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 3 – where my girls at?

344/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by females.  Born in New Westminster, my mom just 19 would stay with her aunts and nieces in Vancouver while my dad was at work.  I was told that I was passed from female cousin/aunt to female cousin/aunt as they were all older and I was the new toy.  I was with them for about the first four years of my life.  Nary a male around.  Growing up in Richmond, my own siblings and first cousins were born and they were all female.  I stayed with my aunts, sister and cousins while my mom worked.  Once again, usually the only male child around.  I can admit that because of my earlier nurturing, I have an ease with females that eludes many a male.  In high school, I related to the females who would say that they found it easy to get along with males as fellow females didn’t get them.  I felt this way with males but once I hit university and found my stride that all changed and I easily made friendships with my male counterparts just as easily as I did with the females.  I recall sitting down at a lunch table with a few female staff members who were already engaged in conversation.  I gleaned that they had an informal top 5 list of male staff members that “creeped them out”.  I was taken aback – no, not at the list, but if I had ranked!!?  I asked them as much and I was told that I could never, ever end up on such a list.  Phew!  Then of course I had to know who made it and was told and given an explanation for each and I realized that I was the antithesis of every single guy on the list based on their characteristics and qualities that made these women (and I suppose most women) uncomfortable.  Even tonight, there was a mini work reunion of sorts and it ended up being four females and myself and yes, when I initially heard about the guest list, I was missing the male camaraderie but moments into the festivities, friendship and ease took over and once again, I was in my element with these ladies cracking jokes and just reminiscing.  Thanks to all the females in my life when I was a young child as you totally shaped me into the man I am today allowing the females who come into my life today to appreciate the man I am and I thank you ladies as well for being a part of my life and accepting me into your fold.  Here’s where my girls are at!

May 31 – to my dad

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

May 26 – time of need

306/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Today is anniversary of my dad’s passing.  It has been 3 years.  I am not ready to write about him (that will be done next Tuesday on his birthday giving me time to think about the gratitude post).  Tonight I want to honour all the people who came out to give their heartfelt condolences during that time.  We knew it was going to happen as he was hospitalized and immobile for over a year and it was no way to live out your final days but that is neither here nor there.  All the friends and relatives who came and helped us with the arrangements and the Punjabi traditions around someone’s passing were greatly appreciated.  All the people who helped my mom get through it by literally supporting her during her time of need.  All the cousins who had already gone through a similar experience and figuratively and literally held our hands through the process.  My school board for allowing me two weeks of paid leave for funeral and grieving alleviating that aspect of stress.  Friends’ kind words and encouragement through that time.  I had never experienced a death of a family member until I was well into my 40s and regardless of age, one is never prepared especially losing an immediate family member.  I am very glad that I had people to fall back on who gave support in more ways than one.   I had done my best to support my extended family when they had lost an immediate family member but now I have more compassion and understanding from going through it myself.  The shock and subsequent grieving around losing someone is hard but the people in your life can make the process a little more bearable and to each and every person who was there for me, my sisters and my mom, I thank you.

May 24 – the “untys”

304/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I realized today why I have so many friends and acquaintances – I get it from my momma!  😉  As a child, I saw female friend after female friend and couple friends in our home.  I had so many aunties (pronounced ‘unty’) I felt like an octopus as it was hug after hug after hug.  I remember Shoti Aunty, Abbotsford Aunty, Gurdev Kaur, Pritam, Karen’s mom, Baljit…the list goes on and on and this is not including immediate and extended aunts!!  I didn’t wonder why she had so many friends – it was just the norm for me and how I grew up and I think that my mom’s affinity towards people just rubbed off on me.  I enjoy the company of an eclectic crew of people and am energized when I am with people just like my mother.  I am supposing that my mom needed friends in her life as my dad wasn’t in the picture for most of my younger years and these friends got her through the hard times and I am thankful for that part but also for the kindness they showed towards my sister and myself.  Growing up, I have seen the aunties at various functions and once they realize who I am, those hugs are back!! 🙂  The love and affection I am shown is indescribable and it takes me back to happy moments in the house – sadly, some of them have started passing away which is inevitable.  Although my childhood was fraught with a lot of adversity, I am so glad that I remember much more of the positivity thanks in great part to these gratitude posts.  To all my aunties, I am so glad you were part of my mom’s life and in turn a part of mine as unbeknownst to you, you played a part in making the man I am.  Love you all!

May 20 – Indian? Punjabi? Sikh?

300/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This is not about a person but about an entire group of people.  Today, as the chair of the teachers’ Professional Development Committee, we organized a day of being exposed to and understanding the different cultures that make up our student population.  Of course, we could not hit every cultural/denominational group but we focused on three:  Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh.  We traveled to the mosques and temples and I learned so much about the Muslim and Buddhist faiths that I had no clue about before.  But the greatest learning I had was of my own heritage – the Sikh culture.  Our guest speaker couldn’t be there but fellow Punjabi Sikh staff members stepped up and totally schooled me!  I had no clue of their knowledge level about our background and what a background we have.  Perhaps I didn’t learn so much as rather, I was being reminded of my Punjabi Sikh heritage which is truly rich and multifaceted.  I am the first to admit that I have shied away/been embarrassed of my (ethnic) Indian background growing up in a very ethnically similar culture until the last decade or so and I haven’t even thought about my cultural/religious background ever and how it has shaped the man I am today.  I can truly say today that I am proud to be a Punjabi man – albeit, the atypical Punjabi man but I am so very glad that I have a rich cultural background where we live large, love large, give large, sacrifice large, and celebrate large.  I didn’t realize until today how fortunate that I am to have this amazing heritage with its rich traditions that I love being a part of.  To all my Punjabi Sikh family, friends, extended relatives, students, and strangers – so very glad and appreciative that I am a part of this wonderful, unique, collaborative!  I love being ethnically/religiously/culturally diverse!