PDA | AN OPEN HAND or BRINGING SHARING TO LIFE

“That’s mine!”

As parents, we’ve all heard that scream from across the room. Your kid saying it to another kid — another one of your own, another kid in general. Or vice versa. But you’ve heard it. And it’s painful.

How do you teach your kids to share?

On Monday, a funny day in the household overall given the range of emotions and performances displayed by Anaiya and Jaanu, I had a couple of strong parenting moments. The one I wanted to share here was my response to “That’s mine!” flying out of the Play Room like a bat out of hell with its wings on fire.

Anaiya had just wrapped up her class and made her way to the Play Room where Jaanu was playing nicely by himself; but with her toys. She grabbed her transformer back from him.

We were about to hit a meltdown.

I quickly grabbed her hand and asked her to put the toy car in mine. Begrudgingly, she did.

I then called Jaanu over and walked them through in spirit, a message that when you hold on tight to something, you leave little room for other things. So your tightened grip means that thing you’re holding will be held, but it also means you’ll be missing out on so many others.

I then demonstrated. By holding her car in my hand tightly clenched, and then trying hard to pick up other things. I tried to pick up another car. A spoon. A yogurt pouch. I couldn’t pick up anything because my hand was so tightly clenched.

Then, I turned my other hand over. Palm up. Fingers stretched. Car free to go where it wanted. And I started picking up other things. I then had the kids add things to my hand and a mini tower formed.

When you have an open hand, you have given yourself the space and made yourself open to new things.

We went a layer deeper.

Holding on to your thing with a clenched fist isn’t wrong; I just want to make sure you believe it’s so valuable that you are willing to forego what other opportunities may come. And if the whole world operates this way, well, we’ll all pass value between one another without fear of losing or fear of being empty-handed.

The visual resonated. The interactive demonstration resonated.

What I love even more though; is what happened next and what has happened since.

First, Anaiya ran up to me and gave me a hug. She said she finally got it. And she thanked me for always taking the time to tell her stories that help her understand. “You tell the best stories, Buhboo!”

Next, and every day since, when a grab for “mine!” has happened I’ve simply looked at the kids and opened my hands. And in return, they’ve nodded, and proceeded to open their hands, and share. With each other. With friends.

Parenting is hard. I’ve had more failures in conversations, education, coaching, and discipline that I can remember. But those moments where on the spot, an idea comes to life and opens up the way your child sees the world (and the way they grip their toys) is magical.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under PDA, Uncategorized

TYMMPB… | You’re the Best in the History

DSC_2887

I don’t remember the first time you said it. I do remember hearing it for the first time; and going absolutely bonkers.

We were doing yoga in the morning during the early days of COVID-19 and as we sat and talked about what the day held, what was going to make us happy, what was going to get in the way of our happy, what was going to be fun, and what was going to get in the way of our fun; in the midst of that logical juxtaposition of what you want, what you control, what gets in the way, and of that, what you control, somehow we stumbled upon “history”.

Your sister spoke first. And as her usual, eloquent and loquacious self, found a way into a spotlight where there wasn’t one, and then proceeded to find a way to own it.

What were you going to do? You were still a couple months away from knocking on 4’s door and here she was, the love of your life, your role model, choosing to go first in expressing her gratefulness in the morning leaving you to follow?

Was that even fair?

Do they have Mike Birbiglia open for someone who’s trying standup for the first time? You know?

She wasn’t better by design; only by years. At this stage in your life she’s got 50% more experiences than you do. It’s not reasonable to have you follow.

You let her roll. But your lips started turning up at the corners.

And when she finished, you dropped your greatest line and now the way I plan to talk going forward in celebration of amazing things always:

“The best in the whole history.”

DSC_2896

It’s so perfect.

It encapsulates you.

It’s succinct. Never take 12 words to say what you can say in 6.

It’s powerful. Never leave doubt on how you’re feeling at the moment.

It’s uniquely generous. Never just give, give in a way people haven’t experienced before.

It’s memorable. Never be forgettable, by choosing to be, say, and do things in unforgettable ways.

It’s sincere. Never fake anything. Ever.

It’s on your sleeve. Never wear anything in your heart or mind, that you wouldn’t wear on your sleeve too.

I love you. You are my absolute and undeniable homie.

I’ve never felt so comfortable expressing my love to someone. Even your sister, at some point, is like “Buhboo, you can’t love me this much!” But you? Naw’man. You? You escalate. When I tell you that you’re the best kid in the world.

