02.15.2012 01:50 AM

Happy birthday


Many guys will understand what I mean when I say this: your father is both a bit of light, and a bit of shadow, over your path through life.

Mine, T. Douglas Kinsella, MD, OC, would have been 80 years old today. Eight years after we lost him, he remains a constant in our lives. He still illuminates some of the path. Without even being here, he still quietly persuades me to examine the choices I have made.

Me? I have made bad choices. I have been reckless and cruel with the hearts of too many. I have not lived by the single rule he left us.

“Love people, and be honest,” he said to us, and I often feel I have done neither.

He saved many lives as a physician, and he won accolades, and he was a member of the Order of Canada. But for us – my brothers, my closest friends – he was the man we aspired to be.  Not for the distinctions he received, but for how he was, in his soul.

He was unfailingly honest; he was kind to everyone he met. He married his high school sweetheart, and was with her every single day for 50 years, and my God how they loved each other. We would sit there at the kitchen table in Calgary or Kingston or Montreal, and we would listen to him. He’d listen to us, too, and persuade us to try and figure things out. There were some great times, around that table.

The best thing is having a father like that. The hardest thing is knowing that you will never be like him.

On Saturday night, then, I dreamt that he died in 9/11; I don’t know why, but I did. I woke up weeping, and remembered that I wasn’t a boy anymore, and that he has been gone for almost eight years. I don’t think he would like what his son has become. I know I don’t.

So I put on my pants and shoes, and went out into the day, looking for what’s left of the path.

Happy birthday. I miss you.


  1. Thoughts are with you, Warren. I can’t imagine the thought of losing my parents – even though it is inevitable and I know it. A lot of people can accuse you of being a lot of things…and that’s what happens when you “choose political sides” – as with marriage, once you pick a side, you can’t unpick it. If you do, you end up divorced. (Living proof here.) Oddly enough, the same with politics.

    But even though many people would cringe to hear a “Trusty Tory” say this – I have nothing but respect for the vigor in which you defend your side, how you, through thick and thin, refuse to abandon them and show a fierce loyalty to those beliefs you hold dear. Your father, I’m sure, would understand the “political” Warren. None of us on the blogosphere know the real Warren Kinsella, just the political one, and I know, deep down, you hold yourself to the same standards any decent human being does. I think if I were starving in the streets, you’d throw me a bone. And sometimes that’s all it takes. A good deed of the day…

    Take care.


  2. billg says:

    I only know you from this blog.
    But, seems to me that you, like millions of us do the same thing, recognize we can be better and hate ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made.
    In saying that, I have a hard time believing that your children wont one day wonder why they aren’t as good a person as Dad was.
    Get yourself a Quart at the Laf and celebrate, your Dad and you becoming more like your Dad.
    Life…what a ride eh?

  3. campbell says:

    The “CAPTCHA” code on the comments page as I write this is “DADY”, which I thought too appropriate to let go by.

    Of course as usual, I don’t have much to say that others haven’t said better already, but I agree with billg that I have a hard time believing your children won’t feel the same way you do now one day. Its part of life, and part of the gift of having great parents!

    I think that a man is more than his actions; a man is his thoughts and feelings too. And the power of introspection is the power to challenge yourself to do better. Challenging yourself to do better is the sign of a man who is good in his heart and soul, no matter what actions have occurred.

    Anyway Warren, thanks for sharing, as usual. You always give me something to think about on this blog; musical, political, personal or otherwise. Have a good one.

  4. patrick deberg says:


    Going all maudlin here. Time stalks us all Warren. It leaves us all close up to our failings. Your father would be proud of that which you have become. He knows you get up and fight everyday for the things he held precious. Truthfully you are a front line infantryman in full combat and that leaves you scarred. It’s far more viseral that many know. My father has been gone 20 years now and still haunts me daily. It’s the price you pay for being human. Remember man that thou are dust……….

