Chapter 27. Love’s last folly. 2000- 2004
Glenway Wescott, a gay American novelist of the 1930s, enjoyed many adventures. “My life reads like a novel,” he told his Journal. But in old age the excitement faded: “The rest of my life reads like an epilogue.”
I predicted forty years ago (see poem in 1963) that I would not live beyond 65, and therefore, would need no pension. I put my money where my mouth is , and declined to join the U of T pension plan. Instead, I bought Kairos , a grander house than I could otherwise afford. I’ve been living in my pension since 1980.
Early in 2000, still reluctant to live alone, I took in a new housemate, Tom (not his real name). A man in his thirties who had never held a real job for more than a few weeks, Tom was burdened with problems, including sleep disorders and alcohol addiction. Over the next four years he would become something less than a lover (no sex) but more than a housemate. His presence would give joy to my dogs, and allow me to leave my house and pets safely in his care while I travelled. But I also paid a high financial and emotional cost.
I continued for another three years to run ads seeking a new lover, and by the time I quit, I’d met a lifetime total of more of close to 300 blind dates. After Janus, I enjoyed (or to tell the truth, survived ) several more affairs. My epilogue of old age was more eventful than I expected. Now back to my Journal, more heavily edited than ever.
February 18. Peak moment: skiing on the beach in fresh-fallen snow, with winter sun glinting on the lake. The quiet water reflects bands of colour from forest green near the shore to steel gray-green further out, then blue-green, and finally deep blue. My dogs race about like black dots on white paper. Life still has its joys.
February 29. I gave a talk on gay aging at U of T today, with my usual provocative tactics. To one listener’s taunt I retorted: “Political correctness has no place in the bedroom.”
March 13. Today I gave the eulogy at Bob James’ funeral. He was always good to me.
April 7. Tonight I met Peter M, a cute affair from thirty years ago. He’s fifty now, but he recognized me. (What a compliment!) He happily recalled that I was ‘always kind.”
April 26. City TV is doing a special on gay men coping with old age. They’ve taped me “cruising” at Woody’s bar. A model, even in old age.
May 11. In a chat, Jean revealed that she is glad she “got free of my control.” It’s useless to remind her I can’t “control” anyone except with their willing collaboration.
May 14. Lawrence and Bill came for dinner. They’ve become an ecstatically committed couple since meeting at the baths two years ago!
June 21. I’m camping with Tom at McCrae Lake. We have perfect weather, and the lake all to ourselves. Such nostalgia I’ve camped here with so many people!
July 27. Good news: I referred Allan Millard to the Quakers in Orillia and they’ve offered him the post of Resident Friend. It carries no salary but will solve his shelter problem.
August 1. I have to turn off my phone at bedtime; so many rude gays call my ads in the middle of the night!
August 6. Michelangelo was a physical fascist like me: “We cannot love what we do not rejoice to see.”
August 24. 67th birthday: I’m making a three-day solo canoe trip.
August 31. Today my son Peter and I signed a “reverse mortgage” by which he provides me with income to live on. It’s all done “at arm’s length” by lawyers. The deed remains in my name. I’m not ready to “do a King Lear.” Jean, Peter, Lucy and I enjoyed a wonderfully amiable dinner before my son and his wife left for England.
Labour Day. Be careful what you pray for; the gods may give it to you. I heard an amazing ad on the gay phone line:
I’m looking for a man with cultural interests in the arts, architecture, music, film and literature. I’m 25, 6 ft, 150 lb, nonsmoker. I’m a multi-media artist working to support myself but I’d rather devote my energy to my own projects. I’m affectionate, honest and sincere. I’m interested in the possibility of moving in with a lonely professor who’d be jollier if he had a nice young lad to take care of him.
If I composed the ad of the partner I am seeking, this would come close. Has someone laid a trap? I asked two friends to listen, and they agreed: “Someone is playing a trick on you.” But no, his name is Bradley, he’s never heard of me, and would like to meet.
September 6. Wow, Brad is a well-mannered young man with a “flower face.” I took him to the gay square-dancing class. He dances well and we had great fun. Back at his place, he proved he’s a great kisser, and asked me to stay the night. I declined: “I prefer to make our first sex a momentous occasion.”
September 13. Oh gods, I think I’m falling in love again. For the nth time. My need is great and I’m easily seduced by beauty. The moon is full tonight and I, full of lunacy.
September 15. I picked up Brad for dinner, a candlelight bath in the jacuzzi, champagne, and good sex. My skin melted into his.
September 18. Brad and I are canoe-camping at McCrae lake.
September 30. Home from a heartening 75th birthday party for Muriel and John (Howland House). Many other SCM oldtimers were present.
October 15. I made Brad a detailed offer: free room and board, his expenses while looking for work, and a weekly allowance. Brad decided: “I’d be stupid not to move in. I’m totally broke.” Not exactly the most romantic reason to live with me.
October 26. It’s clear Brad is not used to having obligations; he rarely says “Thank You,” and never offers to help with housekeeping. He has no ambition: “I could live on welfare and do jam sessions with my friends for the rest of my life.” But I’m stuck now: Tom has found a new place.
October 29. When Alex and Andrew invited us to dinner, Brad declined: “I don’t see the point of meeting your friends.” Not a good sign!
October 30. Brad has decided to move out. By amazing good luck there’s still time for Tom to cancel his cheque, and remain here. I’m much the wiser: it is important to protect my housemate relationship with Tom.