Well; you tell me I’m the best buhboo in the history.

A few hours ago you were three; now, at this moment, you’re four. Even you’re reading changed from yesterday to today!

You will never be three to you again. But I want you to know, to me, you’ll always be …

…a little bit of you at one…

…a little bit of you at two…

…a little bit of you at three…

…a little bit of you at four … and I’m so excited to learn about what that means.

The world. We included. Did a lot to you this year. You switched schools a few times. You moved from your Nana and Naniji’s comfortable daily love to a new home without them. You faced COVID-19. You got scratches. And bruises. On your face, your arms, and dare I say and admit, your heart.

You had people debating you when you weren’t there to be.

But every single day I look at you and I’ll say, man, given what the world and we included have thrown at you, you’re so…damn…good.

We owe you more and we owe you better.

People rise and fall to the expectations you set for them, son.

You’ve called each of us the best in the history. It’s our job to rise to that level and I’ll tell you, we’re getting after it.

As for you? Today You Make Me Proud Because of how real you are; and how wonderful you can make the world feel. You have a gravitational pull that isn’t based on mass (that’s me).

As you step into 4 and build on what’s before, I am so proud of who you are fighting to become every day; and I’m more excited about the kid I’m going to be talking about going into 5.

I love you, homie. You truly are incomparable; you are the greatest son in the history.

DSC_3030

PS: This year I made you gummy animals for your birthday treat; the ones filled with NERDS are INCREDIBLE! We even made you a dragon one as a primer for How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World!

Image from iOS (5)

But going back to that whole “best in the history” thing we were talking about; you see, 3 days ago you woke up one morning, and when we were getting ready for breakfast you did this dance asking me for gummy bears.

Yeah. Gummy bears.

What’s funny is 2 days earlier I had decided I was going to make you Gummy Bears, ordered all the stuff, and it was on the way.

So I am wicked happy you’re going to have Gummy Bears on your birthday, homie.

And even moreso, that you proclaimed your craving for them while wearing a shirt that would have made JJ happy in pursuit of the Goodest of Times.

But, I’ll tell you, I’ll be as busy as a one-legged cat in a sandbox if one of the greatest moments in my history as a Buhboo (aka father), isn’t the fact that I tapped into your Gummy Bear longing days before you did …

…and then delivered on it.

We got 2020, homie. We got it; because we got each other.

I love you. And all you’re becoming. And all you’ve been.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under #TYMMPB..., Uncategorized

PDA | Butting Up Against the Limitations of Language or Thank You, My Children

IMG_4312

I’ve been trying to write this post for 3 weeks. I’ve tried many different hooks and patterns. I’ve tried to be simple. I’ve tried to be poetic. i’ve tried analogies. I’ve tried to be detailed. Yet every time I got about 350 words deep, I’ve leaned my head back away from my laptop, frowned, selected all of the text in the editor, and hit “delete”.

Nothing I can write does my feelings and my appreciation for you, justice. Nothing.

I have no words. There are no words. Language is limiting. As I understand it, there are over 1,000,000 total words in the English language, over 170,000 in current use, and on average, a person uses 30,000 of them.As I told your Mama when I proposed to her: “even 1,000 poets, writing 1,000 words a day, for 1,000 years can’t capture what moved me to propose to her”.

Now; for the second time in my life, I find myself verbally helpless; trying to find a way to bridge how I feel with the few words available and the even fewer words I know.

I don’t know how to capture what I’m feeling in words; in a way that you will read them at some point in your future and understand the weight of the feeling and the sentiments behind them.

But what I know, is that it won’t be for a lack of trying.

Anaiya. Jaanu. Buhboo.

For all of my worth as a human being: thank you.

There will come a day in your future; maybe a few, where you’ll wonder if you are up to the task. If you can pass some obstacle in front of you. If you can conquer some challenge. If you can go some Seussian places you want to go.

You will wonder. You will pause. You will hesitate. You will question.

And when you do, I want you to read this. And then, I want you to call me. On the phone. Over whatever device is in vogue when that challenge presents itself. And when I’m past my life while you’re still living yours, close your eyes and picture me. Reading this to you.

There is absolutely nothing you can’t do. Because at age 6 and age 3, you took the greatest punch the world has seen in over 100 years. You took something that crippled towns, cities, states, countries. You took a haymaker that brought humankind to its knees. In days. To our collective knees.

You took that. And you brushed it off your shoulder in a way that would make Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Barack Obama proud. You wiped a drop off blood of your lip in a way that would make Bruce Lee, and every Saturday afternoon Kung Fu theater hero (as well as your Dada Fua) proud. 