  5. Craig says:

    What a wonderful piece. I lost my father a few weeks ago. He was 90 when he finally said goodbye. I will miss him forever as well, but I could never have said it so poignantly. Thanks Warren- it was a great way to start the day.

  6. que sera sera says:

    We often are our own harshest critics. In being so we somehow manage to overlook how passionately and fiercely our parents love us for being exactly who we are, trusting and believing that is exactly enough for this life.

  7. Jim Hanna says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, we all have different paths and if your Dad is half the man you make him out to be, he’d be proud of you for following your passion. But passion can get us into a lot of trouble.

    And anyway, the first step to finding the path, is knowing you’re off it. At least you have a guide leading the path.

    Great piece Warren, every once and a while your talent for writing speaks for us all (been 17 years since I lost my Dad). Thanks for sharing.

  8. GPAlta says:

    Thank you Mr. Kinsella for this touching post. Not many would know your father’s thoughts better than you, so there is no reason to argue with your interpretation of them. All I can tell you is that I’m proud of you. I visit your site regularly to help light my way through complex issues. Politics saves lives too, you know, and also prevents the wasteful taking and ruining of them.
    Perhaps on a day like today, in addition to thinking about your path, thinking about how your father related to his own father might be enlightening. Maybe he got the son/father relationship right, maybe he didn’t, but whatever he did with it was part of what makes you admire him.

  9. Neil says:

    Warren: Thank you, yesterday was the anniversary of my own fathers passing, it always makes valentines day a very weird day. My wife asked me (not cruelly) when do you move on with your life? when do you stop living under the shadow of your father passing and is it not unusual to remember every year and have it cast a shadow over the day?

    I mentioned in the discussion that every year you remember your father, without fail and that it is not unusual to do so. Then here it is. My father was taken suddenly, earlier then expected, I will never forgot it and your rememberence gives me comfort in knowing that I am not unusual in having strong memory.

    I as well, have not lived up to what my father believed was possible of me, I hope I will someday…but Warren, you have inspired many others including me to do better and to be determined. You are your fathers son.

  10. Keith Richmond says:

    “Love people, and be honest” – words of wisdom that cover a wide spectrum of life situations. Thanks for sharing that.

  11. nic coivert says:

    Great hair!

  12. W.B. says:

    I don’t want to make too much of the politics of this which can be used by both left and right, but as your experience illustrates the situation society faces when so many boys are being raised with no father at all, let alone a man of your father’s character and achievement.

  13. Douglascs says:

    Thank you for that honest and insightful post, Mr. Kinsella. As someone who has also lost his father (13 years ago in May), I can relate to the light/shadow comment very deeply.

    Thoughts are with you and your family today.

  14. Cameron Prymak says:

    I agree with Jim Hanna. You’re underestimating many positive elements.

  15. Eenusch says:

    I find it interesting that Warren grew up with such a loving father and mother and the example of a wonderful parental marriage and yet grew up to dabble with the F-U philosophy of the punk movement.

  16. Neil says:

    by the way, would it be churlish of me to say, when the browser first opened I thought we were getting a post about Newt Gingrich.

  17. dave says:

    Touching tribute! Thanks…showing your experience has me thinking about my own experience.

  18. bert says:

    It is good advice, Warren. Be honest. Love people.

  19. Bernie Farber says:

    Warren, i too think of my Dad (whom you knew) almost every day. On his Yartziet (Jewish anniversaary of his death) I always think of his favourite Yiddish poet Hayim Bialik and a poem he wrote I can never get out of my head. In a strange way I take comfort from it:

    After I am dead
    Say this at my funeral
    There was a man who exists no more.
    That man died before his time
    And his life’s song was broken off halfway
    O, he had one more poem
    And that poem has been lost
    For ever.

    In our tradition we commit ourselves to positive change in the name of our parents before us…May your father’s memory be forever blessed

  20. Riaz Khan says:

    you are making me cry….

  21. Susan says:

    I just lost my dad and think about and miss him every day.

    Your dad was a wonderful individual but like all humans, he was not perfect. He knew he had to work on being the person he wanted to be and also, to be a role model for his children.

