Tag Archives: Tragically Hip

Estranged

Poet

This is my tribute to Gord Downie. It might not seem like it, but I’ve been putting a lot of Canadian-related imagery in my work lately. It doesn’t get more Canadian than the lead singer of the Tragically Hip.

More death. This is becoming a grim trend on my website entries. My estranged uncle passed away a few days ago. The funeral was just over the weekend. Our family had a rather curious relationship with him. My grandmother gave my mom the responsibility to watch over him. This was a task/burden she took to heart, and as we were growing up, she was always there to support him. At times, it got really rough, my uncle had a lot of demons, and it made it very hard to be on his side. But even when my mom was dying of cancer, she was still trying to support him.

When she died in 2008, our family made the decision to cut him off. My uncles and aunts didn’t. They still maintained contact with his kids and their mother. But we felt that we had to do it. We just had to move on with our lives, even if it unfortunately meant having no relationship with our cousins.

One of my cousins tried to make contact with me a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, time has made strangers out of us. That, and I’m really not that active on social media. It led nowhere. Just hellos and how are you doings. I had an opportunity to be decent and build a relationship with a relative, but I didn’t take it.

And now my uncle passed away, and I don’t know how to feel about it. I feel numb to the whole thing. I’m sad about everything, but a part of me feels that I really should be sadder, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it’s the Catholic guilt. My mom felt this huge responsibility towards her little brother, and I felt that I should continue with that tradition, but it just wasn’t in me. I’m sad and numb but not moved to anything else. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become strangers. Perhaps my memories of him had too many darker shades. But that not enough to justify being an unkind, unfeeling person.

I hope my cousins will do better soon. My heart goes out to them.

Interestingly, the time between learning that my uncle is gravely ill and hearing that he passed away happened in less than twenty four hours. He’s been ill for about a month, but the seriousness of the situation didn’t get to me until it was too late. Everything just happened to fast to process. What I noticed however is how people, especially those around me react to me talking about personal crisis by talking about their own crises. Not very helpful at all.

I try not to be too personal with people. I tend to be more candid when I’m writing here on the Internet. But when I talked to two of the closest people in my life about my uncle being terribly ill, they both talked about their own personal experiences and never got to talking about mine. One talked about an uncle she didn’t get along with, another talked about a father who recently had surgery. Forget about what I was trying to talk about in the first place.

Then a few hours later, I told both that my uncle passed away. Suddenly, it’s all about how I’m feeling and how sorry they are and wondering if I’m okay. Ironically, this is microcosm of how our family has neglected my cousins, and now that my uncle passed away, we’re all concerned about them. But ignore all of that for a second. Isn’t it odd how some people wouldn’t talk about your problems without talking about themselves first? And sometimes in the process, they never get back to talking about your problems.

Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I just surround myself with self-centered people.

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I will miss you, Gord.

Larva

Saw the Tragically Hip play the last date of their Man Machine Poem tour online. Thank goodness for the CBC for streaming the show for free online, especially for expats like myself. It was a bit of an odd online experience, as I was watching and messaging to my friends online during the show. I imagine it was like that for many Canadians around the world, a collective experience for one of the greatest acts the world doesn’t know.

I’ve been listening to the Hip since I was a teenager and I saw them play in Winnipeg during their Phantom Power tour back in 98. I have always admired Gord Downie’s ability to meld the Canadian experience with history, grief, love and hope. I believe whoever wrote Prime Minister’s Trudeau said it best, “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.” The band never exploded south of the border the way Canadian pop acts often do. They’ve done concerts, played in Woodstock, and was even featured in Saturday Night Live, but they just didn’t take off. The Tragically Hip was a band that it seems only Canadians truly got. I tried explaining this to my wife, and how acts like Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber are not what Canada is about. And that often music acts like them take away from the soul of what is actually good and substantive Canadian music.

It was great to see the band play but ultimately it was sad knowing that this could very well be the last time Gord Downie plays with the band. Back in 2012, he talked about dealing with his wife’s breast cancer, and how it takes a toll not just on the person afflicted, but also to the people helping them through it. His wife recovered but her struggles have influenced the band’s album ‘Now For Plan A.’ And now Gord has been diagnosed with an aggressive terminal cancer. While the show was a celebration of the band’s history, it was also a sad farewell to a great artist. It was Canada saying goodbye to a dying man, a dying man that we love.

I still have not recovered from my mother dying from cancer. I can talk about the subject lightly and even joke about it now and then, but it is still a sore wound. I’m sure most people’s lives have been touched by the disease in one form or another. I myself have given up to the fact that I would probably die from cancer myself. The show over the weekend is a celebration of life in the face of inevitable death. However, it is also a reminder that cancer, death, will take away all of the beautiful things in life, all of them, and that we should appreciate them while we still have them.

Hug your loved ones, watch your favorite band, go out and play sports, do things while you still can. Love and appreciate things while you still have the chance. I guess that was the big take away from the weekend. And as a Canadian, I’m glad to have known the beauty that is the Tragically Hip.

You really missed out, America.

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