August 23rd was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 76 this year, which is almost impossible to imagine — he died at 50.
I usually like to light a candle for him on his birthday and on the anniversary of his death. I was traveling for work this week on Wednesday and was in Montreal. After I left my meeting, before I went to the airport, I went into the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, the blatantly baroque revival basilica near the Gare Central. I think it’s my favourite church in Canada — it’s so in your face — and I usually go in and light a candle when I’m in Montreal.
There was a noon Mass happening when I crept in this time, and I was surprised at how many people were there. I left my little wheely bag at the side and snuck up to far left of the altar. I fed loonies noisily into the slot and lit a candle. I stood for a few minutes thinking about the line of history stretching back from my dad, French Canadian and Irish, the catholic church in the centre.
When I was at my mother’s earlier in the summer, I went through the one remaining box of Stuff that belonged to me in her basement. It was mostly things I didn’t want — blurry, off centre, faded photos from the 70s, postcards I’d collected as a child, a doll I don’t even remember. But there was a photo of my dad I’d never seen before. Straw hat, grass skirt, joy and sunglasses inside. The essence of Tony.
Happy birthday, Dad.