Ten years ago yesterday I played my last set at mariposa folk fest. It was a late night bar set. I think Matt Andersen and I hosted the after party of sorts. It is a fuzzy memory. The next morning my sister and I drove hard to NB.
My dad had been dying of Cancer for some time. Somewhere in the late spring it escalated. Got aggressive. It was clear what was going on. My family gathered and prepared for the inevitable. It was an intense time for my family and I remember so much of it fondly and so much of it is a blur. I recall spending much time beside my father while he slept in his morphine cocoon. Although he was weakening there were still lucid moments for quite a while before it got really bad. I remember writing “Afflicted” sitting there, while he slumbered.
I had scheduled my largest tour yet, of my then very young touring career. It would go deep into Ontario culminating in the prestigious Mariposa gigs. I decided it best to cancel the tour. My father and mother insisted I honour my bookings at Mariposa as it was an important gig. Off we went.
I recall selling out of CDs there. It was an amazing weekend. I felt like a real artist. A real musician. It would be the only time I would ever play that festival. I left feeling triumphant. But I also knew that we were heading home into what would easily be the most trying time in my life.
We landed at home shortly after midnight, I think. Memories are a funny thing. Especially ones rooted in trauma. Anyway, I think less than two hours later, at approximately 130 a.m. AST by my memory, my father shed his mortal coil. I held his right hand. My sister to my left. Mother across the other side of the bed and my brother, I think, at the foot. Like many folks who are in their final moments, we had to tell him to let go. That it was ok to move on. He was a strong man and had waited for his kids to get home. How fortunate were we.
His hand trembled mightily. Like an electric charge. I’ll never, ever, forget it. And then, it was clear, my dad had died. The following days were a blur. Funeral. Visits. Campfires. Relatives. Friends. All a blur. Then the adjustment. Life without my family’s leader. We all took turns in new roles. Dealing with the business at hand. Sometimes literally. People came calling for all kinds of reasons. All very educational.
Years passed. You adjust. You navigate life. You carry on. It goes by you but never away. It can leave you completely for years at a time. Convincing you that you have gotten over it. Then, out of nowhere, a song or a blade of grass, perhaps a piece of pie or a car wash lets you know who’s boss. The void of a parent lost is never filled. Ever. We cope. We carry on. We live. Happily. Unhappily. To each their own.
Currently I write this at what seems to be the happiest point in my life this far and let me tell you, I have had some amazing adventure. Yet still I must reflect for a moment…I’ve had this portable bar for ten years. In it is this bottle of scotch that was on my dad’s dresser. The first time I ever tasted any booze was sitting on my dad’s knee (quite possibly from the very glass in this photo) while he and mom had friends over. Scotch and ginger. Probably Sussex’s Golden ginger ale if I had to guess. The very few times I ever saw my dad enjoy an adult beverage, that is what I remember as his drink. Tonight I will take a “swig” of Chivas for the first time since my dad has passed. I don’t know why I never did before. My gypsy life of the past ten years even afforded me the luxury of forgetting about this bottle for a while. Then, in my last move, I looked in the case and was tickled to find this bottle sloshing around. I knew exactly what it was for. Ten years. Hard to believe. Just yesterday I was beginning my touring career. Here I am now in my forties. Relaxing on my back deck in the prairies. Watching the birds gather. Watering the garden. Thinking of own family. It is peaceful. I have been given some amazing gifts in this life. Some have come at great cost but here I am just the same. Grateful for it all.
Ten years will come and go in the blink of an eye. So I cheers to you, my friends and enemies. Let us not forget one another. Let us keep the memory of what we mean to each other necessary. Let us take a moment and dig up that little moment in time that we have buried deep in our minds and let it turn the sides of our mouths and wrinkle the corner of our eyes. Cheers to our past. Cheers to our present. And cheers to our future. Live well. Love hard.