Tuesday, 21 May 2019

He would have loved Instagram

I have gone full days without thinking about Matthew.

This is inevitable I think. 

Life takes over. Sometimes it’s the madness of the morning routine that propels me out of bed and insists I execute like clockwork to make it to the finish line of leaving the house at the exact right second to get to work on time. This must all be done with precision, without forgetting to sign a note,  fill a water bottle, ensure phones are charged and keys are in the right place.  And once I’m in the car, my thoughts are consumed by the need to avoid construction and traffic, all the while listening for a text telling me they’re safely at the bus stop. It's hard to fit one more thing into my mind on those days.

It's not surprising that after nine years of him not being here, I do sometimes go for days without thinking of my brother.

But then I’ll catch a snippet of a stand-up routine on Instagram, see a particularly handsome man on the street or binge something mind-blowing on Netflix and yearn for him to be the one I discuss these things with.  I’ll remember something funny he did as a kid and tell Shaune and the kids for the hundredth time, knowing they’ve heard it but decide to tell them anyway because I just need to talk about him.

When someone you love passes, it’s hard to know how to keep them alive in your life. It’s harder when that person left you too early. I know all that stuff we say about the loss. You know those things people say like “God called them home” or “ They were only meant to be here for a short time”. Those platitudes don’t make the fact that he was a living breathing twinkling thread of light for our family who we lost without warning any easier. It doesn't change the fact that it left us shattered and in the dark for a long time.

I’m remembering him today on the nine year anniversary of his passing. It was such a deep and sad loss for us. 

I'm thinking about my Mom and Dad because I can't imagine losing a child. 

Monday, 24 December 2018

A letter to Eleven on behalf of a Mom

Hey Eleven (cool, cautious tone),


I won’t fight you - I've heard that that never works - but people are saying that you're the new 13 so I just wanted to point out a few things.

So far, this path has been so good. He came out perfect: gentle (!), and wild (!) and kind (!)…magnificent. Like a healer, he cauterized my wounds – bleeding so long –  as if to say “Don’t worry Mom, I’m here. Let my love graft us together, let my need of you salve your grieving; let me be the light to guide you to your real self.”

Eleven, I am my real self because of him!

And Eleven, he delights us everyday.

Never takes us for granted. Still laughs willingly at our jokes; understands the nuances in an uncanny-too-soon, adult way. He is an open heart. Tells us each thing he’s thinking as if to keep even the smallest secret would widen the space between us. And he lets us know he couldn’t bear that space.

Eleven, he sits with us every single night, so close to my side that I can’t tell where I end and he begins. Pure joy for me I tell you. “Are we watching our show Mom?” he asks. I don’t remember the last time he retreated to his room or was too busy for us.

And when we fail him Eleven?…Often, on my part it feels.  His forgiveness is steady and predictable as the sun's rise, deliberate but new colours every time.

He is beautiful. Breathtaking, dear Eleven.

Please don’t change him too much. We see that he has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, this boy who used to spring out of bed. That's fine. We understand that he needs to  argue with the decisions we make. That's okay. We see that he's watching all those badly-acted tween shows. We're taking that in stride. 

We can handle all of this Eleven.

But please Eleven, if you can manage it, leave this boy's heart intact. Because his heart? So so good. 

Love the Mom.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

The soundtrack of my life

I was 13 when I saw Queen’s Radio Ga Ga video

We lived in Tucson Arizona and MTV was new. I didn’t know what the song was about. Google wasn’t around and I didn’t own the album so had no liner notes to refer to. I liked it though. There was a sadness to it that my changing body understood.

I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights…

The quiet revolution taking place in my body added it to the soundtrack of those puberty years riddled with uncooperative feelings I wasn't equipped to handle; foreign desires I couldn’t place.

Tonight I heard it again and it echoed in me that same faraway sadness. Another revolution in my body 34 years later and I knew it belonged on this soundtrack too.

We took the boys to see Bohemian Rhapsody. I promised Shaune several months ago to see it in the theater with him. He grew up loving Queen, fascinated by his Dad’s News of the World record.

I worried it might be too grown up for Naveen. All the other parents in the line-up headed to The Grinch with their kids.
Was this good parenting?

Both boys were spell-bound the entire two hours and thirteen minutes.

