Heading Down Lonely Street

At the top end of an imaginary town, Lonely Street starts out as a wide, bustling, tree-lined boulevard, full of life. It is crowded with strangers, couples, families, and friends doing their business. The shops are busy, the restaurants full, the bars and patios ringing with laughter from patrons enjoying themselves. Young people saunter along sidewalks, chatting noisily as they move toward the theatre district. Attractive houses dotted here and there along the street have fancy cars in the driveway, children’s bikes and skateboards strewn about the lawn, and lively occupants entering and leaving. People are engaged and connected. Life is good.

Farther along, the pavement narrows and the street changes. Lonely Street has aging buildings, still attractive, but there are fewer people and hardly any kids. The hubbub slows down. It becomes hauntingly quiet. Some solitary elders walk briskly, canes in hand, dogs tugging on leashes. Others walk alone. They enter their houses, now empty of life, except for anxious cats, peering out of windows, waiting for their owners. Closing their doors, the lone occupants settle into their world, and busy themselves with their chores, their hobbies, and their memories.

Even farther down the street a half-empty YMCA advertises aquafit exercises for seniors. Through gigantic windows passers-by spot wobbly elders standing knee-deep in the Olympic-sized pool, self-consciously waving their arms and lifting their legs in time to music. Next to the pool several dozen seniors shuffle awkwardly around a room doing simple, baby-step exercises and hobble around simple obstacle courses.

Two blocks away the Autumn Wind Retirement Home, with its huge billboard, “Old Lives Matter”, is set back from the sidewalk revealing a velvety, well-manicured lawn. This facility is crowded with old people who no longer want the responsibility of home ownership. Numerous activities are available for residents from early morning until bedtime.

Fading Embers, the government-run long term care facility next door, puts on a good face, with luscious, overflowing flowerbeds, but everyone knows it’s not the place to be. Only under duress, will anyone agree to live there. Many, who have become severely disabled, unfortunately, have no choice.

Lonely Street comes to an abrupt end on a high cliff overlooking a quiet inlet of the sea. Covering more than five acres of the tabletop land, Journey’s End Cemetery spreads outward in all directions. Tombstones, arranged like rigid, poker-faced soldiers lined up for inspection, fan out to the very edge of the cliff where a small stone chapel straddles the rocky ledge. The biblical message carved in stone over the entrance reads, “In Hope of Resurrection”. The cemetery is deserted, and eerily quiet, except for one lone crow calling for its mate from atop the dead branch of an ancient oak tree.

Signs that I was travelling down Lonely Street became evident some time ago. Phone calls, e-mails, and Christmas greetings started to dwindle. More of my close friends have died than are still living. This is to be expected as we age. Attempts to rekindle that feeling of closeness and camaraderie that we once enjoyed with a wide group of friends are futile.

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Heading Down Lonely Street

Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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