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.

June 30 – how do you spell your name?

341/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In teacher world, the normality is to teach other people’s children.  People that you don’t know.  However, sometimes you end up teaching people you know through friendships or familial relationships.  For me, that hasn’t really ever happened except very early in my career, I substitute taught (one of only two times in my life) and ended up with my cousin and his friends in my class.  What does happen for me – quite often – is that my teacher friends have ended up teaching my children.  Many of them saw them as babies and then ended up having them in their classroom.  Yes, it’s awkward for my kids, my friends and me but all parties have gotten used to it.  Ornella is one of these teacher friends who ended up teaching my daughter – the daughter that she saw me bring to Burnett when we both taught together.  Ornella ended up being her counsellor in high school and I am so, so very glad that that ended up happening.  My daughter had a great tight-knit group of friends in elementary school.  The graduating grade 7 class went on to two different high schools – 80% to Steveston and 20% to McMath (at that time, it has reversed the other way around for my son seven years later).  Unfortunately for my daughter, her entire friendship group ended up at Steveston and she was lone warrior to battle McMath and what a battle it became because of the mean girls who accompanied her from Westwind.  She wanted to transfer to the school I taught at and I entertained those notions until Ornella phones me and gave me friend to friend, parent to parent and counsellor to parent advice which was to stop giving her an out.  She may struggle that first year but Ornella would be there for her to guide her and get her in the right classes. I remember my daughter going to see Ornella to figure things out and I felt at ease to know that I had a friend in my corner to help my child out.   Besides being an advocate for my daughter, Ornella and I have a good friendship.  Yes, we haven’t seen each other in ages (which will be remedied this weekend) but oh the laughs and stories we share when we do get together – she remembers every Randy-ism that has taken place and sadly there have been many and I’m sure I will be hearing about a few this weekend but I look forward to it because it comes from a place of friendship.  Thank you Ornella for being there for my daughter and for being an awesome friend to me!!

June 24 – familial bonds

335/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Sometimes a person doesn’t even have to have a direct impact on another to be having an impact on that other.  Does that make sense?  Let me explain.  My wife’s family – especially the cousins – have been close to us.  We have seen them grow up and become young men and women and then move on to join the ranks of parenthood and now their children are becoming teenagers.  Sandy is one of those cousins.  I remember going to Golden, BC and to a duplex where Sandy and her siblings all met me for the first time – the guy who married their cousin.  I remember Sandy being a young teenager with long light brown hair.  Although, due to proximity (Golden and Vancouver), we all would get together at family functions.  Then Sandy stayed with us a year while going to school.  She had a great influence on our daughter Natasha and to this day, Natasha, and also Ethan, look up to her.  They watch the way they raise the kids and use both of my kids as role models but in a respectable way.  I watch and see how both my kids and their kids get along even though there is a large age discrepancy.  I watch how advice is being given and I see the maturity exhibited by both sets of kids.  Sandy has done a great job with her kids but also with mine.  Even though my wife has no sisters, Sandy is like a younger sister to her and the first aunt that comes to my kids’ mind when they think about going to a family home to hang/have dinner – “let’s go to Sandee musee’s house!”  Thanks Sandy for being a great part of our family and being there for us all.

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!

June 18 – baby sister

329/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ll probably come off bitter or mean-spirited with this gratitude post but that is not my intent going into it.  I have a sister who is almost 15 years my junior and it’s obvious that we have major differences given our age gap.  My father was released from Riverview after about a decade or so once his schizophrenia was properly diagnosed and managed with medication and about a couple of years later my youngest sister Sandee was born.  I can admit that I was subconsciously jealous of her and the parents that she had in that she had both and my dad was working, more or less cognizant of what was going on in the world because of the meds and adored her.  However, the thing about having a younger sibling was that I had an early start on learning what parenting was all about as myself and my other sister (two years my junior) were basically responsible for her as both my parents worked at that time.  I learned how to feed, bathe, clothe and change a young infant.  Did I love it?  Hell no LOL.  Whereas all my teenage counterparts were living teenage lives, I was at home with my sisters responsible for them but I still had fun – I remember good times with Sandee – playing board games, fashion showing her Barbies, making her watch movies with me (barring the scary ones), playing dress-up, being host to her and my cousins talk shows and a host of other activities.  Sadly, Sandee doesn’t remember this and has bitter feelings towards me as she feels that I wasn’t the older brother that I should have been (which boggles my mind) and I wasn’t there for her.   Yes, I may not have been that dad/brother figure that she desired but that wasn’t my responsibility.  In the past, I tried explaining to her (both of us as adults) that I was almost 18 years old when she was three and I was in university and had to focus on myself and I also wanted to be away from my parents as I needed to assert my own independence but because she had some idealized version of what brothers were supposed to be, I have never measured up in her eyes.  I also tried to get her to see my perspective of what it was like for me to grow up with a (schizophrenic) dad who was institutionalized and unfortunately she couldn’t understand it and trivialized it – It’s sad that we have been estranged and I have not seen her daughter who was born almost two years ago nor her son who I had a great bond with.  Life is like that unfortunately especially because of family dynamics.  I still care for my sister even though we have our differences.  Unfortunately, because both of us are of the same ilk, our pride gets in the way and I can admit that we are both to blame in the way our relationship has turned out.  Wherever we may be in life, I am glad that I had Sandee as we needed each other when my father passed away three years ago.  Who knows if we will even mend our broken bonds but I’m still glad that I have my sibling(s).

