My oldest reader is 105. We met nearly half a century ago, when his daughter and I began working together as public health nurses in Winnipeg. This past winter he became the first person ever to compete in the 105–109 age group for Masters swimming. By being the only contender, Jaring Timmerman set world records in the 50-metre backstroke and 50-metre freestyle at the Catherine Kerr Short Course Meters Pentathlon, while becoming the first 105-year-old Masters swimmer in history.
Just recently I’d calculated that Mr. Timmerman was born when my trilogy begins. As I reflect on it, I wonder whether the year of his birth influenced his decision to purchase Arriving: 1909–1919. Jaring has since received Thriving: 1920–1939 and Choosing: 1940–-1989. I am profoundly honoured that this man, who has made history, has chosen to read my series.
So often I wish time, opportunity, and circumstance had not prevented me from asking him to share his prodigious wealth of our history and to talk about the monumental changes he has seen and experienced over his lifetime. I need only to think about how quickly I am overwhelmed by our current gadgets to imagine what he must think and feel about how the world has evolved over the past 100 years.
When I go back in my memory, I think of those two weeks of summer vacation when it was my turn to stay with my grandparents. I vividly recall how their entertainment was to return to the homesteads that I later portrayed in Understanding Ursula, and to visit with relatives and friends. I realize that we invariably arrived unannounced but always received the hospitality so frequently chronicled in stories about our pioneers. Although I was often the only child present, and I could scarcely understand German, I still recall the deep sense of belonging I experienced.
I also remember as a young adult how we were encouraged to discover new ways to use our increasing recreational time we could enjoy because of new technologies flooding the market. Now in this electronic age, I often think we have less rather than more time. Many of us are so busy earning the money to keep purchasing the new devices that we are hard pressed to find the time to use them.
With the Internet and the ubiquitous smartphone, we can now be instantly connected and responsive to one another anywhere in the world. However, I know that as much as I enjoy receiving your emails and comments on Facebook, I still far prefer getting to interact with you in person.
Perhaps the only constant is change, but I sometimes long for a return to a less complicated era when gatherings with family and friends, or becoming lost between the pages of a mesmerizing book, were the cornerstones of our leisure. Am I alone in my wishful thinking?