My sons are entering what I like to call full adulthood. They are at the stage where they tackle problems on their own and let their father and me know the outcome. This is great to see, because we have all done the work to prepare them to do this and while they are relatively open with us and seek advice occasionally, more and more they’re trying to involve us less and less. It is a natural progression that is both beautiful and slightly unnerving to witness this carving of paths and shaping of lives and as their mother, I have to accept this aspect of their independence. Their father is far better at it than I am.
I check myself before I convey how I feel about them or when I want to give that boost of confidence they might need. The innate desire as their mother is to go back in time when I would hold them in my arms and tell them how special they are and how proud I am of them and end the pep talk with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek — but we’re not there anymore and those moments are what I refer to as fond foundational memories. I know they have dark moments. We all do. If you are alive you have dark days. In a world with so much failing around us, it’s impossible to avoid dark days when you feel like no matter what you have done right, everything is piling onto you. I am from the generation where we were told that we shouldn’t whine,that no load is too heavy to bear, that we had nothing to complain about and to suck it up. Today, we can go to the extreme if we are not careful and we can fail to teach our youth how to cope. Other times we can disable them by jumping in and disarming them of problems by solving it for them, parent-style. We walk a fine line as parents no matter the age of our children and we have to come up with ways to lift them up without patronizing them or disregarding their ideas and opinions.
Last week, one of my sons was working through an issue and we could tell in the initial phone call, he was upset and was making rash decisions and spoke about giving up on something he has been working so hard to achieve. He had done nothing wrong but the circumstance in which he finds himself is unfortunate and out of his control. All he could do is be his best self within the organization in the midst of the disarray and work on ways to get out and transfer to another that would be a better fit. After listening to what he had to say, we gently reminded him that over the years when we opened the door for him to quit, he never did and that he needed to give himself twenty-four hours to cool down and look at it with fresh eyes and not give in to making rash decisions.
The next day we listened to a much calmer young man who reiterated that he was not a quitter and that he was thinking with a clearer head and planned to take things patiently, day by day and continue to do his best until something better came along. We were happy to hear this but not surprised and it was then I recognized I needed to tell him something I hadn’t outrightly ever said to him or his brother in their teen years and this was the perfect time to tell him why I agreed with his plan. I simply said,
“This plan makes sense to me because of how important you are,” I began. “I hope you know that you are important, son,”
His silence indicated he was waiting for my explanation. I told him that beyond his academics, job and his sport; beyond his importance in our family and his circle of friends; he is important to society. I told him I was aware that he knows he is a good human being and I want him to remember that society, our community and any future community in which he finds himself, needs him. The world society needs humans like him. He is important for the survival of our species and our planet because he is a human who wants to do the right thing and knows how to get things done. He is a human filled with compassion and patience and he is a kind, loving and always-willing-to-help human who spreads happiness and joy. And while we are all flawed, he makes us proud parents because he is the best of us plus all the innate goodness he showed up with nineteen years ago.
I imagined what it would feel like to be told how important I was at a young age. If sometone tells me that now, I believe it because I am a parent, a provider,I provide service to clients, I am knowledgeable and I have the means to teach and to help. But when I was young and had nothing tangible to show in order for me to feel important…man, if someone explained why my mere existence and my actions made me important, hmmph, that would have lifted me up beyond the stars. We need to tell people they are important. We need to let them know that we see the role they play in life and why they are vital to our existence.We need to tell them that they don’t need material possessions or titles to be important because they are one unique and special piece of a much greater jigsaw puzzle that is life and we can’t be whole without them. We need to show them how their very presence on the planet is key to the success of many other people and that everything they are a part of would be worse without them. And while everyone is important, our young people are especially so, because they are the ones to take us into the future — a future, I might add, we have severely tarnished — a future they have to fix. We need them. We need them to cope so that they can survive. We can save their lives if we tell them how important they are…tell all of them, not just the ones who appear vulnerable. Tell them all!
You are important. You are needed. You represent change. You represent hope. You are the best of us and we are here to help however and whenever we can because you are important and the world does not work without you.
A couple weeks ago, plans with my sister changed due to weather and we decided on a rain check. Looking at the overcast sky and the drizzle sprinkling the back deck, I was about to settle for a day indoors when I realized, it was perfectly still. No wind rustled the leaves of the trees. The air was thick and humid, the smell of the rain soaking into the earth, ripe. Feeling the discontemtment with the possibility of an indoor day, I gave into my urge to be outside and on the water. After all, I was on day two and a half of the eighty two hours I had to myself and I wanted to use this time to unleash myself from my usual routine. There was to be no cooking or cleaning up during this time and knowing that this unusually hot weather (no matter how strange) in Canada should not be taken for granted, I didn’t want to spend all my time at home. The confirmation that I had to get out and do something came from my reflection in the mirror while brushing my teeth. I was checking out the mop of curls atop my head (no hair appointments during covid), and looking at the transformation my hair has been undergoing. In my case, dark strands are turning red and over time, red to yellow before settling into a permanent state of white. Unlike my face, my hair isn’t deceiving when it comes to my age and nothing says get out and utilize your time like graying hair. I got in line with a parade of SUV’s at Starbucks and treated myself to a fancy coffee; went back home, changed and threw my paddle board gear and my stuff (wallet, phone, water bottle, comb, towel and a cotton slip-on dress) in the car and headed for the beach. Listening to lyrics being belted out by Amy Lee and other thought inspiring music streaming via Bluetooth, I was really inside my head, watching the road, of course, but thoughts a million miles away. When I have downtime from work and my family I spend a lot of time thinking deeply about my life, the world and my place in it. Like everything else over the years, in moments like these I recognize how much the deep thinking has changed. I remember times of solitude whether I was driving or just sitting on the deck, my thoughts would would classify more as worry or concern …concern over my autistic child’s future, concern for my other child, my husband, my parents, my marriage, my ever changing ways of making a living…it was all based on concern and problem solving. Now, at 54, I’m in the roller coaster carriage going up the last couple not-so-steep inclines of the ride of life and my deep thoughts bring a smile to my face and peace to my soul. This is the we’ve-made-it-through-the-toughest-times incline and it is the one where we get to experience and truly appreciate the things that make us feel love, happiness and gratitude and although everything that goes up must come down and I know there will be loss and sadness to bear, the ride will plateau and eventually come to an end. If it ends with me feeling the way I feel now, then I would have succeeded in truly living.