There has been so much discussion about the lockdown the world has experienced post COVID-19. Coronavirus. Corona – why us? There’s been some discussion about how resilient and adaptable human beings are. How if you had told us 3 months ago the way we’d be forced to live now, we’d never have been able to imagine it; and we certainly would have denied it would be possible .But when it happened, we adapted, and here we are.

Yes. Adaptable. Resilient.

But none of us are doing this adaptable thing, this resilient thing, with your grace.

And that is precisely where I lose all ability to express myself.

I want to tell you how one night you went to bed, ready for the next day. Your ordinary next day. An Alexa alarm. Breakfast and drop-offs. School and play time. Somewhere between 9 and 10 hours, a super majority of your life, for a super majority of your days each week, you were immersed in a world that we got glimpses of when we opened your backpacks, checked logs and updates from your teachers, hears mentions of when you had the time, energy and interest.

One night you went to bed, ready to do all the things we told you that you had to do. When we dropped you off at daycare. When we celebrated your first day of school  Make friends. Play nice. Listen to your teachers. Eat your meals. Be strong when you’re being bullied. Find strength when we aren’t there and when you feel like nobody else is, however fleeting. Do all these things because they are the most important things for you to learn now.

One night you went to bed knowing the next day was going to be filled with all those things.

And when Alexa woke you up that next day, we told you that wasn’t happening anymore. We told you that schedule, that way, wasn’t going to be the way. For a while.

If that had happened to me, I’d have needed a lifetime to plan, and a lifetime to prepare, and a lifetime to adjust; and I’d go through the motions and I’d do what I’m supposed to do.

But I don’t think, ever in my life, that I have operated with your grace. How can someone be so strong, so unwavering, so staunchly making progress, while doing so in a way that seems so effortless, so natural. You see, when I look at you, I don’t remember the way our life was 5 weeks ago. Because when I look at you, and observe you act, and watch you interact — I am only convinced that the way we’re living now is the only and obvious way we have been living all along.

When I look at my calendar. When I talk to people at work. When I read the news. Tonight is Sunday. Week 5 of quarantine. Poised for an even longer and more isolated road ahead. Into a new normal. Never returning to the way life was before. And it can be overwhelming.

When I look at you, though.

It’s Sunday.

What are we doing today, Buhboo?

Thanks for grading our worksheets, Buhboo!

Yay, we get to watch a movie, Buhboo!

I didn’t like my dinner, Buhboo, but I’ll eat it for you, Buhboo!

When I’m with you, it’s Sunday. It’s just Sunday for you.

And you’ve found a way to make it “just Sunday” for me too.

You can’t see your friends. Except, maybe from across the street. You can’t hug your Nana, Nani, Dadi, Tito Foi. Your Mamu is living with us, upstairs, in the guest bedroom and the best you can do is let him know when you’re downstairs so he can step out to get the tray of food we’ve left outside his door.

You can’t go to the park. You can’t go for ice cream. You can’t go to Charlie Brown’s (yeah, by the way, we need to talk about how for most of your childhood your favorite restaurant was a terrible chain restaurant that indicates you share a palate and a thirst for ambience with people born in the 1940s).

You can’t go to school. You can’t go to Tae Kwon Do. You can’t go to Dance Class. You can’t go to Bagels 4 U. You can’t go to Genus Boni. You can’t go to Shop Rite and you definitely can’t get the free cheese handouts there and at Whole Foods. You can’t … do … everything that brought you joy.

Yet you’re still, full of joy.

You are. Absolutely full of joy. It is because of you, I wake up with a bounce in my step excited about what we’re going to do today. Because of how you ask your questions, I focus on what we can and will do today; not what we can’t or can no longer.

“Buhboo, what’s our plan for tomorrow?”

What an absolutely beautiful question; Warren Berger would adore it. “What is our plan for tomorrow” is more intrinsically hopeful than “What are all the things we can’t do tomorrow that we could have done 5 weeks ago?”

It’s been 5 weeks, and you’re still asking beautiful questions.

You’re making me see the beautiful.

Your laughs fill our house. Your cries do too; but if we were to put them on scales, there would be no contest in terms of which direction we’re tipping.

I’m also watching you grow.

