Our Father

Dear Mom,

So our dad died over the weekend. But I guess you know that. I hope you do. Because maybe that means that you are doing well, and can help him pass through to ‘the other side,’ if that is even how it is referred to ‘up there’.  All these directions- up there, pass through, other side.  Is this even a direction thing? It’s just an energy thing, right. Not just, but you know what I mean.  Maybe there are no directions just spaces filled in the afterlife. No up and down or back and forth. But just around and within. Around us, within us.  Filling and energizing all of life all around us. Who knows?

I wondered why R asked me if I had walked to Steamrollers, when I told him, over the phone, that I was getting food. I realize now that he was just checking to make sure that I wasn’t driving when he gave me the news. Smart brother I have there, you know? Of course you know.

It was a very matter of fact conversation over the phone. Because how else can it be? I wanted to cry, but he was calling from Hawaii, and we don’t have that kind of relationship anyway.  Maybe that’s a good thing. One of us needs to be strong on the outside, and you know it is definitely not me.

But I cried after I got off the phone. I looked up at the sky, as I stood on the corner of Robson and Bute, and wondered if I am really here. Are any of us really here? I mean, this all feels surreal. Like we are on a movie set. But the thing is, we don’t know the plot or even our lines most of the time. We are just given them as each moment comes. And it’s confusing when it’s not the way you thought the story was going to go.  Shakespeare was right. “All the world is a stage.”  It’s just that some days, I feel like I’ve fallen off of even that.

I think these moments of someone calling to finally say that line you know he is going to say, “And he didn’t make it,” are the moments where I am forced to step off the stage and look at it all from the outside in.  And then I wonder how R felt when he got the call too. I know he loved his dad, in his own way. We just didn’t know him.  It’s a weird feeling.

Did you know that just a few months ago, maybe last year, or something like that, I learned that our dad didn’t have parents? I mean, of course he HAD parents, but he didn’t know them. He said they died when he was young. And he doesn’t know exactly how they died. A cousin or young family member took care of our dad and his siblings. But they didn’t have much. And it was too overwhelming for the cousin. Maybe too much responsibility. And the cousin decided to take his own life.

Did you know this about our dad, Mom? You never told us.  When I found out, I was so confused. Because I had gone out to Khane that day, in Burnaby, specifically knowing I was going to go out and seek out my dad. He was normally there and I had some things to say to him. Some not so nice things, after you passed away.

He first asked me how I was, and I said not good. My mom just died.  And that’s how the conversation about his parents came up. He just brought it up.  He said, “Well, at least you had all these years with your mom.  I didn’t even know my parents.”  Jeez, Mom.  Many things started to make sense from just those few words. Of course our dad didn’t know how to be a dad. He not only didn’t have a dad to raise him, but he didn’t have parents to raise him at all. No one to love him and show him that he was valued and cared for and that he needs to believe in himself.  He didn’t have an all in one set of parents like I did- a mom and dad in one little, strong woman- you.  I was lucky, Mom. I was so lucky to have you.

But the thing is that’s what I had on my mind. Here he was, my dad trying to just open up to me in that moment and finally tell me something about himself. But I had you on my heart. So I was mad- about why he couldn’t have been there for you. Why he made you do everything yourself. He said that he tried to stay in touch, but we didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him. We were kids, I said to him. You’re the adult! What did you want us to do?

It was a stupid argument, Mom. I realize that I shouldn’t have said all of that without knowing his story and where he came from. But I wanted to finally stand up for you. I wanted somehow to make things better for you by standing up for what you deserved, to let him know that you had a hard life trying to do everything yourself.  But that you still did such a wonderful job of it. But you know what? I think I just made things worse for him.  It probably broke his heart to hear me say those things.

I tried calling him the next day to apologize.  His sister answered. She had no clue what I was saying or who I was. She kept me on the phone forever, trying to figure out why I was calling for him. And finally, she gave him the phone. I tried apologizing. I thanked him for telling me the story of how his parents weren’t around and how his other family member who was taking care of him died by suicide. I tried telling him about my work with teaching highschool kids about suicide awareness and stress management. He didn’t seem interested. Or maybe he wasn’t feeling good.  I even thanked him for marrying you so that we could be born. But I think I said something like it allowed us to have the mom we had. And maybe I didn’t acknowledge his value or his part in all of it. No, I definitely didn’t.

I don’t know what was going on on the other line, but he didn’t say much at all. He almost seemed upset or annoyed, and tried to just get me off of the phone. And I felt emptier after that phone call than before I called. And of course, he never called back.

A couple of months later, or less, I went back to that Khane in Burnaby. I brought a black and white photo of you and our dad with me, to give to him. I thought he might want to see it. You both looked so happy and he was looking at you so lovingly.  Maybe it was also kind of going to be my peace offering. A step in reconciliation. But he wasn’t there. No one knew where he was. I was going to leave the photo with someone there, someone who said he knew my dad and could pass it on to him. But I didn’t give it to the guy. I wasn’t sure what the best thing to do would be.  I thought I should try again another day, so that I could give it to my dad in person and explain why I was bringing it to him. But I never did.

I thought about it many times, but I wanted him to make some effort too. I mean, I might be an adult, but he is still older and is still the dad. Maybe I was being stubborn. I agree with my friend Agata who yesterday allowed me to see that maybe I was still feeling like the little girl who wanted answers. It wasn’t that I didn’t care or didn’t want to be considerate. But there is still this little girl inside me, his daughter, that wanted to know why.  But I was too late, or didn’t try hard enough.

