Mon Voisin

How to live graciously as you grow old: Une leçon de simplicité, apples and music.

Mon voisin a 93 ans. Il est hauteur, and straight, his white hair falls to his shoulders. He cooks for himself, organic vegetables, soybeans, applesauce. He eats peanut butter, bread - both biologique. He cooks organic oats for breakfast everyday. He buys many boxes of apples in the fall and uses then, also shares them, through the year.

He keeps a cat, Pussy, and a bird, Blueberry, that a neighbour gave him when her daughter grew tired of having pets. The litter box rests on the red carpet in the living room, across from the cot he keeps there, and the bird cage hangs from a pole in the kitchen, near the card table and the two chairs with their down-to-the-threads cushions. When he leaves the apartment he assures Pussy that although he is going out, he will be back. Pussy occasionally roams the halls of this petit édifice, sniffing my shoes to get to know me, and whomever else might interest her. He does not let Pussy outside because cats are murder on birds. My neighbour also has a friend who is a dog. In fair weather, the dog lies still à les Plaines, on a bench, while my neighbour combs his long hair smooth. The dog loves my neighbour as much as my neighbour loves him.

My neighbour adores la musique. He is a season ticket holder to all series presented by Orcheste Symphonique de Québec. He is a big-time supporter of the opera, so much so that the director of the opera makes a point of introducing visiting artists to him. Charming to see those storied stars, those big voices stop to chat with this very old, exceedingly modest fan, who has saved up memories, and occasionally a joke, to entertain them.

Although he uses a cane, he is not otherwise accessorized and walks his mile circuit every day it is not excessively windy or icy. He wears a brown toque pulled over his forehead, a brown coat, home-knitted slippers inside old-fashioned rubbers. Ten years ago he slipped on a minute icy patch and broke his wrist. He is healthy, healthy enough to endure tooth implantation to make it easier to chew.

He enjoys company, yet he seems not to crave it, but, with his Pussy, his Bluebell, l'opéra and programs de la musique on CBC et Espace Musique, he enjoys what there is, as he says, left. Self-sufficient, desiring little, using to its threads, a rag for cleaning, wearing the same robe over his self-mended long sleeved t-shirt. This former physicist, who has neither computer nor tv, un bon model.