a heart grows fonder
Donald Crowdis, Canada’s oldest blogger, is hunched over a large piece of fluffy pink cheesecake at his country club.
“How decadent! Don’t you hate to spoil it?” He says, raising his wild white eyebrows. Crowdis is a small man with a large grin and a mischievous face.
The 93-year-old muses about life and science on his blog “Don to Earth: A Nonagenarian (90+) Ponders Life, the Universe, and Aging”. His posts range from Cannibalism and sex to old age and science. His unique posts, combined with his age, have put him in the spotlight of CBS, BBC, the National Post, and Boing Boing.
Crowdis writes his blogs out longhand after breakfast each day, and sends his posts by mail to a family member in New Brunswick who publishes them online. He doesn’t own a computer, but plans on buying two.
“Here I am behind on technology and I founded the Ontario Science Centre,” says Crowdis.
He is nonchalant about all the media attention he’s been receiving.
“I’ll beat the brains out of anyone who says I get excited,” he says, smiling.
Crowdis has never asked for attention, it just seems to come his way. “Never do anything for glory,” he says, “the glory soon fades and then you’re just some old idiot.”
“I’m almost man of the year,” he writes in his blog of January 1, 2007. “In the past, I understand that I have been considered for the Order of Canada for my services in museums, libraries, heritage, and radio and television broadcasting.” Crowdis is best remembered as the original host of the CBC television The Nature of Things, a role David Suzuki has played since 1979.
Now that he has a blog, Crowdis can share his stories with the world. “He loves to share his knowledge. My mother calls him the little professor,” says his daughter, Robyn Patterson, 58.
“Do you know how many stars are in the Milky Way?” He asks me. “Something short of a trillion. Do you know how many Milky Ways there are? The same as the amount of stars in each one.”
For every fact, Crowdis has a story. He is one of the last survivors of the Halifax explosion, which tore down his house, took his mother’s eye, crippled his aunt, and separated the family for two and a half years before they had a house again. “By the time I was six and a half I had lived at 7 addresses. I stayed in foster homes and learnt early on that I’m not the boss of anything.” Another story – one that was popular on his blog – tells how his grandfather was stabbed in the back and died outside, behind a saloon in Colorado.
When asked how he spent his birthday, Crowdis pauses. “I think I was worried you would ask that question,” he says, slightly unsure of himself. On Christmas Eve, his 93rd birthday, Crowdis returned home at midnight from the hospital after suffering from a stroke.
Although he looks healthy, he is going slightly deaf, and only has a lung and a third, after his tuberculosis was mistaken for long cancer. “My attitude to the medical world is doubtful,” says Crowdis. Crowdis blogged about the event, saying "it cured me of smoking, a habit that consisted of one cigarette around a campfire or a pipe of tobacco at university reunions. So all is not lost, yet. I've cheered up, and so should you."
Crowdis will never run out of ideas. He keeps piles of notes on different subjects he might explore on his blog. Nothing is too personal: He describes his wife’s stroke. He speaks of not being ready for death: “I would not object to being the oldest human on the planet by a hundred years or so. Or would I? Some things, like sex and good food, might lose their sensory appeal altogether.”
A true gentleman, Crowdis shares more than his knowledge: before finishing his cake, he slides his plate across the table and allows me to finish the last two mouthfuls. I feel my heart grow for a man more than four times my age and half my height.