I know deep down inside, that I might have really been able to at least end things on a better note, that I could have come to better understand my dad if I had just asked him more positive questions like, “Were you ever in love with my mom?” And “Tell me the story of how you two met.”  But something stopped me from starting there.  I had so much pain in me over losing you, Mom. I wanted to first know how he could make such a loving, beautiful woman like yourself do everything alone. Even if you pushed him away, even if he didn’t have any money or was going through health problems, even if he thought we were not wanting to get to know him. I just love you so much, Mom. And I feel like your life would have been so different with more help from him, from all of us, maybe. Maybe this is just more about me, and my guilt of not doing enough for you. It’s like I am looking for other people to blame.

But look where it has gotten me? Another sad ending with another parent. Sure, he wasn’t the caregiver who gave us unconditional love and support the way you did. But he was still my dad. So… that feeling of the way I left things off on such a bad note is still crushing.  I wonder if I didn’t put more effort into sorting it out because, if I didn’t have the perfect ending with you, I didn’t want it to be a great ending with him. Stupid, isn’t it? But there was a part of me that always felt like I would somehow be a traitor to you if I went to my dad to find out more about him or to form a relationship with him. I wouldn’t have known how to. And I don’t think it would have felt comfortable. But I didn’t really try, so who knows.

Do you think he passed away not long after you because he really loved you? I mean, you hear about couples who were together for so many years and then one dies, and just months later, the other dies.

I know you didn’t have a loving relationship, and you ended things so many years ago on a really bad note. But, someone in our family, just after your passed away, told me that he felt that our dad loved you very much.  It makes sense to me in that even though he might not have been a good support or a healthy partner for you, how could he not love you? How could anyone not have loved you?

I wonder if your death, despite all the distance between you two for all these years, diminished him. Depleted his health and energy more.  I’m sure what I said to him didn’t help. And I feel badly for that. But do you think, when he crosses over to the other side, that maybe he will be very happy to see you? Maybe you two will be able to reconcile your differences and see things more clearly from each other’s point of view.

I was always on your side, Mom. Don’t worry about that.  But it’s kind of sad that I even felt I had to take a side.  It made things very complicated and confusing for me, not just as a kid. I don’t actually remember those years much. But more as an adult, who wanted to resolve those childhood issues.  And now,  I can’t ask either one of you about your relationship.

Maybe you guys can find a way to relay the story to me from wherever you are now. You might not be together, which is totally understandable and fine. But maybe you both have a way of reaching us now in a way that wasn’t there before.

I love you, Mom. Thanks for being my mother and father.  It was a tough job, I know.

And because of the loving mother that you were and are, I know you would have probably wanted me to resolve things with my father in a more loving way than I did.  I am sorry I did not pull through on that one. But please tell him that I am grateful for both of you bringing me and my brother into this life.  And we will do our best to take care of each other.

Love always and forever,

Tas

India Calling

Mom! We won a book last week! Yes, I said “we” because I refuse to believe that this was anything but a collaboration between you, me, and spirit.

See, the book giveaway was being offered through Sacred Earth Journeys. I guess they put on these tours to different parts of the world.  And their contest asked people to describe which of the three tours they are offering would be the place they’d want to go, and why.

The choices were:

Search for Wisdom in Sacred India- with the leader Andrew Harvey

Discover the Wild West of Ireland- with Phil Cousineau

or Connect to the Power Places in Ancient Peru- with Freddy Silva.

They all sound amazing, but of course, I chose the one to India.  First of all, because, well, it’s India. Those are my roots and I’ve always wanted to see India. I know it would be one of the most special and profound, if not the most, trips I could ever go on.  Plus, I know YOU really wanted to see India. And I am so sorry that I didn’t stand up for you and your rights and your dreams when anyone told you you couldn’t go to India because of your age, or your situation or your health, or whatever other fears they might have had within themselves, or for you. It was not right to cut down your dreams and hopes like that.

And I am so sorry I couldn’t find a way to take you to India, to make that and other dreams of yours come true. I couldn’t even figure out how to get myself there. I still don’t know how that would work. My crazy immune system reacts badly when I am in western countries.  I am not sure how it would handle the food, heat, change of atmosphere, or any vaccinations I might have to take before going out there.  So that, on top of making sure you were safe and properly cared for,… it felt like too much of a risk to take all by myself. I didn’t want to put you in any harm if I were not well there.

And the way I travel- it’s kind of not conducive to nice, sweet, take your time and know exactly where you are going mothers like you. I wouldn’t want to do that to you. It wouldn’t have worked. But it’s the best way I know how to travel for myself- to have some kind of loose plan, but then go with the flow and even get lost in places that led me to the best adventures I never would have found otherwise.

That is not something I could have put you through. Of course not. But I didn’t know how to plan a trip with you where I wouldn’t know the place, or how my body would handle it. So… I chickened out and made no plans for us at all. I am sorry, Mom. It will always be another big regret of mine.

It’s probably the biggest reason I was compelled to choose India in this “contest”.  And the word ‘sacred’- well, you must know by now how that can draw me in. Especially now. I am looking for something sacred, spiritual. Especially a connection to you.

So.. this is what I wrote:

I would definitely choose the Search for Wisdom in India. I am of Indian heritage but was born and brought up in Canada. I have never been to India but have always wanted to see it. I always knew it would be a very special trip for me, but more so now than before. My mom passed away two and a half years ago. I feel lost without her. She really wanted to see India but didn’t get to go. I wasn’t able to figure out how to take her. I feel I need to take this trip now for me AND for her. I usually travel by myself and love traveling. But I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to travel on my own to India. So the thought of going on a trip with Andrew- to be able to meet him in person and be inspired by his obvious passion for cultures and history, would be amazing. I especially am intrigued by the emphasis on the sacred and search for wisdom, mentioned in the title of the trip. Just the thought of it brings me goosebumps. Maybe it would connect me and my mom and bring me some peace in that regard. Going to India is something I feel compelled to do but have not found the right opportunity to ensure it would be a safe, organised but also inspiring trip. Maybe that is about to change.

