July 12 – you did me wrong

353/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  How cliché? 😉  But it is so very true – I totally understand and live by that motto.  Everything that I have been through in my life has made me the guy you know.  Yeah, my life was tough but I know people have had it rougher.  I accepted my fate in life and dealt with it.  What I do wish though was that I had support growing up.  Yes, as I wind down these posts, I must throw in one final back-handed gratitude post to people who, without your non-care (for lack of a better word), made me even stronger.  You all should know by this time that my dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic.  We, as kids, were told to keep it hidden.  Deny it.  Don’t talk about it.  This was told to us by our mother.  But she was forced to tell us this as her in-laws wouldn’t accept/believe that their son/brother/brother-in-law had a mental illness.  I recall overhearing my mom being lectured that she was making things up and she had to stop phoning the police when my dad would lose it on her.  I remember also being told as a teenager that I was in collusion with my mom by having my dad institutionalized for that decade or so.  I was in shock and I had so much anger at my dad’s family.  They saw things from the outside.  We lived things from the inside.  As you may also know, my sister and I were in foster care for a short period.  We were living with different relatives at other times when my mom would be hospitalized because of my dad’s violence.  The anger stayed with me for most of my life.  I had to see these people at my dad’s funeral – these people who never were there for us growing up.  Any one of them could have stepped up and been a father figure, a true uncle but that never happened.  On my 18th or 19th birth year, my mom wanting to take me to see my paternal grandparents in India – I was lectured to by my uncles there that my mom and I (once again colluding) to steal my dad’s wealth and property there – no, they had no clue about the poverty we actually lived in growing up as my dad put my mom on an allowance and so she had to hold down multiple jobs just to care for us but I listened and festered.  I, however, did learn that three of his other siblings (two whom had committed suicide) were also afflicted by the same mental illness – I got a better understanding of my dad.  I was forgiving of my uncles and family in India as they did not have the same knowledge level as my dad’s Canadian family.  I have 100% forgiven my dad because none of what he did was in his conscious control but I can’t forgive my dad’s immediate family here in Canada.  You could have made a difference.  You could have acknowledged that there was something wrong.  You could have supported any of us, all of us.  Yes, you lay blame on us.  I’d like to think I’m a bigger person and can move on but I’m not that good – I can’t forget and I definitely can’t forgive.  I will say though that you have taught me a life lesson that not all family is there for you. Yes, this gratitude post might come off as very bitter but I think I’m entitled to this one.   I am so that much stronger in spite of/despite you and for that, you get the backhanded thank you!

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July 10 – the people in your neighbourhood

351/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m always fascinated by one’s environment and the kind of impact it has on one in regards to character formation.  I grew up in the 70s in Northwest Richmond BC – a predominantly white community with a few ethnic families.  We were told to assimilate by both our parents and by the community at large and we did.  My street – Riverdale (like the Archie comics – yes, I’m dating myself) – was host to a very diverse population in regards to socio-economic status, family types, and even ethnicities.  I remember almost every kid who lived on the street and I’d love to say that they were wonderful and left an amazing, lasting impression on me but I can’t say that.  With perhaps an exception of one or two, most were not pleasant to me.  However, that also helped shape me into the guy I am today.  My neighbours and yes, it’s my blog so I’m gonna name you – brothers Daryl and Ken R who lived right next door to me made my life a living hell (more so older Daryl with Ken following his lead).  They would spraypaint racist epithets on our driveway and no form of cleaning truly erased what was said literally and figuratively as it has stayed with me to this very.  Daryl would vandalize our home: windows broken, rip off our laundry off the line and I would have to go hunt it down on the street, throw all sorts of trash into our yard and have his buddies over to spit at me from their deck while I (remember that I am extremely overweight and nerdy) had to cut the grass.  Daryl would make fun of me when my dad would be taken to Riverview, he would say the worst racist things to my mom and I would yell back and he would laugh at my face.  My mom told me to ignore them and do what I had to and just keep the peace and although I was angry at Daryl and Ken, I did what I had to and took the abuse.  They involved neighbourhood kids like Candace and Todd, Arif and Shafik (yes, that Shafik if you live in Richmond) to join in and yes, they joined in.  There were others but I need to get off this bitter train before I start giving them all their own compartments 😉 The neighbour kids across the street, although not involved directly, saw how very unconfident I was and did their own things – siblings R, P and K, and K and her sister – nowhere near the extent of Daryl and his followers with physical things but more psychological.  At the time, along with the bullying I suffered from (see post #15) in school, I hated my life and just wished I didn’t live there but I got through.  As with that earlier bullying post, I became stronger – a Survivor.  Everything I am today is on a subconscious level in spite of all of my tormentors.   I haven’t really thought of these neighbourhood kids until today and just happened to Facebook find a few of them as I was writing this and was tempted to send them this link but I am above all that – yes, I named you and I needed to do that and yes, I hope some of you who read this post and are in touch with them will forward it to them but I am beyond the Riverdale neighbourhood kids today and so much better off given what you put me through as I am that much stronger.

