Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fathers and daughters

Whoever it was gave that benediction before the 500 maybe didn't have the kind of hotline to the Almighty that we imagined. Barely an hour in the race was red-flagged for rain!

Or maybe the Almighty was preoccupied.

Syria, Ukraine, the CAR... God knows God's got enough on His plate.

So I took the opportunity to drive into town for a sixpack, and had the immense pleasure of hearing an interview with the late Mavis Gallant on the car radio.

Canadian literature has always left me a little cold. I think it's that "Canadian" label. Why do we need to have labels for literature? Isn't it enough that it's in a language I can read? As long as you're writing in English should it matter whether you write from India or Ceylon or Nigeria or the US or England?

Or Canada?

It struck me as a way to get some spotlight for otherwise mediocre writers who would have drowned in the big pool but were able to become big fish in the segregated pool we call Canlit.

So Michael Ondaatje came to Canada and is now a great Canadian writer; Malcom Lowry did some of his best work here but was never a Canadian writer. Elizabeth Smart was a Canadian but didn't write here so is excluded from the Canlit canon... it all seems a little arbitrary to me.

Mavis was a Canadian writer who wrote elsewhere and was therefore a Canlit outsider of sorts; proudly embraced after the fact of her international success, which only underscores my point that these labels of national identity are irrelevant if not illegitimate.

Good writing is always universal. Love, death, peace, war...

The father-daughter bond is one of those universals, and it was poignant to hear the octogenarian Gallant reminisce about events in her life from over 80 years ago. The father-daughter relationship was evidently a crucial one in her formative years. It's remarkable that she can wistfully recollect memories even though he died when she was ten years old.

I've had the extreme good fortune of not dying when my daughter was ten. That's allowed me to be a coach and cheerleader as a shy but precocious little girl has negotiated the innumerable hazards that lie in wait for a girl growing up, and I do believe it's tougher for girls than for boys.

For well beyond the first year of her life I walked her to sleep every night to Sing it again, Rod. At some level that hour-long walk every night created bonds that have been strained at times, by divorce and adolescence and all the baggage that goes with that, but have never been seriously threatened.

It's a joy I can scarcely articulate to drive to the big city and visit with her, an independent and successful young professional making her way in the world.

The last ten years have also gifted me a step-daughter. That relationship did not have the benefit of that crucial first year of being walked to sleep to Rod Stewart tunes. As a result, we had to fight through a lot of that adolescent baggage, a process that had both highs and lows. But we made it.

She too is a fiercely intelligent and independent young woman successfully making her way in the world.

I feel bad for Mavis' dad. He missed so much.

And I am the luckiest dad in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment