Birthdays and Passings

Our small family got together recently to celebrate my dad’s 75th. It was a quiet brunch at a favourite restaurant followed by a decadent chocolate cake. He’s vibrant, hale and hearty but we’ve had a couple of scares.

Nearly 10 years ago he was hospitalized for over a month after wiping out on a snowboard. The jury is still out on the cause of that accident. What is sure is that his determination, focus and commitment to rehabilitation reversed the paralysis which was the most debilitating result of the injury. I believe that a streak of Scottish stubbornness as wide as the Clyde helped to will his recovery.

Five years later over a period of two months, he went from daily 5K runs to barely being able to walk 100 metres from his car to the grocery store entrance. Bypass surgery ensued. All went well with the procedure and recovery. It was terrible though to see him post-op. His pallor and the intricate whorl of tubes connecting him to monitoring devices was reminiscent of Star Trek TNG’s borgs.

He was discharged from the hospital on his 70th birthday, the same day I finally quit smoking. He bounced back. When I called on this most recent birthday morning, he had just finished a 30 minute run. He’s been at the running since his early 40s. He calls it his cheap insurance policy. It seems to be working well for him.

My dad has always been there for me. He got me to the early morning hockey games, the rain or shine soccer matches and stepped in to assume Akela’s mantle and lead a pack of Cubs when the incumbent suddenly died. He organized bottle drives, camping trips, the best birthday parties with a small coterie of friends and showed me how to do things.

In short, both he and my mom were present. They were there for my brother and I. They had moments of despair through my teenage and early adult years and with good reason. They’re in for the long haul though and toughed out the difficult times. It’s the being present, the love, the constancy that makes all the difference. I’ve always felt that if I can do half the job my parents have done, I’ll be on the right path. Thanks again to you both.

On the same day my dad was celebrating his 75th, the people of Québec were mourning the passing of a cultural icon. Gilles Carle was getting a send off in style, a state funeral to honour his contributions to the world of cinema and Québec’s cultural tapestry.

I’m not a total philistine when it comes to the arts. Thanks to my love Mé I know a thing or two about Québec music, literature and film. Years ago I even worked at a film festival and once did a brief and enjoyable stint at the Canada Council for the Arts. All this to say that prior to his death, I had no awareness of Gilles Carle. I’m sure that I was not alone in my ignorance and that a majority of the population across the rest of Canada, cinema lovers included, were in the same boat.

The ‘two solitudes’ are still alive and well in our country. We’ve got a long way to go to bridge the gaps. Actions that foster a better understanding and awareness of our respective popular culture and arts scenes will help move us along in the right direction.

The National Film Board has made several Carle films available on line. I’m not sure how representative they are of his oeuvre but it’s a starting point. I enjoyed Patinoire’s quintessential winter playfulness and the breezy portrayal of a singular landscape in Percé on the Rocks. Both are shorts. There is also a selection of longer documentary and fiction films.

It’s never too late to celebrate what we have, or what we’ve lost. A breath of story can keep us moving sweet and preserves our memories of those who have danced their last waltz.

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