A fine site

The week of an ordinary boomer: December 2-6, 2013




  • It’s my regular oil painting class. When I left work at the College, I began to paint using acrylics so finally decided to experiment with oils. You can begin to understand the deep refraction of light in Vermeer’s paintings in say, The Girl with the Pearl Earrings or Rembrandt’s The Night Watch , that inner glow quality. I’m just mucking about, but except for the spirits that are used to clean or diffuse the paint, I actually prefer oil. At present I’m reading The Art Forger by B.A. Shapero in which the protagonist uses modern but undetectable techniques to reproduce Degas’ After the Bath.
  • Haven’t made any new friends in this class, but at least Celia, the teacher, is very competent and my first interaction with oil has produced some good work, copying Constable’s clouds-which I later use for a collage. Boomers are a funny lot as we, who in my case did teach art, know a little, but not nearly as much as specialists in certain fields so finding a teacher who adds but doesn’t bore you with stuff you all ready know, is tough. However, my passion is really figure drawing; however I intend to return again to TSA ( Toronto School of Art) which is a great place.
  • Grandchildren: received an emergency call that asked if I could pick up grandkids as their mum was sudden sickly and their dad, my handsome son, was in court. So lucky for me, I could. As it was the last night of Channukah and hadn’t been able to get together with the kids this year, I had the awesome experience of the oldest lighting candles. I must admit that I had been heartbroken not to have the little ones here to celebrate, and observe their faces. Lit candles possess that magic and children associate the experience with birthday cakes, candles and presents, hopefully making happy memories. My father once shared that he could not fathom why he loved his grandchildren so much, as they were not his. A person not prone to giving voice to his emotions, he expressed to me, his amazement at the depth of his deep feeling.
  • Others in my generation are often on call for grandkids, not just in emergencies, but doing what I do, on a regular basis: which is having the oldest for fun and supper on Thursdays. I’ve become part of his regular schedule as I pick him up from daycare.. Howard and I adore the grandchildren and all boomers will agree that it is truly a blessing to be given an opportunity to be less driven, and with more time( at least me) to just enjoy our treasures without the stresses that accompany being parents.





  • Unfortunately I discover that an aching tooth has a crack so the tooth, a former victim of root control has to come out. The good news (I hope) besides the whooping cost of extraction, implant and crown is that the periodontist is gentle and works with minimum of providing pain. I’m wondering if the former gold cap( later, I find it is only porcelain so unusable) that was on the bloody tooth can be recycled. Interestingly, boomers teeth before fluoride were full of huge fillings: fillings that were done, in my case, without freezing as my father decreed that freezing was as painful as the dental work so not necessary. Sure thing. NOT. “Now, now, Patsy”, kindly Dr. Mueller would say as he shook his head in disbelief at the craters in my mouth. In any case, a hidden olive pit at an upscale restaurant cracked the tooth that triggered the worst pain ( way beyond childbirth). Oh well, there is no going back.
  • Lunch with a former friend was also quite painless. Although I have known C. for most of my life and introduced her to both of her husbands, I decided on a parting of ways about 5 years ago, but as she sent a note when my mother passed away, I wanted to thank her in person. I thought she was being careful: not too dogmatic. We reconnected on a variety of levels; deteriorating backs; ballet; grandkids; condo thoughts; book groups: all the domain of babyboomers. So we shall see if that goes anywhere. It feels better to end relationships on a better note, if possible.
  • Received an email from a friend in Vienna, another one with whom I had lost touch. We met during our art history days at UofT, but she had to return to Austria with infrequent trips back here. I wonder how her life might have turned out had she stayed: as she was unable to work with her “thesis fathers” and was frustrated by the attitudes towards women in Austria; she was divorced by her husband, but, unlike the ex-friend above, was so positive towards every aspect of life.




