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 8 – bros in law

349/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Some of these posts would have been written earlier in my 365 day journey but because of life circumstances, I wasn’t in the mental place to write them because of my personal situationship!  However, almost a year later, I am in a better place and acknowledge people who did impact me positively prior to the life events of the last few years.  I have four brothers-in-law.  Two are married to my sisters.  Two are my wife’s brothers.  I’ve talked about one of my sister’s husband already.  Tonight, it’s about my wife’s brothers.  I met Jujar and Surinder almost 25 years ago at the various pre-wedding functions that take months and months at Indian weddings! 😉 Jujar one year my senior and Surinder one year my junior.   I was excited as I had instant brothers!  I only had sisters all my life so it was cool to have these two new guys.  The two of them are pretty much exact opposites.  Jujar, the one with the cool name (nickname Ju) that I had never heard of (even to this day), is calm, easy-going, laid back and takes life as it comes.  I chuckle to myself when I think about first meeting him and his afro – but I am one to talk about hairstyles!! 😉  I can say that I have rarely, if ever, seen Ju get upset or fazed by anything.  I mean, he could have 20 extended family members show up at his house and decide they are going to spend the night and he just gets the air mattresses ready as if it’s no big deal (and to him, it isn’t) and we have an impromptu motel for the night!  Surinder is the guy who lives for the moment.  For as long as I have known him, every year he and his family are vacationing in some amazing destination that I have only dreamed of.  He makes time for his family when he can which is understandable when one is living in Texas.  He brings a sense of fun and frivolity when the families get together.  It has been great having these guys as brothers-in-law – all three of us very different, but all three of us learning from one another.

July 6 – oldest niece

347/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve been told that I am quite naïve at times and take things very literally at other times missing the subtle sarcasm or subtext.  I’d like to think I’m just very straight forward and expect things to be relayed to me that way as well 😉  I have also been told that I am quite into my looks.  Okay, well, I won’t argue that but if you know my history – and if you have been reading these posts – well, then that personality trait is understandable.  I thought I was one of a kind until my niece Sabrina came along.  I didn’t see the similarities in personality until her own mother, my sister Pam, pointed them out.  From then on, almost everyone commented on how we were similar.  I didn’t take offense to it and I’m hoping Sabrina never did as it has been a running theme/joke whenever the family had gotten together for family gatherings.  Sabrina was born about a year before my daughter so I got a quick education on what parenting as an adult would look like.  In fact, Sabrina did everything a year before my daughter – entered kindergarten, high school, university etc and thus, I also received a cursory overview of what could possibly in store for my daughter and thereby myself.  I enjoyed our easy rapport and definitely our similarities and our uncle/niece bond but alas, as things have happened in my family, Pam and I have become estranged and sadly but understandably Sabrina decided to also cut ties with me in solidarity with her mother.  I hope that someday soon Sabrina remembers the happy times that we all shared as family but especially myself and her and perhaps will decide to rebuild our relationship as individuals rather brother/daughter of a family member but until that time, I wish her well and will always remember the learning that took place for me as I saw her growing up.

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 12 – my sisters-in-law

292/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I have no brothers, thus I have no sisters-in-law from my side of the family; however, I have two brothers-in-law (my wife’s brothers) and they both have wives and thus I have two sisters-in-law that way.  I will just start with the fact that it has been over two years since I have spoken to either of them and through no fault of theirs and can’t say that it is my fault either.  Since my separation, it is totally understandable that there are implied loyalties but this post has nothing to do with the last two years and all about the two plus decades prior.  My sisters-in-laws Keren and Palo are two of the funnest and funniest in-laws I have.  From day one, they made me feel at home and we’ve had instant chemistry and a bond.  Palo, a year my senior, who looks several years my junior, is the person I watched be a mother to her child well before we had our own.  Her calmness amazes me with how nothing flusters her.  Her friendliness is other-worldly – she puts everyone else’s needs before hers.  Her genuineness is just that – she cares about how you feel and takes interest in things that are going on with you.  Keren, the Colombian hottie, cracks me up every time we get together.  Our wine drinking adventures are legendary.  Our heart to heart conversations are meaningful.  Her taste in music schools me!  Her authentic Spanish/Mexican/Colombian meals are to die for.  What these two ladies have is a love for life that I share and that’s why I think we had instant connections.  Although in time, I think we may reconnect and rekindle our in-law bonds, rest assured ladies that you had an awesome influence on me over the last 25 or so years and I couldn’t have asked for two more amazing sisters-in-laws!

