Heading Down Lonely Street

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Volunteering, an important part of my life long before I retired, has continued to be attractive during my retirement years. At various times I have volunteered at a church, a museum, a botanical garden, and working with a tree-planting organization. A friend and I founded a group under the umbrella of a national body called Abbeyfield Canada, that eventually resulted in a beautiful stand-alone housing residence for 12 fit seniors.

To also fill my time, and be with people, I accepted short term contracts with two different educational organizations that proved very satisfying. For several years I was part of an environmental organization dedicated to preserving a vacant property for future parkland. All of these activities helped to give a sense of purpose to my life, and to ensure that I stayed involved.

Pet ownership has long been part of my life. For those who like animals, pets are wonderful companions, especially for people living alone. My Black Lab, Vimy, is perfect house dog. She seldom barks, loves to go for walks, and happily greets everyone who approaches her with a wag of her tail. For most of the day her favourite location is the front yard where people walking by stop to pet her. At night she sleeps quietly on her mat beside my bed, and seldom stirs until I head downstairs to make coffee and prepare her breakfast. Vimy is a very special companion who gives and receives much love.

My two cats, Diamond and Dallas, provide me with lively inhouse company during the day. They play tag with each other, race with abandon throughout the house, observe me closely while I complete household chores, and stretch out for afternoon naps. At night, they follow me upstairs. When I turn out my light, Dallas climbs onto my bed in the dark to nudge me with her nose and invite gently stroking for a few minutes before scampering off to the guest bedroom for the night. Diamond, who sleeps on the cushioned rocking chair at the foot of my bed, greets me with a wake-up call without fail each morning by licking my face to tell me it is time to face the day. They make every day worthwhile.

My backyard birds and squirrels, which I consider my outdoor pets, congregate from dawn until dusk each day on my property, as their abundant supply of birdseed, suet, and peanuts is always available. Several species of birds as well as numerous squirrels and chipmunks make my feeders come alive with action year-round. Spending time and money to provide for them gives me a daily boost.

Ona whim last year I answered an ad to have an exchange student live at my house for an academic term. This was no doubt stemming from my desire to have another human around for company. The student, from Norway, turned out to be the perfect house guest. Although it was her first time in Canada, she adjusted quickly and experienced a very successful four months as a foreign student. This fall I am hosting an international student from China who is completing his Master’s thesis in an entirely new field of study; artificial intelligence. This helps me to begin to understand what lies ahead for future generations.

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