Anaiya: Yoga. Dance. Math. Reading. Mentoring. Eating. Breathing. Guiding. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate to lose at a level that would make Michael Jordan proud.) Love. The way you clutch my arm, at bedtime, at wakey time, and at so many times in-between, and hold it like it’s the last arm you’ll get to hold and hug on earth. I can’t help but feel that some of that has nothing to do with me, actually; you’re holding my arm so tightly because it’s the one place where all that’s been taken away from you is manifesting. And riding your bike with no training wheels. Yeah, that happened.

Jaanu: Dance. Gibberish. Letters. Tracing. Troubleshooting. Putting away dishes. Cleaning. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate being told what to do.) The way you proclaim to every person who’s ready to hear you that they are “the greatest in the history” is tagline and catchphrase I hope you never lose. I can’t help but feel that you’re expressing that as a way of defining a new baseline for history, and helping people find positivity and feel special in this altogether new way of being.

I’m words, sentences, paragraphs in; and as you can see, I’ve written so much, and I’ve said so little that captures how proud I am of you. How honored I am to be your Dad, your Buhboo.

1,000 poets. 1,000 words a day. 1,000 years.

Even when, as a family, we experience the most extraordinary of losses, you find a way to bring love, to comfort, to hug and support — videos weren’t designed to have this kind of impact and sincerity. You have managed to make video feel human and intimate.

Consolation is something you give to people. After loss. After disappointment. Right now, as I read what people write and say and share; I feel an excessive amount of consolation. I see a world full of people acknowledging loss and disappointment and sadness; and from that, trying to force a rose to bloom from concrete.

Consolation is what I see and hear in every interaction.

Except the ones I have with you.

With you, it’s “just Sunday”.

With you, it’s “what IS our plan?”

With you, it’s not resilience. Or adaptability. Or perseverance.

With you, it’s not about the new normal.

With you, it’s just what’s next. Your ability to make everything that is, seem natural; and to make what’s next, seem possible. Is what makes me, so uncontrollably humbled and so infinitely proud, and so eternally enamored.

Thank you.

So when that hill, or that mountain, or that sea, or that valley, shows up in your way. I want you to call me. On your phone. On your <<unnamed device>>. On your memory.

And I want you to hear me. Loudly. Clearly.

The world handed you the worst the world has handed anyone. And you flicked, brushed, dusted, and resumed.

Thank you, my children. Thank you, my kids. Your Mama and I wish the rest of the universe had you to wake up to, you to bring tomorrow’s schedule to, you … to look forward to.

Because then, they’d all be as happy, as proud, as hopeful, as we are.

(And just as speechless.)

How much do I love you? More than anything.
How long will I love you? More than forever.
When will I stop? Never.

Ever.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under PDA, Uncategorized

DADDY | “WAIT, WHAT?” or HOW I GRIEVE

“Do not hang up the phone. You need to tell me what happened.” I told her. Calmly but directly.

“Your father. He’s no longer with us.” My cousin told me. She wanted me to call my mom and hear it from her, but when you get a phone call like that at 10:30pm, you know you need the information right away.

That’s how I learned my father had died. From a phone call late on a Saturday evening. He and my Mumma were at their home in India, on their annual visit. They were there, and then, in a flash, only she was there. That’s how real life gets. Quickly.

What followed was a whirlwind. Getting my sister. Looking for tickets to India. Coordinating a fly through Dubai where I could get my VISA so I could enter the country. Saying goodbye to my family here — and oh wow, talking to Anaiya about her Dadaji turning into a star. Arriving and seeing my Mumma. Then seeing my Daddy’s body in a clear, refrigerated coffin in the bedroom. And then everything that followed.

I had time. At the airport. On flights. But I had no space. I had zero space. I was instantly immersed in the entire world and sometimes all I wanted to do was cry. (Note: The two best places to cry in an airport are the bathroom, and, a gate that’s just been vacated. Push your face up against the window looking out and let it fly. If necessary, to distract even more, hold your phone up to your ear. It’s amazing the cues you can give to people that help you create space.)

The one place I found space was on Facebook. Facebook got me through. Because I could ignore everything and just write.

A funny thing happened. I found my voice. I found my POV about all of this.

A funnier thing happened. I realized quickly I was writing for all the people who loved my Daddy but couldn’t be there (we were in India, some were in other parts of India, others were in the US — few of the hundreds to thousands who would have wanted to be there were able to be.) My writing turned into a way to help people grieve and connect. I was humbled.

And then, an even funnier thing happened. People who had lost someone reached out and told me that what I was writing was helping them. Grieve now. Grieve for someone they had lost recently or even, years and years ago.

