July 22 – U

363/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Wow, only 3 more gratitude posts left including this one!!  When I started this journey a year ago, I was a little nervous as to if I would have 365 people to thank.  I didn’t want it to come down to posts such as thanking my mailman for the flyers he delivers in that they were the ones that led me on to some awesome deal!! ; )  Early on in these posts, I started hearing from friends that so and so had made “the list”.  I didn’t understand what that was until I was told that it was my “gratitude list”.  That put some pressure on me to say the least as there was now a “list”.  I didn’t want it to be a list and I didn’t want it to be some type of contest.  Then I heard that some people mentioned they were in the 80s and others were in the 200s!  I do have to make it clear that I haven’t had an order as to who I thank and thus whatever number gratitude post it was has no relation to ranking.  Most posts are the night before or a couple of days before.  Yes, I saved my dad for his birthday as I did with my children for theirs, my mom was first because well she is my mom but save for them and the final two gratitude posts, no one had a day or a number.  The list by the end of Sunday is far from complete.  I could thank another 365 people who got me to where I am today and this is what today’s gratitude post is about – to all of the people I didn’t name and there are hundreds of you that have impacted me!  So many former students, co-workers past and present, family members, inlaws, bosses, professors, fellow students, random strangers, neighbours past and present, friends, backhanded gratitudees (bullies and the like), service providers, celebrities etc, etc – just so many people who have made me who I am and to all of you un-named in this past year, you are part of this gratitude journey just because you were not personally mentioned here doesn’t mean you weren’t recognized by me.  To all the new people that will come in to my life, thanking you in advance as some of you will change and influence me in new ways.  Thank you to all of you who came along with me on this 365 day journey as well.  Your encouragement and support has gotten me to this end point.

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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!

June 19 – father figure

330/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  It’s dad’s day.  The day when male role models/caregivers/fathers/father figures are being recognized for their part.  Yes, I’m the first to say that moms are way important overall for children but if the dad is in the picture, he also matters and makes a difference.  Dads can be grand-dads and uncles, brothers and cousins especially in this day and age.  For all those fathers out there that may not be in their kids’ lives daily but do try, kudos to you.  For all those awesome fathers who are there for their kids, same on you.  And for those guys who are stepping up and being “dad” (whatever that may mean), well major props for you.  Yes, I’m second fiddle to my kids’ mom and I totally understand that bond.  My kids don’t necessarily appreciate me in the same way and I get it – especially with the angsty teenager – oh how I miss those elementary days with hand-made crafts and big hugs 😉   However, I was the same way and didn’t realize the value of my dad until much later.  Yes, he wasn’t around literally and figuratively but he did the best he could given his circumstances.  Thank you to him and to all the uncles who stepped in and helped out my mom to get us raised.  Most of you were not “real” uncles in the traditional sense of the word as you were more friends of the family or distant relatives but you were at times more real than my biological uncles and I truly appreciate you being there for assisting the family.  This one also goes out to my mom who was my dad for most of that time – took on both roles and yes, it was tough but you did the best you could and that’s not forgotten.  I know I’m not the best of dads by far as I didn’t have a consistent father figure to model myself but I try.  Hopefully one day, I have the same fatherly connections that I see out there in the social media world and will eventually measure up to my kids’ expectations but until then, I will keep on keeping on and try to get this dad thing right!  Cheers to all the dads!

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 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 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!

March 19 – reviving ophelia

238/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. We value physicality in girls yet mentality in boys. You may say you don’t but for most people it’s a default to focus on physical attributes when talking about their daughters (“you’re so cute” “my pretty girl” etc) and mental attributes in regards to theirs sons (“wow, that’s so clever” “you’re so smart”). Only the very enlightened of us use those latter words to describe their daughters without focusing on their physicality. I wasn’t so enlightened until I read the chapter on fathers and daughters in Mary Pipher’s “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” a book mainly aimed at mothers of daughters. I was the dad who told my 3 year old daughter how pretty she was and how cute she looked and rarely focused on her intelligence until I saw that she was modeling her outfits and carrying purses and looking at herself in the mirror. The chapter in the book saved me! It mentioned that however the first significant male (aka father) values the daughter is how she will value her worth especially with other males. I was devastated that I was responsible in creating this image that she had. I started consciously valuing her intellect and focusing on things that she created rather than what she looked like. When she asked me how she looked, I would throw it back on her – in essence, the onus was for her to be happy with her appearance rather than seek the approval of a male. I also consciously made comments in regards to the overly skinny, overly male-reliant, overly appearance-obsessed females in the media to get her to think in a different way of what it was to be female. I have an amazing, strong, independent daughter who focuses on her mental attributes much more than her physical attributes. If I had anything to do with it, it is all because of what I learned from Mary Pipher. I have touted the merits of this author many times over to fathers of daughters and mothers who have fathers of daughters in their lives.  She changed the way I parented and if this gratitude post has that same type of affect on other fathers, I’m so very happy for their daughters!

