LOVE OF LEARNING.
Robert Attfield has had a life long love affair with learning, which has continued into his retirement years.
Photo by Mandi Hargrave
MUSKOKA – When Robert Attfield and his wife Lynn approached their 50s, they felt something was missing. That something was a child.
“I’ve learned that for me, once basic needs have been met, life is about the struggle to find meaning, purpose and loving relationships, and to enjoy life, despite its sometimes overwhelming problems.” – Robert Attfield
The couple began looking into adoption, and what was a long, tiring process was well worth the wait when they brought their daughter, Nicole, home from Guatemala.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted,” said Attfield.
Nicole was a newborn when they began the process, but was 14 months old before they were able to bring her home. She is now 12.
“There are so many kids out there needing a home, it seemed like a good thing to do,” he said. “I have no regrets. I think it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.”
The couple recognizes they’re old enough to be her grandparents, but know parenting at any age has its challenges. “It’s not always easy being a parent. We have the wisdom of age that helps,” he said. “We’re less impulsive, more mature. It’s probably a little harder on our daughter to have parents who are old enough to be her grandparents.”
It’s been a unique experience for the family and Attfield said Nicole seems to be coping with it quite well.
“It’s probably the most important thing we’ve done,” he said, noting they feel quite fortunate to be her parents. “Time will tell whether we’ve been good parents or not, we’re certainly trying our best.”
Attfield and his wife have been married for 27 years. They moved to Muskoka in 2004, after Attfield retired from teaching elementary school in Toronto.
“It’s a rewarding career,” he said. “It was challenging. I had to modify my personality structure a little bit because I’m an introvert. I had to push myself to become a little more assertive.”
He’s always felt a calling toward teaching, so it would only be fitting that even after retiring he’s still involved with education. Attfield is the chair of Education Huntsville, a non-profit advocacy group, which aims to promote educational opportunities available in Muskoka.
He is interested in developing an arts school in the area and Education Huntsville was able to secure some summer programming through the Haliburton School of Arts.
The organization also works with Georgian College, Nipissing University and the University of Waterloo.
“As we lose a good junk of our manufacturing base, the knowledge economy becomes much more important. Any community needs to try and maintain optimal education levels if they’re going to be able to cope with the demands of the knowledge economy and the creative economy,” he said. “I hope to see an expanded level of post secondary education available for the residents of Huntsville and area.”
Attfield is the backup organist with Trinity United Church and is a member of the choir and Green Team, an environmental group within the church. He and is wife are also heavily involved with a variety of frundraisers for the church.
“I hope, with the time I have left, I can get more involved with environmental issues,” he said.
Music has followed Attfield throughout his life. He’s been playing the piano since he was 7-years-old.
“When I was about 5 we had a fireplace that had vertical bricks on it and I would pretend it was a keyboard,” he laughed. “That’s my big love, music. Classical music keeps me going.”
Another passion of Attfield’s is antique boats. He and his wife restored their own a number of years ago.
“I’ve always had a love of wooden boats, it’s kind of like a disease. An incurable disease,” he said. “They take quite a bit of work to maintain. But some of them are works of art, they’re like floating furniture.”
Other hobbies of Attfield’s include shinny hockey, kayaking, and travelling with his family.
“I’ve learned that for me, once basic needs have been met, life is about the struggle to find meaning, purpose and loving relationships, and to enjoy life, despite its sometimes overwhelming problems,” said Attfield.
Thank you to Martina Schroer for recommending Attfield for Muskoka Mosaic. If you know someone in the community you would like to recommend contact Mandi Hargrave at 705-789-5541 ext. 285 or email@example.com.