May 31 – to my dad

311/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This one’s a tough one.  I can only put it off for so long but tonight is the right time.  My dad passed away 3 years ago on the 26th of May a few days before his birthday which is today.  He would have been 80 today.  I have mixed emotions when it comes to my dad but through therapy, I have learned that those emotions, although valid, are of my own perspective and not because he did anything wrong consciously.  My dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic – he thought the government and all its agents were after him and by extension the family and thus he did not abide by certain rules and we were not allowed to live in the way most people live.  However, back in the 70s and early 80s, no one really knew all that much about mental illness and the myriad of diagnoses.  His own brothers and sisters denied he had a condition and lay blame on us (myself, my sister and mother) for fabricating tales about him.  He could get jobs but because of his delusions, those would soon end.  Eventually, because of things I’d rather not delve into, he ended up being institutionalized at Riverview Institute.  I was around 6 years old.  He was in and out of Riverview – sometimes on a month release, other times because he would “escape”.  This was our life for the next decade or so.  During this time, a feeling of resentment grew in me.  I would see dads and sons everywhere: playing ball, helping ride bikes, walking to school, cutting the lawn etc.  Upon a few of his unsanctioned “leaves”, the proverbial white van showing up at our house with my dad being taken back in a strait jacket is etched deeply into my memory.  I was embarrassed and neighbourhood kids made fun of us calling us the “retard’s kids” – oh damn, this is getting pretty tough tears welling up – but through it all, he was my dad and I had to remember that.  When he was finally diagnosed properly and on meds that managed his condition, he came back into our lives on a full time basis.  I finally had a normal dad for the most part – yes, he still had delusions and would talk to himself but less so.  He got a good paying job.  Worked hard and a year later, my parents had their third child – my younger sister.  I will admit that I was ambivalent towards her as this sister ended up with two more or less functioning parents and much more of a normal life than I had.  I had a very superficial relationship with my dad in that I guess I blamed him for not being around and thus, in turn making me feeling I was less than adequate.  I blamed him for not giving me the male role model I needed.  I was jealous of the new family dynamics when he was back.  I was upset that I didn’t have a normal childhood and laid all blame on him.  I know now that he did not do any of this!  He did not leave us willingly and consciously.  He did not abandon us because he didn’t love us.  He didn’t talk to or not acknowledge our existence because he didn’t care.  He didn’t hold down jobs because he was lazy.  He had a mental illness.  He was not in control.  Damn, more tears!!!  He worked hard.  He saved up money.  They got a brand new home.  New cars.  New “toys”. A new life.  Being the dad/granddad to my son that I never had.  Yes, I felt like I was on the sidelines looking in but I was also an adult and had to get over it.  I am 100% sure that my dad made me into a stronger person.  I needed to go through all of that to be the man I am today – phew, more tears!!  Towards the latter years of his life, I was able to let go of my resentment.  No, we did not have a movie-like wonderful ending – more like an ongoing telenovela/Bollywood drama where we were good for this week’s episode but that hole in my heart for lack of a father became much smaller in diameter.  Yes, I have never properly thanked him, told anyone I loved him, acknowledged him or even yet grieved his passing but this gratitude post is a start, albeit a public one, that my dad, given all he had to go through, ended up teaching me about life, struggles, being responsible for self and not letting your past dictate your future.  I love you dad for giving me life and caring for me in your own way.  Thank you for moving to Canada, marrying mom and creating something here and leaving behind a great inheritance both financial and emotional for the three of us children moving forward.  I still have a lot of work to do on myself in regards to father/son bonds but wherever you are, I am no longer angry or resentful – I can honestly say that I do love you and what you did for us.

