My parents are now in their late 80s. They had 6 kids, lost two of them to tragic circumstances and prevailed through a life in the music industry as entertainers and teachers. They have spent pretty much every waking minute together until just over a year ago when my father’s mental illness became unmanageable for the family. He had experienced a few major breakdowns in his life and it had become chronic anxiety. There were suicide attempts and he continues to be in an elevated state of doom. There is little we can do as a family to lift him out of that. He is locked away in the jail of his mind, whilst being locked away in an institution for the elderly where he is at minimum, safe. Every day is one of anguish for the family as none of us wanted this fate for our father.
Today we were to have a family dinner in celebration of the milestone but sadly, my father is quarantined with a bad flu. We cannot visit and he cannot leave. This will be the first anniversary they will not spend physically together but we will be talking to him on the phone throughout the day. The dinner is postponed until such a time we may get together, should we be awarded another opportunity.
My father was a soulful man. He picked beautiful songs to chart and represent with his orchestra. A lover of great melody and moody melancholy pieces, he could also pull out just about any popular piece when requested to. He had many a costume in wait for his Honky Tonk and St. Paddy’s Day gigs. He introduced me to Tai Chi and Yoga, the wonder of nature and the beauty of the bird call. He was a man in search of both inner and outer peace. For short periods of time, when he was able to hit a zen state through playing or experiencing nature, he achieved that.
My parents may be from the last generation of people in North America who marry and stick it out for the long haul. My mother has so many health problems the doctors look at her in awe of her aliveness. I have been with her when she nearly died after a procedure in the hospital and have sat vigil at her bedside more than once, but her soul is made of armour and she will not leave her husband here on earth alone. They remind me of a pair of Northern Cardinals, watching each other’s backs and never wandering too far from the other lest they get separated. Together for life, no matter what life throws their way.
So today I wish my parents a Happy 63rd wedding anniversary. I pay tribute to their tenacity and their dedication but mostly, I honour them for having lived through one of the most mind blowing periods in human history and technical evolution, for the story they leave behind and for the many hearts they have warmed through their partnership, their music and their life together.
Wishing you a week of love, of strong partnerships and most importantly- I wish you peace of mind.
March 6, 1948
Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, Canada
Margaret & Angus Armitage