As I drove through the county’s winding road to my destination, I appreciated the gift this region was to me and my family. I have never warmed to the town we settled in after having lived in some of Canada’s most fabulous cities. I have never understood or accepted the cliquish and rather frivolous nature of the people who were born and bred here but I’ve learned to live my life in this small place while keeping the small minded at arm’s length. The county is home to some of the best vineyards in the country and best stretches of beach front, cosy coves, inlets of Lake Ontario. Being from the Caribbean, the Provincial Parks in my area draw me to their shallow clear waters and white sands. It feeds my passion to play in the water and hear the shushing of waves as I’d done in mychildhood, albeit without that briny taste of the ocean so dear to me. This piece of perfect real estate is one of the reasons I am able to continue living here.
In spite of the grey skies and spotty showers, the colours of the vegetation along the way were vibrant and lush and I could see that there was no turbulance on the water in spite of the rain. The water was flat and almost motionless like a sheet of glass and the beaches were not crowded but they weren’t deserted either. It seemed, like me, people were intent on having their day at the beach in spite of the weather. Some people took shelter from the rain grilling their food under pop up tents or canopies while others were enjoying being in the warm water, being baptised by the rain.
I inflated my board and paddled out into serenity, my oar slicing through the water, the sound of tiny ripples overiding the ambiance of music, people chatting and kids playing. It didn’t matter that the drizzle had turned into a shower. It was peaceful and where I needed to be. Not having much experience as a paddle boarder, the initial tense legs and overly engaged core were now relaxed and I was looking ahead at the scenery and not at the water. I thought about the last seventeen months of this global pandemic and what it had done to the world. I thought of all the suffering and death it caused and while I recognize and acknowledge our privilege and good luck, I thought of what it did to my sons. I thought of how their goals screeched to a halt, shattering everything they were planning to do post high school. My sons are on the brink of independent adulthood and 2020 was supposed to be the year that bore the fruits of their labour. But, instead, like everyone,they had to wait and wait and wait some more. They had to find ways to stay motivated and positive and the toll it took on both their mental well-being was overwhelming, especially for my autistic son. And then came change. Some much needed relief in the form of vaccines. Now fully vaccinated, we can do a bit more. We can gather with a select few and we can be outdoors and we can get a taste of the daily life we took for greanted. Two strokes to the left, two to the right I’d covered a decent distance from my spot on the beach. “We did it,” I thought and a smile came to my face. We made it through the toughest sixteen months of our lifetime; especially my sons, especially Adam. We followed the protocol, we kept our distance from everyone outside our family and we found a way to make the lockdowns worthwhile. Those were the good days. I taught the boys how to cook, their father showed them their way around power tools and home renos, they studied, they trained and we all stayed healthy. And then there were the difficult days, especially for Adam. After all those the days when his inability to communicate what was bothering him resulted in destruction and pain, just like the rest of us, he made it through. One stroke on the right, one on the left, I kept paddling and I felt my shoulders drop and the tightness disappear and in that instant I realized that we’re all okay and everything with everyone I love was as it should be.
The pandemic is not over and it will be a while before we have a handle on Covid 19. There is a lot going on in the world along with Covid 19 and it’s repercussions. The climate has changed and the west of our country is burning, while tornados touch down in South West Ontario and Northern Ontario is on fire too. Greece is burning. Germany is flooding. California is burning again and it is easy to think that our planet is just going to turn to ash one day, but in that moment, as I paddled, I was able to unleash it all and let it go. And I felt it leave me too. You see, I might not be able to change the world, but I can do my part; I can do my best to not add to the problems that plague our world. There is still a lot of good and a lot of beauty to behold and therefore, there is hope in spite of all our problems.
One stroke to the right, one to the left, over and over and over until I felt like I was floating on a cloud rather than on water. I thought of the love of my life and our love that has deepened over the years and how much more I love him each and every day in ways I never knew existed. Paddle left. Paddle right. Love, like life,has evolved. Love is easy, always available and is uncomplicated at my age. Marriage, like me on my board, floats, bobbing over ripples easily. Marriage, is friendship, comfort and well…its home, welcoming me with open arms everytime and it’s where I want to be. Children are grown and starting their adult lives and we are starting a new chapter together that still includes and cares about our boys, but is mainly focused on us and the time we will spend together until one of us leaves this life.
Like a loud noise, or a flash of lightening, a jet ski’s motor and heavy wake disrupted my peaceful thoughts. My board bobbed and wobbled on the waves and I lost my balance and plunged into the water as did two screaming little girls from a paddle board about 80 metres away. Beginners all, the sudden waves made it difficult to pull ourselves back onto our boards. The more I tried, the more my legs bobbed and kicked the more tangled my leash became in the tall weeds. A strong swimmer, even with a life jacket, I grew tired. I stopped. I took a breath. What was the plan? Looking into the water, I could barely see my foot. Reaching down I tried to remove the velcro ankle cuff. What a bitch that was! Who knew weeds were that thick and strong? Third time was the charm. With my foot free, I tried to mount the board again, but when I pushed my weight onto it, the tail of the board would sink because the leash tethered it so strongly onto the weeds. I was tired. I was done with this shit. I reached up and unhooked the leash from the board and glided towards the shore. I glanced over at the kids whose father had come into the water to detangle their leash from the weeds and bring them to shore. They left their leash behind too but they were safe. I hoisted myself onto the board and lay face up. A big breath released the tiredness and frustration of dealing with the weeds. I was unleashed. I was free. So, I lost a thirty dollar leash. Whatever. It was holding me back. Binding me to disgusting, prickly, slimy, octopus- arm-like weeds. Weighing me down. I remember my cousin Nicole would say, “just free it, Danie. Free it” and I did and everything was so much better.
There Is No Perception of Colour in an Autistic Person’s World
Throughout his life, my autistic son who is brilliant has been perceived as being less so. The people that matter in his life, know the truth about him and I have never wasted any time trying to prove his worth to anyone not intelligent enough or anyone who is too self absorbed or frivolous to understand. Over the years of rejoicing through the great times and wading through the murky, thick mud of the heartbreaking times, I have come to know that the truth about both my children is beautiful. In a time of chaos brewed by racism, terrorism and hatred I feel their father and I have managed to put a sliver of hope for better on this planet.