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May 30 – international life

310/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Okay, I’m going to admit a flaw in myself.  A teaching flaw.  I was one of those teachers who prefer his students in class all understand and dialogue in English.  No, not because it makes my job easier (although that is a great benefit that some of my teacher brethren and sistren may take for granted based on where they teach) but rather, I feel that the students who can’t understand me are at a loss and might be hating the class.  This phenomenon of more and more non-English speaking students is becoming quite common place in grade 11 and 12 (especially in Richmond where a lot of funding comes from International Student enrolment).  I know that I, as teacher, need to respond to the new face of the classroom but then I decided that perhaps not.  Yes, I use a lot of group work as I feel it’s beneficial for students to be working with different students and if I were to all of a sudden eliminate that aspect, I really wouldn’t be doing English speaking students as well as International students any favours as the educational experience would be watered down by catering to a smaller minority in class.  The other thing I learned from having International students is that most, if not all, want the true Western educational experience.  I have students from Venezuela, China, and Brazil in my classes and I am finding that almost all of them have competent enough English to have a conversation and try hard to do the work.  I, as well as the regular students, have benefitted from the International students’ experiences when we hear about what their home schooling is like.  I am not saying that all the International students are forthcoming but those that do share enlighten me and keep me teaching the way I teach as I have been told that although it is quite different from what they are used to, they enjoy it and are learning.  Thus, I am glad that I got over my initial aversion to having non-native English speakers in my class as I have greatly benefitted from what they have brought to my classrooms.  Do I want a whole class of non-native speakers – oh hellz no, I taught ESL/ELL learners for one year and that was enough 😉 but a good balanced mix is what I prefer and look forward to as everyone benefits.

May 29 – the girl who lived down the street

309/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   If you’ve been reading these gratitude posts, you’ve probably gleaned that I wasn’t the most confident young man during my pre-teen and teenage years.  Lots of things conspired against me to keep me from reaching my potential in my younger years – so not lovin’ who I was because of my ethnicity (being made fun of) and my weight (being bullied for it) and my nerdy looks (being beat up for it) and my dad’s schizophrenia (being made fun of) but it was just something I got used to but never truly accepted.  There were many reasons why I got through those tough times: my love of listening to music, focus on schoolwork, escape into television, push of my mom etc.  However there was also this person that I would see on my daily walks to school that also helped.  I was fascinated by her.  She lived on the same street as I did and I saw her from my elementary years walking past her house all the way to my university years being at the same bus stop.  I never once spoke to her in all that time even though I was enthralled by her.  Why?  She was probably about 5 years older than me.  She was Indo-Canadian.  She was very Indian.  She wore flowers in her hair.  She had a long braid.  She was heavy-set with a moon face.  She was not Canadian born.  She wore heavy Indian make-up.  She flounced when she walked.  She oozed confidence.  I was stunned by her.  Not her physical beauty as I did not find her attractive – oh wait, Freud might say I did on some subconscious level 😉  Rather, I was inspired by her self-assurance.  At that time, I was ashamed of my ethnicity as I lived in a very white community and had no role models but here was this person who obviously and rightfully so reveled in her heritage.  She was rotund and damn did she own it and did not let it own her.  I remember being at a wedding reception that she, with her family, was also at and my aunt, that mean aunt that I wrote about earlier, was making fun of her and this girl confidently ignored her and tore up the dance floor.  I was stunned!  I was inspired.  I honestly think she, on some subconscious level (yeah, Freud you can have this one), made me accept my fatness and my Indian-ness – I didn’t rock it like she did until much later – and I have her to thank for me finally accepting and rocking what was genetically given to me!

May 28 – grad date

308/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  It’s that time of year in the high schools – graduation for grade 12s and all that comes with that: final exams, valedictory ceremonies, dinner and dance, etc.  Looking back at my own grade 12 year, it was a non-event as I wasn’t too concerned about the various functions as I wasn’t going to attend.  I didn’t really have close bonds with any of my classmates.  I decided to go to the valedictory (getting my diploma) as that was more for my parents although unlike today’s events held at grand ballrooms, ours was in the school gym!!  LOL Yes, as I said — a non-event!  I had resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to attend the actual grad (dinner and dance) as first of all I didn’t really have a crew and second of all, everyone had dates and limo rides and well, not being with the in crowd or any crowd, it was easier to just stay home.  About two to three weeks away from the event, a co-worker from McD’s and fellow grade 12 named Monette asked me if I was going to go to grad.  I said no.  She said she wasn’t going to go but we should just go.  I was dead set against it but then other people from McD’s suggested that we should go and it would be so much fun.  Monette didn’t give up and I ended up going with her and her friends.  Paid for the ticket and limo share.  Last minute tuxedo rented – cringeworthy (white with black accents).  Corsage bought for Monette.  Off to the Hotel Vancouver – I think that’s where it was or maybe I’m getting very confused with the countless graduation dinners I’ve chaperoned as teacher.  Did I have fun?  Hell yes!  I owe it all to Monette for convincing me to go.  I even went to the after-party!!  Two grad events in one night (second one not school sanctioned of course 😉 )  If not for Monette, I think I would have always regretted not having gone to grad dinner & dance.  I was finally a part of the grad class and had shared memories.  Do I want to see pictures of myself then – uhm no, seeing the one on my mom’s fridge still after all these years is enough!  🙂  Thanks Monette for the push I needed and thank you for being my grad date!

