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Life

This is it, I've hugged my Mom, grabbed my backpack and day bag, and boarded a bus to Union Station in Toronto. Tonight I'll be laying on a single bed with a white fluffy duvet, the sound of the train clicking along the tracks and the gentle sway of the carriage lulling me to sleep. The start of my four-day journey to Vancouver. But before I leave, before I start my journey, I need to do one thing. I need to change my desktop picture from one of Apple's colourful landscape shots to a photo of my Dad. The same photo hangs in my Mom's house. It's the photo that rested atop his casket at his funeral. It's the last photo I took of him that shows the man he was before his Alzheimer's disease set-in and changed his personality.

Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the Russians invaded 16 days later, thus beginning the European theatre of World War II. By October 6th the Germans and Russians occupied all of Poland. The war lasted for five years and eight months in Europe, and during that time Poland was home to some of the most notorious prison camps known to man; Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen, Stutthof. Overall there were roughly 250 camps in occupied Poland, both concentration and extermination. Over 3 million people were killed in those camps.

It's been almost two months since my Dad passed away in a hospital room in Fergus, Ontario. I remember getting the call to drive home early from Québec City, which resulted in the longest nine hours of my life, where I pleaded for him to wait for me to get to his bedside. Two days later I was holding his hand, stroking his hair, and telling him it was time for him to go. I then watched him take his last breath.

Born on the dining room table at the farmhouse in Bracebridge, Ontario, Dad was the youngest of twelve children (nine boys and three girls). Premature at birth, he was taken to the hospital inside the doctor’s little black bag. In those first weeks Dad’s sisters would take turns holding him at night, resting their feet on the wood stove; heating their bodies, which would, in turn, heat his. When it was time for him to eat, they fed him with an eyedropper, and as Dad loved to say, “…now they use a funnel!”

I will be the first to admit that my language learning has been slow. I do okay when I visit a restaurant or shop, but whenever someone engages me in a conversation I panic. I hear maybe two or three words, and I have absolutely no idea how to respond. If I'm eating out, I say 'Oui' in hopes that I have been asked a yes or no type question. While this most times, this is often a dead giveaway that I am anglo and the person I'm interacting with will either switch to English, or look confused and speak more French.

I look out my window and breathe deeply, taking in the view in front of me. For the last two months my view has been that of the parking lot, and the building beside mine - which was in such close proximity that anyone could see down into my apartment. But now, now is different. I've moved from the ground floor, to the fifth floor, and when I look out my window I can Château Frontenac to my left, and the steeples of Chalmers-Wesley United Church. I can see the curved tin and metal rooftops of buildings in my neighbourhood, tall wooden staircases, and one small patch of snow that refuses to accept that it is spring.

Welcome to my apartment in Quebec City, it’s early morning and I’m sitting on a galvanized metal chair in front of a slightly wobbly kitchen table (which is probably wobbly because I put it together and I don’t think I screwed in one of the legs all the way) waiting for a phone call to say that my sofa is outside and ready to be placed in my super small studio apartment.