Because of this, I ended up winning the 3rd prize, which is a book called Radical Passion- written by Andrew Harvey himself.  We ended up winning it, together. Our story of an endless mother- daughter connection.

I need to tell you more about this man and what he does and what he stands for in another blog entry. But for now, I will say thank you, Mom, for still connecting me to things that matter, to still being able to both ground me and inspire me despite us not being physically together. You’re right- that is the power of a mother.  There is nothing like it. A mother is absolutely irreplaceable.

I will let you know when the book arrives. Maybe you will already know before me. I like to imagine you have a hand in delivering it right at the right moment.

India, Mom. It’s coming, and it’s calling me. I think it always has been. I can just feel it more strongly now.  I will find a way to make it happen for us.

A trip of a lifetime, or more than a lifetime, you could say. Because we are definitely doing this together.

Love you, Mom.

Happy Sunday.  No day goes by without you on my mind and heart.

 

You, Me and the Fireworks

Hi Mom,

The first set of fireworks for this summer are about to start. I heard the tester ones just shoot up a few minutes ago. Tonight, Japan is being featured.

I am at home, in my ‘new’ little studio apartment. It’s not that new. But I guess I feel like it would be new to you because you’ve never physically been in it. I still wonder if you’ve ever been in it otherwise.  I hope so.

I don’t actually have to go anywhere to watch the fireworks. I can literally sit or even lie on my bed, and I have the best view of them.

I wasn’t even planning to stay home today. I had other plans. But I have had a really bad head and neck ache since last night.  So I cancelled everything and decided to stay close to home.

Maybe, deep down inside, the only person I would really want to watch the fireworks with right now is you.

I know I never took you to see them, all the years you would call me and ask me if I was going. And I’m scared that you thought that I was going, with my friends or other people besides you, but that I just didn’t want to take you. That is not true at all. I never actually went to see the fireworks myself. Especially when I lived in North Van, which was most of my adult years.

I like the memories of going to the beach when I was younger, going to downtown to watch the fireworks. But I also remember being annoyed by the crowds and crazy traffic and I’m not really into hanging out in big crowds. I don’t know if you knew that about me. I figure that as much as you might have thought you wanted to go see the fireworks, that walking through those crowds would be hard for you too.

But I should have asked you. I should have tried to make it work for you. I should have found another way we could have seen them together, even if we had to sit in the car, or just be somewhere away from all the rest of the people.

So tonight, I think about you. I imagine us watching the fireworks together. Maybe you are watching from above, so as I look up towards the sky, and all the magical colours that will come sparkling down from each burst, I might see or feel something of you up there. Or at least maybe you will see me looking up towards you.

Did I tell you A. asked if that is where she should look if she ‘talks’ to you? It was the cutest thing. We went out for her birthday, and I had this scavenger hunt list of things to do. Some were little things like eat something sweet, or find out someone’s name, or cloud watch. (Oh, wait! We never got a chance to do that one! I’ll have to remember it for another time).  But one of the ‘hunts’ on the list was to invite Laila Mama (you:–)) to this day.  And she was adorable. I was a little afraid that she might find it weird. I don’t think she did. Instead, she smiled and looked up and asked if that’s where she can look to talk to you.

I told her that maybe everyone has their own way. And she could choose however she wanted.  Whatever she felt comfortable with. I gave her the example that after I take a shower, and the mirrors and windows get all fogged up in the bathroom, I write “Laila” with my finger onto the foggy mirrors.

Before I could even finish telling her the example, she had already started gently tearing up the little pieces of red tissue paper that one of her birthday presents was wrapped up in. And she spelled out Laila Mama with the tissue paper pieces all across the table we were sitting at at Brown’s Restaurant.  That’s your granddaughter, for sure. Little miss creative, and jhittee. You called me jhittee, but I got that from you. But that’s a topic I will save for a whole other blog entry.

Anyway, there are people on their patios and balconies- family and friends all laughing or drinking or toasting or enjoying each other’s company on this special Vancouver night. I know that’s all you wanted. And I am sorry I didn’t help you take advantage of these firework nights.  But I promise you that I was not out on those nights either, watching the fireworks without you.

I just missed them everytime as well. I didn’t realise what a special memory they could have held for us.  How magical they could be, until now, when I watch them from my balcony and wish that I could turn back time and have this be one of our dates- just you, me and the fireworks.

Do you see the shimmery gold ones right now, cascading down so gently, with splashes of red every now and again? Oh, not there is the big bang white ones, that burst out like gigantic flowers opening up to the whole city.  My favorite ones are the sparkly white ones that shimmer quietly closer to the water.  They make me think of heaven, what I imagine it to look and feel like.

Oh.. now he shimmering white ones have these beautiful tips of deep purple added to them. I’ve never seen that before. Or maybe I just never noticed them enough.

I cannot turn back time. That is going to be an uvsose of mine forever.  (It’s funny, or bitter sweet how these kachi words just spring to my mind without me thinking about them).

But maybe I can make sure to sit with you on fireworks nights like this, writing to you and talking to you as if some things have not changed. As if you are still with me. That everytime the sky lights up with another shot of colour from these beautiful fireworks, that I can imagine that we are both finally watching them together.

I love you,  Mom. Until the next fireworks night.

Goodnigtht.

