Saturday, November 07, 2015


On warm summer nights, at my sister’s house in the village of Lougheed, you can wake at 2;00 or 3:00, stretch, perk up your ears—and if the fridge is on intermission from its regular humming concert, and the coyotes are stocking other territories, you might just hear—nothing at all. You listen, you check your ears for wax, you listen again, and still you hear—absolutely nothing. On these nights I lie still, warm and secure and silent. The morning will bring out the people, the birds, the cars. All will be well. On cool autumn days in our new apartment, with the doors and windows closed against the threatening chill of winter, you hear the occasional scrape of a chair on the laminate in the dining room of the apartment above, the low level hum of an Edmonton transit bus accelerating, the swish of traffic on Victoria Park Road far below, a siren at the fire station down the street, the soft voice of a neighbour greeting afriend at the elevator, the trickle of a shower that isn’t yours. All of it is far away unrelated to the physical distance. Your friends ask: “Is it noisy?” “No,” I say. “Nothing that bothers us.” Once upon a long-ago time, when our children were an as-yet undiscovered fragment of our possible future, we camped alone with the grasshoppers on a dusty site in Saskatchewan. The only sound of the night or the day was the wind brushing leaves of the few poplars left at the edge of the ditches. To an urbanite, it was deserted. To a girl recently transplanted from a farm, it was the difference between Alberta and Saskatchewan. To a romantic it should have been—well—romantic. But though I knew I ought to be thrilled to be there with my love in such a private space, awed by the nature of nature undisturbed by anyone but us, I was dogged by a persistent fear of the things that can happen to people alone—attack by disease, or animal, or man. In future I would frequent noisier campsites, and savour the absolute silences of the warm nights in a fine bed comforted by the close presence of others. In the short term future I would live in the suburbs where it is sort-of-quiet. In the long term I would move to an urban apartment on a busy street near a major river crossing and be happy just to be in the noisier centre of things.

Thursday, November 05, 2015


Never before have I lived in a community where disability was the norm rather than the exception, but that is definitely the case in our new apartment. The hallways are populated with canes and walkers and the occasional wheelchair. There are hearing aids and vision appliances and memory losses, both short and long term. Sporting our own ever-growing collection of disabilities, we fit right in. You don’t have to be disabled to live in this community, but you do have to be over 45. In our early 60’s, we are definitely at the younger limit of the population. The average age is closer to 80. When we first viewed the apartment we were not searching for company either older or disabled. We were simply looking for a centrally located large place with a decent kitchen, a reasonably accessible bathroom, a balcony you could enter with a walker and enough space to accommodate the guests we love to entertain. With these caviats in mind, we scouted the place on the Internet. It seemed worthy of the trouble it would take to get through the door for a personal peek. The things we thought we wanted are here, to be sure. But the force that brought us here can only be identified as personal magnetism. The personal stuff began on the doorstep and continued in elevator and hallway every time we came back for another look. Each person we met inquired about our presence in a friendly manner. Clearly the residents know who lives here. Each one went on to say that this building is a wonderful place to call home. We must not, we concluded, appear to be the kind of people who ought not to live here. “We have coffee every Wednesday,” they said, “and happy hour on Monday. We have movies on Thursday and a barbecue coming up. You could come to the barbecue. No need to pay for dinner. I’ll bring you a bottle of wine. Do you want red or white?” “This is a community,” they said to us, after we’d drunk the wine and purchased the key. “We do most of the maintenance and gardening ourselves. We organize the social activities. We take care of security. Most of the apartments are represented when we have a meeting. This, as you have already noticed, is a great place to live,” And if my friends are visibly surprised that I now live in a place where disability is more the norm than the exception, and age is a greater number than mine, all I can say is: Nobody is more surprised than me!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


The place has a “wow!” effect Windows pop out everywhere The sun shines magnificently in the dining room, living room, and kitchen nook The place isn’t square The bedroom is the coolest room in the house The lights of the city spread out before me when I walk into the bedroom after dark The balconies are generous It’s almost, but not quite soundproof There’s a club room where the neighbours gather The neighbours brag about how wonderful it is to live here The bus stops nearby The living room in our new apartment is a morning room that bursts resplendent with a rosy glow as the autumn sun rises over the river far below. With its appearance comes hope in the knowledge that, by midmorning the glow will have spread to the dining room, then to the nook by lunch time. And though the sunny nook brings a smile, and the plants on the plant stand raise their leaves for the dining room welcome, the lure of the rosy living room extravaganza with all itspromise is enough to get me out of bed for an early visit to the exercise room so that I might be back in the living room by sun-up..