Rami Malek was Freddie. He blew us away. 

I am moved. I want to do my best. I want to see my kids not through the lens of my own controlling parenty self but through the eyes of one who SEES them. One who sees  the great potential that lies in each single human being and finds a way to nurture it and make it come to life. I want to rejoice because I can love. Even if it is imperfect and jagged. I can love.  

You made them laugh, you made them cry
You made us feel like we could fly (radio)

Thank you Rami. Thank you Freddie. Thank you my sweetheart for insisting we go to see it.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Birthday letter to a boy who is 8

Dear Naveen,

You are eight today.

I looked for a picture to show the world who you are right now. But I couldn’t find one that captures your kind heart.  Not a single one that hints at your gentle, deep nature. So then I looked for one that would show how big and little you are to me. 

Big because you asked me on Sunday if I feel about you, the way you feel about Myrtle, our dog. “Is that how you love me?” you asked cradling her little body in your arms.
And also because in the Mother’s Day card you called me Rohima. “That’s the name you were born with” you said. This gesture, this simple little detail. Spelled right. So generous. 

I knew right then you saw me.

But little too. Pouting when you can’t sit beside me as if you possess me still - the way you did as an infant.  Or sticking your tongue out at me behind Dad’s back because your mischief landed you in hot water. 

Little because we can't say the word "balls" around you,  without you falling to the floor in hysterics. And little because your lanky, long body still fits in my arms.

When I couldn’t find the picture, I searched for the right words.  

Words that could explain how much you love your brown skin and how proud you are to be "the brownest one in our family". I searched for the words that could do justice to the compassion you model every day. How every single time I apologize for being a flawed, impatient yelly Mom, you are pure charity and forgiveness.

When I couldn't find the words, I searched for a way to linger here just a little longer. 

This place where you still hold my face to see if my freckles are intact. Where you hold my heart because I still have the answers you seek. This place where you still belong to us and not the world.

I searched for a way to hold onto this boy you are right now. But like the picture and the words, it eluded me. 

So I'll just say this: 

Happy birthday my big little boy. You are a blessing to us every single day.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

When you've loved a dog

I watched the Dog Whisperer every day the September we moved into our first house. Sometimes I’d devour two or three episodes in a row without taking a bathroom or snack break for fear of missing something. The way Cesar could calm any dog, get it to walk beside him; I was transfixed. I loved everything about the show: how they presented the problem behaviour, the video demonstration of it and then Cesar teaching the owner how to help the dog be its best self.  It was inspiring.  And I knew I could put Cesar’s teachings to practice.

Only one problem: I didn’t own a dog. I was seven months pregnant and grieving.

I cried every day for the first few months after we put Judge down. But when there were no tears left, I watched Cesar Millan train the problem behaviours right out of all the dogs he met.  It was a welcome distraction, like the baby boy growing inside me. Like the new house with its unfamiliar streets.  

A relief because I could no longer bear those old streets.

They reminded me of the tugging of the leash, the feel of him heavy and sure, next to me as we walked. The old streets ached in me to feel his breath hard on my face when he wanted me to wake; made me weep that he’d never nudge my hand again to force my touch if I dared stop stroking his long back. He was our first baby and the one who gave us a taste of the family we could be.

We loved him desperately for 11 years.

He’s been gone ten years tomorrow. Cancer riddled his sweet gentle body and there was nothing to be done.

The kids feel sure they knew him. They know the stories; the ones Shaune and I tell shaking our heads, laughing and I sometimes hear them retell these to their friends as if they really did know him. And today, the pine box that holds what’s left of him sits on Deaglan’s dresser next to a picture of 22 year old Shaune kneeling beside a big yellow happy dog.

We’ve had other pets since then. Crash the cat, some fish who’s names I don’t remember and most recently two hamsters named Skibby and Stephen. We lost Deaglan’s beloved Stephen a few weeks ago and knew for certain that it was time to add to our family. 

We picked Myrtle, a one year old Jack Russel Schnauzer, up two weeks ago from the farm she was living on. She was making it very hard for the free range chickens to feel free. 

