On getting older

Back when I turned seventy and still in Mexico, but living in Chelem in the Yucatan Peninsula, I was reminded of the saying that growing old is a privilege denied to many. It was an age I thought I would never make it to because of the less than ideal way I had lived. I had smoked for most of life, having not started until I was twenty-two and the only time I quit for six months I put on some seventy pounds and was in the worst shape of my life. I had more medical issues and couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. I had zero stamina and asked my doctor if I should just start smoking again. Of course he disagreed but as soon as I started again I lost the weight over just a few months. My normal weight was usually around one seventy but I had ballooned to two forty after quitting so I was very happy to be back to normal.

This birthday milestone was also the first time I sensed my own mortality because my father had died at eighty-one and my mother had died at eighty-four, so I suddenly realized that I might not have too many years left before I kicked the bucket. Still I didn’t feel “old” because I was still in pretty good shape. No aches or pains of any consequence. Although I had been diagnosed as diabetic back in 2004, it was under control. I had started taking insulin in 2011 but my sugars were still pretty normal with my medications and the two insulins I took. Before the disastrous move to Chelem I lived in the Lake Chapala area. I walked more than I ever had in my entire life. I ate better. I danced a lot. I felt pretty good overall. Even after the move I still walked a lot. The little local store in Chelem was several kilometres away and I walked it several times. I also swam in the pool where I was staying. I never got to dance because there was nowhere to go. 

After all that happened to me after the move my stress level was off the chart. I had lost one of my pensions after being out of the country for six months so I was really struggling financially. I also was running out of my medications, especially my insulin which cost a fortune in Mexico. At one point I collapsed in Progreso and the EMTs got me to the hospital where they gave me insulin and got me back on my feet. Add that my new landlord had not told me the place was sold so I had to find somewhere to live and couldn’t find anywhere and I knew I had no choice but to return to Canada, something I thought I would never do when I first moved to Mexico in September 2017. The first day I arrived in Ajijic I fell in love with the place then two weeks later I met the love of my life and was going to get married and live happily ever after in Mexico. As John Lennon said, “life is what happens while you are making other plans”. After a disastrous trip back to Belleville to apply for my visa in Toronto as soon as we got back my fiancée dropped me by text message. It nearly killed me. I cried for days. I thought my life was over and saw no reason to go on. Then all hell broke loose with my idiot landlord in Riberas Del Pilar and I had to move to Chelem. Yet another big mistake.



My appeals for help from everyone including the Canadian Consulate all fell on deaf ears so I had no choice but to try to get flights back to Canada. I had also contacted the President of the housing charity about getting a room in one of the group homes again and he had confirmed that I could move back to the place I had left two years earlier. I only had my measly pensions to buy the flights with so I searched and searched but couldn’t find anything. Then one day when, as usual, I found cheaper flights but every time I tried to book them they were sold out, this day I actually booked the flights, to my considerable surprise. It was then that I realized just how bad the flights were. I was flying out of Merida, the closest airport, to Mexico City then to Cancun then to Toronto. I had lengthy layovers and would take more than twenty-four hours to get to Toronto. As bad as the flights were they were even worse when my first flight out of Merida was delayed two hours. By the time I got to Cancun I collapsed at the airport and was rushed to the airport medical centre where they gave me insulin. I fell asleep waiting to board and only caught the flight to Toronto because one of the airline staff found me and got me on the flight at the last minute. 

Just before I left Mexico I got an email from the President of the housing corporation telling me that the room he told me I was getting was no longer available. Now I had nowhere to stay when I finally got back to Belleville. Just more stress. I arrived in Toronto close to midnight and had to wait for my bus to Belleville at six thirty in the morning. No one had told me that the bus did not go to the bus terminal in Belleville. Instead it dropped me off in the middle of nowhere at a truck stop off the 401. It was a twenty dollar cab ride into town and I didn’t have any money. Luckily I called a friend and she rescued me. I called the Emergency Housing line and was put up in a motel. By the time I got to the CHMA office to apply for housing I was a total mess. Although they promised to find me a room they insisted that I first go to the hospital which I did. My sugars were off the charts, above thirty and I should have died, but after five days in the hospital they brought them down and released me. 

