Dorothy Dobbie

Is working 10 hours a day when you are 78 a good idea that keeps you young and alive, or is it stupid and bound to send you to an early, well, perhaps not so early, grave?

While I am not as feisty as that 96-year-old who won the five km run (or was it a walk?), I am still, as the TV ad says, “pretty spry”.  I have very few aches and pains and no body-changing deformities, except for a persistent tummy that appears to be very attached to me. As my daughter says, “At some point every woman has to choose between her ass and her face.” In my case, the choice was, you might say, before me rather than behind me. Oh well.

The point is that I am not alone. I have a host of friends in the same age category who look far better than I do and are in even better physical shape. They are all mentally and physically engaged, if not in some kind of productive employment at least in a myriad of other activities that keep them busy every day. Some volunteer in politics. Some are busy with consuming hobbies. Some garden, bike ride, climb mountains or row thousands of kilometers. 

What the heck is this world coming to!?! Should the old stay old?

It is not that we do not deplore the state of current political narrative – identity politics, divisive labelling of individuals for the most bizarre reasons, tolerance for aberrant behaviour (not in the name of human rights but in the name of we-are-not-sure-what), but most don’t get too bent out of shape by these oddities, knowing that life has a way of coming full circle every few years.

Even those whose health is somewhat compromised are jumping into new lives at 80. I think of my friend Anita Neville (now “Her Honour”), the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba. Despite her debilitating arthritis, she handles her duties and generously reaches out a hand to those who love being invited to Government House. I add that her predecessor, Janice Filmon, did the same, even though she had a few health battles along the way herself.

I recently attended an event with former politicians at Queen’s Park in Toronto and saw much the same story in the shining faces around me. And, oh, what stories resided behind those faces – some scandalous, some heroic, all still eager and interested and glad to see each other even though they may have sat on opposite sides of the House of Common or the Legislature in the past.  I think also of my friends who are not so fortunately engaged. Yet, many do all sorts of other interesting things: raising butterflies, studying foreign languages, taking up knitting or painting or singing – oh, yes, one of them joined a choir last year!

As for me, I work! I write for my dwindling number of publications to add to my meagre allotment of bread and butter. I learn and explore and ask questions and questions and questions, to the point where my physicist-turned-patent-agent son-in-law get very annoyed, because who can answer all those questions, and why do I doubt what everyone else simply accepts?

Sometimes after a 10-hour stint in the garden, I pay the following day and I wonder, but, 48 hours later, the aches and pains are all gone and the delight from the labour is there to remind me that it was all worth it.

What else is worth it is the host of wonderful people all around me – not all of them of my vintage. For some reason, I very much like the company of young men who are so inquisitive and sensitive and willing to engage. They don’t seem to mind me either. I like the girls, too, but they are much more likely to be imparting their wisdom to me in the form of advice to older women.  I apparently have much to learn and, of course, I am grateful.

In this publication many of my correspondents are older. I love them all, but I must single out two or three. Wayne Weedon occasionally gets me into trouble with his insightful and unusual views, all from highly educative sources. He knows whereof he speaks, this amazing Indigenous novelist. Read his serial novel each month. His heroine if a horny young runaway whose offer of sex, his older hero spurns. And his opinion about immature adults will set on edge the false teeth of some.

The sly humour of Jim Ingebrigtsen always delights, and we learn about our musical history from John Einarson. One of my new favourites, however, is Wayne Duerksen who writes about his struggle with alcoholism. I hope he reads what Wayne wrote this month and feels a gentle pat of the back for what he has done. Myron and Fred are keeping us abreast of our town from back in the day. And I want you to learn about the rest of the province, particularly the North so sometimes you will hear from Flin Flon or the Pas or Thompson. The Arts always have space when they need it and I care about development so there is news from CentrePort or stories about opportunities. I love the Peace Garden and Tim Chapman keep us up to date while Trudy Schroeder shares her wisdom after a life of service to the Arts.

Yes, this paper has a political bias. I am a Tory, in case you haven’t noticed, so I rope in every Tory willing to write for me, but I have also enjoyed our late and much missed NDP Bill Blaikie and occasionally, Jerry Storie, and others. I have a new Liberal victim in mind for a column. If he says yes, you will be delighted with this interesting character. 

I do want you to get to know that remarkable young woman who has sacrificed her life to us as Manitoba’s first female premier. I knew and loved Heather Stefanson’s parents. They instilled an iron will in their daughter that she has now put at our service, and I am grateful for that, too.

Life is good. People are good. Just give them a chance and try not to be too judgmental. Most don’t mean to be mean even when they seem to be mean. Life sometimes just squirts lemonade in your brain. Take it with a spoonful of sugar. It helps the medicine go down.

Have I meandered on? Must be the summer breezes are muddling my mind, but occasionally, we all need a break from the usual rant. Have a beautiful summer everyone.