November 26. I spent a fine weekend with Allan at the Orillia Meeting House. Excellent skiing, good talk. He still hopes to find a new woman.
Steve, a dear friend since 1976
December 4. Dinner with Stuart, his wife and boys. His loyalty is comforting.
December 7. The local skiing is excellent. The dogs go wild, and Tom enjoys my second set of ski equipment. I counted my theatre programs for the year -- 126!
December 26. San Francisco. Steve invited me, and has laid out a royal welcome, including a holiday dinner with his friends. Steve has survived AIDS for nearly two decades, and climbs the stepped sidewalks of Frisco hills faster than I can.
January 1. I’m running a $200 display ad in Xtra : “Please help me find a lover.” Another first in the dating game. After describing myself and my wants, I offer a substantial finder’s fee for anyone introducing me to a suitable candidate.
January 28. My grand-daughter, Laura, is born. Lucy is well, and Peter euphoric.
February 8. A two-day wonder: I met Alex, cute and charming, and we skied. Over dinner he revealed that he needs a place to live immediately. I was able to contact the older man he’s living with now, who revealed that he is desperate to get Alex out of his house.
When I challenged Alex about the reason he must move, he instantly turned nasty and screamed “I don’t like you anyway, I just need a place to live.” A narrow escape.
February 14. I’ve wondered for years “what if” I had chosen Rory, back in the 1980s, instead of Dane. Today, after no contact for many years, he phoned! He’s still with the lover he found shortly after we broke off.
February 24. A letter from Rory with photos: he is far from the lovely young man I lusted for. Fat and plain now, he’s living a simple life in a small town. But he still has a sweet manner.
March 18. Today I started up my greenhouse for the 20th year. That’s some kind of hope for the future.
April 1. First day in the garden, clearing winter cover. I still think of Dane almost every day. I guess he will always be part of me.
April 30. Grim news: I have serious glaucoma. I’ve already lost 20% of peripheral vision. Fate has fired a warning shot: my time is running out. I’ve got to cram more living into every day. How fitting for the Fates to warn me this way: visual beauty is a central part of my life.
June 10. Today I tried a clear plastic bag over my head, just to see what it feels like to use the end-of-life choice made available by Dying with Dignity. I have all the pills I need. Johanna and Allan have promised to be with me when the time comes.
Carrying the Quaker banner in Gay Pride Day.
Pride Day. I woke very lonely. When will I ever share my bed again? I walked in the parade with the Quakers, and took Tom out to dinner.
June 26. “Jimmy” in Montreal is eager to meet me. After seeing photos, and talking for hours on the phone, I offered to buy him a return train ticket ($250).
July 5. Tom and I canoe-camped on Big East Lake. First, a spectacular thunder storm, then brilliant sun. Tom is good company.
July 6. Feeding the koi in my pond is a sweet and relaxing ritual. Gold, orange, white flashes hit the surface as the fish nervously grab food and dive, wary of raccoons. Today I bought a train ticket for Jimmy, then saw my 12th play at the Fringe theatre festival.
July 10. No contact with Jimmy for three days. I refunded the ticket.
July 15. This is the pagan Rowanday. I cut some talismans from my beloved tree, now tall and elegant.
July 22. Today is the sixteenth successive day of smog alerts in Toronto. “Seniors should stay indoors.” Sure, and why not stop breathing?
July 29. I could hardly breathe at Joe C’s outdoor barbecue tonight. Stifling smog robs all my energy. I’m coughing day and night.
August 6. I’ve been diagnosed with asthma after all these years of working in renovation dust, gardens, even factories.
August 12. Canoeing on the Black River with Fernando. Peace, quiet, engaging talk, and soft clean air.
August 14. Today I took Jo to dinner, and told her I consider asthma another warning from the Fates. I expect I will have to end my life sometime in my 71st year. She wept, but assured: “I will not let you die alone.” What perfect friendship.
August 25. Home from three days on the Pickerel with Stuart. Our 17th annual trip. We celebrated my birthday at my favourite Elbow Island.
September 6. Test results: my lung capacity is only 70% of what it was. “Genetics” says Roger, my doctor. “Some lungs last longer than others.” I won’t be able to dance this season. I wear a pollution mask outdoors. How others stare!
September 17. Nothing on TV this past week but the NYC disaster. This century is what I expected; we’re already into a new war. I saw a fine performance of Macbeth. Act 1, Scene 4: Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it; he died as one who studied his death.
Making apple cider with Jean.
September 27. Home from three cordial days with Jean at Brucefield. As we pressed apples into juice I explained my death preparations. She does not approve.
October 6. Today I met my 261st blind date, Claudio. He’s a graduate student in philosophy, and very pretty too.
October 14. I took Claudio out for a costly dinner, then a stage performance of Saturday Night Fever. He came back to join me in the jacuzzi. I nearly wept as I caressed him in bed the first time in months. Warning sign: he refused to kiss.
October 18. I enjoyed a genial chat with two lead actors from Queer as Folk when they attended the play I saw tonight. The guy who plays Justin is a sweet person in real life.
October 23. Today Claudio was candid: his ideal attraction is to teenage boys. He is not sexually attracted to me, but simply hopes I will assist him with his university expenses.
Ye gods, these past twelve years I have attracted so many dregs and denizens of gay life.
October 30. It is really difficult treating life as a bonus, accepting little adventures like Claudio as nothing serious or lasting.
Enjoy the sunset; I may not see the sunrise.
November 18. Home from a visit with Allan. He’s in great spirits. He’s even found a new woman friend, a member of the Quaker Meeting.
