In 2004, my father died.
And Ottawa became a city of ghosts for me, full of empty pockets of memories tarred by loss. But if I thought it was the city that was haunted, I was sadly mistaken. I am the one who is haunted. By my father, by my old life, by the truth that life is nothing like what I had once imagined. No matter where I travel, run or hide these specters will follow and I have had to accept that they are constant companions. That’s the thing about sadness, it is selfish and will always need to be felt.
I remember the city of ghosts was once a beautiful place I called home and could not have fathomed leaving the way I did. I sat in the taxi and waited in the airport to board a flight and never come back and all the while it poured down, as if the city were weeping. I think it did for both of us.
Because once my father died, so too did the city. The ice-laden hills I once rode my toboggan down seemed colder and lonelier than before, Dow’s lake where we took paddle boat rides every summer became nothing but a reminder of a ship one man down.
Now there’s a ghost everywhere I go. Every milestone, every achievement is tainted bitter with the taste of emptiness…something or someone is always missing. Amid a sea of proud families at graduation, standing among fellow students donned in black robes signifying an accomplishment to take pride in, I could only see an empty seat in the audience, right next to my mother. I know she feels it too…but we never talk about it.
So today, I drink the poison his once dilapidated kidneys could never have filtered, never did. Suck in sickly sweet air from a cigarette with the same lips that said good night to him one last time.
Life goes on…
but it’s just not the same.