June 2 – safe haven

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

May 31 – to my dad

311/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This one’s a tough one.  I can only put it off for so long but tonight is the right time.  My dad passed away 3 years ago on the 26th of May a few days before his birthday which is today.  He would have been 80 today.  I have mixed emotions when it comes to my dad but through therapy, I have learned that those emotions, although valid, are of my own perspective and not because he did anything wrong consciously.  My dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic – he thought the government and all its agents were after him and by extension the family and thus he did not abide by certain rules and we were not allowed to live in the way most people live.  However, back in the 70s and early 80s, no one really knew all that much about mental illness and the myriad of diagnoses.  His own brothers and sisters denied he had a condition and lay blame on us (myself, my sister and mother) for fabricating tales about him.  He could get jobs but because of his delusions, those would soon end.  Eventually, because of things I’d rather not delve into, he ended up being institutionalized at Riverview Institute.  I was around 6 years old.  He was in and out of Riverview – sometimes on a month release, other times because he would “escape”.  This was our life for the next decade or so.  During this time, a feeling of resentment grew in me.  I would see dads and sons everywhere: playing ball, helping ride bikes, walking to school, cutting the lawn etc.  Upon a few of his unsanctioned “leaves”, the proverbial white van showing up at our house with my dad being taken back in a strait jacket is etched deeply into my memory.  I was embarrassed and neighbourhood kids made fun of us calling us the “retard’s kids” – oh damn, this is getting pretty tough tears welling up – but through it all, he was my dad and I had to remember that.  When he was finally diagnosed properly and on meds that managed his condition, he came back into our lives on a full time basis.  I finally had a normal dad for the most part – yes, he still had delusions and would talk to himself but less so.  He got a good paying job.  Worked hard and a year later, my parents had their third child – my younger sister.  I will admit that I was ambivalent towards her as this sister ended up with two more or less functioning parents and much more of a normal life than I had.  I had a very superficial relationship with my dad in that I guess I blamed him for not being around and thus, in turn making me feeling I was less than adequate.  I blamed him for not giving me the male role model I needed.  I was jealous of the new family dynamics when he was back.  I was upset that I didn’t have a normal childhood and laid all blame on him.  I know now that he did not do any of this!  He did not leave us willingly and consciously.  He did not abandon us because he didn’t love us.  He didn’t talk to or not acknowledge our existence because he didn’t care.  He didn’t hold down jobs because he was lazy.  He had a mental illness.  He was not in control.  Damn, more tears!!!  He worked hard.  He saved up money.  They got a brand new home.  New cars.  New “toys”. A new life.  Being the dad/granddad to my son that I never had.  Yes, I felt like I was on the sidelines looking in but I was also an adult and had to get over it.  I am 100% sure that my dad made me into a stronger person.  I needed to go through all of that to be the man I am today – phew, more tears!!  Towards the latter years of his life, I was able to let go of my resentment.  No, we did not have a movie-like wonderful ending – more like an ongoing telenovela/Bollywood drama where we were good for this week’s episode but that hole in my heart for lack of a father became much smaller in diameter.  Yes, I have never properly thanked him, told anyone I loved him, acknowledged him or even yet grieved his passing but this gratitude post is a start, albeit a public one, that my dad, given all he had to go through, ended up teaching me about life, struggles, being responsible for self and not letting your past dictate your future.  I love you dad for giving me life and caring for me in your own way.  Thank you for moving to Canada, marrying mom and creating something here and leaving behind a great inheritance both financial and emotional for the three of us children moving forward.  I still have a lot of work to do on myself in regards to father/son bonds but wherever you are, I am no longer angry or resentful – I can honestly say that I do love you and what you did for us.

May 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!

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!