July 23 – my wife

364/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Here it is.  The penultimate post.  The one that I wanted to write so many times but wasn’t ready for.  This one is for my wife – Lak.  I have not prepped my wife for this.  Yes, it may be wrong of me but I have to go with my heart.  I know that she is the yin to my yang and thus, this post is not what she would want as she is a very private person but I have been honest and public throughout the year and I have to finish on the same path.  My wife and I had an introduced marriage – not arranged as both of us had a “choice” to say no.  I had met several girls but the moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one.  Unfortunately for her, I was the first guy she met so she really didn’t get a chance to see others.  I know that we both felt pressured to get married – her more so than me and both of us being good children did what we were supposed to (this was the late 80s).  She was only 19 and I was 22 when we ended up getting married.  That first year – in fact the first couple of years – we were like a dating couple trying to get to know each other, figure each other out while being legally married at the same time.  I will say it straight up – I was not the best of husbands.  I was, I guess we both were, children thrown into this situationship but I acted like it; however, Lak was and is the one who could handle it and had/has maturity beyond her years.  I know I didn’t make the marriage easy on her but she sacrificed who she was to make it work and only in the past couple of years have I realized the things she has done to make sure that our home was a home and how she put her own needs after everyone else’s.  Yes, I took things for granted.  She is an amazing mother.  I fully recognize that.  Our daughter is a damn, wonderful young woman and it’s because of Lak and the tight bond that the two of them have and share.  My son, although he likes to pretend mom doesn’t matter, is her baby boy.  He adores her but won’t admit it.  She has been wonderful to them and has always put the kids first.  I know that is said of many mothers but Lak actually does it and I know my daughter realizes it and my son will also once he becomes a young adult and I definitely realize it though I should have acknowledged it more.  Not only is Lak physically stunning – yes, I’ve been told by several people (hundreds in fact) on how beautiful she is and what is she doing with me and yes, that’s a good question – but she is a very kind hearted, generous person to all those around her, a full time working mom (and has been since before the children were born and while they were young – never taking any time off) and a responsible daughter as well as good cousin, sister and friend.  As the years progressed and as does happen in many relationships, ours took a turn for the worse.  The boat that you thought was sailing along smoothly, capsized not as a result of some storm that you could have predicted and planned for but more due to the neglect of the maintenance required for the boat and then just getting used to it and the apathy towards the repairs that were necessary.  The boat tried to right side but would take on a lot of water and thus, we decided to take time apart from each other to reassess the boat itself as a vessel – I moved out.  New uncharted territory for both of us.  I decided to go public about the separation and with my feelings (freshly starting the gratitude posts into the first year of the separation); whereas, Lak wanted to deal with our relationship privately.  In retrospect, I totally understand her reasoning but in the moment, I wasn’t hearing it – something that has been my downfall throughout the almost 30 year relationship.  I definitely could have been a more understanding, more helpful, more there for her, more in tune with her needs type of husband.  Alas, I wasn’t and I apologize for my shortcoming but here we are back in the same space co-parenting our teenage son.  Where is this relationship between the two of us going to go?  I couldn’t even begin to guess.  Today’s post is not meant to be a public apology to undo the past but rather a public acknowledgement of gratitude for you, Lak being a great wife over the years to my not-so-perfect husband.  Thank you for sharing your life with me and wherever our roads lead us – either together on the same one, side by side intersecting here and there or in two opposite directions, I wanted to say I’ve loved sharing the journey and yes, I do love 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.

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 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 16 – home sweet home