May 27 – house at the end of the street

307/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Most people in the gratitude posts first hear of my gratitude via these posts but I was able to let today’s gratitudee know about what she did for me about a decade or so ago.  I lived on Riverdale Drive when I was growing up and as I’ve mentioned many times, I didn’t have many friends as I was a fat, ethnic, geeky kid who was not comfortable in the skin I was in and I’m sure kids saw that weaknesses and went in for the kill.  Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the house with books and television to avoid the verbal and physical abuse by some of the kids in the neighbourhood and when I would venture out, I would watch on the sidelines as I wasn’t invited to hang with anyone.  There was a house on the corner of Riverdale and Coltsfoot that had an older girl and her siblings who lived there.  They had a trampoline that all the neighbourhood kids would hang at.  While I was in elementary and had to venture out that way, Roberta would always say hi to me.  She was about 4 years my senior.  She was beautiful in the eyes of this teenager.  I guess it was because she was nice to me as well.  She invited me a couple of times to hang out with the rest of the kids and those were the few times that I wasn’t made fun of because of this older girl.  As I entered grade 8, I would walk by her house on the way home from school and she always waved and said hello.  She acknowledged me – I wasn’t that invisible person or person to be pushed out of the way.  That little gesture did so much for me.  There were actually nice people out there.  Unbeknownst to me, years later, her son was in my class and I saw Roberta again during parent teacher interviews.  She was with her husband.  She had no clue who I was but I totally remembered her.  I told her during that teacher interview what she had done for me.  She then remembered me but she didn’t recall going out of her way being nice to me and that’s exactly what it was – nothing for her but monumental for me.  She shed a little tear that that little thing made a difference for me and I was so happy that I could tell her in person.  People like Roberta made a difference for me and I hope that I am someone’s Roberta as well unknowingly.

May 26 – time of need

306/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Today is anniversary of my dad’s passing.  It has been 3 years.  I am not ready to write about him (that will be done next Tuesday on his birthday giving me time to think about the gratitude post).  Tonight I want to honour all the people who came out to give their heartfelt condolences during that time.  We knew it was going to happen as he was hospitalized and immobile for over a year and it was no way to live out your final days but that is neither here nor there.  All the friends and relatives who came and helped us with the arrangements and the Punjabi traditions around someone’s passing were greatly appreciated.  All the people who helped my mom get through it by literally supporting her during her time of need.  All the cousins who had already gone through a similar experience and figuratively and literally held our hands through the process.  My school board for allowing me two weeks of paid leave for funeral and grieving alleviating that aspect of stress.  Friends’ kind words and encouragement through that time.  I had never experienced a death of a family member until I was well into my 40s and regardless of age, one is never prepared especially losing an immediate family member.  I am very glad that I had people to fall back on who gave support in more ways than one.   I had done my best to support my extended family when they had lost an immediate family member but now I have more compassion and understanding from going through it myself.  The shock and subsequent grieving around losing someone is hard but the people in your life can make the process a little more bearable and to each and every person who was there for me, my sisters and my mom, I thank you.

May 25 – real world learning

305/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I went through the motions.  At UBC.  During my Commerce degree.  I did as I was asked.  Didn’t question anything.  All textbook work.  No course really inspired me.  I knew I needed a future and got my education.  And they fed me my education in the traditional way – lecture and assignments.  Until my 4th year (of a 5 year program).  This was the year I declared my major (Marketing) and actually enjoyed some of the things I was learning.  However, still most of the courses were instructor led.  It wasn’t until I was in a course led by this funky diva (well before En Vogue coined the term) named June.  A statuesque older black woman who I’m imagining was a visiting lecturer as I don’t recall her being faculty.  She taught one of the elective Marketing classes and we had to apply what we learned – no, not in a case study or simulation but working with a real car manufacturer.  I can’t recall which one but it was a major player and they were in the test phase of introducing a new model on the market and our class created marketing campaigns for their launch to be evaluated by executives.  This was a first for me and something that I haven’t forgotten as it has permeated my teaching to this very day.  I try to organize real world learning whenever I can.  I am not saying that I don’t lecture or give notes and assignments but I also get the students fully immersed when it comes to learning.  From my Psychology students working with Kindergartners and Grade 2s applying Piaget and Kohlberg’s theories to my Marketing students creating campaigns for local Steveston restaurants to my Business students opening an hour long business venture competing with other groups and being judged on sales made.  Yes, this is a nightmare for me to organize and perhaps not appreciated by all students in the moment but I know that once they reflect, the experience was invaluable – that’s the way I felt in June’s class.  I will continue to teach in this manner until I retire and I have June to thank for instilling this sentiment in me!