Love always, and forever,

Tas

Matching Pyjamas

Dear Mom,

I rarely go shopping anymore. It’s not the same without you.

But the other day, I took a little peak into La Vie En Rose. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I just hadn’t been in there for awhile. And guess what I found? Pyjamas with a tea theme!!! Not kidding you.

Of course, I fell in love with them right away. And you know the best part? The main colour they came in was yellow. That baby, spring yellow.  The print I liked the most had a pile of tea cups – one on top of the other- and under them was written “You’re my cup of tea.”  You are mine, Mom. My cup of tea.  Like all the things you loved about tea- the soothing, warm, relaxing, love it so much, you can’t live with it out it for too long- you got from each sip, that’s what I felt and still feel about you.

But I don’t have a choice in living without you physically. That was taken away. So I find ways to keep you with me in another sense- like writing these entries to you.

So I bought the tea cup pyjama top for you, for us.  -That particular one I described came in tank top style.  But as always, I imagined which kind would be good for you.  I know you wouldn’t have liked the tank top.  So just for fun, I tried on the short sleeve one as well. That one was also in yellow, but had a different message on it.  It says, “There’s always time for tea”. I didn’t buy it. It didn’t fit that well on me. But it would have been perfect for you, I think.

Remember how you hated trying clothes on in shops? And how I would get so frustrated with it because then we would go home and it wouldn’t fit and then guess who had to take the clothing item back?

But now, I would do anything to go into a shop for you and you buy as many clothes as you want, without trying even one on. And I would not say a word about it. Maybe just laugh. And I would just think of the trip back that would have to be made to return the ones that didn’t fit as an excuse to spend another day with you at the mall, or anywhere for that matter.

I wish I could have bought you the short sleeve pyjama shirt and some matching pyjama bottoms for both of us. And I would take them and my new yellow tea cup tank top with me to your place, ask you to put your new outfit on, and I would propose a mother-daughter sleepover, in matching pj’s.   I would also buy you slippers. Remember how much I loved buying you slippers? I loved seeing your feet look so cosy and comfortable.

We could have taken pictures of ourselves drinking tea in our tea cup pyjamas, and used the pictures and the memories of our sleepover for some good laughs at the next family gathering.  Or just keep it to ourselves. Either way, I wish I could have spent more fun, relaxing days with you like that. I wish I had made a better effort to make them happen.

All I can do now is think of you everytime I wear my pyjama top. And hope that you know that the words on it are for you, always.

And maybe next lifetime, if I am given another one with you, I will be sure to not miss an opportunity to wear matching pyjamas, shop together for as long as you want, and sip tea and laugh without worrying about what else there is ‘needed’ to be done or to go to. Because nothing was more important than you.

Everything Come Back to You

Every word, every book,

Every step, every trip,

Every page, every story,

Every Sunday morning.

Every bite, every taste,

Every flower, every gaze,

Every giggle, every tear.

Everything comes back to you, Mom.

                                                                                               ~ Tasleem

Every song makes me think of you- especially the ones about love or loss.

This one in particular, these days:

“Over and over, the only truth,

Everything comes back to you,

Everything comes back to you.”

                                                                                             ~ Niall Horan

 

 

Always Be Your Baby

Dear Mom,

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream about you and me.  I was sitting on your lap, not as a child, but as an adult. And you were rocking me or comforting me, and still being the mother who babies me. But the thing is that I liked it. Not just because you were holding me- though that was really nice.  But more so because you seemed strong enough to do so, comfortable and healthy and as if you wanted me to know you could still make things better.

Mother's lap2

I was waiting for a class. It was some kind of class that I was nervous about- like an acting class or maybe some kind of dance or performance class.  And, without words, you wanted me to know everything was going to be okay.  I think that while I was sitting on you and you had your arms around me, I realized the door to the class had opened and I was going to be late.  I worried a little about that for a moment, but then I didn’t seem to care, because nothing seemed better or more important than to be exactly where I was, in my mother’s arms.

It was so different than most of the other dreams that I have had about you since you’ve been gone.  The other dreams are disturbing, painful, scary and don’t make me feel l like you are at peace. In the other dreams, sometimes, you didn’t know you had passed away. Other times, you were bleeding, or there was some part of your body that was not together with the rest of you.  Or you were tired or upset or I continued to make the mistake of not dropping everything and just concentrating on you.  In some of the dreams, I tried to help you, but I couldn’t for some reason. And then I would wake up in tears, or feeling guilty, or feeling as if my heart literally hurt.

And I didn’t know what to make of those dreams. Sometimes, I hear about people who have dreams of their loved ones who have passed away. That the person who has passed, sends down messages- usually of comfort or something more positive.

I started worrying that if I was only dreaming of disheartening things that felt full of anguish, that maybe that meant that you were not well, or at peace. And that is so hard to live with, or to not know the true answer to. And of course, the hardest part is to feel helpless in not knowing what I can do to make sure of your peace.

But then there was this one dream- the one about you holding me. And even if it means nothing, or even if I don’t know what to make of it, it is the one I really have to hold on to.  It just felt right- to be an adult and still be able to be comforted by my mother’s arms and her lap.  It doesn’t matter how old I get, or how much time passes, I will always be your little girl, your baby.

I am just sorry I didn’t let you baby me as much as you wanted sometimes, while you were here. I would do anything to have you put your hand on my forehead like you used to, to sooth my head. Or to lay on your lap. That was one of my favorite feelings.  Or even just to hold your hand or have you feed me a piece of cake, or to just sit near you or watch you sleep.

