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.

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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).

May 8 – to all moms

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

April 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.

April 4 – i’m finally not the oldest!

254/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ll just say it – I hate being the oldest.  All my life I have had to set the bar and through both conscious and subconscious pressure, I have set it very high so that my siblings and cousins had something to aspire for (or so I thought).  So many times I wished that I had an older sibling or cousin who I could look to for guidance but unfortunately for me, I was the oldest.  I have a sister two years younger than me.  I have another sister 15 years my junior – yes, 15!!  The cousins who were born in Canada and that I grew up with are 7 to 16 years younger than me.  In my 30s, my mom’s sister’s family emigrated to Canada and along came a few more cousins.  These ones were older but I was still oldest.  It was contested that my cousin Gurmit who was born in the season of harvest was older according to my grandmother as she had heard about his birth in India and then recalls my birth in Canada but harvest season is probably after this Leo baby.  However, I recall going to the motherland when I was 18 for four months – yes, when your parents take you out of school for a trip to India (and for me, it was out of university), it was for an entire semester!  My mom took me to probably marry me off – LOL, I kid (although I was hot property back then and had a lot of offers – I didn’t want an ESL tag-along!!).  So I was dragged along to countless homes and met cousins that I had heard about and finally, finally I was younger than two!!  My dad’s niece Baljit – stunning beauty – was about 3 years my senior.  She literally and figuratively took me under her shoulder and I let her.  First time I let go and was able to be someone who had an older sibling (re-read my earlier post about cousins being sibling in Indo-Canadian culture).  Although I was 19, she took care of me like her younger baby brother doting on me.  I let it happen because I so wanted to look up to someone and let go of having to be the oldest and role model and whatever else came with it.  A similar thing happened when I met my mom’s nephew Amarjit.  Handsome and having the same stutter as me.  Also 3 years my senior.  He took me on his motorcycle to various sites and kept me within arm’s reach and looked out for his Canadian cousin whenever we were out in public as I didn’t really know what I was getting into.  Although I only met them briefly that first time in India, they made an indelible impression on me that has been everlasting and they allowed me breathing time away from being role-model and just revel in the fact that I could be the younger one looking to my older siblings/cousins for guidance.  I have never forgotten that trip and they will never know how comforting it was to have them for those 4 months and have an experience I longed for all my life for however brief it was.  Thank you Baljit and Amarjit for being my older cousins and just making me feel that much more at ease and allowing me to be me without having to be an example for others.

March 27 – do you believe?

246/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As people sit down this Easter Sunday with their families, I’m assuming a lot of them are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection while others are using the holiday to be with their families be it having lunch, hunting for eggs, getting their chocolate on etc.  On these “holy-days”, I often wonder how many people are celebrating the true nature of the holiday be it Easter, Christmas, Labour Day or whatever you have and how many are using it just as a long weekend, yard work day, shopping day, extra respite from work day and so on.  I’m in the latter category but that is because of a conscious choice – I am agnostic in my personal belief system (only one in my family) but I am very encouraged by and impressed by people who have their beliefs and live by them.  In my life, with family, friends, acquaintances, I have seen hypocrisy in that one thing is preached in respect to others’ behaviour based on personal belief systems but exceptions happen for personal behaviour.  This is no attack against anyone’s religion but more of the way one chooses to follow that religion – that was one of the reasons I made my personal choice.  However, I also understand people need something to live for/believe in providing values and a way to live one’s life.  I could never live my life that way and I can admit it but I do have examples of those rare exceptions who follow their faith and live their life truly by it without judging others.  You are also in my life as family, friends and acquaintances and I am thoroughly impressed by the way you live your lives and you also have also shaped me as I know I haven’t got it in me but I am encouraged by your choices.  You have not judged or criticized me on my choices and that is one of the things that I appreciate the most.   As they say, to each his (her, their) own – you keep doing you and following your belief path and I will keep doing me and following mine and still maintain our bonds 🙂  Thank you both groups for shaping the way I choose to believe!

March 26 – all my nieces and nephews

245/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In my family (and perhaps my culture but I can’t be sure), our cousins are like siblings. Our own children call these aunts and uncles with identifying terms meaning mom’s/dad’s brother or sister (not second cousins). As well, we as aunts and uncles refer to our cousins’ children as we do to our siblings’ children as nieces and nephews. Add to this that the in-law cousins and respective children fall under the same category and one outside the culture might get to understand the importance of extended family (and how our various functions/receptions are so huge LOL). Last night, my wife’s cousin’s daughter (did you get that? 😉 ) came to our place to spend the night and she watched a movie with me, baked muffins with my daughter, watched my son play his video games and played with the dog. For all intents and purposes they are cousins and she is my niece – not distant relatives. This got me to thinking about all my extended nieces and nephews on my side of the family and my wife’s with all of our siblings’ and cousins’ children and I honestly could not come up with a number as I easily came to 50 nephews and nieces and then lost count. I am very fortunate to have all these nieces and nephews ranging from the oldest who has her own children (damn, am I a grandpa?) to a newborn a few weeks ago.   I am also very fortunate that these nephews and nieces – even though we may not see each other regularly – take the time out to converse with me and add another dimension to my life. I am amazed at the wonderful men and women, the funky teenagers, the sassy pre-teens or the cute toddlers they are and how they not only affect my life but my own children’s as well (giving advice or being role models for). Yes, it’s true that it takes a village to raise a child – I’m just glad my village is huge and has a lot of children to raise!

March 15 – speaking in tongues

234/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I’m very fortunate to have a second language. I was born and raised for the first seven years of my life in New Westminster, BC. I learned English and Punjabi at the same time – perhaps a little more English and a little less Punjabi. I will admit that my Punjabi skills are not the greatest – I think in English and then translate to Punjabi which inevitably creates a small lag time that is often commented on by my relatives to my chagrin. And yes, I don’t have all the words/vocabulary/grammar down and yes, my pronunciation and enunciation is not the best but I still try. I have to thank all my relatives from my parents to my uncles and aunts and to the aunties and uncles (extended and not related) who kept on speaking to me and my sister in Punjabi regardless of our understanding – you forced us to learn our mother tongue and although I’m in no ways an expert, I can definitely get by. I also have to thank you in allowing me to speak Pun-glish (a combination of both) when I couldn’t come up with terms to quite express myself in Punjabi which still increased my knowledge of the language. Although I would have loved to have had one of the Renaissance languages as my mother tongue (let’s be honest, Punjabi is pretty guttural although German takes the cake on that one), I’m still glad that I do have a second language and it allows me to connect with some of the older relatives and immigrant relatives who have never, ever had the opportunity to learn English. Thank you to all my relatives for giving me a skill that would have eluded me if I had any say in it.

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!