November 21. Claudio called, interested in “trying again.” Must be broke. I offered: “OK, you come over here on your own, by subway. I’ve always picked you up.” He whined: “It’s too far.”
“No farther from your end than mine” [I never saw him again].
November 27. I often forget where I’ve put things these days, so I’ve inventoried the whole house into an alphabetized book called “Now where did I put that?”
December 14. I picked up Peter, Lucy and Laura at the airport, and got a big hug from Peter, who is clearly thrilled at being a father. Tom was feeling a low today, after his own disappointments in love. He asked for a bigger hug than usual (we hug every morning).
December 15. First ski, but now I must rest every ten minutes. Dinner with Lucy and Peter, who radiate joy. We talked about lies, and confirmed that Peter and I have never lied to each other.
December 19. After a cheerful walk on the beach with Laura and Lucy, I took Peter into private conversation, to reveal my plan to end my life, probably in my 71st year.
He was not taken by surprise; I’ve written about end-of-life choices in my letters over the years. He will not try to stop me, but is doubtful he could handle the final day. We hugged long and close.
Christmas Eve. Pain! My abdomen is on fire. Thank heavens for the new Telehealth service. They told me to eat only bland soup over the holiday. I cannot find a comfortable position to sleep.
December 25. Death has stared me in the face. I managed to get to the McIntosh holiday dinner, but slept during most of the pre-dinner conversation. Driving home, I frightened Peter and Lucy with my erratic steering.
December 30. Roger thinks it’s pancreatitis. I may be lucky; the first attack is usually a warning, and the body repairs itself as long as diet is adjusted. The Fates have fired another salvo across my bow. Atropos is getting ready to use her scissors.
My bonus time is running low, but it was a great year for theatre; I have just counted 166 programs. A lifetime record.
January 1. The movie Waking life, rich in existential quotations, is a brilliant treatment of the way many people “sleepwalk through their lives.” Then I came home to watch a video of Victim (1961), full of brave lines like: “Need is a bigger word that love.”
January 7. Today I prepared a New Year’s letter announcing my intentions to arrange my own death with dignity, sometime after my 70th birthday (if the Fates allow me to reach it). I mailed copies to thirty friends.
January 11. It would be wonderful if I could overcome my last fear in life, the fear of being single.
January 14. A surprise letter arrived from Bob Miller in response to my death plans. He supports the right to end one’s own life, and even provided the example of his close friend, Ellen Flesserman.
My trip to the Amazon (Brazil)
Miami: my money belt ($300 US) was stolen while passing through the x-ray machine, right under the “watchful” eyes of soldiers armed with machine guns.
Manaus: I checked into a hotel, waiting a day for the leader and other tour members to appear. Stress!
Amazon Ecopark: At last I’m starting to enjoy Brazil. Today I swam and canoed the Amazon.
Today we visited a desperately poor native village selling souvenirs to survive (I bought the best they had). It’s supposed to be the rainy season but we’re enjoying a perfect summer surrounded by flocks of birds, including huge multicoloured parrots.
This evening I walked in total darkness along the road, under a really different sky than in the north. There are so few dark places left on the planet!
Rio, a mad city, noisy, hot, polluted. I’m eager to be home.
February 7. Kairos : how I love this house! Love is the feeling you have for whatever it is you do not want to live without.
February 24. Dinner with A and A. Alex reported that when I took Janus there for a party, an old friend of Alex said: “Tell John that Janus is trouble.” Alex never passed it on.
March 6. While skiing with Allan, he asked whether he should become a Quaker. “Well, you certainly have the right temperament for it,” I said.
March 13. To my sad little inner boy: “Look, you got the gift you wanted, but in shorter versions with Jean, Franz, Dane, Janus. You’ve enjoyed a total of 32 years of loving partners. And I’ve never allowed any partner to make you give up the joys you really love, like canoe, garden, theatre.”
March 16. Rita Mae Brown says: “I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.”
April 22. Line from a play: learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served.
May 21. Blind date 271. Futile .
May 30. Again the sacred rowan is laden with a snow of white flowers. I soaked in its beauty, knowing NOTHING REALLY MATTERS NOW.
June 4. I’ve just noticed that the crown of the rowanwood is dead.
July 5. Had a good talk with my physician about my end-of-life plans. He suggested tests just to make sure nothing on the old machine is about to break.
July 18. Shaw Festival. Two plays, dinner at Angel Inn (ghosts of the past), much talk with Jo about friendship, loyalty, betrayal.
July 27. At Quakers, finally, success in all my proposals for the vigil, after four months of struggle. What hypocrites some Quakers are. Thank heavens for the outstanding role models.
August 2. Camus: “Each morning when I wake I ask myself: Is this the day I will end my life?” But also: “It may be that history has no meaning, but if I can act in a way to give my own life a meaning, that is enough.”
August 7. Today I offered Joe and Bob my leather and toys, and buried all my dildoes in the garden. Joe talked sadly of not having either his love life or career well launched, and he’s pushing 40.
August 12. Finally bought my first-ever real mattress and box spring to replace my homemade king-size foam-on-plywood.
August 17. Cruised Woody’s last night. A cute guy approached, saying “I’ve seen you on TV.” Greg L, age 31, no sex until age 29! Bath with candles, lots of kissing and touch. After breakfast we arranged to go to the leather ball tonight.