Two days ago sitting in a cloud of misery borne out of merely watching a half hour newscast, I heard Adam in the other room in full *echolalia going on happily about something that was happening in the Big Bang Theory which is the latest show he likes to binge watch. His *scripting had something to do with the character Raj and I thought I would do a little test. I called him into the living room and asked him what was going on in the episode he was watching and he proceeded to tell me how funny it was and that it was because Raj was saying silly things. Feigning ignorance, I asked him which character was Raj. He turned to go get his tablet in his room so that he could show me when I stopped him and asked him to describe Raj. What you have to understand is that Adam hates being pushed into descriptive language but it is something we are working on and I wanted to see what he would say. He twisted his mouth, scrunched his nose and then he said,
“He is the tall one,” to which I responded,
“So Leonard is …”
“Leonard is short. Raj is a guy,” he offered.
“A guy like Leonard and Sheldon and Howard?”
“Yes. Howard is short,” he replied.
“But I still can’t place Raj. Which one is he?” I pressed on.
Adam proceeded to say adjectives like tall, skinny, silly, funny, jokey…he never said that Raj was brown. Not that he does not know his colours – I remember vividly when he was 5 and he was learning colours he certainly realized that mummy was brown but that was it. It was an observation when he was 5 and to this day, Adam has never used colour to describe anyone because he has never associated a person with their colour – ever. I have however had to un-teach some of the derogatory words he has heard in school over the years. Words that sometimes were directed towards him when misinformed or rather poorly-informed kids saw that I was his mother. He would say the words completely out of context and I would have to spend weeks purging them from his vocabulary by teaching him in the most basic of terms that some words are just so very bad. I hope I never have to un-teach him words such as those again but I shan’t be naive because this world is getting worse.
People who don’t know Adam or those who know him and have labelled him, will never see beneath the surface the way those who know him do. He may have to struggle through some days sometimes because of his autism, he may have to do things differently to get by and he may have some days when having to adjust things to suit him or to keep him successful is a real pain in the ass for whomever has to make the adjustments but one thing is certain – Adam sees people. He sees their soul, he sees their personality and he sees their beauty because even with perfect vision my son cannot see their colour. There is a purity about him that I attribute to his autism that I wish every human had. He knows what pretty is but he never calls anything ugly although he understand’s the meaning of the word. He does not place any emphasis on riches but he certainly understands that he has to help someone who may be poor. He is paid in self satisfaction, happiness and pride for every job he does and he works harder than most from beginning to end. Hmm…autistic with a work ethic. Chew on that for a while.
I shake my head and laugh so many times when I think of the resolute therapists who incessantly repeated the importance of integrating Adam into the world by working on reducing or stopping his “inappropriate” behaviors and quirky actions so that in essence he could be more like other people in society. I think it should be the other way around because I have seen what my boy sees. I have laid beside him in that little playroom as I waited on him to meet me halfway; doing what he did, stretching out our hands to the light streaming through that tiny basement window, watching the little specs of dust dance between our fingers. I remember feeling a glorious release when we would roll down the hill at the playground near our house when he and his brother were little. I remember the giggles and the all out raucous laughter, the smell of the grass and the feel of the dirt on my body. I’d forgotten the abandon of childhood and I am eternally grateful to my children for re-introducing me back then to just how much fun and how freeing life can be. I remember laying on our backs in that playroom staring at the ceiling, humming and becoming so relaxed that my body sank into the carpet as I was lulled to sleep by my little boy’s sweet voice. We met each other halfway in that playroom – he, discovering the wonders of the world as I presented it to him; me, recognizing just how over stimulating and bombarding the world actually was. In that playroom where I taught my son everything he knows, I learned from him how to let the noise go, how to hear what was within me and how to tap into moments of peace. Adam knows how to get back to his soul. Even when it is most difficult for him he knows how to tap into that place of goodness, knows how to let go of all that has him tangled and twisted up emotionally in order to restore himself and dwell in a place of peace and love. Shouldn’t we all figure out how to do that? Think about how much less pain we all could cause if we are able to release anger and horrible, hateful or violent thoughts from our minds and hearts and return to a place of peace and love and restore ourselves and each other. Yeah, right…integrate my son into society as it is, my ass. We should be so lucky to be more like him.
Learning to Unlearn
It is no secret that to me, my second son Logan, is one of the best people I know. My aunt Meiling would call someone like Logan “too mannish” because he is far too young to be this miniature man of integrity and depth. He has a sensibility that I have not seen in anyone so young. His ability to discern bullshit from truth is something I did not have mastered by the time I was a teenager and to quote my husband “Watch for our son because anyone who ends up involved with him will be beyond fortunate because of the human he is,”
I have tried very hard to raise Logan to not see race, creed or colour. It was easier with Adam being autistic but by the time Logan got to grade 2 he learned what colour was unfortunately. Looking back on my own childhood, I would say I was lucky to have grown up in a multicultural, multiracial society and be raised by parents who had friends from all walks of life, all colours and religions but like Logan, when I was 5, even sweet T&T way back then had it’s structure and divisions that were somewhat subtle at times blatant at others. I remember what living with that was like – bouncing in and out of acceptance, hearing derogatory racial slurs in conversations, in traffic, putting up with disgusting comments from idle limers as my mother and I walked by them. My childhood was a good one but there are things I learned about the world that I was determined to do something about. I knew there was no way to protect my children from these lesser things but I could teach them to be better and also be better than me and those before them. It may be naive of me but I like to think if I could just put two decent and good humans on the planet, I could make significant change.
So with Logan, I also did a little test. I was in the living room when his friend came to the door. He had just come from work on the reserve and he made a crack about delivering watery gas to our door. The boys bantered back and forth with little jabs about each other’s ethnicity and then went out to grab a couple lemonades from the store. When he got back, Logan joined us to watch the unfolding of events in Charlottesville and he was, like we were, disappointed in what we were witnessing. Pausing the broadcast, I told him that I had something I needed him to do for me moving forward in light of all the hate and racism in the world. I asked him to stop the light jabs among his friends that had racist tendencies. He assured me they were all best buddies and no one took anything personally but I counteracted his point by pointing to the television.
