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 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.

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!

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 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.

June 25 – that indian boy

336/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One can never really know if they inspire others.  One can never really know if they are a role model to others.  Unless that one is told.  Teaching is a career that lends itself to making differences for people but as I alluded to, you don’t know who you are affecting or how you are doing so.  At McNair, the school that I am at, a school with a diverse student population, and a school with many students from the same ethnic heritage as myself, I was worried that I wouldn’t be Indian enough for my students – okay, let’s be honest, I knew I was not Indian enough if at all and wondered how they would take me.  There was an Indian boy in my classes with a turban and surprisingly, he hung on my every word and listened intently in my Psychology class.  Gurkaran would ask me about how different theories helped explain certain types of behaviour.  He would question some of my choices in regards to my education and job choices growing up.  He would ask my advice on current issues and I was told by another teacher that Gurkaran was really impressed by me and I was having an impact on him.  I was more than surprised as I did not realize that I was having any type of influence on him – for whatever reason and shortcomings/stereotypes I built up, I just assumed that the last connection I would make would be with Indian kids but here I was doing just that.  Because of Gurkaran, I had to let go of a lot of stereotypes I had about my western upbringing and those of the Indian students I was teaching – an important and necessary revelation and realization for me.  There were much more commonalities that I had with my Indian students and my differences actually added to my abilities as a teacher to inspire all kids regardless of ethnicity.  I am thankful for Gurkaran in making me aware of the connectivity I have with students that I unconsciously put a barrier up against.  Demolition fully complete this year!

June 14 – gettin’ my Indian on

325/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Writing these posts, I’ve realized that there are many people who have influenced me on my life journey inside and outside of my ethnic heritage.  For any of you who have had to balance the fine line between two worlds, you will understand this post.  I was born and raised in Canada.  My parents were immigrants but they immediately assimilated into the Western culture as that was the way back in the early 1960s.  Growing up, I knew that we were different – yes, obviously because of skin colour but also because of “rules” that we were subjected to in our homes that my friends were not.  However, being the oldest and often just with my mom and sister, I was able to shape my mom into what was the ‘right’ thing as opposed to what her more traditional family was telling her.  I was proud growing up ‘western’ (no offense meant to anyone) as I was able to traverse life a lot easier back in the 70s and 80s without anyone really paving the way for me.  Our parents, as well as those of our cousins (all, also born in Canada), tried to inculcate Indian/traditional ways but most of us rebelled as we didn’t understand the restrictions and limitations.  We overcame and basically moulded our parents.  However, we didn’t know what we were really missing about our heritage until the 4th and final sibling of my mom emigrated from India to Canada with her family.  Initially most of us cousins were a bit reluctant in hanging out with our new cousins as they were – well very Indian 😉  I felt I had nothing in common with them other than that our parents were siblings.  My mom insisted that I have all three of my new cousins (with their spouses) over for dinner and I argued against it but caved.  Yes, it was awkward and even communications was tough as their English was minimal as was my Punjabi.  However, our familial bonds started to entwine us and soon enough we were laughing and learning.  They tried martinis and wine, I tried my Punjabi language.  We looked at photos and they reminisced about how they first met the fat Randy in India when I was 7 or 8 years old and then the total transformed Randy of 19 once again in India.  I cringed but I loved it – we were family.  These were my cousins.  Over the years, they have bonded me to my heritage more than anything could have and I try hard to be worthy of their respect but I know they respect me regardless.  Thank you Jeeti, Jasvir and Gurmeet for making me feel proud of my Indian heritage and family.  I raise a cup of chai with a Crown Royal chaser in your honour ; )

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!

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.