On being … worth the wait?

By Ingrid Sapona

It was haul out this past weekend at my sail club. Since we’re a self-help club, members have to put in a certain number of work hours each year. For haul out we hire cranes and crane operators, but members do all the other work. Over the weekend we hauled over 300 boats, but there’s always down time between them. So, there’s lots of opportunity for chit-chat. Indeed, one of the conversations from the weekend has had me thinking.

One of the guys that used to be on my crew (I’ll call him Jon) wasn’t working with us this year. When he brought his boat over to be hauled, someone teased him about abandoning us. He explained that he didn’t need any more work hours and that this likely will be his last haul out at our club because they’ve applied for membership at a club on the Toronto Islands.

The club they want to move to is one of the oldest in the area and is a favourite destination for many of us. That said, there are trade-offs with being at that club, not the least of which is that you have to take the ferry to get there. The thought of schlepping all your stuff by ferry – especially in the spring and fall – is not appealing for many.

As we were waiting for the crane, Jon told us the rest of his news: they’re moving to the island. My initial thought was that he must mean an island in the Caribbean, as I know more-and-more sailors who are choosing to summer on their boat in Toronto and head to the Caribbean for the winter. Curious if that was their plan, I asked what island. With an even bigger smile, he said: Algonquin Island.

It took me a couple minutes to make the connection – Algonquin Island is one of the Toronto Islands. There are only 262 homes on the islands and they aren’t bought and sold through the open market. Because the islands are public, the government created a trust to manage the land and buildings on the islands. Residents have title to their homes, but they lease the property from the government and sales are carried out through the trust under strict rules.

Getting one of the homes pretty much requires a harmonic convergence. First you have to submit an application to get on the waiting list, which is capped at 500 names. From time-to-time people take themselves off the waiting list and when the list is down to about 475 names, they hold a public lottery to bring the number back up to 500.

Then, when a house becomes available, it basically goes to the person highest on the list who wants it. According to the trust’s website, only 54 island homes have been sold since 1994.
I had read an article about it years ago when they were having one of the rare lotteries for the waiting list and I toyed with entering the lottery, but I never did. So, I was excited for Jon, if a bit jealous.

Someone then asked Jon how long they’ve been on the waiting list and he said 20 years. He was clearly excited, but anxious too, as he said that once a house becomes available and you’re high enough on the list – it all happens very quickly, which must be especially nerve-wracking after waiting so long.

Afterward, a few of us were talking about Jon’s news. One of the guys on the crew said, “Think about it – 20 years. I don’t know that there’s anything I wanted 20 years ago that I still want today.” The part of me that always romanticized the idea of living on the islands quickly (albeit silently) responded, “I’d still want that after 20 years”.

But beyond the fantasy of a home on the Toronto Islands, I have been thinking about the things I wanted 20 years ago. It’s kind of an interesting exercise. Looking back at the dreams, hopes, and aspirations I had 20 years ago, I guess I’ve accomplished those that I could and I suppose I’ve let some of them go. For the life of me, I can’t think of any that were so important that 20 years later I’m still thinking of them or wishing they’d happen. That’s kind of reassuring…

What about you? Any items from 20 years ago that you’re still waiting for? What about items you want now – how many of those would you wait 20 years for?

© 2014 Ingrid Sapona


On being … comparable

By Ingrid Sapona

If you’ve ever worked with a realtor, you’re familiar with the concept of comparables. For example, if you’re trying to set the asking price for your 60 year-old, 1200 square foot bungalow, you’d begin by looking at the price of recent sales of similar homes in your neighborhood. You wouldn’t look at the sales price of a 3200 square foot McMansion down the street that someone built five years ago after tearing down a bungalow, or the duplex across the street. They just aren’t comparable. The point of a comparable is that it’s an objective measure – a comparison of apples to apples.

My mind turned to thoughts of comparables after comments I heard at two different get-togethers I was at on the weekend. The first event was a small party to celebrate the 93rd birthday of a family friend. Of the five of us at the lunch, I was the only person under 75. All the others were remarkable seniors who live on their own in their own homes. In fact, the lunch was at the home of the birthday girl! Though each has had ups and downs (they’ve all outlived their spouses and each has had some medical issues over the years), they all have their mental facilities and a joie de vivre.

But, as is often the case when friends get together, there was some complaining and commiserating. I noticed there seemed a common thread to their frustrations: they complained about not being able to do some of the things they used to. For example, one of them complained that she can no longer get up on a chair to reach things or to clean. Another complained that she can’t move heavy furniture around like she used to. 

They didn’t complain about loneliness, or sickness, which are the kinds of things you’d think a senior might complain about. Instead, their complaints focused on not being able to do what they did when they were younger. While I can understand feeling nostalgic about what they used to be able to do, I couldn’t help think that the comparison was ridiculous.  They should be comparing their skills and abilities to other octogenarians or 93-year olds – not to themselves at 40, or 50, or even 60!

A remark a friend made at a dinner the next day also brought the notion of comparables to mind. My friend made the comment as she was putting the finishing touches on a lovely feast she had single-handedly prepared for Canadian Thanksgiving. For the dinner party she made a turkey and gravy, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, squash, cranberry relish, and kale salad. By my count, that’s seven dishes – and each of them was fancy: the mashed potatoes were laced with homemade pesto, the kale salad had roasted turnips, hazelnuts, and pomegranates with a tasty maple dressing… You get the picture. 

Anyway, as she was cooking she lamented that because of a back problem she’s had for some time, she “no longer entertains”. I pointed out that she was making a meal fit for a king and that to most people, that would certainly count as entertaining! She quickly dismissed my comment and changed topics.

I know her pain is real and it has forced her to modify many of the things she does, which I’m sure is frustrating. But I also think that she’s not being fair to herself by comparing what she was able to do when she didn’t have the chronic pain she now has. Indeed, my comment was intended to encourage her to take stock of all the work she put in to that meal for the five of us.

I can understand the temptation of looking back at things we used to be able to do but that we no longer can do or that now require more effort than they used to. After all, there is an obvious common denominator between our old selves and our current self. But it’s a flawed comparable. We aren’t the same person we were X years ago.

Think about it – in your youth you were probably thrilled to earn $2/hour to baby sit, or felt rich if you got $5 to cut the lawn. Can you imagine offering to baby sit the neighbor’s kids for a couple of hours or cut their lawn for the cost of a Starbucks venti-size latte? Sure, you might do it, but chances are your motivation for doing so would be different than it would have been at 14. Now you’re likely to do so out of kindness, not to earn pocket money!

I know it’s hard to apply an objective measure like a comparable when it comes to personal things, but I can’t help think that doing so can be reassuring, if not downright empowering! After all, I don’t know many 93-year-olds who are still hosting friends for lunch in their own home, or how many others with chronic back pain are making seven-course meals for friends.

© 2014 Ingrid Sapona