  • Shopping at Yorkdale as I hadn’t been in quite awhile. Now that I no longer work at Bloor and Church, there is little need to got down there( except for lunch with number #1 daughter or to have my hair coloured). Couldn’t find a specific handcream I wanted, but later discovered it on line, but spent way too much time trying to do the “checkout” to Canada-which it would not do. In spite of being professionally competent at work on computers, there are acts I cannot perform and that makes me furious. People always have said I should be hired by computer companies to make things disappear as I seem to possess this talent. Grrrrr.
  • What I did find shopping for one of my grandsons was The Little Prince, the friendship mantra of my university days, ironically associated with the ex-friend with whom I had lunch. I loved the phrase: What is essential is invisible to the eye- from the book. Back in high school, Forest Hill boys would overlook me, little flash, no money, no country club connections, glasses… Once at university and knowing how to put myself together, my mission was to be dated by as many of those fellows as possible (who did not recognize the former me) and mercilessly dump them, thus taking revenge. I was the same person inside, just composed slightly differently on the outside. Ha.
  • Another emergency call to pick up grandkid #2. Again, lucky I could as this is also a delightful little guy. Put out some play dough, find the old red table and chairs my kids used, make sure I have healthy food available and get an extra desert treat. When his dad, my son, picks him up, I see how exhausted he is; however, excellent press on the inquest he is working on will buoy him up. The inquest involves a child starved to death in his grandparents’ care. One wonders how such an act is possible. And of course, I worry about the PTS on my son. He says he has been stuffing his boys with very rich milkshakes. What a fine man J. is: at work and at home with the boys. I am proud.
  • Saw the documentary at Doc Soup The United States of Amnesia that did a great overview of Gore Vidal’s life. So irreverent, witty and right-on for American politics. Interestingly my husband observed we did not see any emotion on Vidal’s face, even having to depart his incredible home in Ravello, Italy or standing beside the grave of his companion Howard Auster. The interchanges between Vidal and William F. Buckley were brilliant. Again my husband noted that we have no such commentators today, only talk-show hosts. How true.




  • Regular Pilates and dash to figure drawing class. Lately I wait as long as I can before dashing off to class. It is comforting to see all the old ladies there, so vibrant and quietly working. The model was skeletal thin but elegant with pearls. I love to see the bones beneath the skin. She might have been a fashion model and the pink chenille bathrobe she wore during break seemed just right. As I left early- as I always do to get my grandson- my 90 year old friend stopped me and suggested I call her up during the holidays. I laughed to myself- me and a 90 year old palling around.
  • My grandson is my treat on Thursdays. Likely because I had promised him something “interesting”, I got him out of daycare fairly easily. Usually we have to stop at about 3 rooms for teacher hugs. On the boards in the hall, he looked for samples of his work, and I noticed they drawings:” taking a line for a walk”. I explained to him it was artist, Paul Klee who had used that expression and whenever we pick up a pencil and draw or print, we are taking a line for a walk. This idea fascinated his brilliant 5 year old mind and for the rest of the drive to my house, we discoursed on the topic.
  • I had bought a large wooden nutcracker for him to paint and had set out my acrylics for him along with sprinkles and paste. I said, “When you are older, I’ll take you to the Nutcracker ballet.” He explained his class had all ready heard the music and seen it at school! Wowee.I got the feeling he was not terribly impressed at my suggestion; however, when the paint dried and we put a pistachio in The Nutcracker’s mouth, he was in deed impressed.
  • I had bought The Little Prince but had forgotten how elevated the story was so I had to improvise, and alter the language somewhat for him. I was pleased –in spite of my fumbling reading –he remained interested. Then Howard had brought home an amaryllis to plant so they did that together. What a joy he is
  • Sad notes as my number #2 daughter wrote that a friend’s sister-in-law “ has almost ended her journey” and requires storybooks to explain to her 3 year old daughter about death. Daughter #2’s doctoral thesis and her life’s work deal with the aftermath of childhood death. Such terrible sadness for a child: not to just lose your mother, but to never really know her; perhaps deep the child’s brain, there will be a memory of touch, warmth, kindness and mother love. And for the mother, to miss all the growth and development of her child. It is unbearable pain. Howard’s sister also lost their father, also, at age 3. As their mother totters at the edge of dementia at age 91, his sister must be terrified to lose the only real parent she has ever known.
  • Then to hear of Nelson Mandela’s passing and to reflect on what one single person can do.




  • Somewhat an iconic week filled with the usual events such as classes, grandparenting, conversing with old friends, dealing with issues of the body, yet extraordinary with news of the death of a beloved young woman and the indestructible Madiba. Stephen Lewis in the Star reminisced about the man and his bride ,Grace Machel. Lewis spoke of how Mandela slumped when she left the room and came back to life when she re-entered. Those human moments when we touch and allow ourselves to be touched by a person: those everyday events that hold such intense meaning. The number of people Mandela has touched is infinite.


As I review this during the week of April before I set it to publish, I reflect on how typical my entrees are; the ordinary and extraordinary, Mandela, sit side by side. This week, Jim Flaherty suddenly passed away too. Life is truly a pair of ducks.

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