July 3 – where my girls at?

344/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by females.  Born in New Westminster, my mom just 19 would stay with her aunts and nieces in Vancouver while my dad was at work.  I was told that I was passed from female cousin/aunt to female cousin/aunt as they were all older and I was the new toy.  I was with them for about the first four years of my life.  Nary a male around.  Growing up in Richmond, my own siblings and first cousins were born and they were all female.  I stayed with my aunts, sister and cousins while my mom worked.  Once again, usually the only male child around.  I can admit that because of my earlier nurturing, I have an ease with females that eludes many a male.  In high school, I related to the females who would say that they found it easy to get along with males as fellow females didn’t get them.  I felt this way with males but once I hit university and found my stride that all changed and I easily made friendships with my male counterparts just as easily as I did with the females.  I recall sitting down at a lunch table with a few female staff members who were already engaged in conversation.  I gleaned that they had an informal top 5 list of male staff members that “creeped them out”.  I was taken aback – no, not at the list, but if I had ranked!!?  I asked them as much and I was told that I could never, ever end up on such a list.  Phew!  Then of course I had to know who made it and was told and given an explanation for each and I realized that I was the antithesis of every single guy on the list based on their characteristics and qualities that made these women (and I suppose most women) uncomfortable.  Even tonight, there was a mini work reunion of sorts and it ended up being four females and myself and yes, when I initially heard about the guest list, I was missing the male camaraderie but moments into the festivities, friendship and ease took over and once again, I was in my element with these ladies cracking jokes and just reminiscing.  Thanks to all the females in my life when I was a young child as you totally shaped me into the man I am today allowing the females who come into my life today to appreciate the man I am and I thank you ladies as well for being a part of my life and accepting me into your fold.  Here’s where my girls are at!

June 11 – Queesborough queens

322/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Do you remember much about elementary school?  Especially the early years?  I was born in the royal city – New Westminster.  My parents moved to Queensborough where I went to school from Kindergarten to grade 3.  With no one to take me to school, my mom had arranged it so that two girls in the neighbourhood on Lawrence Avenue would walk me to and from school with them.  I, with a few of these gratitude honorees, do not recall their first names but do remember their last name – Kandola.  One of the girls would have been a year or two older than me and the other one would have been at least 5 or so years older.  It was very comforting for me to have these older “sisters” to watch over me and many times, I would stay at their place until my mom could come and get me.  I don’t recall where my sister was during this time (as she wouldn’t have been in school).  The Kandola girls showed me what kindness was and this was the safest of my times as a child as no bullying happened to me until we moved to Richmond in grade 4.  I didn’t realize how great I had it and have reflected upon it several times.  I remember being in my mid 30s or so being at a reception party and the older of the sisters coming up to my mom and giving her a hug.  I didn’t know who it was and when my mom pointed me out, she was in shock but came in for a big hug like a long lost adopted sibling.  It was surreal as I do kind of remember her but it was also very heartwarming as she felt like I was her little brother.  We reminisced for a short while and although, at that time, I wasn’t able to express to her how safe she had made me felt and how it was nice to have older, caring kids in the neighbourhood, I feel that she probably had an inkling.  Thank you Kandola girls for giving me peace and tranquility in my younger years before the eye of the storm would eventually make it my way – perhaps I needed the comfort and care of you two sisters and the memory of it to get through all the tough times.  Here’s to you both!