296/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Home is where the heart is – okay, I have absolutely no clue what that means and I am too lazy to look it up on Google but my interpretation is that you gotta love where you live?  I was born in New Westminster and grew up in Richmond.  I lived in my family home until I got married.  My parents moved out into another home and under the condition that my wife and I looked after the home and the rental suite and took care of all the expenses, taxes etc, could live there rent-free.  What a great gift to start us off and very much appreciated until eventually the decision was made to look for our own home.  My mom recommended her friend’s son who had just got into the field of real estate and not knowing anyone, we decided to go with Yash.  We told him what we were looking for with the caveat that we had to find a place in six months as we were pregnant with our second child and didn’t want to do any moving close to the date of arrival.  Yash was amazing and with our restrictions for a home, narrowed down the choices but nothing came near our expectations and we did a lot of hunting.  I felt bad as we decided at the end of December 1999 that we were done looking for at least a year.  Then the third week of January (two weeks before Ethan’s due date), Yash phoned and said he found the perfect home – brand new, in an area of Steveston that was being renovated but just slightly over our price range (our cap was $375K – yes, I know!!!).  My wife said no – there would be no way it would meet our needs and I was there with her until Yash said to just take a quick look.  And that was it – he changed our life!  It was the home!  White picket fence.  Neighbours waving to you as you cut the lawn.  Neighbours meeting outside for a drink.  Parties with the neighbours.  Kids becoming life-long friends with neighbours.  Kids going to a public school referred to as Westwind Academy 😉  Swimming pool, bar, library, bar, restaurants and did I mention bar within walking distance.  Everything we wanted and more all because Yash knew this was the home!  We made an offer and it was instantly accepted and we were home owners moving in a week later and Ethan being born the following week – yes, crazy and I could not imagine doing that with the knowledge I have now but it was supposed to be but all because of Yash.  Yes, he left real estate soon afterwards for a law enforcement career but he was meant to have been our real estate agent in that moment and get us into this house.  Thank you Yash for insisting on seeing this home in the Duns and becoming a part of this community!  Without you, I would not have become a Stevestonite and enjoyed this lifestyle!

May 8 – to all moms

288/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.    My very first gratitude post 287 posts ago on my birthday was about my mother.  Today being Mother’s Day, I just wanted to recognize all the “moms” who’ve had an effect on me but also all moms in general as well.  Moms can be biological.  Moms can be adoptive.  Moms can be dads.  Moms can be single.  Moms can be aunts.  Moms can be grandmothers.  Moms can be family friends.  Moms can be in heaven.  Moms can be trying.  Moms can be loving.  Moms can be teens.  Moms can be older.  Moms are all sorts of things.  Moms are whomever you share that bond with.  My mom fits several categories.  My aunts have acted as surrogate moms.  My grandma has been a mother figure at times. My wife is a great mom to our kids.  I am the first to admit that the bond between mother and child(ren) is much more important than the bond between father and child and it will always be that way for most people – hey, there’s a reason why it’s the second biggest gift giving day (after Christmas) because our mothers are important.  Moms sacrifice careers, deal with tears, have fears and will get cheers but also jeers.  Moms are the true superheroes in my opinion – from my own mom, to my cousins, my wife, my sisters, my aunts, my friends, my grandma – I’ve seen how much moms do.  Today, I will go visit my mother but also my grandmother – yes, it shouldn’t be about one day but if not for today, I might keep putting it off (especially in my grandmother’s case).  To all the moms as defined above, thank you for all that you do as the ripple effect of your hard work, care and love are felt by countless others unbeknownst to you!

April 23 – basement dweller

273/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Sharing and Respect.  I was taught the meaning of these two words my entire childhood up into my teens.  No, I’m not speaking about things like toys or food.  I’m talking about space.  Most Indo-canadian children will understand what I’m talking about – basement rentals!  For as far as I can remember, I shared houses with others.  I don’t really remember much of my early life in New Westminster but I do remember living on Riverdale Drive in Richmond and sharing our home with others.  My parents had a full suite in the basement (2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, washroom) which they rented out from as far back as I can remember.  Growing up, I knew no different – people share homes.  I learned to share our space with others – yard and house.  I learned how to be respectful of others regarding noise, time, and privacy.  I also learned from the various renters.   There was cool George & Glenda – a young couple who were kinda funky, loved taking pictures and told me to focus on my education.  There was Slavo & Jana and their two kids –  a European couple who had just emigrated from Yugoslavia and were learning the language and the culture.  There was Mike and his Grandmother – he so cool with the multitude of Asian girlfriends and she so nice like a second grandmother to me.  I’m sure there were at least a dozen or so “families” that made our basement their home for as long as they needed to.  In addition to sharing and respect, I learned so much more about people by having to share a common living place with them.  Yes, I didn’t love it all the time and my first home did not have a rental unit much to the chagrin of my parents but I understand why my parents needed to rent out their home and don’t fault them at all.  I learned a lot from all the people who passed through our house on Riverdale as they had a small part in shaping the man I am today.  I know I’ll never see them nor remember them if I saw them today but I’m glad that they crossed my path and for that, I thank them.