This was all in November of 2019, before the virus hit. I went through a nightmare with getting my pension reinstated, leaving me with not enough to pay my room rent and I was threatened with eviction to the street the next day but I managed to get help from the local housing authority and avoided getting thrown out, but it was close. Physically I was okay now that I got my meds again, but mentally my stress level was killing me. I didn’t know how much more I could take. Then I got really sick and spent five days in bed which didn’t help. When I finally got better my friend took me to the Legion in Trenton every Saturday so I got to dance again. I knew I didn’t have the same energy level as I did when I danced for hours several nights a week, but I managed. Then the virus hit and the world stopped. 

For fifteen months now I haven’t done a thing. When I lived in Belleville before going to Mexico I was very active. More in the summer than the winter but I still danced every week. I went to the concerts in the park every Wednesday and Sunday and danced. I went to the Waterfront Festival every day. I worked the Elvis Festival in Tweed. I went down to Kingston quite a few weekends with a guy that lived at the home. We went to the Provincial parks often to spend the day at the beach. I wasn’t getting a lot of exercise but it was all something. It all ended with the virus. Not only was I not getting any exercise but I was also bored out of my mind. Although I had more than my share of challenges in Mexico there was always a sense of adventure every day. Now there was nothing. I literally could feel myself wasting away physically and mentally. Soon I had a host of new aches and pains. My peripheral neuropathy in my feet suddenly became so painful that even walking was difficult. The bone spur in my shoulder which I had not been able to get surgery for before going to Mexico now suddenly ached all the time. Even my skin became so dry that I looked like the elephant man. The various creams I had used stopped working. I had new balance issues and nearly fell in the shower. My vision got worse and I had to get new glasses, which I could ill afford. 

When I finally got moved out of the group home to my own apartment it’s across the road from the YMCA. I figured I would join and at least be able to use their pool to get some much needed exercise but, of course, it’s been closed for a while and now even if they reopen I’m told that the pool will not open this year. There goes that plan. There’s talk of things like the Legion dances starting up again but I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to be able to dance again. All the concerts and festivals are cancelled. Even the parks are limited but I don’t know anyone who drives now so I have no way to get anywhere.

For most of my adult life from my first real job on I was the proverbial workaholic, usually working fifty or sixty hours a week at least and during the sixteen years that I did consulting often many more hours. I remember billing ninety-six hours in one week alone. Makes you wonder when I slept. After I moved out West to be with my mother in 1993 I was determined to get a better work life balance. Right away I had bought a boat but that got stolen and set on fire the first week I arrived back in the Okanagan. I did join the local racquetball club, the Courtplex, where I met a lot of new friends. I started hiking in the mountains around Kelowna and, of course, started dirt-biking with my Dad. Over the course of my fourteen years in the valley I was incredibly active. In the summer I swam, dirt-biked around Kelowna and Revelstoke, water-skied, hiked, danced at the Corral, biked the Kettle Valley Railroad, ran a roller-blading club most Sundays, and even paraglided.  In the winter I downhill skied, snowmobiled around Kelowna but mostly in Revelstoke, still ran the hiking club despite the snow, danced three nights a week at the Corral, and, most importantly, got into cross country skiing at Telemark. My friend Brian Wall had got me started and at first I couldn’t quite see why I would do it, but then once I discovered the rhythm I loved it! I also learned why those NordicTrack machines are so popular because I was never in better shape in my life. My stamina was top notch. Despite still smoking my lung capacity was tested at the Courtplex and I was in the top three percent of Canadian males. They had me do the test three times because they couldn’t believe it. Of course that lifestyle all ended when I went to Panama and I would never again be in such good shape, physically or mentally.    

As much as being so out of shape now, feeling so old and dealing with the stress of being poor is not great, nothing is worse than the emotional pain of not being in love and being cut off from my family. My twenty-three year marriage was a total disaster because the girl I fell in love with at first sight never loved me back. I tried and tried to make it better. A better house. A better car. For her, a better job. At one point she even went off the pill without telling me and we had a daughter, but nothing changed. Then she killed our unborn child without even talking to me first and I sure knew that my marriage was over. It was only on the very last day we were together, sitting in the house that had sold, that she talked for hours about what a terrible wife she had been and taking full responsibility for the failure of our marriage, but it was too late. It was over.