June 5 – Mr Singh

316/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Indian role model growing up?   Not until late elementary school.  There he was – Mr George Singh.  Indian.  Male.  Teaching grade 7.  Thompson elementary – my school.  I was intimidated and in awe at the same time.  I had never seen “myself” anywhere but in blue collar labour jobs.  Here was an Indian man.  Well groomed.  Articulate.  I never spoke to him once.  He transferred to the job while I was either in grade 5 or 6.  Once he made a comment about asking about my dad – and I wasn’t too sure what that was about and thus I kept my distance.  I wanted to and also not to be in his grade 7 class.  I did not end up being in his class.  Towards the middle of grade 7, my mom asked me if I knew of a Mr. Singh at the school?  She then informed me that he was my dad’s cousin!!  What?!  Extended family and we only saw that family at weddings or events on my dad’s side (which was rare).  I wanted to know how she knew that he was at my school and she told me that she had seen him and he mentioned me?!   Although he went by Mr Singh (the traditional Indian Sikh middle name), he was actually George Singh Sangha and upon realizing my (and my sister’s) last name and quick office sleuthing realized who we were.  He wasn’t aware of my dad’s mental condition and thus when he asked about him, he wanted to spark a conversation which I shied away from.  As the years passed on, I would see him occasionally at family functions and we chatted several times.   It was easier being an adult.  He had known that I had also become a teacher and he told me that he was proud of me (and secretly that made me happy).  So here we are several years later and my daughter is in grade 5 at Westwind Elementary.  She comes home to mention that there’s also a “new” older Indian grade 7 teacher!  Mr Singh!!  Uhm wow!  I happen to be at her school to pick her up and who finds me and engages me in a conversation and also mentions his sleuthing in regards to another Sangha – imagine his surprise when the parent on the file was me!  : )  I’m so very glad that Mr. Singh served as a role model that I believe influenced me on some subconscious level – I mean look at my career choice.  I am also glad that I was able to express my gratitude to him in person at a wedding reception telling him of how great it was to have him as a non-traditional role model in the late 70s – and perhaps again on some subconscious level, that is exactly who I am to the young Indo-Canadian youth that I work with!

June 2 – safe haven

313/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Everyone wants to feel safe/have a safe haven and I can say that with all I had to endure during my childhood/teen years in regards to bullying, there was one thing that the government did that gave me some comfort – a Parent Watch program.  This was a program where homeowners could sign up to be homes where a threatened child could go to that door for safey.  They would be vetted by the governing agency and if approved, would be given – well, I don’t know what they were given as my mom was an immigrant and didn’t sign up for it – but I’m assuming that they were given training and a sticker to place on their window to show young people that this was a safe home.  That sticker was my beacon.  It was a bright orange triangle with two children in it.  We were taught about it in elementary school that if we ever needed to get away from someone, be it a stranger, someone in a car, a bully, whomever, we could run to a home with this sticker and they would help us out.  I’m not sure how they would but just having that peace of mind got me through a lot.  Yes, I had bullies who beat me up on my way home from school because I didn’t expect them but then I got savvy and started to plan my routes around homes that shone this star of hope for me.  I never, ever ended up using the services of the safe homes but just by knowing they were there made it somewhat easier for me to get home from school.  I wish the government had a similar program in existence today as I would definitely sign up and give that same type of comfort (whether utilized) for any child feeling threatened or bullied on their travels.  I thank all those adults who volunteered for the program – you don’t know how it made a difference for a person like me.

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.

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 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 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.