From Home Straight to Heaven, Making No Stops in Between.

*(This piece was written yesterday, September 9th, and just as I was about to post it, I had an emergency with my younger son.  He is okay and now that I am home and all is said and done, I thought I would post this, as the whole time I was sitting with my own child, my mind was also on someone else’s.)

I had so many plans for this morning, yet I find myself sitting here in my living room, my house quiet, my heart broken and a million questions and thoughts in my head.  I suppose I am fortunate to be able to write freely.  Words swim in my head all day long, ideas, memories, phrases, dialogue.  I have been like this all my life, so to me, it’s as normal as the dizziness and the neck aches that accompany the endless movement of words in my mind some days.  I am sitting here, tears flowing down my face and I can’t stop them because of the news I read on Facebook – that maddening forum that updates me on everyone and everything way too often, interrupting my day like chronic hiccups, yet I cannot leave it. I have had to pare down my friends to the people in my life who I need to stay in touch with – my friends who live in cities where I once did, my dear sisters from my high school Alma Mater, St. Joseph’s Convent, my cousins, my Trinidadian friends, some people from Syracuse University and Ryerson and a smattering of people in the community where I live.

Today I read that the son of one of my SJC sisters passed away.   I have known this woman since we were children in Maria Regina Grade School on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad.  She had always been this artistic, tall, beautiful creature with a huge smile and bubbly personality.  I don’t remember Leisel upset in school.  Ever. She was fun! She was life! … One of those unforgettable people and it was wonderful to be able to reconnect with her after all these years.

Time did what it does and we all grew up, some of us moving to different places, some of us staying in Trinidad, all of us going our separate ways, yet thanks to a 30 year reunion and two remarkable women who stop at nothing (Carla and Debbie) we were all connected by Facebook in a matter of months. Though we all could not attend, many of us did and the connection on Facebook strengthened the bond between those present and those present in spirit.  We were in each other’s lives again at an age when we were all fully women – no longer high school girls but women with lives that had history and stories of good times, hard times, times of real struggle, failure and success.  We were mothers, aunts, some were grandmothers, career women, friends, wives, ex-wives,care givers and no matter where we were, or what we did with our lives, we all had a common approach to handling the journey that is life.  We turned out to be an army of the strongest women I will ever know, whom, I feel I can count on always and as maddening as Facebook is for me at times, it has allowed my true friends…my sisters, to be just a click away.

I thought I’d be done sobbing by now, but I can’t stop, it seems.  In my head right now, I see us sitting in class in Form 1M, with a ceiling fan struggling to oscillate to keep us from melting in the Caribbean heat.  I can see Leisel next to Lucette facing the giant patio style sort of French doors that allowed them to look onto the school of our male counterparts at CIC (St. Mary’s).  I can see Lorna and if memory serves me correctly, I think Karlene was in my class too. In my mind I see us in the white blouses and strange sea blue, greenish ( I think gabardine) skirts we wore in our first year, before the material changed, white belts, our “washikongs” powdery with Whitening and white turned down socks.  Young girls dressed with so much white, perhaps to maintain some purity of spirit and mind as we teetered on the brink of becoming young women.  Who knew that in one class 4 of us would mother children who were special.  Knowing what I know of people’s lives, who knew one girl in our year would not live long into adulthood, or that others would have to fight terrible illnesses, deal with difficult marriages, deal with judgement from loved ones, would lose a spouse and another girl just a year ahead would lose her adult daughter in the most tragic of ways.  Where was that crystal ball?