May 24 – the “untys”

304/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I realized today why I have so many friends and acquaintances – I get it from my momma!  😉  As a child, I saw female friend after female friend and couple friends in our home.  I had so many aunties (pronounced ‘unty’) I felt like an octopus as it was hug after hug after hug.  I remember Shoti Aunty, Abbotsford Aunty, Gurdev Kaur, Pritam, Karen’s mom, Baljit…the list goes on and on and this is not including immediate and extended aunts!!  I didn’t wonder why she had so many friends – it was just the norm for me and how I grew up and I think that my mom’s affinity towards people just rubbed off on me.  I enjoy the company of an eclectic crew of people and am energized when I am with people just like my mother.  I am supposing that my mom needed friends in her life as my dad wasn’t in the picture for most of my younger years and these friends got her through the hard times and I am thankful for that part but also for the kindness they showed towards my sister and myself.  Growing up, I have seen the aunties at various functions and once they realize who I am, those hugs are back!! 🙂  The love and affection I am shown is indescribable and it takes me back to happy moments in the house – sadly, some of them have started passing away which is inevitable.  Although my childhood was fraught with a lot of adversity, I am so glad that I remember much more of the positivity thanks in great part to these gratitude posts.  To all my aunties, I am so glad you were part of my mom’s life and in turn a part of mine as unbeknownst to you, you played a part in making the man I am.  Love you all!

May 23 – welfare words of wisdom

303/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   One of the best jobs that prepared me for life surprisingly wasn’t teaching.  After finishing my Bachelors of Commerce degree and realizing that a career in business was not for me, I quit and started on a career search contemplating many paths (even a prison guard!!).  I eventually ended up working at Social Services & Housing or more commonly known as the Welfare Department.  I have written a couple of gratitude posts about a secretary, a part-time employee and a client from there who had an impact on me but tonight it’s about the co-workers I had.  If not for them, I really don’t know how this young 20 something got through one of the most stressful jobs there was (I worked in every office in Vancouver – Skid Row being one of my long term stints).  I remember John and Dorothy both well in their 60s working at the Renfrew office.  I learned two things from them – John had compassion and care for his clients and Dorothy was just doing it for the pay cheque and of the two, I knew who I wanted to be.  There was a funky lady who would come down from Brackendale every day to work in the same office – she was biding her time until a position close to home opened up and I learned from her that sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to do what you want to do.  While working at the offices on Robson & Denman, I met co-workers Rena and Xanthy who were polar opposites – an older black lesbian and a young, Greek diva – but both of them had a passion for life and living in them and no matter how depressing/demanding the job got, they knew that there was more to life and I learned balance from them.  Sid was an easy going, classy guy who also happened to be at the Davie Street offices.  He gave me the best advice – don’t let the job consume you and remember that you have to leave things at the office.  I haven’t seen or run into these people now for nearly three decades but there advice and words (as well as others I didn’t mention in this post) still live with and give me the perspective in teaching that I need.  Thank you my Welfare co-workers for the impact that you had on a guy just starting into the work world!  I needed it.

May 22 – easy breezy

302/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I have talked about my childhood many times over throughout these gratitude posts and recall more of the negative things that life threw at me as there were so many of those; however, I have never been bitter about those experiences in that I feel all of them have shaped me into who I am today. Yes, I had more than my fair share of bullies in elementary and high school but there were some good people as well. Anne was one of those people. She was kind and gentle and never partook in the harassment that I went through. We didn’t really know each other well but we knew of each other through casual conversations and the interactions of elementary and junior high school. I recall working on a project with Anne and the only reason it is still memorable is because it went off without a hitch (and of course, we got a good mark!!). Anne is also my first Facebook friend from the school days. After having had joined Facebook for a few years, I decided to look up school friends and Anne was the first person I friended. She was also the first school-mate that I reconnected with in real life as we grabbed a coffee when she was in town. It’s all because Anne was and is a very nice person and that quality shone through and it made a difference for me when I was younger. Thanks for being one of a few gentle breezes that helped me sail through the tough days of elementary and junior high.