“It can start with simple jesting and it can evolve into this,” I told him. “We say stuff among our friends and no one is really offended so we accept it and then it gets a little more pronounced and we accept that too and then we have a difference of opinion and someone says something in anger and even though things may cool down and you are still buddies, it was blurted out and there is a dividing line in the friendship. We cannot accept racism and lighthearted racist ribbing is not to be done anymore. It is not accepted and if you end it, it will end in your circle of friends. The same way you do not tolerate the use of the word retarded to describe mentally challenged people, you must not participate in or tolerate racist jokes or jabs at all,”
My boy looked me in the eye and told me he understood and he would change it. Two days later when the friends were at the door, I was in the kitchen and one of them greeted the other with another native joke and my boy said,
“So, here’s the thing. We can’t do that anymore, okay? My mom spoke to me about it and I agree with her. She wasn’t mad or anything but she’s right. We are friends and we don’t want to get into talking like this so no more racist jabs. We cool?”
I heard the pseudo-manly voices echo in agreement and just like that they went down the street in front of one of their houses and started shooting hoops. I didn’t tell him I heard them that night and in the car yesterday, Logan told me that he spoke to his buddies and they all agreed not to make anymore dumb jabs about race. He said they actually agreed they didn’t really know why they were doing it. They didn’t think it was funny and they didn’t really like it. I know Logan has struggled with the answer to the occasional question “So what are you? “from some idiot after they realize I am his mother. Today he answers quite simply, “Human….a guy… a person,” and if they persist he suggests they “might want to do some travelling…read a book…get exposed, eh?”
There is so much going on now in the world. Our time is as filled with turmoil as it is with bliss – sometimes it is so overrun with turmoil that we have to do all we can to find bliss so that we can hang on to a shred of decency and sanity. I am in the middle of my life and one day it will draw to an end but my children’s lives are just beginning and I can see that so many young people are trying hard to hold on what is real, to what is pure and what is true. It is an uphill battle and I understand why so many of our youth have difficulty coping with life as it is. They have so much more to deal with than we did and everyday they try to separate what is good about living in their time of technology from what is heinous and all I can do in my middle age is try and stay abreast of it all and not criticize them or compare their time to mine but truly support them however I can.
If there is one thing marriage and parenting have taught me is the importance of communication. In all my years of raising my boys I have never talked and listened more than I do now. Every week there is something I learn that was not a part of my vocabulary. Forget learning French, German, Cantonese, Spanish or what have you, I have had to master “youth speak” in ways I never imagined and as un-cool as I know I am, my husband and I are the first stop when my boys’ world come crashing down around them. Their father and I won’t be there for them every time it happens and one day we will not be here at all and I hope their coping skills continue to be strong. It’s like my husband says, “Parenting is 50/50. We can only hope that they hold on to that fifty percent of what we instilled in them the question mark is what they do with the other fifty and we can only hope they have the strength of character to navigate it in the right direction,”
In Logan’s lifetime he is going to learn and experience many things. Some will be great and some will not and he will have to choose between doing the right thing or the easy thing, the right thing or the popular thing and the right thing or the wrong thing. He will soar and he will crash and he will soar again and his life will roller coster on just like any other life. My hope for his generation is that they can learn from the mistakes of past generations as well as their own and that they can release or un-learn some of the things we may have carelessly and mindlessly taught them. I hope they are better than we are and better than their grandparents. I hope they put humanity first and that they operate from a place of love. I hope their generation sees an end to terror and most of all I hope they un-learn racism and bigotry and learn acceptance. Who knows, maybe…just maybe theirs is the generation to turn the world around and propel us upward from the downward spiral we seem to be on.
*Echolalia is the repetition of words or phrases with sometimes no meaning or function attached to them. … Sometimes this behavior is termed “scripting” because the words and phrases the person is repeating comes from tv or movie scripts.
As 2016 morphed into 2017, work surged. Busy at work is a good thing but there is also an ugly side to it as well. An increase in volume means an increase in revenue, an increase in expenditure and in working hours, increased tiredness and shorter fuses. Add to that raising 2 teenage boys, one a bit more difficult at times than the other, perimenopause, running a household and well, living life. I thought I had a head start when I made sure we transitioned from the Christmas mode early enough in anticipation of the workload, but really, we all know you just can’t be ahead of the game all the time, especially when you want to be or feel like you have to be. Very quickly things began to get on my nerves and while I tried to stay even keeled and patient, I was feeling like I just wanted to scrape off everything and everyone close to me. I literally felt like life was clawing and scratching its way all over me and it was overwhelming.
Needless to say when that happens around here, so do some pretty intense and “spirited” arguments followed by most certain tension. Over the years Tom and I have been very real. We have a good, strong marriage but certainly not a perfect one but we work at it and have fun with it as well. I have known people who have said they never argue or fight ( oddly enough one person who has said this to me so many years ago in my living room in Brockville with her cutesie, shitty little smirk comes to mind. She has since divorced her husband … go figure little Miss goodie Two Shoes Critical ). Living together and working together has been a skill my husband and I have mostly mastered over the years and I say mostly because there are some damn days when mmmmm boy….OYE! Alas, we are human. It’s been better lately and we are getting through the crunch of the workload and we are getting back to the system we are used to but occasionally we both sense that the other is at the edge of tolerance. We haven’t really made time to do our usual Netflix marathon. We have been out to lunch but have been too mentally wiped to really talk and of course we are being supportive of Logan as he writes his first high school exams – being available to listen to his presentations, be there to help him if he is stuck with the studying and of course to drive him and Adam to practices and meets and appointments. Add a dash of Adam’s occasional particular brand of autistic adolescent B.S and you get two people who generally enjoy spending time together, just happy to sit in different rooms and of late, fall asleep long before the other comes to bed.
This self preservation and intentional and mindful increase in patience and tolerance of each other has shown me that working towards building a successful business is draining. Don’t get me wrong, we earned it, we want it and we are doing it but the lesson here is the same lesson one learns when times are tight and there is not a dollar to spare. The lesson one learns when the baby has colic and has screamed for 24 hours and you instantly had him off without so much as a thought or even a “hello” to the person who has been grinding it out at work all day. It is the lesson that teaches you about making an even greater effort to keep the relationship healthy. You have to make a greater effort to smile, to greet and to listen. You have to make a greater effort to know when you have to cut into your unwind time, tablet time, computer time or TV time and include that person you fell in love with. You have dig deep inside yourself and make a great effort to make the time you spend together become time spent together and you have to make a greater effort to leave work at the doorstep.