August 18. At the dance Greg was very erotic, rubbing his buns against my crotch, but when we came back here, he took off my leather and left, saying he has sex only one time with anyone. What a bummer!
August 19. My new bed is great, and being only a double, it’s less likely to make me feel lonely.
August 29. Home from another fine canoe trip with Tom. I was lucky three times: letting the dogs out to pee and nearly having them run over; a couple just leaving a fine site so we got it; a near accident rubbing my eye while driving. My charmed existence has not yet run out.
September 11. Drove to Ottawa with other Quakers, received a fine greeting from Ottawa meeting, and went to the Hill. For me, this was a 50th anniversary observance with Allan (we met at an anti-German rearmament demo in 1952). Rain, good feelings, support from the public, and home again, doing all the driving myself. End of this journal book.
My son gazes over the Tuscan hills.
With Peter in Tuscany, Italy.
September 15. Volterra. Peter and I had an easy flight to Pisa then taxied for an hour to this ancient hilltop fortress. We enjoyed a superb three-hour dinner.
September 16. Peter likes to be in control. He keeps the maps, sets the walking pace. Nor is he easy with my love of male images. I insisted on staring for long minutes at an ancient stone head of a most realistic and individual youth.
September 17. All day we walked a stony path through rolling farmland and vineyards. I struggled to cope with hills and keep up to Peter. Sometimes he would relent, stop, and even wait for me to rest.
We toured a terrifying exhibit of torture instruments of mediaeval times; some I’d never heard of, nor imagined. But then we dreamed serenely with a flute player in the town square.
I am joyful that Peter seems to have no fear of speaking his mind to me, while remaining loyal. Peter says he’d give his childhood a rating of “maybe five out of ten”.
September 18. I upset Peter at dinner by confronting a woman at the next table who insisted on smoking during meal. There was no “non-smoking” section in the restaurant. Finally Peter’s gorge rose, and he blurted “My father has asthma” and they moved.
September 19. Today we climbed a hill so wild and steep I was on all fours, pulling myself up by branches and vines. For the rest of the day I was amused by Peter varying from alpha male aggressively setting his own pace, to considerate son asking about my well-being.
September 21. Sienna. We saw the Duomo with its extravagant floor of mosaic scenes, the museum, the Campo. Dinner included some strong charges by Peter about the way I’d treated his mother, especially in our divorce: “You made her an adulteress, and you know how religious she is.”
“It was Jean who wanted the divorce, not me,” I reminded, but I mostly listened and let him get the anger out, then we enjoyed an exciting walk through the streets, crowded with celebrants of “All fool’s day.”
September 23. London. Today I met Gowan for the first time in years. He greeted me: “You’ve affected my life more than anyone else.”
We shared our yearnings: at 58 he’s split between two men and afraid of losing both, yet neither is ideal. He still suffers from low self-esteem, so I did my best to boost his spirits, urging that he inventory his strong points.
I’m impressed by Lucy: bright, even-tempered, cheerful, supportive and kind. I fear for Peter’s future if ever things go wrong.
September 25. To Nicola’s flat for lunch. Our reunion was followed by an outing to a play, then back to Nicola’s to sleep overnight. He is enjoying his early retirement (at 50) but he’s running out of new ways to spend his time.
September 26. Father-son relationships are the stuff of literature, theatre, and psychology, and no wonder. Aside from the sheer duration of the relationship (the son’s whole life) there is nothing essentially friendly, let alone loving, about the intimacy of a father and son. No wonder loyalty is regarded by some (including me) as a higher virtue than love.
September 27. Peter walked me to the station. Our last words were warm and kind.
September 29. Now I can let go, free to say NOTHING MATTERS. Tom did a wonderful job looking after house and dogs while I was away.
Thoughts to mull: do I have a hidden motive to say NO to life one last time (suicide) because life did not give me the great dream of a peer lover? Having told my friends about my end-of-life choices, will I feel bound to carry out my plans, simply to uphold, to the very end, my reputation for “keeping my word?” Finally, am I in danger of using my announced plans as a form of blackmail to extract more caring from my friends? Bob Miller would say, as he did years ago, that all this self-questioning is what psychology does to students.
October 3. Enjoying Kairos: the larger world spirals into chaos but my personal world is peaceful. Barbarians are not yet at my gates. My life is still “on purpose” to be kind, gracious and caring.
October 6. Perfect sunny day for a garden party here, for the Gay Archives. Fine artistic performances. We raised $700.
October 8. My latest date is a Russian immigrant. Nice smile. but would not kiss me. He has a car and a cell phone, and needs support. He actually thought I’d give dollars for friendship without sex. He whispered in my ear: “I need $2000 right away.”
October 11. Camping alone on Poker Lake. A safe drive up and back, and dinner with my dogs, watching a perfect sunset.
October 20. Famed art historian Kenneth Clark said: “Lives devoted to beauty usually end badly.” I know.
October 30. My spring bulbs are all in. I wonder who will enjoy them?
October 31. My last gay Halloween? Boring. I have survived hundreds of gay deceivers, yet remain a decent person.
November 16. I was very cold in the anti-war march, Bloor to Queen and back.
November 27. Line from a Judith Thompson play: “I haven’t been caressed for a year. Every cell of my body screams out for touching”
December 1. Finally a good talk with Alex and Andrew about my death plans. They argued it’s wrong to leave friends who need you. Yet they go weeks without calling me. I’ll see how much A and A really need me, by waiting until they phone. [It was 6 weeks]
December 2. Today I printed off my first computer copy of my autobiography: 314 PAGES. What an editing job!
