Rules For Old Men Waiting By Peter Pouncey
I am always so pleased when I finish reading a book that I have really enjoyed and can also enthusiastically recommend to other readers. Rules for Old Men Waiting was recommended to me by a friend in New York City. My husband read it in the summer and loved it - I had to ask him to stop reading bits of it to me so he would not spoil the surprise for me when I read it for myself. Now I understand why he liked it so much - it is a book that both men and women will enjoy equally. This is the story of a man’s life as he reflects on his youth and his years as a husband, a father, and a teacher. It is also about war and men at war. Our hero, MacIver, fought in World War II, he is writing about World War I, and his son fought in Vietnam. Generation after generation of men go to war - there is death for some, and terrible damage to others. The book that MacIver is writing has been simmering away in his mind for many years. He writes about a group of men in World War I, men living in a time and place where the rest of the world and the laws of the world are very remote. He develops each of his characters, and then brings them together with consequences he did not envision when he began their tale.
McIver is now an old man, and ill - a man waiting to die. He decides to plan his days with “rules” so that he will have a routine, one that requires him to eat and care for himself as long as he is able. MacIver is also a recent widower, living alone in his country house. Living out his remaining days on his own terms, knowing his life is close to the end.
He remembers his childhood in Scotland, with happy memories of idyllic summers rowing with his mother; he recalls his days as a star soccer player. We learn about his early days in New York City, and his meeting with a beautiful and talented painter, Margaret, who becomes his wife. MacIver and Margaret had a long and happy marriage - marred by tragedy, but a marriage of determined survivors who loved each other always.
Margaret dies a good death after a long life; nursed by MacIver in her final days, in their beloved country home in the woods near Cape Cod. MacIver misses her terribly but he knows that he is also ill and will not live alone for long. In the evening he listens to his favourite music, and sips a wee dram of Lagavulin, as he remembers his past, and shares it with the reader.
As MacIver’s novel concludes, so does his life. He is not unhappy to die. As a reader, I wished I had known him longer.