If you don’t know Tim Thompson, you should. He is the genius behind all the Hockey Night in Canada opening montages, which are often a bit too Toronto-centric for my taste, but still manage to take my breathe away almost every week.
The first time I heard Sirens was in a Thompson montage and I was completely enamoured. Listening to Eddie croon about mortality and watching images of hockey made me think of one thing: my dad.
My elderly dad is basically Rainman – but only when it comes to the Vancouver Canucks. Anything about the Canucks since the early 1990s he knows. He’s watched or listened to every game. He keeps a print out of the game schedule and logs their wins and losses by hand. He walks to the library weekly to read all the Canucks analysis in the Vancouver newspapers.
He’s a very quiet man. Not excitable; without many friends or hobbies or interests outside of the Canucks, and of course Olympic Hockey every four years. But when it comes to the Canucks he comes alive: he talks; he listens and he laughs.
Hear the sirens,
Hear the circus so profound.
I hear the sirens
More and more in this here town
I think Eddie Vedder is talking about ambulance sirens and how more and more people are dying as we are all getting old. But when I hear it, I always think of the goal siren and all the ways my dad celebrates when the Canucks score.
He’ll rush into the living room to see the replay dripping soapy water in my hair because he’s washing our Sunday dinner dishes when he heard the goal siren. Or he’ll be lying on the couch and I’ll be unsure if he’s even awake but then the Canucks score and he’ll sit up and and say something like “Oh, good. That’s good!” Or he’ll be holding his Canucks bobblehead or head pillow or stuffed Sedin or whatever new Canucks paraphernalia we’ve forced him to hold or wear for good luck and he’ll hold it up and shake it in the air a bit and say “Good!”
Oh, it’s a fragile thing,
This life we lead.
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulders.
My dad has had a hard life. He was a young child when his family was forced to evacuate his home during the partition of the Punjab. He battled a long illness as a teen. He travelled to England as a young man hoping to gain citizenship and then sponsor his new wife and young daughter. When that didn’t work out he tried Canada, working at least two jobs for most of my childhood and still finding time to teach me about soccer, WWF wrestling and cricket (which I still don’t understand). He’s been in more car accidents than I care to recount and gone through terribly sad, life-altering experiences in the last 10 years. He’s not getting any younger. Every time I see him he seems a bit shorter, a bit thinner, a bit more tired. That is until the conversation inevitably turns to the Canucks. His face plumps up. His words come quicker. His energy rises.
I pull you close, so much to lose knowing that nothing lasts forever,
I didn’t care before you were here.
I danced in laughter with the ever after.
But all things change.
Let this remain.
We’ve been to a few games now. It’s always a production. He’s not as mobile as he used to be. Tickets are expensive and he doesn’t like to see me spend my money on him and my mother won’t let him spend their money. We can only go to Sunday matinee games so he can make it home in time to take his pills. I’m not always in town. Sometimes I catch myself considering how many more games we’ll see together. But whenever I think about how old my dad is getting; or wonder if he’s satisfied with a life that seems to only find happiness during the nine months of the NHL season or worry about whether he’ll even be alive to see the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, I remember something he said when we went to see Finland play Russia during the Olympics.
We had a great time and were taking all the obligatory pictures at all the Olympic and hockey landmarks around the arena. He was lagging behind at ice level and so I went back to fetch him and found him just looking out on the ice. I asked him what he was thinking about and he smiled and said “Just nothing- life. It’s good.”