December 14. A guy named Harvey, of London, Ontario, has replied to my ad.
December 17. Dinner with Jean. We talked about our divorce (without me mentioning Peter’s accusation). She has absolutely no sense of being made an “adulteress” and shows less homophobia than Peter. She recalled our first dance at the Music Room, and her first sex with the young minister. She believes the Bible no more relevant about gays than about the status of women. Good for her.
December 18. YOU ARE WHAT YOU LOVE, NOT WHAT LOVES YOU.
December 19. Harvey’s letter arrived and the moment I saw his photo I was lost; still a slave to beauty. I hope it’s him when the phone rings.
Later: He called and I’m risking $200 for his return ticket so he can visit after Xmas. If this fails, I give up.
December 21. Harvey called for another $100 “to eat.” I refused: “Borrow it from a friend.”
December 24. The house is safely locked; the dogs have been walked. I’ve taken enough pills to sleep two days, and sedated the dogs too. (My writing here gets very bad, as I fell off to sleep).
Boxing Day. I woke refreshed and pleased at erasing Xmas. At the bus station I met Harvey, not as cute as his photo, but pretty enough. We went to Timothy’s Cafe where I put $200 on the table : “If you don’t like what you see and want to go back to London, take the money and go.”
He was too eager to be in Toronto: “London is so boring for gays.”
I helped Harvey open a bank account (with $100 of my money). I also paid the monthly minimum on his credit card, but took possession of his card so he can’t spend more. (He owes $5000!). My cost so far is $500. I’ve set myself a “casino limit” of $1000. Today he biked alongside, while I skied with the dogs. Then home for a long cuddle.
December 29. WOW. I’m awed by an hour of lovemaking with Harvey. His face glowed so much I tripped on it. Neither of us came, but I enjoyed the long-missed pleasure of physical closeness. He might be an astonishing actor, but I’ll have to take the risk, because he is more fun in bed than anyone in recent years. It would be stupid not to risk; I’ve had a great life and anything now is a bonus.
Harvey has the same sun and moon signs as I do. Is this proof the gods are still blessing my life?
January 1. Peter and Stuart called with greetings. I told them both about Harvey, laughing: “It’s Lee’s last folly”
January 3. Harvey was supposed to be home to dress for (expensive!) seats for the Nutcracker ballet. Instead he called from downtown at 6 PM. I told him to stay there, and I’d meet him: “Everyone is entitled to one mistake but I do not give second chances. I expect 100% reliability from my partner. If you can’t deliver, the $200 is still on the table.”
The ballet was enchanting, with stunning sets. We drove home through heavy snow and enjoyed our first orgasms.
January 4. Harvey reminds me of Robert (our foster son in 1961). He alternates between manipulative affection and plain lies, and is on the phone as much as any teen.
January 5. Fernando (my former TA) and his new girlfriend visited for two hours. He’s a charming young man and showed pride in introducing me.
January 6. Harvey has returned to London where he will assemble his furniture for a move to Toronto. Am I being crazy? Is this really better than singlehood?
January 9. Home from an exhausting 14-hour drive to London and back. The return (usually 4 hours) was through the worst snowstorm I’ve ever seen. Harvey did nothing to ease my stress; he can’t drive, and he whined about my choice of music on the car radio.
January 11. Today Harvey wrote a long list of changes he intends to make, so as to “fit in.” (List in my scrapbook): No more smoking. Looking for work. Helping with housework. And so forth. He kissed me very passionately to sleep.
Tom is home again from a holiday with his parents, and is getting on fine with Harvey. I feel like I’m fathering two kids.
January 20. Nothing is going right. Harvey found a job and lost it in three days. It turns out his total debts exceed $9000. He stays in the gay village all day. Things have gone missing in the house and there’s no way to prove Harvey took them. (After all, Tom has been caught a few times taking my liquor, which I now keep locked up).
January 26. Finally I’ve caught Harvey red-handed. He used my computer without permission, then denied it, but the computer records the time and day of every use. I said nothing more, but when he went to bed, I printed off a goodbye letter: “You’ve lied to me for the last time.”
January 28. At breakfast I gave Harvey $100 to buy a month’s transit pass. I made his lunch, and he left “to look for a job.” He got on the bus so fast, I had to drive to the subway station, run in, pay a fare, and catch him on the train platform. I handed him my letter. It told him not to return: “Use the $100 to survive any way you like, and phone me when you have a new place where I can deliver your belongings.”
He called at 5 pm. “You don’t really mean it. I can come home, can’t I?” “No.”
January 29. Harvey phoned: “Can we meet to talk? I agreed, “but you’d better have a convincing offer to make.” I prepared a list of my demands; yes, demands now and took Tom along as witness.
When we met, Harvey wore no charming con-man face; he was wiped out from lack of sleep (at a noisy gay baths). The $100 was already spent. Now he was harsh, arrogant, and certain I wanted him back. He even refused the change of clothing I took for him. He had no offer to make.
Harvey asked to talk to Tom while I waited in my car. He apparently hoped Tom would let him back in the house when I was out. Home again, I moved all Harvey’s belongings to the garage, so he would have no reason to enter the house.
Later, a stranger called. Harvey had asked for shelter. What was the score? “Take him in if you can,” I urged, “but don’t give him a key, or leave money around.”
January 31. Over lunch in the gay village, Harvey pleaded that he’d learned his lesson. “I’m scared I’ll be homeless and on the street. I’m thinking of suicide.” But he ate a very full lunch. I gave him $100 and told him we’d meet again after the weekend.
