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celebrating age in Ottawa

Today’s excitement: my aunt and I went to Ikea, which is five minutes from her place, and walked around ogling, as we always do when I visit, as I loaded up on the only essentials I can put in my carryon suitcase – napkins, facecloths, cushions, candles – and then we had a gourmet lunch for $24. Ikea sells beer and wine now! So along with my candles I bought two small bottles of red to take back to Do’s. Not supposed to do that, it turned out, but I managed.

On my way here yesterday, I took an earlier flight to avoid rush hour, but the flight was delayed and I ended up right in the middle of rush hour, which in Ottawa is at 4.15. It was dark, sleet turning to snow, and I was in a traffic jam on the Queensway – not fun. But still, even a traffic jam in Ottawa is tiny and doable in comparison with the metropolis. That evening, my brother and his 10-year old son Jake came over and we had dinner with Do. How I enjoy it when there is an 87 year span in the ages of my companions. For Christmas, I brought Jake, who’s a reader, “The Bridge to Terabithia,” a favourite, “Harriet the Spy,” and best of all, a boxed set of all the “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” books. He’d started to read before dinner was over. Narnia forever.

Do and I spent this afternoon talking at her place, she telling me family stories, and I this time able to transcribe onto my computer as she spoke. Much I’d heard before, but this time, I wanted to know why my grandparents moved from the village in the country where they’d lived since 1923 – my grandfather was the stern headmaster of the village school – to London in the middle of the war – it made no sense. My grandfather was only in his fifties, not retirement age. Do didn’t know, but we guessed that after 20 years it was time to leave Potterspury, and London, she said, was terribly inexpensive because so many people had left; you could find a flat for very little, and Percy and Marion had very little. Not long after they moved to Baron’s Court, some houses almost right next door were obliterated by German bombs.

Stuff like that. Delicious. I wrote it all down then or here, later, in my little room. Because I will write the family story one day in a book, and then no one will publish it and no one will read it.

Sorry. Just a tiny bit sour.

As always, I was reluctant to come and am very glad I’m here. Tonight I brought in dinner and we invited Do’s friend Una over, a mere stripling in her eighties. They laughed about another of their Scrabble friends, a rather vain woman who has a boyfriend. She had a fall while he was with her, and when the ambulance men came, they asked her age. She said she was 82. She’s actually 91 but she didn’t want him to know the truth, because he’s 82, and she’d told him she’s the same age.

I’m learning a lot about getting old. Keep your friends close, says Una. You get lonely when you’re older, because so many people have gone, and younger people are busy. Una has been divorced for many years. I love living alone, she said, but sometimes, I’d like someone else to be there for me not to talk to, just there.

Went for a walk in Britannia Park this afternoon, reflecting on getting old and feeling unaccountably young. Passed the playground where my grandsons have played, now deserted in the chill.



4 Responses to “celebrating age in Ottawa”

  1. theresa says:

    How lucky, to be able to ask the questions of your aunt, to have time to write down the stories, to collect the wisdom of her friends. A winter gift.

  2. beth says:

    Indeed, Theresa. The greatest gift is to watch the blooming of my aunt, who lived her life under the shadow of her two sisters, both more beautiful and on the surface successful, with lifelong marriages and children. Since my mother's death in 2012, when Do was 92, she has come into her own. She's more lively and open now, at 97, than ever before. Never too late!

  3. Mita says:

    Your aunt sounds so lovely!! Glad Ottawa is a little better than expected. It is for me too – I grew up here, and moved back here in February, and I've been complaining ever since. But I think it's growing on me; it is quite a beautiful city.

  4. beth says:

    Mita, I was happy living here with small children – it's a great size, easy to get around, lots of parks and the wonderful canal, great shops, the Arts Centre. It's just the climate. But … Winnipeg is worse. Glad you are enjoying your new life here.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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