A Birthday Present For Canada
By Neil McKinnon
A considerable number of candles have made their way onto birthday cakes since I abandoned previous tribal affiliations to become a senior citizen. I recently turned 79. To mark the occasion, I received an “old fart” T-shirt, a baseball cap, and three cards informing me that I was over the hill.
I’m more than half as old as Canada. The country just celebrated its 153rd anniversary, a milestone that caused me to spend a lot of time choosing an appropriate gift. What, you may ask, is a suitable present for a country that has survived for more than a century and a half?
We don’t have many needs. Canada ranks high in most areas: healthcare, education, standard of living. Our leadership is flagging in only one field—sorryetics. We have always been identified by our ability to attach an I’m sorry to every event. It’s a rare situation when a Canadian doesn’t apologize.
If the elevator door closes on my arm, I say, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry for being so short that I can’t see the movie over your hat.”
“I’m sorry I was in your way when you drove through the red light.”
Unhappily, clouds are gathering. Many recent international apologies rival our best. Canada’s rightful place at the pinnacle of global apologists is in jeopardy.
Some examples: Olympic participants regularly confuse performance-enhancing concoctions with vitamins, elected representatives consider lunch-hour peccadillos to be grassroots constituency work, and religious leaders fail to distinguish backseat hanky-panky from saving souls. When exposed, all apologize lavishly to fans, wives, children, constituents, congregations, ancestors, and the Lord.
Therein lies our dilemma. Canadian apologies are brief and unadorned. To cover this Achilles heel, I’ve concluded that an appropriate birthday gift to the nation is to set an example by publicly acknowledging and repenting some of my past misdeeds in a manner that will demonstrate to my fellow citizens how we might, once again, stand tall on the world stage.
First, an apology to my parents. I’m the oldest and my birth caused considerable stress, not just for my mother who toiled an entire night on my behalf, but also for my father who was so distraught by the proceedings that he shouted, “My God, woman, you’ve given birth to a lizard!” My thoughtless arrival before the wedding is certainly due to an innate personality defect.
At this time, it is only proper for me to say sorry and to proffer a heartfelt thank-you to my wife, Mildred, for supporting me during my recent embarrassment.
Next, I must apologize to Mr. MacPherson, whose pet chicken, Angus, perished needlessly in 1952 while my brothers and I were researching the meaning of the term, deadweight. If it’s any consolation, sir, you should know that, although the results were indeterminate, Angus was delicious.
Mildred, I must reiterate how grateful I am that you choose to accept my limitations as a husband and father.
I’m overdue in expressing my distress at the irritation that I caused Carl and Courtney Hayward when I was in high school. They came home unexpectedly and discovered their daughter Becky and me naked on the kitchen floor. Carl, you were perceptive. We had not, as I claimed, undressed to prevent grease from splattering our clothes while we deep-fried a flounder. Becky, I regret not saying goodbye when you left for the convent.
Also, I need say that all my present troubles would have overwhelmed me without Mildred’s understanding.
One day, when I was still in my teens, a Cadillac Eldorado appeared in the driveway next door. Someone was moving in. I was home alone so I went over to introduce myself. Our new neighbor, Doug, expressed sympathy when I told him about my grandmother who was ill on the other side of town. As she only had a few hours to live, he let me borrow his Eldorado so that I could go and say goodbye. Next morning, the police discovered Doug’s car upside down between second and third on the local baseball field. I retract the statement I gave the newspaper. The car had not been hijacked by Al Capone to carry bootleg liquor. As far as I know, Mr. Capone never visited Saskatchewan. Sorry, Doug. If it provides solace, you should know that your Eldorado went faster around the diamond backwards than my friend’s car did going forward. Also, I must apologize to Grandma who lived to be 101 and who, contrary to what I told the reporter, never drove for Mr. Capone.
It’s time to acknowledge my new sweetheart, Linda who, unlike Mildred, says that she will stay by my side.
Once, in Vancouver, a young lady named Daphne sat in front of me at Super-Star Wrestling. Rest assured, Daphne, there is no evidence whatsoever that the shape of one’s earlobe can forecast a severe gynecological disorder. Despite my claim, I am not a member of the medical profession. I admit that using the wrestler’s locker room to perform a complete anatomical examination did not conform to accepted protocol. I am genuinely remorseful. As well, I must say sorry to Death Blow Krakowski. I had no idea that Daphne was your fiancée. You both should know that it didn’t take long to walk again once the body cast was removed.
Linda has proven unshakeable. A belated thanks to Linda’s husband, David. I understand that it was your savings she borrowed to help me get back on my feet. I pledge full restitution once I find work and deal with the divorce settlement.
Speaking of work, I must express my regret to Mr. Tom Moore, formerly of Moore Van Lines. I acknowledge that my proficiency as a driver was not quite what I stated on the application. My experience was actually confined to the time I was given a ride by a man named Antoine who asked me to sit behind the wheel and keep watch while he and his girlfriend tested a mattress in the back of his pickup. I am now aware that this event was not proper qualification to take the wheel of a semitrailer. I need also confess to the small fib I told the police that voided Mr. Moore’s policy. I regret that he became personally liable for the injuries that occurred during the pileup. Tom, I sincerely hope that your family is getting by okay. I didn’t know that you had been released or that you were living on the street.
I must publicly give credit to my new wife, Alicia. It was her tenderness that boosted me out of the pit of despair that I tumbled into when Linda returned to her husband, David. Linda, I can never thank you and David enough for depleting your retirement fund on my behalf.
I mustn’t close before I apologize to my son Warren who has always been frail. I now comprehend that likening your singing to the bawling of a hungry calf just when you were beginning your musical career may have something to do with your present situation. I trust they are treating you well in the home.
And last, I need to ask your forbearance, Alicia. I thought that being named in a paternity suit by your Aunt Esther in 1968 was all water under the bridge.
These are just a few samples from one Canadian. Now, if my fellow countrymen will apologize for their own missteps, our hearts should overflow with patriotic fervor as the country’s stature skyrockets.
Happy Belated Birthday, Canada!