February 2. I spent a spirit-lifting weekend with Allan and his Quaker lady friend, regaling them with Lee’s last folly.
Back home, I found a message from Harvey’s father, so I called and quizzed him on Harvey’s background. “Keep a tight rein. He’s drawn to the wrong people. We haven’t let him have a key to the house for years.”
Then Harvey called, and I arranged to deliver his belongings to the stranger who had taken him in. I gave Harvey $600, all the cash I had. Why? Because I knew he’d been hurt by many adults in his young life, and I was sorry to be one more.
I’m too old to be taking on another foster son. As I left: “I’m sorry I ever met you, and I will never talk to you again. If you need anything you must arrange for someone else to call me.” [The stranger did call a couple of times, then I heard no more of Harvey. But I got frequent calls, for almost a year, from collection agencies trying to nail Harvey. I denied all knowledge of his whereabouts. It was their greedy fault, for giving an unemployed kid a credit card].
February 7. I’m getting used to sleeping alone, enjoying a bed with no one else in it. That’s a major landmark.
February 15. Another frigid but inspiring march against the war in Iraq.
February 21. I’ve updated my Search list. Since Janus, 320 men screened on the phone, 66 blind dates. Only three of them lasted for a few weeks.
February 26. Skiing on the beach, I felt a great weight lifted from me; the sheer beauty of sun, snow, sand and sea. It was worth $1500 to have one last adventure with a pretty man/boy. I’m a drama queen, but my life drama has been about love, not fame or money.
March 5. I Googled myself for the first time. 300 hits!
March 6. Rereading Sills’ book, I see I’ve outlived all the baggage, and I now agree with her last words. I didn't get all that I wanted, BUT I GOT ENOUGH. Enough is good.
March 16. Why do I bother with so many naysaying and footdragging Friends? I bullied through, getting approval for my fait accompli, a new Iraq project, with a new clerk, and a budget line. I twitted the meeting that “I’ve always preferred to ask forgiveness rather than permission.”
March 20. I’ve concocted a proposal that will really put hypocritical Quakers on the spot:
Various members of Meeting have urged that our Meeting House become known as an active centre of pacifist education. The most recent urging came from Ursula Franklin. The stumbling block is apparently money. I will donate $5000 to kick-start a program of pacifist education in 2003. I will donate a further $5000 to the program in 2004.
March 24. I raked the leaves off the garden and started the fireplace. Festive annual rituals. After dinner, a friend looked at my slides and scrapbooks: “I can see why you’re not worried by death. You’ve already lived three lives, not one.”
April 10. Quakers appointed a committee to consider my $5000 proposal. It met, but several members had come not to help, but to torpedo the idea. One said: “Peace action is a personal leading, not a concern of the Meeting,” Against all the rules, they agreed to prepare a Minute by e-mail, and since I have none, I was nicely excluded. I never saw a more competent hijacking by the Communists back in my trade union days.
May 1. A fine thought from a play: “Love and loneliness are a pair, each leading to the other.”
May 24. My birthday party invitations are in the mail. (This is Hermes day in the pagan calendar).
BY TRAIN ACROSS CANADA
June 7. Johanna and I are on the VIA train, now passing Lake Nipigon. The grandeur of endless forest surrounds us.
June 9. The prairies: my first sight from ground level. The Dome car unfolds the landscape.
June 12. Now we’re on a special tour of the Rockies by rail. Fine chateau hotels, food and wine galore, and stupendous sights.
June 13. Jasper. I’ve had a long hike, absorbing the scenery. Then an hour of canoeing on the lake against thrilling gusts of wind. It’s my first time to enjoy mountains as a backdrop.
June 16. Lake Louise. Canoeing in a matchless setting. I hiked up the mountain to Mirror Lake, (with frequent rests to catch my breath) and brought back a snowball for Jo.
June 20. Vancouver. The security in the airport here is so bloody officious!
June 22. Kairos. Summer’s here! The dogs are merry, the house and garden well tended by Tom.
June 25. Alas, my sacred rowanberry is dying.
June 28. Today I took down the 30-foot rowan, with utter grief. Could I have prevented the disease years ago, by hiring an expert? Some fatalism hindered action. What a brave showing it made last fall, doubly berried, as if knowing its death. I left a 10-foot stump as a pillar-plinth for a bust of Hermes. I’m coughing a lot from the smog, and wearing a pollution mask in my own garden.
June 30. Dinner with Jean, and her news about travelling rough in Australia. Quite a trooper.
July 2. Camp Neekaunis. I drove up with my best canoe. A handsome Quaker teen took my canoe into the water. Goodbye, faithful Merurius Felix.
July 8. My garden is so large there are areas I don’t touch for years. Today I cleared a “jungle” of cedars near the first waterfall. I planted them when Dane went to Europe.
July 18. Going to Stuart’s rented cottage was a mistake. Six hours drive. A poor site. His dog made mine fearful. No more cottages!
July 21. Peter is finally a Reader (has tenure) but seems to have forgotten his resolve to enjoy life. Now he wants an even higher rank. Peter, Lucy and Laura are here for a visit.
August 21. I took Jo to help shop food for my 70th birthday party. The garden is looking its best ever. The tarps I hung in case of rain have worked well in today’s violent summer storm.
A few of many wonderful guests at my 70th birthday.