We have a good but busy year ahead of us. The tension is there but we have a better awareness of it, I feel. I’d like to get back to being mushed together on the couch watching some TV series and I’d like us to be in bed at the same time, falling asleep at the same time and waking up late and staying in bed chatting about our random heavy duty topics without having to jump out of bed and get a head start on the workday. I hope our lunches and dinners out can be free of the distraction of these initial busy first months or that these months will fly by and we can re-connect over a meal the way we usually do.
At least, though we …he… has taken a step toward that in the form of the grand gesture of us going to New York for my 50th birthday. He has never been and I love going there and I am looking forward to sharing this experience with him. I hope when we are there we let go of everything for the four days and I hope that time away from our usual environment will allow us to experience that familiar feeling we both love about marriage – the feeling of being “at home” when you are with the person you love. We are lucky, Tom and me. We have had a hell of a ride on the fastest of roller coasters. Anyone who knows post-baby Daniella, will tell you I am no longer a willing coaster rider but on the life ride with Tom, in this marriage, in this crazy world with these two humans we are trying to raise to be good men, I have always felt safe with him. As much as I may question or doubt, I can honestly say, he has always stuck to his word when he says everything will be alright. He makes things right. He makes them better and he makes bad experiences fade into the past. We have loved passionately, fought passionately, been worried, afraid, hopeful and happy on this life ride. We have seen dark times and the brightest days and his optimism and my perseverance have complimented each other in a way that is demonstrated by the characteristics of our sons. In some bizarre way, we work and well… we fit. And as maddening as we can be to each other, and as polar opposite as we are there, is no one I would rather love, kiss, hug, lay beside, work with, sigh at, roll my eyes at and be frustrated with. I was reminded of that this week when I heard that my friend’s husband passed away and just this second when Tom told me one of his radio bosses (not much older than we are) also passed. I have seen my clients go through it and I have seen my mother deal with it and I can see how painful, frightening and unfair it is to have the person you love leave you behind. Life is so unpredictable and can change in the blink of an eye. I hope for the retirement brochure image. You know. that idyllic scene of two people travelling and exploring a new phase of life in their more mature years. I yearn for it, pray for it, though I know it is only 50% up to us to get there as the other 50% is pure fate. I also fear not getting to experience it because I want it so badly.
So, tomorrow is another busy day. He is booked solid with appointments and I will divide my time between getting my office into work space condition, touching base with a few clients about some projects on the go and going through and responding to our e-mails. We will be working as a unit in the most separate of ways, ploughing through this next month, coming up for air when we get to the Big Apple. This is our life. It’s not perfect and it is not always fair and it is not always all shits and giggles but I think it’s pretty great, even when it sucks because I’d rather it suck with my three men than without them. Whether you are in a state of bliss, state of despair or in some kind of weird funk like me, I wish you peace and I wish you the good sense to always reflect on what you have and what you stand to lose. ( Of course, if your situation is utterly shite and you need to move on, please do, because this is not about putting up or being content to settle with a terrible person or situation no matter what – let’s be clear on that). Here’s to clarity, to ploughing through tough times to get to the better times and here’s to time well spent with those well loved.
He is a joker 99% of the time, making all kinds of weird faces but I think I have a handsome dude. I mean that’s what starts it, right? You like the way a person looks according to your taste and then you keep looking at them, taking them in – their gestures, their smile and then you get to know them and if you are lucky, really know them before you decide you want to spend your life with them. I think love has a lot to do with using your head as you follow your heart. It is a combination of so many things including luck and intuition with a little dash of abandon. In addition to the way he looks, what I fell crazy in love with was his mind. We have had, and continue to have, the most fascinating conversations and at times wonderfully solid, prove-our-point intense arguments, usually in bed on a Sunday morning, through the time we walk the dog to the last bite of breakfast. When Adam and Logan got old enough to grab a bowl of cereal and head to the TV and eventually morph into late sleeping teenagers, our Sunday morning conversations became more frequent.
We talk about the strangest things sometimes – random things that usually start with me blurting out questions about stuff that just flies into my mind. There have been conversations about the Hadron Collider, politics; audio; every genre of music, architecture; athletes; history; Einstein, Dalton and Darwin; why plaid was ever a concept, modern medicine; parenting and finances. We’ve talked about people, clothing and cars; art in all its forms; movies; growing up in Trinidad and why our avocados are also called zabocas and why they are so much bigger than the ones in California and Mexico. We’ve talked about growing up in Canada, the TV shows that were unique to where we grew up and the ones we watched along with the rest of the world. Of course we talk about our children, our parents and siblings and what we hope the future will bring. We talk about sports and food and the places we hope we are fortunate to see together and what the other should do, if the day we are to become a single unit, comes sooner than we would like it to. I would like to think every couple talks and have healthy arguments like we do – that every couple finds their spouse interesting after the first 5, 10, 15 years and beyond. Do we get fed up with the stuff of family life? Of course, we do. That’s to be expected because it can really wear you down but you can’t let it grind you down. If I had to pick two things to tell people getting married it would be these –
If you have a fight, and I mean a good old all out, drag down, spit-out-hurtful-crap kinda fight…stop and take a moment to remember why you fell in love in the first place. You should be able to find the answer and realize that it is greater and more powerful than what caused you to fight in the first place. (if it isn’t, then of course, you have a decision to make)
Never let tension drag on. Talk about how you feel no matter how long it takes even into the wee hours of the morning…talk it out and apologize if you are wrong. Umm … I have to throw in one more …must be the Trini in me …
Definitely have make up sex. Have lots of sex … you are married after all. Keep it spicy. Keep it fun. Keep it alive. Make your partner feel special because they are because they have chosen to put up with you and most likely one, two or more children! Marriage is hard work man … may as well have all kinds of fun.
But as usual, I digress. Back to Tom and his mind. As creative as he is, and as avid a reader, Tom enjoys everything numeric. He speaks the language of numbers fluently and loves that with numbers there is always a conclusion, a definitive answer and to him, that makes sense. Numbers don’t scare or confuse him and after a neurofeedback test we all did, it seems that numbers keep him quite calm and happy. This ability is what makes the difference in the way we run our business and when you sit with him, you see how his plans to save, grow and protect your income make sense. Sometimes, if you find numbers as fascinating as he does, the meeting becomes more of an interesting conversation between two similar people and next thing you know, you realize you are fond of the same music, games – the list can go on. However, if you really, really, really are not numerically inclined, but you know you need help and you are open minded and you find yourself meeting with him, you also have the opportunity to sit with me, the translator. I help intimidating jargon that tends to pop up seem more friendly and together Tom and I will make the numbers relatable and user friendly to you so you can leave our office with a sound personalized plan that makes sense. It’s a win/win situation …plus we have a giant jar of Skittles in the office.