People reached out and told me to package this in some way. Package this writing because it could be helpful to others who go through this. Not just the words, but the approach of just laying bare all the truth.

Everyone grieves and heals differently. The only thing I can say with confidence is that this helped me. Which is why I’m sharing as I was asked to.

I moved everything from Facebook to my blog, and have for the first time, in years made this blog public. And I’ve organized it and summarized it below for anyone who needs it or wants it. I’m skeptical it will be shared, but if it is even once, then it was all worth it.

  1. February 4th: A Star – The announcement.
  2. February 7th: Ami Chhatna or Auspicious Rain – Observations around the cremation.
  3. February 8th: On Grieving or A Single Blade – Advice and context for people trying to console those grieving.
  4. February 9th: My Sis or Creating Space – My love for my sister and helping others understand her unique grief.
  5. February 14th: Love or The Insanely Finite – A short post for Valentine’s Day.
  6. February 15th: 12/40 or Happy Birthday, Priya – My wife’s 40th birthday.  She’s amazing.
  7. February 21st: Embrace It or On Your Shoulders – Acknowledging all the support and strength we were given, one Mama in particular.
  8. February 23rd: Memorial Service or Kishore Kumar Said it Best – Setting the tone for a memorial service that would honor Daddy and also, one he would have enjoyed. 🙂
  9. March 3rd – Forever Man or Forever, Man – One month after; I wrote a poem that I still read all the time.
  10. March 6th – “Thank you. For everything.” or Thank you for everything – For my Mumma. My first post after the memorial service and I always knew the first page would be turned here; and I had been writing this post in my mind for a full month.
  11. March 12th – Sir, I Gave you my Word or What Gives you Faith in Humanity – One of my favorite stories about my Daddy. We made this the program at the service; a takeaway, something to remember him and his values by.
  12. April 5th – Tending vs Trending to Entropy or High Hopes – A family wedding, two months after Daddy died. My thoughts on it, and a conversation with him to help me get through it.
  13. April 24th – Go Birds or Humbled by Thoughtful – One of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received; Daddy was a huge Eagles fan and this gift in his honor … I have no words.
  14. April 26th – 4 Years Ago or A Lifetime Ago – Amazing what a simple photo can trigger. Let it trigger.
  15. May 21st – Just Monday or Unvarnished Truth – It’s not easy. I missed Daddy a lot this day and I allowed myself to be truthful about it; but forward looking about it.
  16. June 17th – Dali’s Persistence or Happy Father’s Day – 4.5 months later on my first Father’s Day without you; I’ve found real peace in how I plan to move forward.

If you’re reading these, I hope you find them helpful. If you think someone else would find this helpful, share away.

Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.

Also, it helps that I’ve taken a bunch of his clothes and wear him with me as much as I can. 🙂

16 Comments

Filed under daddy

PDA | A Reheated Falafel or Mommy, an Origin Story

Breaking up is hard to do.

The summer of 2000 saw me break up with someone I’d been dating for years. Our lives were so interconnected at some point, there was no place where hers started and mine ended — especially when it came to friends and friend circles — there was just life.

Breaking up was hard. Unraveling that was damn near impossible. So impossible actually that we never did; we stayed really good friends. Out of respect for each other and also, I think, out of an acknowledgement that we were both too invested in that life and those people that nobody should have to be unraveled.

In hindsight that seems simple. In the moment, it was hard. I threw myself into my work obsessively. I was working on the eBusiness side of a large financial services company in downtown Manhattan and living in Jersey City.

We had incredible perks; one of which was a car service to take you home after hours.

I made heavy use.

I’d come into work around 8:30/8:45 in the morning. I was trying to be the first in and I’d set 9am meetings to set the tone for the day. As one of the youngest on the team, and easily the youngest manager (I had a team of 4), I was always looking at ways to stay ahead. I had to.

I’d come in early. I roll through the day. I’d then find a way to skip out for dinner and drinks with some friends; come back into the office and work usually until 4-5am. At which point I’d take a car home. Sometimes, at least twice a week, I’d have the driver wait for me downstairs. I’d run up to the apartment, shower, change, brush; and then have him bring me back into the office. This was such a pattern that I started getting the same guy to drive me; and he’d tack on 30 minutes and let me sleep extra in the car when we got to the office.

I thought I had it good. He had a family, was working the night shift, and I’m pretty sure he know that I didn’t have it good; that actually, I wasn’t in a good place and so he wasn’t being generous as much as philanthropic.