    Life is about continuous improvement.

    Remember this: to know and not to do not to know.

  22. Susan says:

    Correction: to know and not to do is not to know.

  23. Mike says:

    So well written it is prose. I copied it to share with my English students.
    I feel sure, without ever meeting him, that you have made him proud.

  24. You have already honoured your Father`s Birthday by condemning Justin Trudeau and others personal attacks on Twitter. Thank you for that!

    Mid-life soul searching is always traumatic, but take it from this soon to be 77 year old, it DOES get better.

  25. Steve T says:

    WK, how is it that I can read your homages to your Dad every year on this anniversary, and still come close to tears every time?

  26. Niall says:


    Easy on yourself, old chap.

    Niall from Winnipeg

  27. Len says:


    I read this entry earlier this evening and have been thinking about it ever since. I’ve never commented here before but felt compelled to do so this time.

    I don’t know the private Warren Kinsella since I’ve never met you but allow me to speak to the public Warren Kinsella. Just like Trusted Tory, I too am a Conservative supporter. Despite that, I stop by here and read your musings on an almost daily basis. Why? Because I respect you and your opinions. I am genuinely interested in what you have to say. When I look at the public Warren I see a man with many passions – one of which is politics. Although I may disagree with many of your viewpoints, the passion you display when presenting them and the way you steadfastly stick to your convictions is admirable. For that alone your Dad would be proud.

    It’s been about 10 years since my own Dad passed away. He wasn’t a physician, didn’t save any lives and wasn’t a member of the Order of Canada. But he was a good man who tried his best to raise and nurture his family and teach them the difference between right and wrong. We have all done things we probably shouldn’t have, all of us. None of us are angels. The trick is to learn from our experiences and to try to become better people.

    When I was much younger the world in my eyes was black and white. It is or it isn’t. Yes or no. There was no gray. As I grew older I realized the world is full of gray and that black and white doesn’t occur nearly as often as I thought. When we stray from our path it is important to step back and examine why. Return to our roots and the teachings our parents gave us. Use that gift to reflect and think about our choices. Think about how we can improve and become a better person. Life is all about experiencing new and wonderful things, interacting with each other and learning from that.

    I don’t know the private Warren Kinsella, but when I look at the public Warren Kinsella I see a good man. I am sure your Dad is proud of you.

  28. Brian K says:

    Like some others who have posted, I read your blog regularly, but rarely comment. I’m also generally a conservative voter, and often read your blog to find out what “the other side” is saying about the particular issue of the day. But that all goes out the window when the subject is life and death. I was very affected by this post…thank you for sharing a piece of your true self with your readers.

  29. Warren says:

    And yours of you, Les. Thank you for this. And best to him from all of us.

  30. Bernie M Farber says:

    Warren, I am always so moved when you write about your Dad. It so speaks to me and brings back wonderful memories of my own father, Max, whom you knew well. Our fathers are our link to the past, our appreciation of our present and both the vison and love for our future. May his memory be for a blessing.

  31. Susan MacIsaac says:


    This makes me cry just like last year when you posed this beautiful tribute to your dad and you opened your soul for all of us to see.

    You are courageous.

    You are also very hard on yourself.

    Honour your dad by being the best you can be. Its never too late.

  32. Andre O'Neil says:

    My Father is not proud of me either. I know how that feels. No matter how many people tell you things like “I’m sure your Father would be proud of you”, in your heart of hearts, you know when you’ve not lived up to your Father’s expectations. I’m sure there’s alot of us out here that can relate. Maybe it’s those holes in our hearts that make music sound so good.

  33. Warren, your tributes to your dad do you proud…and make me sad. My dad was very old when he died and we’d had a VERY difficult, distant relationship. Yet still I felt a void after he was gone. At the end, my dad told me how proud he was of me and years of conflicted emotions washed away. Seems to me you’ve done pretty well for yourself (misguided politics apart), well enough to make any dad proud. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Cheers, RC

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