This past June, Tom was asked to speak at our company’s Congress. It is a 2 day forum where business ideas and strategies are discussed and we come together as a region to share our thoughts and learn from each other. Tom’s topic was about getting your Financial business up and running. He titled it ” Breaking Ground – Tips and Strategies for your First Five Years of Business”. Adam was busy finishing up the last week of his Grade 10 year but Logan was able to join us as he was on a field trip in Toronto (close to where Congress was being held) to wind up his Grade 8 graduation year at Elementary School. I think it is important for children to understand what their parents do and and how their work impacts people’s lives. I think it is important for them to know just how it is parents manage to keep a roof above everyone’s heads, clothes on their backs and food on the table and I think it is an important part of their education and I want my children to also understand the importance of giving a family member support by their mere presence.
Tom and I knew by 2003, it was time for us to get out of Radio and Television. The industry is not what it used to be and with the internet being as powerful as it is, the industry will continue to have a hard time engaging the current younger generation and future generations. Salaries shrank, many jobs became redundant and the job (whatever was left of it) owned you and each month the hours you put in were not reflected in your pay slip. The lack of creativity and shift to reality television that literally airs everyone’s dirty laundry on international TV is another example of the drastic change in the business and we knew in order be a part of something we were proud of and in order to continue to provide for our children the way we want to, address Adam’s needs and to retire the way we hope to, we had to make the shift to a different career. With my banking background and his flare for numbers and interest in economics, Finance made sense and though we still dabble in creative writing and voice work as paid hobbies, we have never looked back.
One of the beautiful things about training for a career in Broadcasting, is the ability to speak in front of a crowd. We each are capable of doing that without boring people to tears (let’s face it, even if you love it, numbers is a pretty dry topic). To Broadcasting, we attribute our ability to make our presentations interactive and entertaining and our effective use humor – a skill we are developing in both Logan and yes, Adam as we have helped him come out of his shell and deliver speeches to his elementary class back in the day, about topics he loves. Tom’s workshop at Congress was divided into two sessions and each time the room was filled. Blessed with one of those unique, richly textured broadcasting voices that makes you want to listen to him, he was engaging right away and as such, no one was distracted by their phones or whispering to their colleague beside them. He spoke about his first year in the business and how important it is to develop a strong foundation in the early months of advising. He spoke about how to look beyond what you read in a person’s portfolio and looking for ways to help clients, save them money, what were the right questions to ask in a review and how to really listento your client and how to find out about their changing needs and goals. He spoke about why he attributed the success of his first two years to the methods he used and segued into his difficult third year, which to be honest, was mostly because he had to put parenting ahead of work more than usual that year because our Adam not only had to deal with autism but puberty as well. He then moved on to the following years and what he did to right the business ship while helping me keep the family vessel and Adam on track and he said something I will never forget. He said,
” If anyone should have failed in this business, it should have been me. The odds were always against me because I don’t have the easiest of families because of Adam’s autism. We had very little respite in place for Adam at the time and we have always had to keep life as normal as possible for Logan with all that we have to do for his brother. When we decided to start on this new career path, to help me get started, we took the plunge and had Daniella leave her part time job to come work with me. There was no steady spousal salary the family could rely on and we had very little savings we could tap into. In our family, we tend to jump in and swim because sinking is not an option. There are no great excuses for not trying or not performing. As humans, there are many traps that we create for ourselves that we can fall into and use as excuses for failure if we allow ourselves to do so. I knew all I had to do was work, serve my clients in the best way that I could and just keep going. If I had a bad day, I gave myself some time to take a break and have that bad day but the next day I would re-group and get right back at it again because three people at home were relying on me. If you do right by your clients, if you do everything in their best interest, if you are honest and fair and if you have a good support system, you can be successful at this job and anything you put your mind to,”
The last part of his presentation was centred around financial planning for an overlooked group – families with children with special needs. He explained how to use the tools we have as advisors in the most effective ways for these families and how to use them so that families can be tax smart. He spoke about wills, probate, special needs assistance grants and by the way everyone was taking photos of his power point and writing notes, I realized they were learning something new…something that had been right under their noses the whole time but they just did not see it. He was showing managers and “big wigs” how to do it right and looking at this realization on Logan’s face, I could not be more proud. Tom was also teaching his son, how to teach other people. He was showing him how to share his knowledge and showing him how to deliver his ideas in a strong, dynamic and effective way … humph… it was quite the effective “take your kid to work day” session and Logan was honored and proud to be a part of it.
I am quite an internally emotional person. I am not a crier, in fact I come off sometimes as cold and sometimes a little unfeeling as I don’t always show outward emotion and when I speak, I can sometimes be quite blunt and honest but Tom is the only person who can make me tear up by the videos he creates. He ended the session with a couple videos one of which featured Adam to bring home his point. Now throughout the presentation, he had video clips from movies, he had images and clips of various people and situations, that allowed him to prove his point in a light visual way in between his statistics, tables and charts. The videos, which I had seen many times while he was preparing for the presentation came on the screen and they simply showed the value of the life of a person with special needs and why helping their families continue to give them the enriched lives they deserve was so important, and why in our business compassion has to be the first ingredient.
My tears were ones of pride and joy and out of much admiration for him in BOTH of his sessions because Tom does things for the right reasons ALWAYS. He was put on this earth to help people and even though in our situation, we need help ourselves, he always gives and gives and gives – of himself, his money and his time. What was even better was that Logan (who is so much like him) got to see this and got to see that nice guys do finish first … it may take some time but it DOES happen.
Tom got a standing ovation after both sessions. There were lines of advisors wanting to express their gratitude and shake his hand. There were advisors wanting to know more, asking for his business card, wanting a copy of the presentation etc., so Logan and I had to go to work dealing with that. As I think about each moment in those two presentations, my heart gets so full. I was never looking for a husband. I never pictured the white dress or walking down the aisle. I had dated a couple nice guys before Tom and a couple bozos and I had gotten to a self comfort where I was happy to just be. I was capable of taking care of myself and was interested to see how my life would play out. I would say sometimes I am not an easy person to figure out or be with. I have my ideas and opinions and I am proud of who I am and I don’t bend easily so I never thought I would find anyone who would be a great partner, soul mate or husband … but here he is and there he was in a damn fine black suit, “awesoming” all over the place delivering what he knew, quite eloquently in an entertaining and informative way with passion, humor and his great laugh. He was talking about work but he made it human and he made the clients human and he made his peers care and while doing all that, his math was impeccable and the numbers made sense and I could have had him right then and there he was so smart and so damn sexy!