If you can hear me or read these words that I am typing, and you can findmothers lap a way to let me know how you are, through my sleep, I would love it if you could show up in my dreams sometimes.  Well, if I had my way, it would be all the time.  I just want to know that you are okay, and truthfully, not just because you know I want to hear it.

Send me any messages that you need to- whether they are positive or not.  I just need to hear from you. And of course, I do hope that you are at peace and being comforted and loved and pampered and showered with happiness yourself.

Oh, the comfort of a mother’s lap.  There’s nothing else like it. I hope you are enjoying the soothing of your mother as well.

Always your baby,

Love Tas

Happy Birthday Blues

Happy Birthday, Mom!!! You are the best mom ever!

L-Loving
A- Always real
I – Intuitive and generous
L – Likes tea and cookies
A- Acts cute and small but is unbelievably courageous and strong

Thank you for being my mother, father, friend and one of the most amazing teachers, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, I have ever had. Love you Mom! #MomsTheWorld #BestMoms #ILoveMyMom

mom birthday

Dear Mom,

I wrote that message above, on my Facebook status, exactly three years ago.  It was March 16th, 2014. Your birthday of course.

Facebook often sends these ‘memories’, of messages we post in the past, to remind us of what we saw as important to us and what we were thinking years ago. Maybe to even make us see the change in us?

But I am in shock over how much has changed since then. It was only three measly years ago. But back then, I had EVERYTHING, and I didn’t even realize it.  I had everything, because I had you. And I had no idea that that was going to be the last of your birthdays I was ever going to spend with you.  I had no idea that one, or two, or now three years since then, I would never be able to wish you a happy birthday in person again.

That fills me with tears and heartache and sorrow so deep that I feel ashamed of having taken life especially life with you, for granted. I wish I could have those moments back that I didn’t realize would be gone forever. I wish I could be feeding you cake right now the way you used to to us when we were younger.

memories tears

Mom, where did the time go?  Why did it happen the way it did? Without any warning, without any signs, or maybe it was more that there were signs but it was without any awareness, on my part.  I should have listened and noticed and helped more.  I should have made it obvious that you were my number one priority, because that’s how I felt inside. I just know I didn’t show it enough.

You are still my number one, Mom.  I made sure to wish you a happy birthday at exactly 12am last night, like you did on the last birthday of mine that you were around for.  And I am really trying to honour you by holding my head up high and doing things to make you proud of me, to have you know that I am not going to have this life you gave me to me go to waste.  And that I am so proud to have had (or can I still say just ‘have’?) you as a mother.  I want this day of yours- what would have been your 79th birthday- to be celebrated and cherished because your life and love and presence in this world deserves to be celebrated an cherished.

But it’s hard mom.  I’m sad.  More sad than I ever thought I could be.  How strange it is to be so grateful for having a mom like you, for being able to spend all the years that I did with you, and for having the sweetest memories of you in my heart. But to also have so much pain from it- knowing that you are no here anymore.  I know I shouldn’t say it like that.  I know I need to believe you are here, just in another way.  But you know what I mean. You went through it too with Mama.  It’s crushing to our hearts when our Mothers are not here for us to hold hands with or see smiling or hear their voices say our name.  No one else says it like you.  me and mom

I would do anything to hear you tell me to remember to eat, or to put my coat on, or to ask me a hundred times if I want more food, even when I was full, the way you used to.

I texted you today, Mom. I texted you at your old phone number. The message said, Happy Birthday, Mommy. And then there was a teary face, a pink heart with two stars shining on it, and a birthday cake with three candles on it -imogee symbols I chose to put next to the text.  I just wanted to send you a message somehow.  Not through the air or in my head. But in some real way like I might have in the past.  I don’t know if anyone else has that number now. I don’t know where the text went if it did go anywhere.  But I haven’t deleted your number off of my phone. I just don’t have the heart to.  Maybe I never will.

I also posted a cover photo on my Facebook page that says Happy Birthday, Mom on it- with a cupcake and one candle. One candle for my number one- my Mom. You will always be my number one Mom.  Don’t you ever doubt that. And my profile picture is a photo of that Generation to Generation frame I had given you- that you put up in entrance in your apartment. Now it’s on my kitchen wall.

I went to Shoppers the other day, and bought this teddy bear and chocolates. Sorry,  I ate the chocolates pretty quick. But if you were here, I would have given them to you.  The teddy bear and an old Christmas snowglobe I found at Shoppers as well is also for you.  Thank you for all the sweetest little gifts you used to buy me from there as well (that’s the shawl you used to wear almost every day- behind the cushion and the teddy bear).

teddy bear

It’s sad that even those memories are tainted now.  Shoppers was one of our favorites- because really, it was one of your favorite places to pick up cutesy things. But it was also the last place you went to, ever, before you were gone. And I associate it with that sad ache of imagining you walking home from there and falling at the end of your walk.  And it kills me to think and know I wasn’t there for you.

So much happiness- birthdays, chocolates, teddy bears, shopping, laughing, cake, smiles and love- mixed with so much sadness- death, falls, pain, emptiness, tears and heartache.

I don’t know what to do with it all, Mom.  All I can do is take one day at a time, and live in it and face it- sometimes crying, sometimes smiling.  All I can do is be honest with my feelings and stay as authentic as you made me.

All I can do is be grateful for this day- your birthday. The day that the best thing that ever happened to me came into this world- my mother.  All I can do is to know I was lucky enough to spend all the birthdays that I did have with you.

I just wish you had more. I wish that now, birthdays in heaven are truly blissful and full of peace and love for you. No pain, no fear, no suffering. Not even a hint of it. Just a truly HAPPY birthday, with lots of cake – your favorite kind that you made all the time (buy maybe now you and Mama can make it together again and SHE can feed you a piece? :-)).