March 15 – speaking in tongues

234/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I’m very fortunate to have a second language. I was born and raised for the first seven years of my life in New Westminster, BC. I learned English and Punjabi at the same time – perhaps a little more English and a little less Punjabi. I will admit that my Punjabi skills are not the greatest – I think in English and then translate to Punjabi which inevitably creates a small lag time that is often commented on by my relatives to my chagrin. And yes, I don’t have all the words/vocabulary/grammar down and yes, my pronunciation and enunciation is not the best but I still try. I have to thank all my relatives from my parents to my uncles and aunts and to the aunties and uncles (extended and not related) who kept on speaking to me and my sister in Punjabi regardless of our understanding – you forced us to learn our mother tongue and although I’m in no ways an expert, I can definitely get by. I also have to thank you in allowing me to speak Pun-glish (a combination of both) when I couldn’t come up with terms to quite express myself in Punjabi which still increased my knowledge of the language. Although I would have loved to have had one of the Renaissance languages as my mother tongue (let’s be honest, Punjabi is pretty guttural although German takes the cake on that one), I’m still glad that I do have a second language and it allows me to connect with some of the older relatives and immigrant relatives who have never, ever had the opportunity to learn English. Thank you to all my relatives for giving me a skill that would have eluded me if I had any say in it.

March 14 – you gave my dad a chance

233/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I have yet to write a gratitude post for my dad but that one is coming in May on either his birthday or the anniversary of his passing and it will be one of the toughest ones I write but today, I have to honour the men who gave him his livelihood. Before and after his time/hospitalization/incarceration (whatever you want to call it) at Riverview, my dad did hold down a job to be able to support us. Yes, he would lose it at work due to his paranoia and delusions because of his schizophrenia and just walk off the job or not go to work for days or get into fights but the bosses/owners/managers must have known that he had a wife and two young kids and gave him countless chances. I recall my mom bestowing exorbitant Christmas gifts upon his bosses and I would complain as to why when we barely had enough to make it through but today I completely understand – those men gave my dad a job and focus and he brought in money to the house when he was working. I didn’t understand it then but I do get it now. They could have fired my dad for so many infractions but they kept him on – on until he got his pension and on so that he had benefits to cover us. I tried to search them up about a decade ago to phone them and tell them how much I, as an adult, wanted to thank them for doing what they did as I wouldn’t be who I am today if my dad wasn’t able to have held down a job to support us if not for them. Alas, I was not successful in my endeavour but this gratitude post goes out to you gentlemen – from the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you for doing the right thing and because of that, letting me and my sisters have lives that matter!

March 11 – more than just a job

230/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Growing up Indian, we were taught not to tell anyone about what went on in our house. We were told that family matters were to remain private and that no one needs to know about what we were going through. These gratitude posts have been cathartic for me and I don’t mind sharing my truths as I feel that I am only getting stronger and none of it is shameful. Because of this “keep the truth hidden” mentality, my family did not seek out help for my dad’s schizophrenia and I didn’t know about any resources, assistance, or aid that we would have been entitled to. I also did not benefit from any support groups that would have been available to us. In the last few years of my dad’s life and only because of his other health issues (diabetes, dementia, and heart bypasses) was he identified and put into the mental health system (did they forget about his decade or so at Riverview?) – this still shocks me.  A whole world of support was opened up to my mom and dad upon learning of him being in the community and this would have made a substantial difference for all of us growing up. However, I can’t live in the past but I want to thank the two ladies/case workers who were assigned to my dad in the last couple of years of his life – they were amazing. They helped my mom in numerous ways and checked up on her and my dad often and also told us about other resources that we were entitled to (for years had we known). In the last few months of my dad’s life, they gave my mom the additional support she needed outside of family to be able to cope with the inevitable loss that was about to take place given his deteriorating state. These ladies also explained a lot to myself and my sisters about the mental health programs – they were surprised that my mom had taken care of my dad that long in life without any type of provincial assistance. Although we only met them for a short time, their kindness and support was greatly appreciated by our entire family in my dad’s last years. Thank you for all your help.