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.