Over the years since my divorce (for child abandonment according to her lawyer. Yeah, right) I’ve certainly had girl friends, girlfriends and came close to getting married again. As much as I thought I was in love with my ex from the start I didn’t really know what love felt like until I met Tracy. We were awesome together despite our age difference of twenty-two years, that was until her girlfriends from school started asking her what would happen when I was seventy. That ended the relationship. She asked me to move out, although she did say it might be the biggest mistake she ever made, and it nearly broke me. Not only was I so hopelessly in love with her but I also loved her three kids. It was a very bad breakup. Next came Magaly in Panama. Again she was much younger than me, plus she didn’t speak a word of English, but we got along. It was very hard to leave her when I was forced back to Canada. Back in London, Ontario I never had so much as a girlfriend. In Cotacachi, Ecuador I met Patricia and had a very romantic and lustful short relationship and after I was forced back to Canada, again, she wanted me to come back and marry her. We couldn’t do the long distance thing though and soon she just wanted money, so that was over.  Same love drought when I came to Belleville. Nobody special, then off I went to Mexico.  

In a short two weeks I met the proverbial love of my life, Elba. As much I thought I had been in unconditional love before, I was wrong. Over the months we were together we were so very much in love. We kissed all the time and told each other we loved each other all the time. We lived together. We danced. We talked for hours upon hours even though my Spanish was a little rough. People who saw us out together always commented on how they had never seen a couple more in love than us. We got engaged on New Year’s Eve to the congratulations of many of our friends. Her very large family welcomed me with open arms and constantly asked why we weren’t married already? I had already booked my return trip to Canada but now it was going to be to apply to the consulate for my visa to come back to Mexico. To my surprise Elba wanted to come with me and offered to pay her own airfare when I told her I couldn’t afford it. It turned out to be the trip from hell with everything from screwed up flights to it being freezing back in Belleville. I was so glad to finally get back to Mexico, that is until Elba said she was not coming back to Ajijic the night we got back. Then she sent me a text message telling me that the relationship was terminated. It broke me and I saw no point in going on.  

Back when when I left for BC to be with my mother who had fifth stage melanoma and had been given less than six months to live I didn’t know that it would be the last time I would ever see my wonderful daughter, Heather. Way back in 1994 I drove across the country in the dead of winter to see her after talking to her on the phone and she wanted to see me. Instead my ex and her new husband hid Heather away and wouldn’t let me see her. I tried for three weeks but failed and drove back to BC crying all the way. 

My son, Christopher, had three daughters, only one of which, Danielle, I had ever met, but when she was just a baby. Back in 2009 when he and I connected in London, Ontario he was going to set up a time and place for me to meet his other two daughters, Marissa and Mackenzie, but after three months getting nowhere he sold his phone and blocked me on Facebook. When she was fourteen Mackenzie connected with me on Facebook Messenger and she was so angry at her parents for not letting her make her own decision to talk to me. We chatted back and forth for a while and then she said she was coming to Puerto Villarta for a friend’s wedding and she wanted to meet. I was so excited! But she stopped talking to me, never said anything about meeting, refused to answer my pleas on Messenger and has now blocked me. I had posted a photo of the three granddaughters on my website and Danielle sent me the most horrible message on Messenger telling me not to try to talk to anyone in the family. Throughout all of this, like the twenty-eight years my daughter has not spoken to me, I have begged and pleaded, as have many friends over the years, to understand why everyone cut me off. I think even child molesters and murderers are treated better. No one was stronger on family values than me. Back when Chris and I connected I asked how his Mum was and he said he didn’t know because he hadn’t talked to her in six months! When I asked Mackenzie how her sister were she said she had nothing to do with them! What the hell kind of family is this? It all makes me SO sad and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about my kids and grandkids. I pray that I find out why they’ve all cut me out of their lives before I die.     

I’ve never felt so old, unloved and forgotten.   

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