Saturday August 23. The party was a huge success. Forty friends expressed their affection and loyalty. Some go back to the Fifties. I stood on a box and spoke:
Thank you for being here to help me celebrate 70 years of amazing life. No one is more surprised to be here than me.
I was so sure I’d be dead that I refused to enrol in the U of T pension plan. I spent my money on art, theatre and travel, and as I grew older, on this house. I’ve lived in my pension.
I thank you all in Wordsworth’s words: “If I am remembered at all, I hope it is for the quality of my friends.”
My son Peter performed wonders, keeping the mechanics of a party moving well, and taking pictures. I arranged for Nicola to stay the night, to avoid a lonely anticlimax when everyone was gone.
August 24. Beginning my 71st year at Quaker meeting I spoke of my gratitude and awe at having so many caring and loyal friends. After all, I have not been an easy person to befriend.
August 29. Safely home from my last canoe trip to McCrae Lake, with Tom. I’ve trashed my faithful blue tent.
August 30. Happy seventh birthday to my dogs, Zoe and Andros.
September 5. TAKE KINDLY THE COUNSEL OF THE YEARS, GRACEFULLY SURRENDERING THE THINGS OF YOUTH. [Desiderata ]. But which counsels? And surrender which things?
September 30. Today I delivered the first batch of my personal papers to the Gay Archives. I am methodically preparing for my death.
October 8. Great solo canoe on the Rouge with my dogs. Activities have always been a more reliable source of joy than my partners. I no longer run ads.
October 12. A flawless day and night on the Black River with Stuart and his family.
October 24. Today I covered the garden with many bags of leaves gather from neighbours. An annual habit.
October 27. Today I broke up and burned the wooden file drawers I bought as a teen back at Oakwood. Ballast away! I sorted slides tonight and trashed hundreds. Peter will get the best.
November 20. Tonight I met my therapist Alex (from 1999). We had a comforting chat.
December 7. I visited Paul Bennett (from the 1960s) in Port Hope. A pleasant farewell closure.
Gowan, an English friend from 1970 on, is guest of honour at my dinner table. Johanna and Jean in front, on each side. Allan behind Jean.
|December 16. I’ve been bed-ridden for a week, struggling to breath. It seems I’m living on an island surrounded by clouds of mould spores released from the leaves I gathered, by a warm, wet December. Tom has left for holidays with his parents so I’m alone in the house.
Boxing Day: I slept through Xmas again.
December 28. Finally I’m able to leave the house. Tonight I dined with Jean. Still friends after so many years! Then I watched a video of the play Wit. It packs a powerful message: Don’t try to stay alive beyond the point of enjoyable life. I’m so glad I came to terms with Death forty years ago.
JANUARY 2004 At a memorial tribute to Bob Miller, I presented my testimony last. I spoke a long time, softly, intimately. The words of others suggest that Bob shared himself with me as much as anyone except his lover.
Later, Johanna came for dinner and we all watched Final Exit - the instruction tape from Dying with Dignity.
February 2. Roger, my physician, found my lung deterioration much advanced. My poor body is struggling like a faithful old donkey.
James Joyce’s The Dead reminds that I am lonely because I love and want to be loved. Loneliness and love create each other.
February 27. My son Peter arrived. We talked of his work, marriage, and lack of any confidants. I asked: If this were our last face-to -face, is there anything you want to say or ask? “No.” I’m glad we’ve always been open.
Laura played while Peter sorted my scrapbooks for souvenirs he wants before the books go to the Gay Archives. When they left, Peter gave me two big hugs and I cried, came indoors for more wailing, and blotted it all out with a glass of brandy. Peter has been loyal, generous, affectionate, and has not interfered with my choices.
March 8. I’m systematically culling the house of everything I can live without, lessening the work for my executors. After dinner with Lionel, Bill and Lawrence, Lionel took my old vinyl record system, and Lawrence took my Steve Walker print. This entry is written in a bad hand, drunk on brandy, feeling very alone.
March 15. From a specialist, new medication; an antagonist to fight the immune cells in my lungs which produce the mucous blocking my airways.
At Quaker business meeting, I resigned all committee work. Perfect timing; the meeting spent hours straining gnats and swallowing camels.
Jean says my daughter Ruth wants to see me before I die.
April 1. Why is it so hard to stop being serious? It served me well for many years, but now it only makes me sad. I chopped and burned the wooden file cabinet I’ve had since Oakwood Ave, and smashed the organ I bought at Langley in 1960.
April 9. Jo here for dinner, says she will be in the house, but may not be in the room, when I die. I do put my friends to tough tests. Muslim adage: Trust Allah but tie your camel to a tree.
April 19. Tom has moved out after four years as my housemate, and I’ve decided to sell Kairos. Peter is visiting to talk.
April 24. Peter’s question: Is there somewhere you really want to move TO? “No, I’m running away.”
Jo and Peter both assured me they are not worried by having to sell the house. So why move? What a blessing to have Peter here this weekend, to set in motion a chain of events that led me to decide not to sell.
May 20. Smog alert again. My garden is a paradise of colour and scent, but there’s no one to share it except my dogs.
Visiting Allan Millard in Orillia.
June 1. TODAY A NARROW ESCAPE. Chloe raced out of the park without warning, and was hit by a car. I got her to my vet. She is alive and responsive, badly bruised and in shock. They say we don’t realize value until we lose it. Must I lose Chloe to realize her value? She and Angus are my only companions. O Hermes, help.
JUNE 2. LUCK IS STILL WITH ME. Chloe will recover. She’s back home in her bed and feisty enough to try to climb the stairs.