April 19 – bro-in-law 1

269/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I have four brothers-in-law:  two married to my sisters and two brothers of my wife.  One of my sisters was married before me and I have known her husband/my brother-in-law Kam for just a few months shy of 30 years!!  That’s a long time!  British accent and soccer aficionado and big beer drinker, I didn’t really have anything in common back then except for my sister.  We always had a brother-in-law relationship with each other rooted in civility – not much to converse about as we had a world of differences.  The only time in 30 years that we ever had an argument sticks in my mind LOL – the four of us (me, wife, sister and Kam) decided to road trip to California (or was it Mexico??) from Vancouver.  In a small car.  With no air conditioning.  In summer!  Yes, if that is not a set-up to lose it with another person, I don’t know what is.  And lose it we did.  Basically not speaking for a couple of days probably because of some small insignificant thing that heated up literally and figuratively.  I totally understand it in retrospect and the good thing is we were back to our civil ways before the end of the trip.  I can’t say we have a friendship in the traditional respect of the word but we have respect for each other and mine comes from the fact that he takes great care of my mother’s needs.  He is always there for her when she needs things fixed, picked up, arranged, organized whatever it may and he is my mom’s go-to guy as she has gotten so used to that she now neglects to ask me for assistance (which might be a good thing as I probably wouldn’t know what to do).  He may complain in secret but has never said anything to me or my mom and just helps out with anything and for that, you have had a great impact on me as you are taking care of my mom more like a son than a son-in-law.  Sadly we haven’t seen each other (due to an estrangement with my sister) except when we happened to be at the same soccer game and even then he asked how I was doing and told me to take care of myself – once again, cordiality at its best.  Thanks Kam for being my first brother-in-law and being there for mom – always!

April 10 – my siblings

260/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  So today is siblings day.  Sad because as I have aged, my siblings and I have grown apart over the years rather than closer.  So apart that I don’t speak to either of my sisters over issues that really are petty but because emotions and pride are involved, no one wants to admit they were wrong and I’ll be the first to admit it.  I can now reflect on it and see that both sides are at fault when it comes to a disagreement and that acknowledging perspectives does not lower one to agree with said perspectives.   I did make the first move to mend fences with one of my sisters through a gratitude post on New Years’ Day but here we are in April and I have yet to hear anything from her although the post made it to her.  Regardless of where we are in our relationship today, I am glad that I had them in my life growing up.  I can say that I wasn’t a perfect brother especially to my younger sister (we are 14 years apart) as I had my own issues to deal with being bullied, not having my dad around, trying to get good grades so I could be something and move out; however, I tried to spend a lot of time with her in her younger, formative years which she probably wouldn’t remember.  Yes, as she got older, I’m sure she would have wanted what she saw in tv and movies as an older brother but as we grew up, the age difference didn’t help as at 19 when I wanted to go out or hang at university, she was a mere 5 years of age.  I did learn how to change diapers and feed a baby and all sorts of other things that come with parenting as my other sister and I became surrogate parents while my mom worked.  I have great memories of the good times with both my sisters and perhaps that is what I can focus on this Siblings Day and take pride in the fact that my own two kids get along well given their 7 years in age difference.  Here’s hoping that one day me and my sisters can let bygones be bygones and mend our bonds.

February 28 – cousin-in-law

219/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s true when they say you marry, you marry into a family and everyone else in that family. Connections are made – some good, some great, some not so. I have been very fortunate in that my wife’s family is amazing. Before the separation, I spent a fair bit of time with them and enjoyed their company. The family is huge and the get-togethers were amazing – everyone loving, caring and genuine. I valued my time with them and would take their company any day over my own smaller family as there was a great bond with them. I felt accepted and valued by most of the family members and I had a great relationship with the cousins and spouses. Yes, I was weird uncle Randy and I relished that role 😉 However, as things happen with a separation, understandably uneasiness and confusion takes place as to the navigations of the extended family dynamics. Since I’ve been back home, I have had some time to think about these lost relationships and it has been awkward for me to engage in in-law family get-togethers as I guess on some level I felt hurt as I thought the connections that were there could have ridden the storm on even a simple level – just a message of “heard, hope you are well” instead of a complete shut-out but as I said, I am working through those feelings as I can see the other perspective.   The one person who I must thank today and who has been one of my most favourite in-laws is Raj. She is the one who has always had my back – when others make judgment calls or feel they know the right answers because they are louder – she always steps to the forefront and says it like it is. We have similar outgoing personalities and sometimes to our detriment, wear our feelings on our sleeves. She also understands me plus has a great sense of style – I mean we were both blondes once 😉  Upon my moving back, Raj did make an effort to connect with me and although I didn’t let her know, I am saying it here that I appreciate you reaching out to me – whereas others didn’t or haven’t since, you have and although I wasn’t ready then, I am ready now to reconnect. I feel so bad that I missed the birth of your child but she’s young, she won’t remember fingers crossed 😉 Thank you for being an awesome cousin-in-law and always a ray of sunshine 🙂