Now, as I drift into the coolness of fall, sip my chai and reflect on the summer and its special moments, I smile at the thought of my math geek and the complete package that he is to me.
He tries to make us happy every day. If there is a problem, we can count on him to fix it and if we need a dose of fun, he will provide it.
He loves life, he loves his parents, his brother and sister, he loves their family, loves my family, he loves our boys and he loves me.
He honors the vows we recited in front of twenty-two people nineteen years ago on one beach and the vows we renewed nine years ago, on another.
My 10 year renewal vows to Tom
Tom’s 10 year vows to me
He can give me a potato chip and make me feel like a queen and the only way I know how to honor him is to put my thoughts into words especially for his sons to read. No one is perfect (my God, I am hopelessly flawed) but we can learn how to treat each other like we are the perfect beings we were created to be.
Every so often, we get an opportunity to take in the essence of someone we love, or someone we call friend. I like to think of those moments as golden moments because it is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and lose sight of what is special about a person. And this past summer, the last one in my forties, Logan and I were given one of those golden moments. It was wonderful to “see” Tom again and know how very important, and kind and good and loving he is. In marriage you get to see the struggles and the little annoyances often. They add up and piggy back on the responsibilities of adult life and they spill over in a big sloppy mess onto the relationship and if you are not careful, they cover up the golden moments, those precious lifelines that keep couples in contact with each other at a deeper and more significant level. Watching my widowed mother over the past 8 years, I am more aware of the importance and power of the golden moments because in a month, a day, an hour or a second a person can be out of your life forever and wouldn’t it be tragic if we never took the time to see them for who they were, to see what made you love them or to not take the time to tell them what they meant to you and that you just simply loved them no matter what. My mother and father appreciated and loved each other and as my sister and I got older and moved on, it was apparent that their love and friendship knitted them even closer together. On the 17th of this month (October) they would have been married 52 years and I know there is not a day she doesn’t wish he was here. I know one day Tom or I will find ourselves alone and like my mother, we will survive because like her there will be no regret about not doing what we should have done for each other or not saying the right things to each other.
Who knew this lone wolf would ever have gone down this path of partnership and love with someone who makes the hard times bearable and the good times, spectacular? Marriage is hard, grueling work. Two people from completely different families and backgrounds come together and are supposed to find a way to co-exist for years sometimes even bringing children into the mix. At first glance it is a scale that tilts heavily on the side of failure but we are more sophisticated animals than those in the wild (at least we are supposed to be) and we are responsible for communicating and compromising and being honest and fair and nurturing and most of all loving, so … we persist and some of us fail and maybe some of us try again and sometimes it takes some of us to hit the third or fourth time before it becomes a charm. I remember when I first took Adam to Trinidad, my uncle Kit looked at me, smiled and shook his head and said,
“My goodness, look who’s married with a child. What a thing!”
My family knows me well but I am glad I turned out to be somewhat of a surprise. Surprised myself too but I am ever so grateful things unfolded the way they did, for richer or poorer, sickness and health, till death do us part, Tom James, right?
*(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 long, hard 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
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.
With my husband’s consent, I am posting this to share just one of the many reasons why I am so blessed to have him by my side. We have an extremely unique life and it has more than it’s fair share of hurdles and sometimes I can only see the hurdles and I become blind to the beauty of the simplest of things.
In a marriage or in any relationship or friendship, each person has to bring something, sometimes ever so small yet ever so significant to the other’s life and Tom has always been able to subtly and easily remind me of how much joy a single moment, image or sound can fill our souls. He has always maintained that his goal as a man, a father and husband was happiness for us, for his family, friends and everyone really. It is a good goal. A solid and sensible goal that reminds me that at the end of the day happiness, contentment and love are all that really matter. So here are my husband’s words which I appreciate more and more as I grow older with him. It touched me, brought a tear to my eye and flooded my heart with joy and I hope you take away something good from it as well.
Heaven help me, I’m about to get ‘deep’ on Facebook. If I were still in radio I’d probably do a ‘bit’ on how stupid that is. I’ve been watching videos on youtube tonight and honestly…I like doing that. I love the internet, and modern times. How it allows us to go get something that comes to mind, almost instantly. I can spend HOURS doing that if I’m in the right mood.
I’ve spent a LONG time…a quarter century…in the music field. I’ve been on radio stations ranging from hard-rock to Christian. Yep, you read that right, and I had a great time there. And I SO appreciate that history and everyone and everything that went along with that entire journey. Which has led to a realization that I think I already had, but just couldn’t really focus on enough to present.
One of the MOST important things in life begins with the letters “MO”…and it’s not ‘money’. It’s ‘moments’. Truly great moments are what we all hang on to more than ANYTHING else.
I remember when I was 21, and sitting on a wooden bench next to Daniella when she told me she had feelings for me, and that was something I had been carefully hoping for, and working towards for MONTHS. I’m married to her to this day, love her as much as I did then, possibly more, despite the obstacles life has thrown our way and that’s fantastic…because they’re all ‘moments’.
I remember when my first son, Adam, was born. He cried and cried in the delivery room…and I walked up to him in his bassinet and quietly said “Hello Adam” and he immediately stopped crying, and opened his eyes. Even though he couldn’t see through the dark black eyes it was obvious he was searching for the voice he’d heard so many times while he was in his mother’s belly. GREAT moment.
I remember when my second son, Logan, was born, and he came out blue, and not breathing. Daniella looked at me and asked “is he all right? He’s not crying” with a panic in her voice that matched the panic in my heart that I wish NO-ONE ever experience. All I could do was be strong for her and say “let them work, he’s going to be okay”. He cried soon after and the ‘resuscitation team’ started betting on how big they thought he was. He was 10lbs 2 oz if you need to know. He is a great son…couldn’t be more proud. Some fathers of sons would say “if you have daughters, watch out for my son”…I say watch FOR my son…because he’s going to be an excellent man…the kind you HOPE your daughters find. And if he reads this, he’s going to complain to me about that…but he’ll grow into it. Another moment.