And lots of warm, soothing chai, and endless peace. That is my birthday wish for you. That you are full of peace, love joy and wrapped in your mother’s loving arms.  I know that’s where I wish I was right now.  But in the meantime, I will live this life the best I can to honour  my angel mother.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Sorry for the tears. But I just miss you terribly.

Journey Ring

Dear Mom,

20161011_173351Remember this ring you bought me?  You bought it from that jewelry shop that used to be at Park Royal- the North side of the mall.  Boy, that mall has totally changed since you’ve been gone. Sometimes, I really hate the changes.  Too much changes and then I feel I’ve lost places I could go to to conjure up more memories or feelings from when we use to just hang out at malls or restaurants. I know the memories should just stay with me, but I feel like the changes just remind me more that you’re gone.  And that is not something I need more reminders of.

At least I have this ring. So… you actually bought me a gold ring with an amethyst jewel in the center.  You knew that amethyst was my birthstone? Or was that just coincidence?  Well, I have such slender fingers. So do you, so DID you. 😦  But maybe not as small as mine. So I think what happened was that you brought the ring home for me and it was too big?  That’s when we went out to the shop to resize the ring.  And while we were telling the sales guy what we wanted, you must have put on the ring, on your own hand.  And I really liked it on you. So did you decide you should keep it then, or did I tell you that you should?

I always had to convince you to keep anything for yourself. You were always giving and thinking of others first.  But it looked beautiful on you- that amethyst ring. And you still wanted to give me a ring. I must have mentioned somewhere in the conversation that I really liked silver. The sales guy was on it, and he pulled out this little ring, a silver one, and it had these five little gem stones in it.  It was pretty, but I wasn’t totally sure about it.  Until, he told us the story behind it and its name.

“It’s called a Journey Ring,” he said to both of us. And as he pointed to each little gem, he said that they represent different journeys in our lives. And that the pattern of going from a small gem to a bigger and bigger one was supposed to represent going from one journey to deeper and deeper ones.

travelling-alone

You smirked and said something like, “It’s perfect for my daughter because she is ALWAYS on some journey.”  Haha! Oh my God, Mom, that was a good one.  And then the equally funny sales guy put his hand over yours and said, “Mom, we are ALL on a journey.”

I found it hilarious that he called you “Mom”- this tall, Asian Jewelry salesman in a crisp, classy suit.  I wanted to say, “Wait, she’s MY mom,” but of course I didn’t.  I know he was trying to be flattering and connect with us to make the sale. And actually, he did a good job of it, because I was sold by the story behind the ring and I loved its name. And I think you just liked that I liked it.

Did we get it resized there? I think we must have needed to. It seems strange that it would have fit perfectly.  That rarely happens with rings on my hands.

I never knew how significant that moment would be, how it suddenly arose as one so deeply etched in my mind and heart.  I was excited about having a ring from you and one that represented this travel bug I always seemed to have, and this search for something deeper.  Excited about all the future journeys I would be going on or that were waiting for me.  What I didn’t want to face was having to continue without you.  That is not something I was consciously thinking about at that time.  Because I know that whenever the idea did creep into my mind, I couldn’t stay with it.  It frightened me so much. I had to always try to run away from it or just brush it aside.

Since then, I have come to learn that there are many types of journey rings. It is not that unique of a name.  But my ring is unique because it came from you and holds the story of that day for me.

I’ve been going on a few more journeys than normal since you’ve been gone.  This time, they were all either in search of a connection to you, or in search of answers and maybe to escape the reality of your not being here.

traveler.jpg

I have learned over and over that it is not something I can escape.

I have tried to imagine inviting you on the journeys, to accompany me and see all these new lands and people and sites and sounds.  But no matter where I go, no matter how far, or who I meet, I cannot fill the space that is left inside of me that only you and your voice and touch and your peace can fill. I am still looking for proof of your peace.

I don’t know how to find it. And when I am away, I feel guilty for not having made more time to go on and experience these trips with you. To experience new foods, cultures, clothing, and music that exist around the world with you.  Traveling has given me new insights, taught me so much, made me come back home with fresh eyes and a rejuvenated heart.  THIS is what you needed.  And I feel awful for not having helped you have those experiences. I shared this feeling of guilt with an acquaintance I met while I was away recently.

He told me that I no longer need to feel guilty because “Your mother is going with you now to all of these places.  She is probably thanking you for going on these journeys. Because all that you experience and see and feel through them now, she is able to share with you.”

I would like to believe that he is right. I really would. I just don’t know anymore. And I still am always looking for proof. I am sorry, Mom, for not taking more journeys with you, for not seeing more of the world with you.

spiritual-journey

Places are changing around me, even people and areas around home are transforming into newer buildings and businesses.  But I will hold on to the little things, like my journey ring from you, to remind me of the journey that I was blessed to have with you.  Even if it didn’t involve flying to another continent, or enough shopping trips in other countries, I know that my best and most meaningful journey was the one spent with you.  All the moments, all the conversations, all the silences, all the laughs and even the tears.  The best journey of my life was you. Thank you, Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Day- a piece of cake…

Dear Mom,

Canada Day just officially ended.  And I had it in the back of my head all day and probably even last night, that I should make sure I get out to Save On Foods to get a piece of that cake you loved.  It was the infamous Canada Day cake they served to all their customers at the North Vancouver location.

canada-day-fireworksI did go out there last year, and make sure to get a piece for you.  It was “for” you, or at least the gesture was, but even then, it was kind of anticlimactic.  I mean, it was the excitement and pleasure you showed on your face and in your voice that made those cake eating moments the most fun. But now, I don’t have you to share it with. So… maybe, deep down inside, I wasn’t making a huge effort to go and get a piece.  At the same time that it seemed like a ritual type thing I could stick to, it also felt really sad.  And I just didn’t know how much more sadness I could take today.

