I haven’t managed to shake my sadness, since I learned of Sam’s death — by drowning. I heard he left a note saying he’d had a good life. I could say ‘I’m not sure why I’m sad’ — but that would be a lie. I’m not alone in that sadness — he was well known and well-liked. But for me it’s at least partly about aging. Sam Sueshi Miya was 84. But I thought he was “only” my age — 73.
Sam was cool. He was what some would call “a character”. A witty and very observant artist. You could see a certain sensitivity in his glance. He was not above a little flirtation. And he was not enjoying aging.
We had talked about a few things that most young people don’t talk about, like fearing the approaching winter: “those damn Toronto sidewalks”, for one. This is urban Toronto, and they don’t clear the sidewalks. It bugs me, because I’m from Montreal where they do. It’s easy there to walk in the winter.
It’s challenging to walk in winter here, if you’re “elderly” — or if you have a lot to lose by a fall. Like me, with my beloved stainless steel hip — the best thing since the internet. But if my wondrous mechanical joint breaks, that’s major surgery, lots of pain, and months of recovery. Or like Sam, with his difficulty in walking, his “previously mended” body — He had already been through long recovery from some pretty significant accidents. Walking was difficult for him in the best of weather. It was getting harder every year to face Toronto’s winter.
When a young person falls on an icy sidewalk, it might become an anecdote. If an elderly person falls, it can mean the end of life.
Trying to arouse interest or concern on the subject makes me feel old and tired. I think the only people under 60 at all interested are those who use wheelchairs, or those who’ve experienced a temporary vulnerability like a broken leg — or someone pushing a stroller.
But you’ll always hear the objections to the costs (tax dollars). I wonder if a ‘big picture’ analysis might help. How much might be saved by fewer falls, fewer emergency room visits, fewer deaths in hospital from pneumonia — resulting from those falls. Are these recorded in studies? Does “StatsCan” analyze such data? Does anyone under 60 ever think about it? Not in Toronto, apparently.
There were 27,415 Toronto emergency department visits by seniors in the 2004-5 period. The peak period: December and January. How many tax dollars might we save by doing the sidewalks?
And Sam. I can’t say for sure he killed himself because of the sidewalks. But I know clearing them would have made life more livable for him. For me too.