January 2 – you marry the family

162/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. As many of you know, mid last year, my wife and I separated for a period of 13 or so months to take time apart to figure things out. Of course, a separation doesn’t just affect the two people involved – it affects the entire family, extended family and friends of both people. Obviously it was rough on my two kids – especially since they are older and can internalize things in a different way than younger kids but they didn’t have to choose sides as we were still both their parents. However, the choosing of sides does and did happen with most of the other adult members of family and to an extent, friends especially those that are good friends with only one person and that is completely understandable. However, it is still hard to accept when you are the receiving party of no contact. I had the hardest time losing touch with the people I was close to and that happened to be my wife’s siblings, cousins and spouses. I actually felt very fortunate to spend time with them pre-separation as they were a second family to me – dare I say that at times I enjoyed spending time with them over my own side of the family as we had so much fun and laughter together. Unfortunately, once they were informed of the separation, most of them decided not to make contact with me. Yes, from my perspective, I felt shunned but I also understood why as my wife is their cousin/sister/niece/aunt and there is loyalty and I appreciate that – I just felt that a simple text or email or FB message saying “Hey, how are you doing? I heard” would have gone a long way. Once again, I completely understand the difficulty of not being able to reach out but it will take me time to get over my feelings – it’s easy to recognize but harder to let go – more therapy I guess 😉 This was not the case with all the inlaws and for those of you who did reach out, I appreciate it and will not forget it. Thank you for that. For the others, I hope in my own time I can get over my feelings of hurt and get back to the good times that we used to have but I am very glad that you were there for my wife and kids and gave them the stability that they needed. Thank you all for being a part of my life as well. Cheers to you.

January 1 – my sister

161/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s the new year – new start and I’m going to start with letting bygones be bygones. As many of you may have gleaned from previous gratitude posts, I haven’t had the easiest of times growing up. Being bullied, having my father institutionalized for most of my childhood life due to schizophrenia, not fitting in at all – just a far from ordinary childhood. I have at times wondered how I made it through but deep down I know how I made it through because I had a partner during that time – my sister Pam. Two years younger than me, she the calm, cool thoughtful one to my crazy, erratic self, she also had to deal with the chaotic life we had at home. She saw and experienced the same things I did outside of school – dad at Riverview, dad escaping Riverview and us escaping dad, dad back at Riverview, mom working to support the three of us and then both of us working to help her out – these are just some of the childhood experiences that come to mind but so many others that most people couldn’t begin to fathom. She the pretty one to my ugly duckling. She the popular one to my “geekwardness”. But she always being the one there for me. I could easily have been jealous but I was proud of the fact that one of us had it going on. Many times, we were on our own for various reasons and had to cook for the two of us, keep the house in order or pay the bills forging one or the other parent’s signature on cheques, crying together wondering what was going to happen to us – just a normal week in our lives but we did it together. We were perfectionists where our lives were far from perfect. We both got the best grades possible, worked part time, did all the household chores and obeyed our mom at all times. All our uncles and aunts commented on how good we were but we both knew that we had to do right by our mom given all that she had gone through so we could not disappoint her even if it meant we were disappointing ourselves. Our sibling bonds were established very tightly and because of our life experiences, we were very close growing up. Even as we ended up having our own families and our own lives, we still made time to hang with each other and had a great relationship. Of course, we would have the occasional sibling flare-up but be over it in a few days because perhaps we had that subconscious knowledge that we’ve been through way worse growing up. However, that was not the case about a year and a half ago. Unfortunately due to a number of circumstances, we have not spoken to each other in that long a time due to our differences. Both of us were not willing to forgive but over the course of starting my gratitude journey and writing this blog, I have learned the importance of letting go and appreciating people. I miss our sibling bond as we went through a lot during our childhood and teen years that most don’t go through in one lifetime. If not for you Pam, I wouldn’t be me – the two of us survived our childhood to be amazing adults if I don’t say so myself. I am hoping that this blog post somehow finds its way to you and we can start opening the lines of communication, however small the start is, and go from there. You are my sister and I am your brother and I hope we can start the transition to being that in 2016 no matter how difficult and uncomfortable the first steps are. To you my sister!