Hot Water Bottles and Other Stuff

hot-water-bottleDear Mom,

I am at home but I feel really cold. Maybe it’s my low iron again, or just that the temperatures have dropped a lot outside over the past few days. Or probably I just take after you. We both tended to get cold quickly.  I even have your plaid shawl around me- the heavy one I bought for you years ago, and a blanket on my lap.  But… .I still can’t seem to warm up.

So… I finally made use of your hot water bottle. Well, actually, if I remember correctly, maybe you bought it for me many years ago? And then I kept it in my kitchen or closet and didn’t make use of it. Remember the one with the tartan kind of fleecy cover on it?  I think that I ended up giving it back to you a couple of years ago? I don’t know. I’ve lost track of time and memories.

Either way, I know that you bought it for either you or me.  And you LOVED hot water bottles. They definitely make me think of you.  That should be all the more reason for me to make use of this one, right?  I am sorry to say that it’s actually  exactly what made it really hard for me to pull it out of my kitchen cabinet.

It’s just not the same without you.  Hot water bottles, Vix Vapo Rub, Dimatap, they are all full of memories of you.  Or they fill me with feelings about you.  All the best, most nurturing kind.   Same with cold compresses on foreheads, or just your hand on a forehead, or you massaging any legs that were near you- whether they were mine, your son’s or your granddaughters’.  Your soft and warm touch would always make us feel better without even us realizing it right away.   So calming and soothing and full of love.  Everything you did was out of love.

That’s why it has taken me over a year to pull out that hot water bottle, and just as I should have suspected, it doesn’t really seem to work. Sure, there is some warmth coming from it but it’s short lived and not at all the same.  Something is missing.  It wasn’t actually the hot water bottle that was warming me, was it?  It was you.

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They say that it takes time, but I think they are wrong.  Still nothing is the same without you.  And it feels words each day instead of better because at the same time I find it hard to face the memories, I am equally afraid to forget them.

I went to Save On Foods today- the one in North Vancouver we always went to.  It feels like every aisle conjures up another memory of you for me.  The pharmacy where we’d get your prescriptions filled, the wall shelf that housed the high in calcium (but low in sugar) energy drinks we’d get you, the cosmetics area where you’d buy the same shampoo in the thin green bottles.  Or and new bottle of hairspray.  God, I miss watching you spurt some hairspray over your head to add some body to the top.

And of course, the one percent milk and ,multi grain bread you’d know exactly where to find. Oh, and bananas, and sometimes mangoes.  We could never leave the grocery store without bananas. You loved bananas.  And I think you loved buying mangoes for me, and to remind you of Mama.

As I write these memories down now, a part of me smiles for a few seconds. I genuinely feel some of those moments so deeply embedded in my heart and mind, that they seem impossible to forget. But the thought that I will never have them again, the actual experiences with you, overwhelms this same heart with more sadness than I ever thought I could feel.  There is a searching that I go through every time I am somewhere that you and I frequented often together.  Like when I am in some of those favorite places of yours.

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It’s like I am looking through the aisles for you.  Searching for you.  But then I remember that you’re gone.  Maybe I find bits and pieces to hold onto, because of the sweet smells as I walk by the fruit section, or when I pass by the white basmati rice, but there are also holes and emptiness that must make me appear so lost.

For a moment, as I am walking back to your car in the parking lot, I remember that I will never have your rice or see you get excited about cooking samosas again. And I know that nothing can ever replace that.

So as I hug this hot water bottle tighter to my chest, to try to feel you closer to me,  I realize I cannot magically squeeze my mother’s warmth and love out of it, or through it.  And I just watch as my tears fall down onto its tartan cover. It is the same hot water bottle, but nothing feels the same as it used to be.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 :-).