Final Chapter. 2012
With Peter's assistance I created and erected in my garden this memorial column to my beloved Angus.
I commissioned renowned gay painter Steve Walker to create this idealistic image of Dane and myself when we met. It also suggests Daedalus and Icarus. Steve had difficulty achieving a "natural" wing growing from the back, as most religious art portrays angels from the front. I solved the problem by creating for him the bas-relief in the upper corner, after experimenting with different mutations of flesh and feathers.
In my 80th year I still find useful the many trade skills I learned as a boy at Western Tech.
This will probably be the final chapter of my website journal. No reader who has persevered this far will expect astonishing news. Life at 80 is worse than an epilogue; it's a mere afterthought. What news is left after a lifetime of excellent adventures?
Each day I read some of my old journals. Each reading makes my heart rejoice that back in 1955 I took the advice of a long-forgotten professor: keep a daily journal. Christopher Isherwood also encouraged me when I met him in 1977.
Rereading my journals keeps my memory fresh and accurate. It nourishes the pleasure of reminiscence, especially when I have lost most of the friends with whom I could say: Ah yes, I remember when we did that.
Jona is still with me, nearing two years without an argument. His strength has made it possible for me to remain in this large house and garden. Kairos has become an essential part of me
After a good dinner, Angus died peacefully in his sleep on January 27, 2012. May the gods grant me such a quiet death in my own bed! With my son's help I have erected a memorial column to Angus in the garden.
Often I feel a deep anguish at this loss. and consider getting another dog. The left side of my brain has so far won this argument. At my age, it would be folly to attempt to recreate the loyal company of Angus.
Steve Walker died this year, only 50 years old. In his honour I have added (above, in September 1992) a photo of the memorial painting I commissioned from him that year. July 2012 was the 35th anniversary of meeting Dane (Devon). I still think of him almost daily, and will likely do so until I die.
Johanna remains my most intimate friend. I have poor night vision, so during the dark days of winter I have lunch at her condo every second Sunday. She drives here for dinner the alternate Sundays. We still talk each day.
Lionel has become an ever more loyal and helpful friend. He is one of the most intelligent and self-aware men I know. Lionel took me to an elegant gay marriage at a yacht club, where I had the pleasure of informing the ahistorical guests that many years ago I helped make gay marriage possible.
Here's an amusing epigram from the delightful movie Exotic Marigold Hotel: Everything will turn out alright in the end, so if it's not alright now, this is not the end.
2012 was my 70th year of gardening. How fortunate I was to develop this enjoyable method of surviving a lonely childhood. I still don't feel alone when working with plants. I started more than 1200 plants from seed this year, and installed them all in the garden. In the summer and fall I harvested an abundance of berries and vegetables.
Though I am relieved to have no sex drive in old age, I am still glad whenever I encounter the visual delight of male beauty. My appetite for eye candy is unabated.
2012 was the twentieth anniversary of my son's life with Lucy. A photographic exhibition by Joe Calleja gave me the opportunity to buy a large abstract of a radiant sunrise, as a gift to Peter and Lucy. They have installed it in a prominent place in their London home.
Fewer and fewer concerns really matter in old age. and I have found a splendid method to keep my sense of humour as I witness the follies of this mad, mad world. Germans call it Schadenfreude. In my case, it means laughing with relief that so many miseries are not happening to me.
Instead, I am grateful for the fact that I have survived, whole in body and mind, to become the future self I wanted to be, except for one thing: the absence of a loving partner. In compensation I am unusually fortunate in my friends and their decades of loyalty – for example Allan Millard, friend since 1952.
Some friends I see or talk with every day. Others are less constant, but do me the great honour of coming all the way across the city, or from Niagara or north Ontario, or the United States and even from Europe, to visit me.
Ten prescribed drugs have kept me free from pain in 2012, and healthy enough to complete several major projects, paced slowly over many days. I built a scaffold to remove and relay loose bricks on the west wall, and later repaired inside damage caused by windblown rain leaking through the wall. I lifted and relaid a garden walk of interlocked stones. I climbed to the roof to point chimney bricks and replace worn gutters. I designed and built (with Jona's valuable help) a new panelled ceiling for the deck.
As for mental health, my mind is still sharp and able to absorb new skills and ideas. My latest effort is learning how to use a Macbook Pro laptop. My present computer is a 1995 Power Mac which has valiantly served me these many years, but it has been signalling me for the past few months, that it wants to retire. I do believe in "signs" in life and long ago learned to pay attention to the paranormal.
Peter's visits in 2012 were a source of special joys: warm hugs, brilliant conversations about the new physics, or about his problems in managing the work of a large science team, or his various travels to exotic places such as Bhutan. Peter's unfailing kindness brings me great happiness. On one visit he took his mother and me out to dinner, explaining that he "wanted to show his appreciation for such supportive parents."
Old age has made me somewhat timid. I used to try to live by Ghandi's belief that fearlessness is one of the most desirable human qualities. I still have urges to join a protest – and actually went to an Occupy demo – but most of the time I excuse myself with the thought that "activism is for the young."
My outings to the theatre and ballet are far fewer now. I saw only a dozen live performances in 2012. Thanks to the marvels of the Toronto Public Library I saw many more as DVDs.
My resolution for 2013 is to try to find more joy in old age. How ironic! After such a blessed lifetime, I now have to make a deliberate effort to enjoy living as an old man.
Here ends the history of my life, save for one brief line Joe will add when I am gone.
John Alan Lee was finally promoted to professor emeritus ten years after he retired, apparently in belated recognition of his many publications and his long service at U of T.
After thirteen years of retirement gardening at Kairos, he was no longer strong enough to maintain a large house and garden. He reluctantly sold the property and moved to an apartment in downtown Toronto.
As a method of dismantling his 67-year collection of art objects while at the same time saying goodbye to his twenty closest friends, he invited each in turn to visit his apartment and choose whatever they wanted. Then he took the friend(s) out for dinner at a posh restaurant, and sent each home with their chosen art, in a paid taxi. Over two months, his collection was reduced to almost nothing, but his several hundred art works each had a new home.
John enormously enjoyed this novel method of bidding goodbye to his beloved art, spending some of the capital from Kairos, and making it clear that he inteneded to act on his final choice, death at a time of his choosing, by his own hand. After the last friend was hugged goodbye, he made his long-planned Final Exit on Thursday, December 5, 2013.
For the third time, I am repairing the cornice of the dining room ceiling. I hope I have finally located the troublesome leak in the outer west wall.
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