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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Ross’s Ramblings: Aging characters contribute to character of NOTL
Donald Combe is one of NOTL’s great characters. FILE

The festive season is well behind us and I had plenty of time to be thankful for the characters of Niagara-on-the-Lake. They have a big influence on our town.

Yes, we have built heritage and Fort George and so much other history here in Niagara, including the oldest working graveyard in Upper Canada, next to St. Mark’s Anglican Church.

I learned while reading the “Brigadoon” playbill that noted French writer Voltaire once said, “History is just a collection of agreed-upon lies.”

As the sartorially resplendent Donald Combe reminded me, “We historians love to tell stories” and that history often includes some gossip.

A major reason I love living here is the diverse collection of aging and interesting senior citizens.

My son Scott recently told me that the sardonic social commentator Fran Lebowitz once wrote in Vanity Fair that you know you are old when people start telling you how good you look.

True, isn’t it? When I was 60, only the occasional friend would say, “Wow, you look good.” But as I shuffle past my 75th birthday, I regularly and gratefully hear, “Wow, you look good.”

I spend lots of time downtown and at our wonderful public library, and delight in chatting with so many NOTLers who qualify as “not youngsters.” At least, according to the date on their birth certificates, which is certainly one key indicator.

They inspire me and tacitly encourage me. It’s mostly about good luck and good health and good attitude, eh?

Over the holidays, I bumped into a good number of my tribe who have been around for more than a while. Permit me to mention a few and I know I will miss some of my favourites.

It’s always a delight to chinwag with Patty and Bill Garriock, who eagerly read and think, and often express their opinions to me.

In fact, they happened to drop by while I was writing this Ramble at the library, so I was able to personally spellcheck their names. Note: The editors at The Lake Report take accuracy very seriously.

And happily, I see Nancy Butler almost weekly in aisle four of the ValuMart (I know, I know, the Independent.) She has travelled the world since her childhood in Barbados and has a well-thought-out comment on almost everything.

Nancy Mouget, Sally Adamson and Joy Rogers add elegance and joy to NOTL, and each of them almost always has a well-considered opinion about current events.

Their range of interest is wide, from on-street restaurant patios to noisy garbage and recycling trucks to the current gong show that is question period in our House of Commons in Ottawa.

And I love that paragon to mature physical fitness Bill Dickson, who is continually out and about town.

When I encountered my former Wallbanger blue team captain over the holidays, he was at ValuMart buying a 12-pound, bone-in ham for Christmas dinner with his wife Cathy.

I don’t need to listen to the sports news on the radio, and with Bill, I get an unvarnished analysis of the current Leafs, Canadiens and Bills.

My tennis pal and sometimes doubles partner Richard Berti and his wife Monica are ubiquitous here in NOTL when they are in town.

He is a number of years older than me, but also a number of levels fitter than me. He quietly reminds me that fitness is, partially, a state of mind.

Naturally, many of my favourite NOTL seniors have left us lately. That is the way the world turns and we enjoyed the friendship and guidance of Derek Shervill, R-r-r-ramsey Morrison, Judy MacLachlan and many others for many happy years.

Passing by the golf course just isn’t the same any more, without catching a glimpse of past club champions Al Derbyshire and Doug Garrett.

They played the game well, well into their back nines, and always knew they were lucky to be able to play golf as they aged so gracefully and skilfully. “Everybody has to play from 70 yards in and I can still putt with anyone.”

Over the Christmas holidays, I remembered the wise words of my Cochrane-born northern Ontario mother.

As she aged at her own pace, she would say that the Bible had it right.

Everyone should get exactly three score and 10 years on Earth, and be healthy until their last day. “Growing old isn’t for sissies,” she would opine.

As she passed 70, she said, “Well, with medical research and better foods, maybe we should all get four score years.”

Let’s all take more time to chat with the golden agers who contribute so much to NOTL. It feels good all around.

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