02.15.2021 12:01 AM

Happy birthday, Dad

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 89 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 heart.

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.

4 Comments

  1. Gord says:

    Always enjoy reading your tributes to your Dad, thank you. (Reminded me to call mine today.)

  2. Jenny Simpson says:

    Sounds like an amazing man/dad and your tribute to him is beautiful. You are really hard on yourself. I started following you only because you loved your dog, kids, family and stuck up for people. You remind people not to take things for granted. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Phil in London says:

    Happy Birthday Doctor Kinsella! Mine would have been 95 in another week. We lost him in 2001. I experience the same light and shadows that father’s pass to sons.

    Warren is following a tough act, most of us don’t have to live up to the standards of an order of Canada father.

    I cannot speak for him, but I am going to guess Dr. Kinsella would be proud of his son. Who you were and who you continue to strive to be are two very different measures.

    My guess is there is a lot more similarity to the two Kinsella generations than simple appearance in the over the shoulder shot I see above.

    If Warren is still feeling his presence than I submit it because he DOES get his father’s approval. Father or not, one tends to distance oneself from people that don’t approve.

    Maybe we will or maybe we won’t ever entirely escape the shadow but I take a ton more comfort in receiving their light.

    • Nasty Bob says:

      “…but I am going to guess Dr. Kinsella would be proud of his son.”
      Can confirm. I’ll never forget attending a lecture on medical ethics he delivered in the very same room at U of C law where, ironically, Warren now teaches. That night as I walked with him back to the parking lot I asked about his son and his eyes lit up so bright it was like the sun had come out at 10pm

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