April 7 – to advise or not

257/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  What’s the toughest job out there?  You probably thought I was going to say my own – teaching.  Nope, that’s not it.  Air traffic controller?  Yes, it’s the #1 most stressful job but there’s something even more stressful.  ER nurse/doctor?  Once again, it’s not that either even though they are dealing with so many different personalities and unexpected circumstances.  The most stressful job which combines elements of every job out there is that of a parent.  Believe me, I speak from experience!  The terrible twos have nothing on the teenage years.  Got one through who is now 22 and on the other side of the fence but I’ve got one now who is testing my limits and asserting his independence as he is supposed to.  In the job of parent, you don’t know what you sign up for and who you are going to get but I appreciate the advice of other parents who’ve been through it or are going through it.  I didn’t realize that until having kids of my own.  In the beginning, yes, there are those who are giving you unsolicited advice on how to hold the baby, what to feed it and when and how not to coddle etc etc.  Then comes the advice in the toddler years to the early primary years and which teacher to get and which one to stay away from if you get into the right school in the first place.  That’s about the time I started wanting and appreciating parenting advice from other parents.  Now here I am with my second teenager and welcome as much relevant advice as there are days where I’m on the verge of pulling my hair out – thank God I have a lot of it  😉  However, I have a huge caveat as to when it comes to parenting advice – harder to accept/listen to your suggestions (usually criticisms) if you are not a parent and don’t acknowledge that point.  I don’t care how many books you’ve read, how many nieces and nephews you have, how educated you are, how many students you have taught or whatever the case may be – you don’t know parenting unless you are a parent especially if you start off with “I would…”.  Yes, I might have ruffled quite a few feathers with that comment but let me liken it to the following:  me giving hockey advice to my son just because I’ve watched games and know stats and team histories and all the rules – okay, maybe a bad example as I know none of that but you get my point 😉  If I haven’t put on a pair of skates and been on the ice against another team and hockey isn’t my life, I have no place in giving unsolicited advice to my son on how to improve his game unless he asks for it.  So to all the parents who have given, continue to give and will give me parenting advice, I so much appreciate it as you know what you are talking about.  To the others, the thought is appreciated and your suggestions are too but just keep in mind that you are on the outside looking in and I’m living it so I may not really understand your intent but if it’s coming from a good place, much respect.  To both groups of people, thank you for thinking of me and my situationship and I am gonna survive this second teenager too as it is what I signed up for 🙂

April 2 – Therapy 2.0

252/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  About 200 gratitude posts ago (wow, that’s a big number to comprehend), I showed appreciation for my therapist who got me through my separation, eventual move out on my own, and acceptance of my situation.  I saw her for a year and she acted as a sounding board and was very reflective in nature mirroring what I said (and needed) playing more of a life coach role.  This year, I decided to go back to therapy to now work on myself even further and delve into what makes me who I am.  I had the choice of seeing the same therapist but I decided that she was great at what she helped me with but I needed to find someone who might challenge me further.  This new therapist not only does that but she calls me on things which I was initially taken aback by but I have made huge strides in 5 sessions delving into my childhood and the absence of a father figure.  This therapist “S” also told me that her way may challenge me and it has – she stops me mid-sentence to have me feel the emotion associated with the words/thoughts that I am expressing which is something I rarely do.  She also has taught me how to give numerical value to all the emotions I feel and to also appreciate my own worth instead of looking for others’ approval/trying to win them over with my actions – something that I am totally guilty of and am now cognizant of.  Her therapy sessions are more than just talk at/with but involve the use of props, homework and readings with a big focus on my cognition and also approaching that little boy of 6 or 7 that saw a lot but did not understand it and decided to become the good boy to not disappoint anyone – now that’s what I call a breakthrough.  Getting in touch with the younger me has helped me to see how I became the me of today.  Thank you S for really challenging me to look into myself rather than just superficially at my actions.  I look forward to more sessions to really work on myself to become an even better version of me.

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!