2019 Holiday Letter

Patrick & his children with Mira
Mira with Patrick & his children

2019 was the year that Mira and I were forced to recognize we’re getting older. We’re still able to do the things we find important, but often at a slower pace. The health problems being experienced by Mira’s sister Marie led to a quick trip in January to Bakersfield where she lives. It wasn’t a particularly relaxing trip, but we did get to see Marie, her husband Bill and their Bakersfield son and his two children. [Click on an image to see an expanded version. Use browser to return to page.]

Mira's Birthday
Mira's Birthday

We dined with the Borodins in late January and then in February before attending a COC opera performance. Judy Borodin had warned the restaurant that we were celebrating Mira’s birthday, with the result that Mira was presented with a birthday dessert. The dessert, shared by all, and the opera, Cosi Fan Tutte were both enjoyable.

It was my turn in March – I turned 80. Mira wanted to do something. We invited four couples to join us for dinner at a local restaurant. Everyone came back to our condo for cake and coffee. We had a successful dinner party (a large dinner party would have been difficult in our condo). It worked out well. And the photos that Joe Cira took are impressive.

Group Photo - Bob's Birthday Dinner
Dinner party for Bob's birthday

2018-19 had us again purchasing tickets to a string quartet concert series, the Music in the Afternoon concerts (often preceded by lunch with Anne and Joe Cira), and by selected opera, ballet and Koerner Hall concerts. For 2019-20 we have reduced our ticket purchasing, but we still attend one to three concerts a month.

The cottage on Buckhorn Lake is our way to get away from it all. But there were problems. The septic tank froze. It was colder than usual, but still ... This winter there are cedar chips providing insulation. In addition to the need to wait for the septic system to thaw, the water filtration system needed to be updated. Everything is now working and we spent Christmas at the cottage.

Not only the cottage was troubled. I experienced a shortness of breath. That led to a stress test followed by an angiogram which turned up three blocked cardiac arteries. But I was pain-free and stable - there was no need for immediate action. I had a choice, either triple by-pass surgery or watchful monitoring supported by medications. A recent US study concluded that by-pass in cases like mine is unlikely to prolong life. For now, I’m watchfully monitoring. I can still do “everything”, but I don’t have the stamina that I had.

One of the consequences of my heart problem is that lengthy airplane flights are not recommended. Our flight to Prague had to be cancelled, but Mira’s credit card insurance returned the cost of our tickets. Our future vacation trips will be to places closer to home.

With the Stieges at his uncle's cottage
Selfie with the Stieges at Stoney Lake

Claudette & Remy with Mira
Claudette & Remy with Mira

This summer, the Stieges and then the Weirs visited us at the cottage. We found the cottage Mike Stiege remembers from his youth. All three Weirs visited – Claudette, Doug and Remy their very special dog. Visits like these are one of the reasons we plan to keep the cottage as long as we can. I took the time to paint the outside of the cottage this year. I wasn’t as swift as I would have been in years past, but I did get the job done.

Ottawa's Ottawa sign
Ottawa's Ottawa

We took two road trips in the fall, to Ottawa and to Ohio. In Ottawa we visited the National Gallery and treated ourselves to a great meal in the ByWard Market. The Ohio trip started in Cleveland where we met and were

Cleveland Bob (iguana)
Cleveland Bob
married 57 years ago. University Circle has become an impressive area with an expanded Art Museum, a major University, an Institute of Music, the recently restored Severance Hall (where we attended a Cleveland Orchestra concert) and a gaggle of new health facilities. It’s also home to a new Botanical Gardens, where we met “Bob”, one of two resident iguanas.

Mira an Dora chat
Mira & Dora chat

Mira still has family in Ohio. Her niece Dora, her husband Lou and their two boys live in an attractive house in New Philadelphia, just south of Cleveland. We had dinner with them and a long chat the following morning. We went on to Columbus to see Mira’s nephew Paul and his partner Jonathan.

Paul & Jonathan in Columbus
Paul & Jonathan

They took us to an impressive restaurant overlooking the river that runs through the city. Columbus is now all grown up. We saw Paul and Jonathan again late in November when they made their annual American Thanksgiving visiti to us in Toronto.

I continue to work with The LIFE Institute at Ryerson University. It offers non-credit courses to 2,500 seniors. It’s a short walk down Yonge Street from our condo. I offered a course on the piano concerto in the spring and presented a lecture on Cybersecurity for Seniors. In addition to LIFE courses, I also participated as a member of the LIFE IT Committee. The committee work continues and I’m slated to offer a course on Haydn and Mozart during the Spring 2020 term. I’m hoping Mira will continue to be Class Host for this upcoming course.

I did not stay on the board of our local community association, but I retain a strong interest in local urban initiatives. We have plans for a four block Living Urban Space just across Yonge Street from our condo. It will feature pedestrian priority side streets and animated pedestrian lanes. There are some encouraging signs that this more equitable use of the public realm will start as an experiment on one side-street and then move on to cover all four large blocks.

Mira has been increasingly concerned about the health of her sister Marie in Bakersfield and her bother Otto in Seattle. Because of my heart problem, Mira went to see them both on her own in December. The trip was successful, but tiring.

Marie in Bakersfield
Marie
Otto in Seattle
Otto

Politics continues to unfold in a dismal and divisive way. The 2019 Canadian election saw Justin Trudeau continue as Prime Minister, albeit with a minority government. Doug Ford, the new Conservative Premier of Ontario toned down his rhetoric, but it’s less than ideal. South of the border, Donald Trump tramples on norms of established national and international conduct. Discord and divisiveness continues to increase throughout the world, accompanied by a rising sea level.

Mira and I joke about the fact that we’re stamped with a “Best Before Date” that falls on our 80th birthday. But we continue to be able to do most of the things that we find rewarding. We have even begun to harmoniously share kitchen duties. We’re discovering in the kitchen that together we can pull off what would no longer be comfortable if done alone. We’re fortunate to have found ways to continue doing what we enjoy, ... and plan to continue doing so well into the future.