So, I didn’t make it.  What I did was once I was up and had gotten some energy to head out and face A Save On Foods alone, I decided to go to the nearest one I knew- which was near Cambie.  When I got there, I was happy to hear that they also serve the same kind of cake. However, I got there too late. And the woman at the customer service desk was kind enough to call the North Vancouver location for me.  They also said that they were just packing up the last of the cake, so I wouldn’t have made it.

How can such a small thing, something that almost seems ‘meaningless’ like a piece of cake, now have so much significance to me?  I think the thing is that you never asked for much from anyone. But if you ever did hint at wanting something, it was always a simple, little thing.  Something I could so easily do.  Like taking you to get a piece of

canada day cake

Canada Day Cake at Save On, but, what really weighs heavy on me is that I didn’t always do it. I didn’t realize how big of a thing it was for you. How it would have just made your day.  And how now, my NOT having done it for you, especially the last Canada Day that you had, really just makes me feel so stupid.  You loved to see the parades and to have the cake.  You mentioned that you wanted to have some that day.  And I don’t remember what happened, or what I said. But I know I didn’t take you that year.  And I don’t ever remember taking you to the parade.

So now, Canada Day is tinged with a lot of regret for me.  On the one hand, I think of your most adorable face, smiling with cake in your mouth, so obviously enjoying each bite.  But on the otherhand, I think of how many years I could have helped to put that smile on your face over and over again. But sometimes, I chose not to take you.  And I am really sorry.  So so sorry.  You have no idea.

But I do want you to know that all those years I didn’t take you to the parade, it’s not like I was taking myself to the parade and leaving you out or not wanting to spend that time with you.  I just wasn’t out or up at that time. I wasn’t in the parade area and I didn’t make an effort for myself either.  I never got a chance to explain that to you.  But really, it’s not a good excuse. I should have been celebrating our lives in Vancouver, in Canada with you.

I should have been thank you every Canada Day, at least, if not every day, for coming out to Canada, and making a life for us here. You had to do so much to come here. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been. What a change in lifestyle. And how traumatic and sad it must have been to have been kicked out of the country you grew up in, in Uganda. To be kicked out of your home.

canada day2

You were so courageous to come here and have to leave everything behind. And just start over.  I know you did it for us.  I know it was so much harder and scarier and exhausting than you made it seem.  And I am so regretful that I never got a chance to tell you how grateful I am for what you did.  Mostly, I am regretful that I didn’t make more of an effort to SHOW you how grateful I am and how much you deserved to be treated with the most respect and generosity and caring.  I know it wasn’t easy what you went through. I know there are things that I will never have to go through- hardships that you went through- only because you made a better life for us coming here.  I am so grateful for my Indian background, for my mom’s East African roots, but also for her giving birth to me in Canada. I am grateful for being Canadian. I am grateful that you were able to come to Canada and have a safer, freer life here.  I am grateful forever grateful for you, Mom, the most extraordinary woman I will ever know.

Thanks for teaching me to enjoy and savor the little things, like a piece of Canada Day Celebration Cake.  It is hard to want to have it without you.  Sorry I missed it today.  Just as well, because it’s you I miss the most. And I’m not ready to enjoy the cake without the person that made it so meaningful.  Maybe next time.

Love you Mom. Happy Canada Day! Thank you for making me Canadian born and giving me so many opportunities to learn and grow and be safe and free as a citizen of this beautiful country. I wish you had had those same freedoms growing up.

My friend posted this article and video today.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-day-syrian-refugees-1.3661635

It made me cry along with the girl who was expressing her appreciation for being in Canada now.  She is a refugee and her and her family fled Syria during a time of war. How can I be so sensitive to a stranger’s  story of enduring very harsh conditions that I’m sure were devastating while she was back in her own home country, but not have realized that my mom and her family also fled really dangerous situation in their hometown.

It made me wonder what kinds of things you saw or heard or witnessed or feared while you were in East Africa. And that is a painful thought. You made it so easy for us to forget all that you went through back there. But that doesn’t mean you forgot.  And now I realize that just made you an even more loving Mom.  You tried not to burden us with any of what you went through. Maybe you blocked it out of your memory somewhat as well. But you still went through it.  And you deserved to be taken cared of especially after that.  I just wanted you to get all the love that you gave out back.  That’s my biggest regret. I could have given more, but I didn’t. I should have given more, but I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

All I can do now is show you how grateful I am now by living this life in Canada- of freedom and opportunities- in a way that will make you proud.  In a way that will make all you did for us worth it. And I promise I will keep remembering how lucky I am to be born and brought up here.  How lucky I am to be born from you.

justin trudeau canada day

And guess what else Canada has to celebrate? Probably the finest Prime Minister we’ve had. And how fitting that he is warming hearts and celebrating Canada and helping more people like that Syrian family in the video being welcomed into our country.  Because if my understanding is correct, it was his father who helped you guys and other Ismailis come into Canada so smoothly.  Another reason I like Justin Trudeau. I know you would have REALLY liked him.

It’s still  shocks me that you’re not here to witness all of this.  I still can’t believe you’re gone.  But I’m trying to make you proud, Mom. It’s just hard without you by my side.  But I’m just going to keep believing that you are somewhere around me, …just in a different form now.

And I hope you’re allowed to have all the cake and chai you want, where you are, so that the Save On Cake is nothing compared to what you get to indulge in :-).

