Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Long Overdue

Just how long can one procrastinate about doing this?  Well, I am my father’s child!  My Mom would laugh at that.
There was no funeral for my Dad; there was no obituary in the newspaper.  I just couldn’t do it.  I wasn’t ready at Christmas 2010 and I wasn’t ready at the one year anniversary, either.  But I’m ready now.

Malcolm Llewellyn Cannon
April 22, 1930 – April 28, 2010
  Mac was born and grew up in Toronto, graduating from York Memorial Collegiate Institute in 1948.  He then went on to Ryerson Institute of Technology where he studied jewelry-making from 1949-1951.  Why did he never become a working jeweler?  I must have asked, because the impression I got: There were no jobs.  Perhaps it was an early warning to avoid the arts as a career!

Mac definitely had his weakness for military music from an early age, earlier than I had thought.  He started as a drummer and stayed a drummer and drum major for many years, joining a variety of bands wherever he lived.  The first band I remember was the Port Hope Pipe Band, but unfortunately I’d need some prompting to recall names of any members.  I don’t think there is anyone left to give those prompts…  (oh, wait, Ray Turk was a friend of his…. If I think about this long enough, who knows what I’ll come up with!)

Another passion Mac enjoyed was woodworking.  I don’t ever recall the house without some sort of project involving the cutting and finishing of wood taking place.  Mac learned some useful observations while working with power tools which he passed on to me.  Things like:

  • It doesn’t stop when you say “ouch”.
  • Measure twice, cut once.
  • If you’re going to hire a carpenter, count his fingers….

Somewhere in the early years, he befriended Ken Asselstine and they became lifelong friends.  Ken was the best man at Mac & Marie’s wedding in 1953 and may have even had a hand in introducing them.   Ken was always the guy to reach out to Mac if he didn't hear from him. 

The “real” jobs began with Household Finance which he joined in October 1951 and he remained in the Finance business for 20 years, moving from lackey to manager and from Ontario to British Columbia with a two year “sentence” in Moose Jaw. 

With Fred Watcher
I’d say a bit of Scotch had been consumed prior to this photo….
Ontario homes were in Burlington, Port Hope, Aurora and Strathroy.  I gather Strathroy needed, or had just started, a pipe band.  They required pipers, not drummers. “Drummers are a dime a dozen” was a phrase I recall from somewhere.  Okay, maybe that’s my piper’s bias showing through…..  They needed pipers, so Mac learned to pipe.  He was given his friend Dusty Miller’s pipes and those are the pipes I later played.  Another important friendship was formed in Strathroy.  Fred and Voda Watcher became lifelong friends to my parents.
Strathroy was also where dachshunds became part of our lives.  And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my mother’s choice of breeds!  Schnapps, Schmidt, Teufel and a host of other four-legged furkids, named after various German field marshalls, left their marks on our hearts.  And the occasional chewed high heels….

Mac didn’t think too much of Moose Jaw.  He wasn’t much for howling winds and Saskatchewan gumbo, as he called the mud there.  He did make a friend that he always spoke of with fondness.  John Stolarski was an RCMP dogmaster who lived with his family near us.  I have vague memories of a New Year’s Eve party with John in his red serge and Mac in his kilt topped by John’s buffalo coat.  That could be the night I came in from playing street hockey with frost-bitten toes…..  Mom was all dressed up.   
Mac took me to Taylor Field in Regina to watch my first Saskatchewan Roughriders’ game.  I got heat stroke there….   Hey.  *I* liked Saskatchewan!  Sand dunes on the window sills, tumbleweed caught in the fence, snow drifts over the house.  What’s not to like?  And Dad gave me 25₵ a week to go to the Sprigs O’ Heather Pipe Band and learn to pipe.  He said he wouldn’t teach me and likened it to teaching your wife to drive. 

Mac must have thought he won the lottery when he pulled the manager’s job in Duncan, BC.  In 1968 we left the gumbo behind.  Mac stayed with the finance business till 1971 when he started a furniture refinishing business.  During the summers I often got to go on various jobs with him as an extra set of hands.  I cannot count the number of things I learned and the confidence I gained by watching and listening.  I don’t think Mac was ever bored as a self-employed person, but I think some of the jobs weren’t too much fun.  Like cleaning up after fires.  For a while his work vehicle was a Volkswagen Bug.  He removed the back seat and it was amazing what he could fit inside that thing!

And another pipe band was born in his wake.  I was in this one and that band took us all over. It seemed like every summer weekend involved a parade or band competition somewhere.  The Seattle Seafair Parade was one trip of particular memory.  The crowd was so noisy Mac had to walk alongside each rank of pipers and yell the name of the next set we would play.  There was security on the tops of the buildings – and they were armed.  We were *really* glad they liked bagpipes!

In the 80’s Mac was an industrial first aid attendant.  I’m surprised he never studied to become a paramedic.  He was fascinated with Biology. I still have his coveted Biology text book. Maybe it was the Latin he liked.  Weird.  First Aid took him all over BC, mostly to mining sites and construction.

During this time, my parents built and re-designed their home overlooking Cowichan Bay. They became cat owners and staff to furry ladies.

 The family joke was that Mac was a “do-it-yourself husband” with a “get it done wife”.   Sometimes it’s just better to hire a contractor….  And that is what they should have done with the spiral staircase in the silo.  It was not finished when my mother passed away.  It was not done when he passed away.  It was almost as though when it was finished there was no reason to go on.
Mac died of lung cancer six days after his 80th birthday.  He had stopped smoking 20 years earlier.  We had a little party in the hospital on his birthday and the highlight was watching his eyes light up when he saw his oldest grandson. Perhaps he was remembering the tiny boy who wanted to trade his soother for a sip of beer.

I miss his quirky humour and twisted turns of phrase.  I miss his ability to fix almost anything.  I miss “tool talk” and discussions about his “beloved BC Lions”.  I miss stopping at Cowichan Bay.

A belated thanks to Karyn Hatt for being such a kind friend and neighbor to both Mac and Marie over the years. You are a gem.

In memory of Mac, give your kitty or doggy an extra long hug today or listen to some celtic music.  Or both.


  1. Lovely tribute suzanne.
    I helped a friend scatter her beloved Renny's(15 year old Sheltie) ashes this morning.

    the pipes the pipes are calling.

  2. I don't know what to say, so I give you a long tight hug.

  3. LOVED reading this, Suzannne!!! ((HUGS))

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your loving memories of your Dad, Suzanne. It's one of life's hardest things, to say goodbye to a parent, even at our age. It's a year since my Dad passed away, too. He was a Scotsman and although he wasn't a pipe player,the sound of the bagpipes always stirred longings to return to the old country. The evening he died was the opening night of Powell River's Kathaumiwx Choral Festival. He listened, from his bed in the palliative room at the extended care home, to the piper piping all the choirs into the Great Hall at the Opening Ceremonies. I told him that was the piper coming to take him home. He died peacefully, later that evening. I took some of his remains "home" to Scotland, earlier this year. It helped bring closure for me. I hope that this tribute will help you along that road, too.

  5. Condolences on the passing of your dad. He sounded like a fine man. The John Stolarski you remember was married to my aunt Mildred and passed away on Nov.23/12. They had been living in Langley, BC for the last 25 years.John also loved the pipes and learned to play around the time he was stationed in Sydney,NS no doubt my aunt being thoroughly Scottish inspired him to learn.

    Peggy MacIntyre,
    Boisdale,Cape Breton