She stole our hearts that first day. My words can't do justice to the the kind of delight she has brought to the boys. They are simply smitten. There's so much goodness on this parenting journey but it's a special kind of joy to watch your kids love an animal. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

I've still got a lot to say

A few months ago, when I could finally watch TV again (I’ll explain later), I saw an episode of Super Soul Sunday that struck me. Jimmy Carter, who’s been married to his wife Rosalynn for 71 years,  offered this tip on how to keep a relationship fresh:  Take up a new hobby together every few years like fly-fishing or downhill skiing.

I liked this advice. It felt doable. 

Not completely unrelated, I have been busy doing. I’ve thought about this space often, and here and there, some of you have asked me when I was coming back here. 

I haven’t not written because I was busy watching Oprah or doing things. Many times I drafted a post and then second and third guessed it and myself,  wondering if you’d want to know the mundane thing I’d written about and also if I should tell you about it in the first place.

Also the kids.

They’re older and wiser now. They know things. They know about Facebook. And posts. And “online”.  Sometimes their friends tell them about a picture I posted the night before – it usually goes like this:
  • Friend-kid peeks over mom’s shoulder while she’s taking a quick (much deserved) social media break.
  • Friend-kid recognizes my kid in the feed and asks mom about it.
  • Friend-kid’s mom chuckles and explains my witty post.
  • Next day friend-kid tells my kid about the post.
  • That night my kid reads me the riot act.

But you’re not here to learn that my kids ate my homework and that they’re the sole reason I haven’t written in this space for almost two years.

So how about this?  Come back here from time-to-time. Look around. I’ll start tinkering.  I’ll post about some things that aren’t just kid-related. I’ll even update the “About me” page eventually, maybe design a new header. 

Schedule a social media break with me because I’ve still got a lot to say. Like how we bought a trailer this spring. And what a good thing it's been.

The trailer goes wherever the van pulls it. Yet we find that the trailer pulls us. It's a place in our hearts now; somewhere we yearn to go. We are our better selves at the trailer. Maybe it's the fresh air. Maybe it's the small space we must share. Maybe it's the sun-filled light that helps us see each other anew.

Life is simpler there:
“Cards or a walk in the woods?”
“Forgot to bring ketchup?  We’ll make do with barbecue sauce.”

There is teamwork:
“You get the fire started, and I’ll make the beds.”

Kinder more gentle voices are heard:
“Go sit down, you deserve to relax.”  

It's not fly-fishing but I think Jimmy Carter knows what he's talking about. You really can find new ways to travel through life together. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The best kinds of summer camp

The living room is my favorite room in this house. I have my best 30 minutes each morning, reading in the quiet of the sun rising, while my people snore softly elsewhere. It’s where I fill myself up for the day. A few pages from whichever book I’m reading, hot black coffee, and releasing each nagging thought that arises – must lose ten pounds, should have played Monopoly with them, front hall closet is a disaster, on and on.

Just two more days until this summer comes to an official end.

The kids spent most of their time fishing in the creeks around here with Shaune. An intense summer camp of baiting hooks and cultivating patience, while the sun kissed their necks a toastier brown. I witnessed the increased learning each evening over dinner – Mom! I had a real lunker on the pole today – Dad said it was huge! Or We tried Dingman’s Creek because it’s supposed to be good for perch but we got skunked!

That they spent entire afternoons away from the TV and Tablet nurturing a love for outside fun that didn’t cost a thing, communing with their Dad and nature – well I don’t know of a single thing more I’d wish for them.

As for me, I didn’t get much blogging done because when I wasn’t up to my neck in work, I got busy trying to connect with the boys in my own, squeamish-about-touching-worms way. I played a lot of soccer with 4, 5 & 6 year olds (I coached Naveen’s team this year), watched my favorite 7 year- old discover a love for the sport (Finally. Man can this kid run!) and chuckled to myself as  Shaune, with one arm in a sling, ran drills with Deaglan’s team, (he broke his elbow at the beginning of July).

It’s been a good summer but I’m feeling the usual itch and anxiety to get back into the swing of things. You know what I mean? The things that evoke both dread and adrenaline. Early bedtimes. Rushed mornings. The search for socks and reading logs. Packing lunches.

God help me: packing lunches. 

My favorite room in the house.

Lots and lots of small fish caught and released. We didn't actually keep a single one.

A photo shoot with the whole family. 

This is the face of Grade 3.