 

Mom’s the WORLD

I wrote this many years ago for a contest in a newspaper.  I remember that the story was one of the winning ones, and the prize was something to do with a spa treatment or pampering package. I don’t remember if my mom and I used it together. I donmom5‘t even remember if my mom read through this whole piece. Or if she did, I wonder if she understood all of it. Maybe I just briefly told her about it out loud.

But now that I found this,  in my mother’s storage locker with some other course work and writing I had shoved away in a box there, I feel I owe my mom an apology.  For any of the times that I might have seemed embarrassed about something you did or said, or any of the times I might not have stood up for you or seemed as proud of you as I was, I am so deeply sorry. It was me who was actually the embarrassment in those moments.  I had the greatest mother in the world. And I wish I had told you, and showed you, every moment, every day when I had the chance.  Mom your really were and still are THE WORLD to me.

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My mother sat at the window seat of my narrow dorm room, her small feet dangling just inches off the speckled carpet.  Her curly brown hair, and the thick, burgundy shawl draped over her shoulders blocked my view of the other students milling about on the college grounds.

“Don’t worry about me,” she said, patting the cushion underneath her, “I’ll just sleep here.”mom3

I was supposed to spend my first week at Lancaster University participating in orientation activities, meeting my flat mates, and taking in the gorgeous greenery that blanketed the English county.  Instead, I rolled my eyes as my mother unpacked one of her bags.  What looked like a pharmacy rolled out of it- packets of tylenol, multi-vitamins, cough syrup and hurder (tumeric)- a chalky, mustard yellow Indian spice which my mom swore was the ultimate cure for any illness. I am sure I argued about how it was just going to weigh me down.

I tried to remind myself that she was only staying for a couple of days.  And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  We had never really traveled together, so we could get up early and tour around town.  But all I can recall seeing of Lancashire during those few days were endless grocery store aisles.  My mother dragged me out to buy fruits, vegetables, and cleaning supplies so that she could sanitize my room.  She even set up the kitchen for me- a kitchen that was shared between fifteen other college students, none of which were being followed by their frantic mothers.

I collapsed on my bed, looking up at the ceiling.  When my mother asked me, for the third time, if she could make me a cup of tea, I threw my arms up in the air and stomped out of my room.  I don’t remember what it was that I said to her at that moment, but her watery eyes stuck with me for a long time afterwards.

mom6For the next couple of days, my mom sat in the kitchen alone, warming her hands with a cup of tea, while I was out spending time with strangers who I never really ended up keeping in touch later.

One afternoon, one of my flatmates Lydia, knocked on my door.  While licking her chocolate covered fingers, she said, “Your mom came over to my room this morning.”

Panic struck my face as I wondered what my mom had done this time.

“She’s so sweet,” said Lydia, “She gave me these delicious chocolates, and then asked if I would take care of you.  You’re really luck to have such a thoughtful mother.”

A sudden knot gripped my stomach.  It was different this time. Not embarrassment towards her, but complete shame at my own behavior towards her.

I don’t even remember saying goodbye to mother, but I won’t forget what it felt like to sit in my room alone, once she was gone.mom1

I looked around me- the bed my my mom had made, the sink she always waited so patiently to use after me, and that bench where she slept. How did she even squeeze herself onto it, and how could I have allowed her to? Though I could now see clearly out the window, I didn’t feel any desire to.  Instead, I sat down at the bench, hugging my knees to my chest.

Over the next few months, Lydia became one of my closest friends.  Even though we didn’t have much in common, we had a connection between us- the promise she had made to my mother.  My mom and I kept in touch while I was away, and one day, she sent me a package.  I gagged as I opened the box- the pungent stench of more Indian concoctions, combined with Vicks Vapo Rub and Tetley Tea -wafted through the air.  “You sent me TEA in England, mom?  What were you thinking?” I remember asking her.

But shortly after, many of us in the dorm fell sick, and I ended up using all of the contents of that package.  My flatmates were impressed at how quickly the cold remedies kicked in.  And somehow, none of the British teas compared to the tea bags that my mom had sent.

Since then, I have traveled, moved out on my own, and have become a teacher.  Nevertheless, it is my mother who has been the most important teacher in my life.  She has been a mom, a dad, a friend, and an inspiration to  me.

She came to Canada, after being kicked out of her home in Uganda, with nothing more than her baby boy, her family and her traditional Indian values.  My mom had never ridden an escalator, was unfamiliar with the city of Vancouver, and had only worked at her father’s shop in East Africa.

mom2How my mother managed to get a job, find her way around a new city, with new customs and new cultures, raise two kids, and completely readjust the lifestyle and patterns of thinking that she had grown up with, astounds me.  But most of all, her strength to still enjoy each day and keep smiling, even after the loss of her own mother, reminds me that my mother is the strongest woman I know.

My mom possesses a particularly motherly magic.  She can sense what I’m feeling and protects me from any distance.  Even the cheesy Hindi movies she brings me, despite their Bollywood bombast, are carefully chosen with messages of guidance and comfort.  It amazes me that my mother knows the exact story lines in the movies I need at various times in my life, without either one of us having to say a single word.

Last fall, my mother and I finally went on our very first trip together- to Harrison Hot Springs.  During the car drive there, my mom revealed some childho

tea and toast

od secrets, and we laughed at memories of my brother and I fighting for her attention.  At the resort, my mother and I pampered ourselves with massaged and pedicures, a

nd relaxed in the steamy whirlpools.  We also slipped on sequined tops and high heels for the dinners in the elegant dining hall.  And at the end of every night, we made sure to sit near the window and share a warm pot of tea in soothing silence.