382 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 3 MAY 2020
I breathed him in. What ghosts lose in physical presence, they make up
for in scent: Ivory soap, cotton cardigan, with notes of Wint-O-Green Life
Savers. Eau de Dad.
“What is your substance, whereof are you made?” I whispered.
Dad placed his fingers tentatively on my shoulders. Instant heat, like
being held by warm oven mitts.
“I’m applying for law school,” I told him.
This might not be the first thing you would think to tell a ghost, but
there’s some history here.
My mother and father had a law firm together, Mark & Mark. Both of my
parents were semi-retired when Dad died. My brother Oliver has been in
the firm for ten years, which is exactly how much younger I am than him.
I am supposed to be the fourth Mark.
But when I finished my undergrad last fall, one of my professors encouraged
me to apply to do a master of fine arts degree in theatre. This option
was not popular with my father. We argued about it, during Christmas dinner,
no less: “How will you support yourself? Acting is a hobby, not a career.”
I got fed up and left before dessert, without even taking my presents. No
way was I going to be a lawyer. Law was the antithesis of creativity.
My family thought legal arguments were creative. They debated at the
dinner table about whether conduct would “shock the conscience of the
court”. I pictured wrinkly old judges grabbing their hearts and falling out of
their chairs. They prattled on about the “principles of fundamental justice”,
or the Grant test, or Stinchcombe, or Jordan (they were always on about
Jordan). I mostly tuned out.
I was so mad at Dad for dashing my educational aspirations, I didn’t
speak to him for a week. On New Year’s Day I got the call that he’d been
struck by an impaired driver on his way home from checking an alarm at
the office. The drunk lived. Dad died. My father had successfully defended
impaired drivers for decades. Another reason I didn’t want to be a lawyer.
In 200 words or less.
Dad removed his hands from my arms and broke eye contact. He was
never one for emotional scenes.
“I see Trudeau legalized cannabis.” He pointed to Saturday’s Vancouver
Sun on my table. It’s old fashioned, but I like to get my news from paper
instead of screens. “The firm will lose a chunk of business defending grow
“Really, Dad? That’s what’s been on your mind for the past year?”
“That and the post-truth politics to the south. Death doesn’t change a person
that much.” He turned his gaze back to the books. “But I have spent time
pondering some of life’s larger questions.”