June 6. Today I met my daughter after 25 years. I was stunned that Ruth at 44 looks childlike, and speaks in her child voice, frozen in time. She acted as if there had been no gap, as if we’d met only weeks ago. I said: “This is probably the last time you’ll see me; is there anything you want to say?” Yes, I appreciate the way you taught me to think for myself. There was no evidence she saw the irony of that statement. I am satisfied. I have closure, and never want to see her again. A surreal day.
June 7. Smog alert; I breath like I’m dragging a millstone. I invited Gowan to visit, at my expense. Cheerful closure is easily worth $1000.
June 21. No matter how sulky they were the night before, the dogs begin each day lively and loving. Here’s a good line: It may be better to live alone. Serenity often trumps loneliness.
July 4. Steve Murray considers me weird and creepy now, less than completely sane: “I support your right to die but why do you have to involve your friends?” How’s that for a boundary to friendship?
July 6. Good line in a suicide play: No, I am not doing this because I feel sad or depressed. I’ve been waiting for a day when I feel really good, really ready to do this thing.
July 7. I woke thinking about camping; do I want to bother? I used to look forward to the woods so much. O great Hermes, be with me on this last camping trip, as you have been for many, many years.
July 10. Home! My first evening alone on Poker Lake was ecstatic; no one else was in sight or hearing. I shouted praises to Hermes, the setting sun, and the stars. I drank so much I didn’t even undress; I slept in my clothes.
On my second night, I had to shit at 3.30 am, and of course, leave the tent to do it. First time ever. The shit spilled all over, and in the morning I hauled water to wash it away. This is a certain sign; it is time to stop tenting.
July 12. Hot, muggy, mask essential. Coughing even indoors. My breath meter is down to 330/700. I’ve got a new ad out, looking for a housemate. SEARCHING again!
July 24. The housemate search is a squirrel wheel. 30 calls by now, 6 met, zero results. I want someone who will make me feel more comfortable in spirit than I feel alone. What do I mean by “comfort?” 1. someone I can talk with, so I don’t need to talk to myself so much. 2. a hug every day. 3. someone I can trust, so I don’t have to hide my valuables. 4. someone thrilled by the prospect of living in Kairos.
August 19. A final Shaw visit, five good plays. Jo drove both ways. I don’t like strange beds. No more travel.
August 21. Gowan has arrived. I wonder what my life would have been if he’d accepted my invitation in 1971? He is handsome still at 59.
August 22. I persuaded Gowan to canoe to the islands for good clean air. He’s no risk-taker; his only other time in a canoe was in Killarney years ago. Gowan and I are alike, not being #1 in anyone’s life.
August 27. Gowan is gone. He said I love you and kissed my lips. Not romantic love, but grateful that I changed his life. Ten minutes after Gowan left, “Markus” called (from my ad) and we talked 90 minutes. I’ve invited him to spend a three-night trial here. He’s 23, a German grad student, and the first heterosexual I’ll lived with, in forty years.
September 1. I presented Mayor David Miller with the signed Douglas tie I got from Tommy Douglas in 1958. Miller is thrilled to have it.
September 10. Markus gave me a spontaneous hug this morning. Much needed.
September 28. Martin, of Dying with Dignity, asked if I’d go public on my death plans. Yes!
September 30. Peter arrived: dinner and a chatty walk on the beach with my dogs. He’s worried he is not even #1 with Lucy; the kids are. But Peter has become his own man, with lots of confidence and skill.
October 1. Paradisical canoe trip on the Rouge with Peter. I said how impressed I am with the man he has become. He gave me a big hug.
October 11. Markus painted the workroom floor, then we paddled the Rouge serene in autumn colours. We made dinner together and ate by the fire. He’s the nicest young man I’ve met in many years.
October 19. I’m putting in bulbs for next spring, in case I stick around. My greenhouse is blooming with fall roses and geraniums.
Last time out in costume. With Chloe and Angus.
Halloween. The Toronto Sun article about my death plans, His choice to make , is beautifully written and well illustrated.
November 5. Hurray, Mrs. Martens (accused of assisting a suicide) is free in BC, after two years of house arrest !
December 4. I turned two sheet metal remnants of the old furnace into a strongbox Executor Kit. My high school skills are still with me.
December 17. Markus’ two friends have arrived from Germany. When they woke me entering noisily, I had to tell them: I WON’T BE MADE UNCOMFORTABLE IN MY OWN HOME. They are now as quiet as mice.
December 21. Dinner out with Joe. He was really kind.
December 23. Snow! Markus cleared the driveway. Magical ski with my dogs at Ashbridge Bay park. Trees still iced by freezing rain, glittering in the sun. Nice call from Allan, who still seems committed. Talked to Peter too. Lungs 400.
Yule. To Marg’s for dinner with the McIntoshes. 48 years!
December 27. Crazy! I tied a huge fallen branch to my car roof racks, and brought it home.
December 28. I’m counting the days now until the two guys are gone. I’m amazed that I was ever comfortable in communes.
December 30. Kairos is my holy shrine, the sacred ground of my daily life. The guys have turned the front room into a pigsty mess.
December 31. I must cure myself of futile memes. My shadow self has been invaded, resentful but I have remained kind. Bob Miller’s words: say nothing rather than something unkind.
The guys walked the beach to greet the new year, I remained alone, thinking: My task for 2005 is the same as men from Nero to Gandhi - how to spend my remaining time of life enjoyably and usefully.
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