I have been SO lucky and SO blessed to have already had SO MANY moments. I hope you have too.
I love moments.
When it comes to music, my time in the field has given me a very large quantity of respect and admiration for some. Peter Gabriel is probably my favourite, but there are many others. I remember working at 1050 CHUM in my early days. I was 19. Working at an ‘oldies’ station. At first I was bored…wasn’t my thing. But the more I listened something clicked. I gained HUGE respect for these artists…because they didn’t have the crutch of digital, or even mutli-track systems that allowed them to ‘redo’ or ‘perfect’ this or that. When it came to oldies music, if the song was good, it was because the BAND was GOOD. The song you heard was the band all in a room, when someone hit the record button and said “go”. They HAD to sound like that. Listen to the Spencer Davis Group singing “I’m a Man” and tell me that isn’t some seriously good music.
So here now, is one of my favourite things that I will watch over and over again.
This…is Led Zeppelin. And this clip is FULL of moments.
I’m not even a huge fan of Zeppelin…honestly. I like their stuff, sure…but I’m not a ‘zed-head’.
But I love this. I can watch this over and over and still get caught up in the emotion of it.
Here are the surviving members of the original band…who were GIANTS of the world. Back in the day just sucking the LIFE out of life. Center stage, in front of the biggest crowds who LOVED their music. This is 40 years later. Watch the original members, how old they are, and how they still, to THIS DAY, are attached to this music. You can see it in Robert Plants eyes. You can see it in Jimmy Page’s smile. You can also see the reverence that Heart pays to them. They’re performing the hell out of this song, but even while doing that, it’s almost like they have to EARN it, and they KNOW that…and, despite their OWN success, hope to measure up to the task. And you can see the emotion of Jason Bonham, the son of the original drummer, John Bonham, as he honours his fathers work. You can see the respect of SO MANY of the biggest people we know today in this ‘moment’.
I love that. That’s how you know you’ve ‘won’ at life.
I hope you enjoy this clip as much as I do…and I hope you take the time to think of some of your moments too. We all have them. They’re great to go back to again, and again.
My apologies for how long this is, and I completely suspect you’ve either skimmed through this, or bailed out when you saw the “continue reading” part in my status…but if you’ve stuck around…hey!…another ‘moment’.
Thank you Tom for allowing me to share this as well. Thank you for your positive and easy going disposition. Thank you for choosing to be a part of this roller coaster ride that is our life. I love you and I thank you for loving me. ~ Daniella
When my husband and I renewed our vows in 2007, we’d been together for 10 years. He waited until the last minute to write his vows to me and he stole the show to say the least and brought tears to my eyes. In them, he promised something that still sticks with me to this day and it was to continue hand in hand with me on the roller coaster that is our life together. I held on to his words every day last year in what was the most difficult one for our family. Our pain and struggle came in the form desperately trying to save our son who was struggling for his independence while living with autism and going through puberty. Suffice it to say, when things are not right with a family member every aspect of everyone’s lives is affected and it seemed like there was a dark cloud hovering over our heads.
Though the roller coaster of 2014 was the harshest and most stomach churning of all our years since the children were born, I can speak on behalf of my husband and sons and say that it was also one of the most enriching and rewarding because it is in hard times that we see who we really are and who to call acquaintance and who we can truly call friend and who need not accompany us into the new year. 2014 reminded me that love is the only answer, ingredient, magic trick, drug, tool or whatever you want to call it that can truly change anything. Love turns darkness into light. Though I have always been surrounded by love, it is only as I have gotten older and more in tune with who I am and who I will eventually settle to be, that I know how to truly love. And by that I mean love all people and how to find love in different situations and places. Love can save a child, can save a marriage, a life or many lives. It can put food on a table, toys in the hands of a child, wrap a warm blanket around a homeless person or simply a smile on someone’s face. I was fortunate to be surrounded by love and a lot of it came to me via virtual strangers whose kindness have made them part of my family.
I have always made a point of giving. Giving in ways that matter. Giving subtly and because my family was so fortunate to have received so much love this year, it encouraged me to seek it out more. My husband and I found ourselves looking at documentaries about people who changed communities by simple acts of love. I found myself smiling even on the hardest days, knowing that we were still better off than so many around the world. I found myself listening more, caring more and I was inspired to be less angry, less sorry for myself and my family’s situation and forge into 2015 with hope.
2014 also taught me that to move forward with love, you have to choose how best to spend your time and with whom. Moving forward with love also means cutting off the sticky, clinging arms of those who hold you back. You know, those whom you like well enough but there is an underlying quality of their nature that is corrosive and it doesn’t do anything positive for anyone? Yeah, those people. The ones you are polite to, tolerate as you listen to their incessant whining about something so frivolous you don’t understand how evolution hasn’t made them extinct by now. The person so absorbed in their own destructive behavior that they have no clue that they are dragging down the ones who love them the most. Yeah, that person. The rather rude person who needs to be seen talking to the right person in the crowd and if that happens to be you, you can set your watch to the exact time when they walk off and head to someone they deem more popular than you, in spite of the fact you’re in mid-conversation with them. Particularly amazed by that particular breed of human. Then there is the friend who commends you for being the rock they needed in their time of struggle but doesn’t have the decency to ask how you’re doing or make a concerted effort to spend time with you as you do your best to get through each day. That person is from the always baffling, self- absorbed centre of the universe club. But in my quest to embrace more love, I have not come to bear any malice towards these people. I truly do love them. Love them enough to forgive them for not being smart enough, or kind enough, or sensitive enough to others. Love them enough to let them go. And while I am happy to forgive them I won’t forget not one precious second of my time be wasted on them because it will deprive others of what I have to give.
2014 showed me how much my mother and my sister, my cousins, aunts and uncles, father-in-law and SJC sisters love me and my family. It showed me just how much my sisters-in-law and brothers-in law, try their best to be a part of our lives even though they are so far away. I feel the love of my dear friends J, F and L across the miles and it keeps me strong and it was because of these people and a few used-to-be-strangers that my family and I were able to stay afloat on a wave of love that took us right to the end of 2014 and washed us safely onto the shores of 2015. We’ve gotten to our feet, we’ve breathed in the fresh air and we are filled with courage but most of all we are filled with love – love that we want to give. I wish you all a 2015 of love. Love to give. Love to receive. Love that will set us free. Love that can change our families,communities and just maybe, change the world.