Life is a strange, perplexing, meandering river.  As we float from bend to bend, we sometimes bounce off the rocks and miss out on some things.  Other times we bank safely on the sand and achieve greatness and everybody, everybody hits the rapids and capsize once in a while, getting something that they have to deal with for a longhard time.   In life, there is no answer to the question Why me?  No answer to Why us? …Why my child? … Why my sister(s)/ brother(s)? … Why my husband? … Why my parents? … Why my friend?  When you get the hand you are dealt you have to get out of bed, rub your eyes, take a breath, get to your feet and start the day and the next and everyday from there on end because even if you didn’t sign up for it, the life you have is the one you got, every damn day and you just have to make the best of it and make it work.  Every single one of us who went to our school, (and I am sure women attending other schools in T&T will feel the same about their camaraderie) …all of us posses the mettle to stand up and deal with our lives and move forward. While a situation might really rock us, none of my SJC sisters ever crumble. No matter what our faith or beliefs are we are strong and when we are not not, we acknowledge the moments when we are weak, we accept them and we find strength in others and in our God, knowing “this too shall pass,”.

I am perplexed by life all the time and particularly today.  As a mother of a child with special needs, I wonder what it must feel like for my friend now that her boy is gone.  Today she must be very busy as there is a lot to do when a person passes away. It will be punctuated by tears and sadness, but what is she going to do a few days from now after he is laid to rest.  There is a routine with special kids. Mind you, her journey with her son was so much more involved than I could ever imagine.  I cannot fathom the things she had to do to care for her boy while raising her other children.  I can only imagine she needed more than 24 hours in her day and that there was never enough help and not enough dates when her and her husband could just go out and have a coffee and were there ever enough moments when she could just sit and be still for a decent amount of time?  The routine she once had is gone and a whole lot of stuff that she had to deal with will gradually not need her attention, and while it will provide some relief to her, and her husband and allow more time for them and their children, it will be a huge void after years of doing all that they did for him.  I wonder what will she do now? How does one go from doing so much to not doing it anymore?  But, she is one of us and she will know what to do.  There is one consolation I will mention here but I must warn you, reader, I am not being insensitive.  I am speaking as a mother who has a child that will always need me albeit not physically or emotionally all the time, but he will need me to make decisions for him, major decisions for his whole life, beyond my grave.  I feel that if there is any consolation in the loss of her son, my friend can always know that he passed surrounded by parents who were there the day he came into this world. He was ushered into the world by love; he left it in love.  My son is a physical phenomenon.  It is part of his autism, actually.  He will out live us and it will not surprise me if he outlives his younger brother and younger cousins.  I will not be there to usher him out of the world and if there is no family to do so, I can only hope we set up our Will effectively enough that at least a compassionate stranger will be there for him at that time.  We live in a world that has shown me time an again that good struggles to trump evil.  Kindness is not as abundant as it used to be and there is little time for anything, especially for those of us who need just a bit more time.  When my thoughts go to that day,  I occasionally wish that my husband or I could be with him, because no one will ever know him or love him the way we do.  No one will know the right things to say to him, or how he likes his arms squeezed or remind him how to breathe deeply so he can deal with pain.  No one will know the right song to lean in and sing quietly into his ear, that will ease his anxiety.  If life goes the way it should, I will not know who will be there. I can only hope it’s a relative … someone who loves him or at least cares a little.

The world of special needs is so involved and heart wrenching, so crazy and frustrating and draining yet so rewarding and filled with love. Reading my friend’s post today is the stuff that shakes my faith. On days like today, I do not understand why people say God does not give you what you can’t handle. On days like today, I don’t understand what I am supposed to do on this journey or why special children comes to some people and not others, or why after years of difficulty, pain and hard work fueled by love and determination, my friend’s son could not get better?  Why could their family not have a fairy tale ending?  I read of miraculous outcomes all the time.  Why couldn’t he be cured miraculously?  Well, “that’s life”, right?  I will never know why and I will leave it at that.

