Monday, 22 August 2016

Two days later

Two days past, and a hazy sadness lingers.

The Tragically Hip's 30 years of music is still playing on a desperate loop in my house /in my heart /it's in my pockets and in my eyes /in my blood.  The poignant conclusion to their final tour on Saturday - culminating in their (and my) hometown of Kingston, Ontario - has brought with it a sweeping sense of grief.

"I understand now how you feel about them.  I hadn't paid any attention before. I'm a fan! The whole thing is really hard to put into words." -- My mother-in-law, emailing to see how it all went.  She has captured the crux of this particular beast, hasn't she.  This idea that we all get it, even if you didn't before.

Try watching commentators and journalists grasp at thin straws of what this has meant, this swan song tour and its final show.  Yes, The Tragically Hip is quintessentially Canadian.  Yes, there is a simple pleasure in the mention of our hometowns in a lyric. Yes, the band has been around for 30 years. And yes, Gord Downie is a poet, and a nice guy. And yes, he is dying.

But it's more than that, isn't it.

It's pride. And I suppose a form of awkward, indefinable patriotism (as patriotism often is). There's new appreciation for the band and their accomplishments, even though they have, until recently, been avoided or gently ignored by many and sometimes considered inadequate by others.  Now, The Tragically Hip is hoarded and held closely to our collective heart in a "you can't have them, they're ours" kind of way. Now we all finally get it. Now we all endear them, as we should. (Although, those who always did will happily prove it.)

It's talent. True, impressive, undeniable talent. The uncommon kind of talent that can be legitimately referred to as art in its uniqueness, its composition, its performance, and its literary prowess. A conscientious, intentional, intelligent - while imperfect - talent that often goes unnoticed until all of a sudden we notice it.

It's longevity.  Thirty years, the same five guys, consistently touring the country with our favourite soundtrack and a few new tunes tossed in.  The reliability of "Well, I saw them last time, so maybe I'll skip this one and see them next year." Each song and show with its own story to tell, and a dedicated crowd competing for who knows them better.  Songs that everyone knows, even if they don't, and with an endurance that most artists work their entire lives to achieve.

Add to all of that the profound sadness that our glorious, always recognizable frontman is dying.  He's dying, and somehow, as some unbelievable gift, he has offered us the opportunity to reflect on what he and his band have meant to us - and we've finally caught on. We've followed their biggest tour yet and then watched across the country with 11.7 million tv, radio, and internet feeds, of course on nothing other than the CBC.  He, and we, have been given the chance to /bask in the golden light/ one more time.

And this is the most intensely heartbreaking part: That Gord Downie's cancer will take his /world possessed by the human mind/ away.  And that it took this for us to really consider how much he and his band meant to us - even if we already knew it meant, well, a lot.  But he hasn't left us yet.  Not before we sang with him, collectively, simultaneously across the country, one last time.  Not before we figured it out.

Ultimately, it's this series of contradictions that ruin me.

It's the irony.  

It's the irony of our patriotism for a self-described non-nationalist, our new or revived appreciation for his talent, the end of what seemed like an endless loop across our country, and the dripping, cascading empathy for his diagnosis.

I can see now why it hurts so much - because irony is the surely the fiercest and sharpest ache in anything so definitively tragic.





Wednesday, 13 July 2016

I think my daughter is moving out soon

My daughter just turned three... and how does the rest of that story go...? She just turned three and then she got a car and then she graduated and then she had her own kids and then I died.

Ok, so maybe it isn't quite as abrupt as all that. But it feels like it.

Fraggle just turned three and she continues to remind me - in endless, hilarious, and infuriating ways - how quickly she's growing up and getting ready to leave me.  She's quickly becoming a not-so-small person.  She has (mostly) logical expectations and (usually) an effective method of articulating them. She has impressive skills and abilities. She's figuring shit out you guys. And it scares the hell out of me. I'm pretty sure I could leave her alone for, like, three or four hours and she'd be totally fine.  She'd probably make me dinner.  She'd at least wash the floor.  

This child has an astute memory and level of determination that rivals most adults. Not just the regular adults - the bold and feisty ones.  Months ago, when asked what she wanted for her birthday, she was quite clear: a(nother) pink stuffy cat, a teddy bear, and a big bucket of animal "guys" (to accompany her existing collection of no less than 80 miniature animals of various types).

When asked the same questions on subsequent occasions, she'd sometimes add something new ("And a train, Mama. And a dog. And a tv.") But despite these additions, her commitment to the pink cat, teddy bear and bucket of guys never wavered.  So of course we obliged, and she was not at all surprised.  She did, however, ask why she didn't get a train.  (No matter that her favourite gift was actually one she didn't ask for - a collection of fake food that she sorts and hoards like she's preparing for the apocalypse.)

This child is also very self-sufficient, and she knows how to use it to her advantage.  Each night after we jump through the 35 bedtime hoops, she says goodnight, all tucked in and ready for sleep.  And three minutes later she emerges to announce that she has to pee.  Again.  For the fourth time in the last hour.  She walks herself to the bathroom, turns on the light (pulling the ribbon we've placed for her), carefully (and quietly, so as not to wake her baby Warner Brother) places her stool, pees, wipes, washes her hands, dries them ("I dry dem berry berry way-o so I don't get all my fings wet"), turns off the light, and returns to bed.

Now, you may say that's great - and it is - but it's also frightening.  This is a prime example of my daughter very strategically working the system.  This child knows we will not - nay, cannot - say no to pee. She knows she gets to leave her bed, no matter what, and that we have to like it.  She knows. She reads it in our eyes.  And although her voice says "I have to pee, ok Mama and Dada?" her eyes respond to ours with "Yep I'm going pee.  Right? You're not gonna do anything about it, are you? Nope. See you in a few, suckers."

There are a million other examples of this little three-turning-thirteen masterpiece that are equal parts impressive and terrifying. She breastfeeds her baby doll. She finds the exclamation points in her books. She spells CAT. She weeds the garden. She climbs the rock wall at the park and swings on the big-kid swing, by herself. She knows the name of our street, city, province and country.  She dances at weddings.  She even watches Full House.

On the bright side, she may need me for a few more years - at least to help her pronounce anything with a second consonant after an S, and possibly to log her into Netflix.  So at least there's that.