|Ron Hynes: A good voice is lost.|
I was born in Nova Scotia, another place where the ability to make a living isn't easy. The scenery is lovely; the air is clear. Jobs are scarce. That’s why there are no traffic jams or long lines for anything. There are artists, with the ability to live on nothing. There is music everywhere, fiddlers, singers and crowds to appreciate them. But sooner or later, most people become entangled in the messy truths of life: the babies, the bills, the day after this one. That’s the kind of guy I think Ron Hynes is. That’s the kind of guy I think my father was.
|My father Donald. I love him . . . I think.|
I wonder what my father saw in that final flash? Did he see me, his first-born child, suffering under the rough hand of a stepfather who resented my existence? Did he see a baby boy still asleep in the womb of his mother, my father’s wife, who would grow up to be his namesake, my brother Donald? Did he see his sweet wife, she with the strict father who forbade her to be alone with my father till their wedding night on her 18th birthday? Did he see his baby sons, Keith, the contemplative one? Or Floyd, the romantic? Did he think of how it was for my mother when he told her he regretted her unfortunate pregnancy but that he was bound to marry his intended, the virginal one who waited in her father’s house. Did he forsee those three boys growing up fatherless and poor, and the girl, who was me, growing up in America with another stepfather, and a pained heart, piecing together in a thousand ways, on a thousand days, the puzzle of her life? Could he have imagined my mother, living in New York, married to an Italian, reading the news of his death in a breezy letter from home, written by someone unaware of my parents' secrets?
|Aunt Marge, left. Bertha, my father's widow, right.|
My aunt, my father’s sister, was in her 70s by the time I got around to meeting her. The years between my birth and today provide insulation and a salve on the shame of my beginnings. Our connection is familial, comfortable as if it’s always been a part of our lives. Aunt Marge tells me stories of my father, a man I never knew. He was a character, she says. My favorite story is this one. My aunt designed clothes. She was living in Montreal and my father, a merchant marine, was in town for the night. He called her to meet him for dinner. She told him she’d just washed her hair. He told her to throw a turban on her head and meet him at a restaurant. When my very glamorous aunt arrived, he told her to not utter a single word. My aunt was quickly seated, wined and dined. My father shared in the bounty. Eventually he told her that he’d convinced the owner of the restaurant that a very famous, and very shy, opera singer was arriving for dinner. She could not speak, my father told them, because she was resting her voice for an upcoming performance. And she was not to be approached by fans, because of her painful shyness. The charade worked, Aunt Marge says, and they ate and drank like royalty all night long.
|Family. Blood is thicker than water.|
Michael and I listen to Ron Hynes and imagine him alive and well, because artists live forever. Michael loves the songs because Michael loves songwriting. But I love the songs because they remind me of my father, and of the tragedy of those destined to be born in beautiful and bleak places.
"A Good Dog is Lost" written and performed by Ron Hynes.