About six months ago, “Geoff” and “Barbara” moved into our condo community to be close to their daughter and her family. I’d say they’re both in their 70’s. Geoff can’t drive any more and is starving for male companionship. That’s where I come in. Every two or three weeks, I drive him to the Belmont Diner for breakfast. Geoff is very appreciative.

We sat around the horseshoe-shaped counter today with five local guys. One asked how Geoff could stand me. He replied with something like “Oh, it’s a challenge.” And the banter flows. Geoff’s a natural. He makes wry comments about the political situation and is already taking a playful jab or two at the assembled locals. All in good fun.

Geoff doesn’t see well and he doesn’t move well but his spirit is strong. He doesn’t let his current physicality determine his congeniality. And he laughs at himself. The guys already like him.

In the summer, I sat on Geoff’s deck, which like my patio backs onto a field, this year planted with corn. I remember him talking about the beauty of the green stalks, their tips waving in the breeze. Geoff sees. Geoff feels, and is willing to talk about it. Rare.

We went for a drive this morning after breakie, and my friend was so thankful for the journey. He waxed poetic about the feeling of space, the long views across the fields. Once again I marvelled. Here is a kindred spirit … drinking in the majesty of the world. His previous home near St. Catharines, Ontario was overrun with dull gloms of sameness – expensive homes that somehow all looked like each other. The extended tongue of urban life. Now, already after a few months, Geoff was home.

I wanted to show him the golf course I love – Tarandowah – now blanketed in white. I told him about the flow of the fairways, the long fescue grass in the rough, the Canada geese flying overhead, the silence. He got it. He was there with me as I wondered at it all. I thought about the club members I know. Not a one has ever cast their eyes to the horizon and talked of the loneliness of the links, the sensuous undulations of the seventh green, the vista from the fourth tee. Thank you, Geoff, for entering my world.

On the way home, we talked of trees. Geoff told me of the “Serengeti tree” he sees framed in his living room window, and how the sunset through the branches is glorious.

Just like my neighbour, I too am home.

Welcomed to Belleville

I had never been to Belleville before.  But I’ll be back.  People were so kind to me.

It started with a phone call weeks ago to reserve a room at the Place Victoria Place Bed and Breakfast.  This fellow Gord was so … conversational.  This is good.  I’m going to enjoy this.  And I did.

Gord and Danielle are clearly proud of their home.  Danielle’s tour was done with such pleasure.  I loved the 12-foot ceilings, the white duvet in my white bedroom, the claw foot tub and clamshell sink, plus my own private sitting room.  But it’s people who make the world go round.  I was looking for a purveyor of liquorious fluids for Thursday’s supper, and Danielle recommended The Beaufort Pub.  The woman who served me at the bar (Valerie?) clearly enjoys Belleville, and I enjoyed her roast beef cradled in the world’s biggest Yorkshire pudding.  And my barmates were happy to talk.  We covered the NHL playoffs and the sad demise of the Bulls.  It didn’t matter that I was a stranger.  Nobody gave me the “Do I know you?” look.  Just folks.

Chatting at breakfast each morning was awfully fun.  On Saturday, I wanted to write a blog about my Friday walk, which took me way east on Dundas St. to a carwash and a convenience store.  I was obsessing about the name of the carwash.  I really wanted to include that but my brain wasn’t co-operating.  Gord took off to his computer and tried to find the name.  No luck.  And none with the Yellow Pages.  Danielle and Gord were even willing to get in their car and drive over there for me, but I asked them not to.  I wanted to write my blog and then get out into the Belleville world.  So the car wash remained anonymous.  But it’s coming to me now … I’m sure it’s called “Sammy’s Shiny Sudsy Car Wash”.  Yes, that’s it.

My hosts told me about the wonders of Sandbanks Park.  I’m definitely going to experience the dunes when I come back.  And Gord helped me locate a little strip of Belleville park near Great St. James St.  It turned out to be a wild place!

Still in the spirit of “We’re glad you’re here,” on Friday evening, after the performance of Jake’s Women, a guy in the theatre’s lobby asked me if I’d like to meet the cast.  “Yes, I sure would.”  This was Phil, who I later found out was the director.  He led me into a room off the lobby … and I’m confused about what occurred next.  It all happened so fast.  I think he looked at the cast members in the room and said, “This is Bruce.”  Then all these bright faces were turned towards me, smiles and hands heading my way.  I was known.  I was appreciated.  And I was welcomed into their dramatic world.  So touching.

Now I’m back in Union.  But Belleville is still vibrating in my heart.  My thanks to you all.