02.15.2019 01:15 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 87 years old today. So many 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 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 nephew he raised, 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 harder thing is knowing that you will never be like him.

I had a dream 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 more than a decade. I don’t think he would like what his son has become. I mostly 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. the salamander says:

    .. walk in beauty .. it will be enough

  2. Robert White says:

    MD Kinsella was a healer that walked on a healer’s path in life.
    LLB Kinsella is a litigator that walks on the path of a fighter in life. Two different paths for two different people with shared perspective & bonds. One was a teacher that taught lessons in negotiation of life’s paths & choices to the next generation that took up the fight that life provides plentifully.

    Read _Maps of the Mind_ by Charles Hampden-Turner.


  3. Gord says:

    I always enjoy reading your tributes to your Dad. As my own father enters his autumn years I find they have greater significance to me.

  4. Nasty Bob says:

    Last time I saw your dad he was giving a lecture at the law school in the very same classroom where you now teach -so apparently you haven’t wandered too far off the path. Had a nice chat with him after, on the way to the parking lot, that comprised about 90 % of humble-braging about his son.

  5. Jack says:

    You bear a strong resemblance to your father.

    Sincerely admire and relate to your reverence of him.

  6. Trevor Toop says:

    It’s not just you. Everyone has the same struggle. While I had my share of beefs with my parents when I was a teen and in my 20’s, because I had a very naive view of life that went with my lack of experience. I now understand how ethical and kind my parents were through many ups and downs of life, they always chose the high road. Sadly our generation on down, tends to go for the easier road. Me included. Maybe the realization of that is still enough to one day make them proud.

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