My heart aches for my friend, her loss and all the days ahead that will be so strange and difficult.  I know she will feel release and I hope she will feel a sense of calm come over her in time.  We connected occasionally (as much as time allowed) and I know she worked so hard at raising her kids, caring for them and she put her all into her job… she is a force of nature and when I learned a bit about her life, all I have is an abundance of admiration and respect for her.  She does it all and she does it with such grace.  Her beautiful boy is at peace now. No more discomfort.  No pain.  I wish her peace over time to heal her sadness.  I wish her joy in his memory, in his spirit and the spirit of her other two young ones and I wish her and her husband endless love to strengthen their bond for years to come.

Like every child, her son was s a gift and a source of love and a a beautiful opportunity. He went from his home on Earth, straight to Heaven, making no stops in between. He went to rest in peace and joy knowing he was loved throughout his journey and if heaven is what we think it is, he will watch over his family for the rest of their days.

Leisel, it is such a simple statement that does not do justice to the way anyone feels right now, but we are all so sorry for the loss of your son and we are all just a click away.  Blessings to you and your family my darling.  ~Danie



Five Months to Fifty: Me, My Mother,Myself.


In May, I took  trip to Vancouver with my mother.  Neither of us had been there before and considering she is 76 and retired, she’s healthy and has the time to spare and I could make it happen so off we went.  We did all we could in four rainy days and I am glad she is a trooper because we could have easily been sidetracked and stuck indoors with the constant down-pouring.  Armed with our umbrellas (like everyone in Vancouver) and raincoats, we got to Stanley Park, to Gastown, to the Art Gallery, the Olympic torch at Canada place, the harbour, The Classical Chinese Gardens … we crammed everything we could into our time together including catching up with my cousin, Natasha, whom we don’t get to see very often.


I live about an hour and 15 minutes away from my mother and sister, so anytime I can spend with them … with her …has to be planned and is very valuable to me.  Like anyone with a family, there are many things about our loved ones that make us sigh, or shake our head and roll our eyes but the love we have for each other is fierce and glues together the fragments of our frustrations with each other to keep us whole.    My mother is a unique character.  She is very much the verbal martyr and tends to be very defensive.  She is stubborn, does not always pay attention and talks while you are talking.  She over-packs because of the “you never know” and “just in case” scenarios she has in her head  and she just does not understand how I travel so light and how nonchalant I am about not having an oversupply of band aids in my purse or sample sizes of Advil, Tylenol, Gravol and Immodium.

“Why put yourself in a situation where you would have to buy these things?”  she would ask, astonished.

“Because on every block there is a pharmacy and all these things are like 2 to 3 bucks”, I would reply, casually, sometimes cheekily.

I hate bulk. I hate having excess shit and as annoyed as she is about my empty handbag, I am annoyed by her incredibly overstuffed one that she has to dig into every five minutes.  Still, she is my mother and I do have a lot of her in me, although to toot my own horn, with help over the years from being married to Tom, I have it under control.  From Lumlin (her Chinese name), I got my sense of organization.  Rare are the occasions when I leave something to the last minute.  When I travel, I am packed about a week ahead of time because a week before that, I made certain everything that needs to come with us was clean and pressed.  I get my need for order from her as well.  I like and have to have a clean kitchen.  If you want me to cook, the kitchen has got to be clean and tidy and I insist on a clean bathroom and made beds.  After a long day at work, or a long day on the road, my eyes need to fall on certain things that are ordered and neat so that my brain does not go into visual overload (hmm…a little Adam-like I suppose).  Unlike my mother, I can leave the dishes for later if I want to leave and go do something fun on a nice day.  I have never let the traits I have, distract me from having a good time and I am okay leaving things for later when I have something else to do.  My mother also passed onto me some very old school lessons in etiquette which I am proud to say I have been able to pass onto my sons.  They know which fork to start with first when we are out for a meal; know when they need to wear a tie and dress shoes, shirt and pants and when to dress down.  They often remember to stand when a woman joins the table and they open and hold the door in public and are polite with their actions and words.  In a world so adamant about not doing things the way our parents did when it comes to raising our children, I am proud to say (while I understand why some people feel their parent’s way is archaic), I raised Adam and Logan pretty much the way my mother and father raised my sister and me and I am not sorry I did.

