Canada Day 2020 is not a typical Canada Day for sure. There are no big musical celebrations or firework spectacles. Social distancing guidelines still limit gatherings in most places and many are unable to travel to be with family.
We are still planning some Canada Day traditions – a paddle on the lake, a BBQ for supper, a rootbeer float, and smores (in tin foil on the grill instead of marshmallows roasted over the fire – Nova Scotia is still under a COVID no burn order).
We also have a special tradition that is not so happy and not related to Canada Day – a toast to my Dad who died on July 1, 2007.
Dad loved Canada Day and always decked out in red and white to make a big show of national pride. July 1st was always a busy one with visits to friends and family, bridge walks, flag waving and BBQs on the deck or in the yard. He especially loved getting as many family members as possible together to celebrate with burgers, beer, watermelon and lots of laughter. He enjoyed the fireworks displays and especially liked coming to visit us to join neighbours and catch the display over the harbour.
In fact, in his last days in the hospital, he mentioned more than once that we would have a prime view from ‘the other side’ (the Halifax side) of the Harbour for Canada day. Unfortunately, he died early that morning with family around him.
Whenever I was in the area for Canada Day, I always spent at least part of the day with Mom and Dad.
Now, Canada Day is always a day of mixed feelings for me. We wear our red and white, and hang our flag in the window. We show our pride for ourselves, and because we know Dad would be disappointed in us if we didn’t. We check in with family friends who also remember Canada Day with Pauline and John O’Toole. We celebrate the special day in our country with pride and enthusiasm and we remember past Canada Day – and Dominion Day – events. And today we will raise a glass in honour of Johnny O’Toole, who we lost 13 years ago today. I miss you every day, Dad, but July 1 is one of the days when I feel your absence most strongly.