.

I never expected to grow old. Too many close calls and a mother who passed at 58. But here I am, not yet old old. Yes, it’s a thing. In less than 2 more years I will be 85 and old old. My grandmother lived to be 96, so I guess I have to follow a new paradigm.

I suppose I should remind you that if you are lucky, you too will get there. If you’re already there, you know the truth that Leonard Cohen said, ‘You can’t reveal to the innocent youth.’ Part of that truth seems to be that for every half hour of effort it is necessary to rest 30 minutes. I mean I had to go down 13 floors in an elevator, walk 50 yards, get into my car and drive it to Visitors’ parking. How can that be exhausting?

Our bodies all age differently, of course, so perhaps yours is/will be different. If your mind can’t accept that resting routine, you have to numb it down with – preferably -‘stupid’ TV. HGTV works for me, but recently my Bell TV service has been down more than up, so I turned to Fesperson’s books. These are smart books by the way. Whereas I can’t use CNN to rest with, I can use complicated books with good mysteries.

I don’t have many old friends.One, my ex-husband, Blake, passed last March as I have documented in previous blogs. https://115journals.com/2019/03/20/blake-no-more/ My sister Georgia is 6-years younger and just beginning to feel the effort/rest effect. Another friend who is 91 has recently changed dramatically, developing an edge. She was always able to keep me believing she was charming and sweet and cared deeply for me and my loved ones. Then in one single angry outburst laid waste to that idea. Blake had also become irascible in his last days, We all forgave him as we sat beside his bed of pain. Until we had to deal with the twenty years of neglect of home and finances he left behind.

Apparently, we should all assume that our brains are de-myolinating as we age and expect dementia. I’ve got Lion’s Mane mushrooms in capsule on order. fungi.com

An older real estate collapse you don’t even remember in 1995 bumped me out of home ownership. Three years ago, my landlord sold the triplex where I lived on the ground floor in a Toronto neighbourhood I had come to love. Rent increases made it necessary for me to get out of town and at my sister’s encouragement I moved to an apartment in Mississauga. It is warm – often equatorial, even in winter, well-maintained -although the elevators can be chancey, and safe – interlopers are scared of our Shanti in the front office. First responders will be able to stretcher me out and down.

At Blake’s three-story townhouse in Cabbagetown, they had to carry him bodily down the twisty, narrow stairs. He never did get set up with a hospital bed and a potty on the first floor.

So that’s been dealt with. The fact that I really am not a suburb lover can’t matter now. Anyway I am learning to love the sky in all its moods and the distant glimpse of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment where the clouds are different.

According to my mandatory driver assessments, I am able to drive. That could change or it could gradually dawn on me that spending over $500 a month on a car is too much what with the pressure of rent increases and Bell increases. Grocery delivery, Uber and patience may win out.

It’s new territory and Tennyson’s Ulysses has advised me to “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses

 

Skyfall: M and Ulysses part 2

My post Skyfall: M and “Ulysses” got me thinking about what I know by heart. Long ago some English teacher or other required me to commit the whole of that long dramatic monologue, “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the 19th century poet, to memory. It is 70 lines long and free verse and that much more difficult because there are no rhyming clues.

It begins “It little profits that an idle king/By this still hearth, among these barren crags/ Match’d with an aged wife/ Should mete and dole/ Unequal laws unto a savage race.” Ulysses is standing in the port of his island kingdom, Ithaca, beside his ship or even on its prow, and addressing his crew and his subjects. Presumably his “aged” wife is there, Penelope, who faithfully waited for him all those years while he was fighting in Troy and taking his own sweet time getting home. Thinking he had perished, suitors beset her in order to gain her kingdom. She devised a scheme to put them off, saying she would choose just as soon as she finished weaving her tapestry: every night, she tore out what she had woven that day. Now Ulysses regards her merely as an aged wife.

Presumably his son, Telemachus is also there. Ulysses says of him “most blameless is he”, suited to the task of mete-ing and dole-ing apparently and subduing the savage race “thro soft decrees”. Ulysses does concede that Telemachus is “well-loved of me”. Maybe, but not all that well respected. Still “He works his work, I mine.” but make no mistake, only one is glorious.

Mainly, however, Ulysses is talking to his mariners, those poor sods who are going to row him, assisted now and then, by fortunate winds and scant sails. “Push off, and sitting well in order smite/ The sounding furrows”, Ulysses cries. “For my purpose holds/ To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths/ Of all the western stars until I die.” “It may be that the gulfs will wash us down,” he suggests, for he is going to take them out past what we call Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean, terra incognita so far as the ancient Greeks were concerned. I am ill-equipped, probably, being an aged woman, to understand how his charisma made his men eager to follow him still.

Nevertheless, I can well understand the lines with which he closes. I took them to my heart as a teenager, but they are even more significant now that I can empathize with the ageing hero:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

Skyfall: M and Ulysses

Of course I saw Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie, as soon as I could, just as I had the other 22. So far as you no doubt know, it has been a 50 year project. The one that stands out in my memory is Thunderball and that has more to do with the way I got there than the movie itself. We set out in our new racing green 1965 MGB with the top down on a pleasant evening. We were cruising along the freeway, happily anticipating the film. As we drove under an overpass, the driver of the semi next to us pulled on his air horn, elevating us out of our seats -no seat belts back then- and setting our hearts racing. I could see him laughing madly as he passed us. Thunderball could only be an anti-climax.

Skyfall I liked much better than Quantum of Solace although  I’ve never met a Bond movie that I didn’t like. As the usher assured me, Skyfall is old-fashioned Bond.

The movie begins with Bond’s death and when that proves, unsurprisingly, greatly exaggerated, we see a battered, unshaven Bond wearing jeans and drinking —- beer. Back in harness, he is expected to re-qualify as an agent and is assured by one and all that he is past it, that, in fact, the concept of agents going out into the field is itself passé. Computer nerds can do all that work now without getting out of their pyjamas.

M, Bond’s boss, played by Judy Dench, is of course, even older and appears to have lost control of MI 6. Eventually, she is called before a parliamentary committee to face the music. In answering the badgering chair of the committee, she quotes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses”.

The poet imagines the great adventurer Ulysses, the ancient Greek commander who defeated Troy by using a wooden horse. In the poem, Ulysses old and bored with his home island of Ithaca, exhorts his men to join him on one last great adventure from which they will not return. The poem ends with the lines which M quotes:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.