Like my mother, I adore my children and would kill for them as any parent would but I also believe there is a time and place for them and that they should not always be the centre of attention.  I spend a lot of time with my boys to the point where, as they separate themselves from me as they get older, I am not sad to think that one day they will move on with their own lives, on their own path – I am actually proud that they are moving on and I am happy for Tom and me because it means that our uninterrupted time together is approaching.  Children are wonderful but they can be draining if we let them be.  Like my mother towards us , I have no guilt when it comes to Adam and Logan but respect for the men I am watching them become.  I also have bought into her take on marriage, considering she had 43 great years with my father.  My mother always made time for Dad.  She was his greatest listener, advisor, friend and love.  That time when they were sitting together, was their time and unless we were bleeding or near death, we NEVER interrupted them.  Neither one of them contradicted the other when it came to the rules and expectations of our family and our home and the other thing that has stuck in my mind about their marriage was trust.  When they were together, nothing could phase them – not money, not friends, not mauvais langue, not sickness, not death.  I feel that way about my own marriage.  I feel that with Tom in my corner, there is nothing that can harm me.  We have this saying between us “It’s you and me.  It’s always been you and me and we’re still here”.

From Lumlin, I have inherited a strong sense of loyalty.  When I am your friend, I am a good one, to the point of being taken for granted sometimes and then if it gets past a certain level of tolerance, I end the friendship.   Like her, I may be an ex-pat but I am a “Trini to de bone” because as we say in Trinidad, “one must never damn the bridge they cross”. When you move away from the land of your birth, it is imperative to stay true to your roots to help you meander through the culture you have chosen or rather, have suddenly found yourself.  Like her, I feel one of my biggest obligations to my children is to make them confident in themselves and to teach them that they can do anything if they work hard.  Like her, I am teaching them to dream and to reach and to know that even if they fall, they won’t fall far and like her, I have learned to give them these skills even on the days when I don’t feel 100% confident in myself.  Mom raised me to be accountable for myself and my actions.  She trusted me to do the right things and for the most part I did because I could always hear her voice whenever I was in a tricky situation, guiding me to make the right choices.  She had a confidence in me that I never wanted to betray or let down and I see that in both my sons.  They know that I know I gave them the right tools that they need for society and I know they work very hard to do the right thing.  That being said, I have inherited a not so sweet side from my mother as well.  Mine I think is a little darker than hers, lol, but it is in check. Let’s face it, my mother, like everyone on the planet has her “bad ways” too.  My girl ain’t a perfect angel by any means.  She can sting you with words when she’s ready and because I learned by observation, so can I and so can my sister but one discovers how to rein that shit in and release only when necessary – and in this world we live in where selfishness (most times) trumps selflessness and when people are just downright asinine, you might get a little venom from our direction … oops.

These skills (hopefully only the good ones, right? lol) my mother gave to me, are the skills I am giving to Adam and Logan because they need to be strong to face every single day in this world. They need to be strong to handle the dark times life will throw their way and I know that because I have lived through some dark days and I’m still here, in one piece, dependent on nothing more than my own will power because I was not raised to be weak or give up but rather raised to keep getting up and keep trying and keep moving on to the next day, next thing, next opportunity … just like my mom.

This trip gave me a chance to see Mummy.  To see what makes her, her now and what has changed about her as she has gotten older.  Her tech confidence isn’t what it used to be since she stopped working and she likes to lean on us for the simplest things regarding the computer and her phone, but we remain patient and we teach her and she comes around as we know she can.  I think she has just decided there are some things she does not want to give too much of her attention to anymore and that is okay.  She is still a busy body around the house, always cooking something (you never leave her home without a container of something tasty) or she is always cleaning something and though she does not have to, I understand the need to feel useful, so we let her (within reason – moving things in our house to suit her short stature does not work when the shortest person living here is 5’7″ and the tallest is 6’2″).

