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February 10, 2023

A dreary Saturday

7:32 a.m. at the coffee shop
This morning, the snowy landscape looks like it has been punched between the eyes. The muddy parking lot, covered in black patches, resembles the swollen surface of a bruised face. Even we, the first customers of the day, have stained the coffee shop’s light grey floor. Outside the cold is weakening, the balcony is releasing large droplets and the massive icicles, hanging from the building’s ledges, are falling to their earthly end.

Increasingly faced with climatic uncertainties, my eyes seem to be the only things able to hold back tears. And they even manage to stay dry as I read the sad news on the pages of the LE DEVOIR newspaper. The pictures of 12 people appear in the obituaries: eight men and four women. Usually there are only four or six pictures. I’m always surprised – happy almost – to realize that two-thirds of the deceased are older than me.

I’m sure I’ve told you before: every Saturday morning, I fill up the tank at the village gas station where I buy several newspapers. I go through them from front to back: the international news, the war in Ukraine, opinions, the situation in Canadian hospitals, the life and entertainment sections, and the painful obituary section.

I am very interested in knowing at what age people pass. I read each departed’s short biography and note the points that interest me: year of birth, age of death, marital status, professional occupation and place of death. Sometimes I cry from fear because the deceased are so close to me in age. And quite often I rejoice because they are much older than I am. And so today, the four women who have passed did so at 77, 85, 95 and 99. The eight men who joined them were respectively 73, 75, 80, 83, 88, 93, 96 and 99. It certainly doesn’t mean that more men than women die or that I still have 24 great years ahead of me.

The important question might be, do men age faster than women? Have you ever thought about that?
— “Google, help me.”
The device promptly answers me: According to the Harvard Health Blog, “57% of all those ages 65 and older are female. By age 85, 67% are women. The average lifespan is about 5 years longer for women than men in the U.S., and about 7 years longer worldwide,” and so on and so forth. It is apparently true in many other mammal species. I find out, through another query that apparently the “microscopic structures” that supply energy to our cells are better adapted to the female body. Thus, the mother passes on these structures to her offspring, but natural selection determines whether they support the body, in the case of females, or not, in the case of males.
— “YUCK!”

I wonder what my granddaughter (21), who’s finishing university in the spring, would have to say about that. I know she wants to study the human condition further, and I’ll be sure to ask her about this tricky topic.

I stare at the sun through the bay window and I know it’s only trying to fool us, to make us believe that the dandelions will blanket our lawns tomorrow. When I walk out of the coffee shop, I notice that the parking lot is full with cross-country skiers eager to be sliding over the snow-covered bike path located behind the shop. I consider myself lucky to be able to admire all these happy faces enjoying their outdoor pursuit. I put on skis once in my life and I managed to lose one of them on my third time down the slopes. I put an end to this winter activity after that, and life continued on.

I’m always a little hungry after a morning spent writing, especially when I barely eat dinner the night before. I thaw out a small portion of turkey noodle soup, made frugally with the remains of the Christmas bird that adorned the table not so long ago.

There were 22 of us seated like ogres around two long tables placed end to end across my large kitchen. My daughter volunteered to put out all the food on the counters, heat the dishes on my 8-burner stove, place the tourtières in the warm oven and stir the meatballs simmering in the pork stew. What a blessing it was to finally be reunited again for our usual Christmas dinner!

We are not the kind of people who celebrate at every turn, but I hope Christmas once again becomes a gathering none of us would miss.