Mummy and I are extremely different.  We are not besties.  We are mother and daughter.  I call her to chat and occasionally for advice or just a listening ear (as long as she does not talk over top of me lol) and we go places together.  We cook together when we can, drive around together when we can and it’s nice.  It’s comfortable. There are times I feel sorry that her all time love has passed away and I get frustrated when we talk about things Dad might have done that made me shake my head, and she jumps all over me defending him –   but then I know it is her grief that’s talking.  As an adult, I lost a father but she lost the man she loved and I have no idea how she feels, so now, we only reminisce about good things and that is fine because that is what she needs.  There are things I prefer not to discuss with Mom because a) sometimes I don’t want her to worry about my stuff at her stage in life, and b) there is a strong generational difference of opinion regarding some things but I respect where she is coming from although I don’t think she respects where I’m coming from sometimes – oh well – old dogs, new tricks. She speaks like a 76 year old and is often politically incorrect  – again – old dog, new tricks  – and those are the times when she talks like she knows all about the topic and is right  as right can be – so I take her comments with a pinch of salt, right?   But the bottom line is, she is my mother and she has her moments of wisdom when she speaks to me from her heart.  I admire the strong faith she has that buttresses my wavering one and when I am in doubt, when I need support; a confidence boost; when I worry about something; when I am faced with a tough decision, when I need prayer, she is there.  I can count on her to always be there and I hope when she is gone, I can close my eyes and hear her voice and hear what she would have said to me so that I can right myself.   She gave me the strength that so many admire and some, deep down inside themselves hate about me all at once. She told me from the moment I could understand words, that I was beautiful on the outside and exquisite on the inside. She is the reason I have so much compassion and the reason I have no fear of the stuff of life. There are things that make me scared but nothing that scares me enough to quit. She is me. I am her, I am Dad.  I already see myself  in my children.  I know like me, their mother frustrates the hell out of them and I see them roll their eyes and I notice when my opinions bounce off of them because they are too strong.  I might see myself as a watered down version of my 5 foot maybe 2 inch powerhouse mother but to my children, I am her.

I can do a better job of being a daughter – we can all be better adult children to our adult parents.  If you think you are a perfect adult child, you are a hypocrite.  If your adult parent does not make you sigh and shake your head, you are a hypocrite.  If you think you are drastically different from your parents, you are in denial – wake up.  And if you think you do things better as a parent than your  own parents did because you have read some new age bull-shit parenting books, you’re a damn fool. If you are lucky to have one or both of your folks around, put your arms around them and be thankful for them and in some way show them how much you appreciate them and all they did for you.  If your folks were a disaster and they messed you up royally, find a way to forgive them, if you can, for your own salvation and sanity.  Forgive and free your soul.  Remember, you are going to be an adult parent to adult children before you know it. What treatment would you want from your adult son or daughter?

So … thank you Mom, for irritating me, harping on me from the time I could talk, showing me how to do everything from run a house, mix a drink for your guests from the time I was 4, to holding a job, and being amazing at the best job, in a cynical world that views being a good wife, mother and life partner as an underachievement, even though we all know that the problem with the world is that work takes way too much precedence over family and many people have no choice but to let it.  Thank you, Mom for banning me, for vexing me; punishing me; kissing me and hugging me; thank you for telling me when I was being an ass and telling me when I was wonderful.  Thanks for the confidence and bravery you instilled in me and the pride I see in your eyes when you look at me and mine.  Thank you for what you still are able to do for me. You drive me crazy and you make me laugh. Thanks for coming on this trip with me and being so game to do whatever came up next. That was very cool of you and I will never forget that.  Thank you for still ever so subtly showing me the way.  I am you in so many ways and you know what?  Nothin’ wrong with that at all.


~ For my mother, Angela  – Thank you. Love you. ~