The car, while moving, or a movie theater with a movie playing, were two places I knew I’d fall asleep. Because everywhere else, anywhere else, I didn’t want to sleep.

I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t want to lie down. I didn’t want to be home in that apartment. I didn’t want to stop doing things, anything, because doing so made me miss.

So I kept. I just kept.

It was frenzied. I’m notorious for not sleeping much. This was some next level operating fueled by avoidance, youthful lunacy, an aggressive desire to indulge, and a salary, lifestyle, and job that equipped me to do all of the above.

So I kept. I just kept.

This wasn’t a healthy lifestyle. I’d often go lengthy stretches without eating a real meal. There were a few points in my life where I physically felt my body get lean: 2000 (because of this), 2004 (before business school), 2011 (in Charlotte and before multiple surgeries), and this past COVID-induced quarantine (especially given that I can’t exercise due to knee and back problems — the fact that I’ve built muscle and lost a waist size is solid).

Nevertheless; I’ve felt myself go lean a few times. Sometimes deliberately; sometimes not. 2000, was not.

Avalon Cove

One night I came home on one of those benders and was ready to sweep into a transition from home to shower to back on the road, when I heard a voice call to me over our upstairs loft and fall perfectly at my feet as I entered our apartment.

Immediately as you enter the apartment, a small open kitchen was to your right. The first thing to your right was a cabinet; so the first physical thing you could add to the kitchen was therefore immediately past that cabinet on the right, on the countertop.

We used that first space we could influence to hold  a microwave.

Immediately as you enter the apartment, a bathroom door stood to your left. Then a closet door. And the first open space was reserved for stairs going up to the second floor which landed with a loft flanked by bedrooms on either side.

We used those stairs to go up and down.

What did you think I was going to say?

We used those stairs to go up and down. But words, sounds, traveled.

And on this early morning, words rose over the lofted balcony and glided to my feet; and in parallel, those same words descended those stairs and rested right at my feet. Actually, these words were so warm, so consuming, having come at me in every direction and way they could have, that they actually rested on my feet.

Caught me by surprise.

And shockingly comforted me.

Have you ever been shockingly comforted? You should try it.

Seriously.

You should try to feel it; and you should try to impart it on someone.

It’s an incredible feeling to simultaneously feel shocked and comforted. In order to do so you have to catch someone off guard, in a way they’re not expecting, and extend them an offer, that requires no convincing (because that would remove the “shock”), and the result of your actions has to leave them feeling comforted. Where their joints slacken, their shoulders relax, and the edges of their mouth lightly dispel gravity but without making a powerful statement, simply saying “I’m going to turn up a bit, just a heads up.”

Shockingly. Comforting. Words.

Now hugging my feet and making their way up to my ears.

A voice that was tired, sleepy, but simultaneously alert and so off-puttingly precise.

“Honey, there’s a falafel in the fridge. Open it. Take it out of the foil. Put it on a plate. And microwave it for 1 minute. Then eat it before you take your shower and go back to work.”

Guys. It was well after 3:30am and well before 6:30am.

Even if you’re preparing for this specific time and moment, nobody should be that precise in that time window on a weekday.

But this voice was. She was. It was my roommates sister who was staying with us in our loft. I knew her because … well she lived in our loft. But I can’t say I knew her enough to expect to be given, or be expected to follow any instructions at 3:30am.

Yet in honor of her precision; out of respect for her explicit instructions; I followed through, warmed up, and devoured a falafel.

It was a dope falafel. Which is really funny. Because …

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a reheated falafel. But they suck. They always suck.

They used to always suck, actually.

Except this time. When you’re shockingly comforted with precise instructions that fall at your feet, remove any thinking on your part, and fill a void in your stomach that’s so desperately calling to be filled.

It was a shockingly good and a shockingly comforting falafel.

She was precise. Mommy is always precise with her instructions. She talks in checklists. What you need to do to be a better you and for you to be a healthier you. With some people you get a prognosis. With others, you get a diagnosis.

With Mommy, you always get a prescription.

It took me a while to realize the power of that falafel. And by a while, I mean getting back into the car and heading back into work that same morning to realize that it wasn’t the falafel that was so wonderful. It was the prescription.

Mommy hadn’t filled a void in my stomach. She’d filled a void in my heart.

It’s been 20 years since that night that you went from roommates sister, to voice from the loft … to Mommy.

And you still find a way to shockingly comfort me.

It’s probably because no matter what you’re going through, I walk out of a conversation with you with a checklist. With a new ‘script. Doesn’t matter if we’re meeting at Variety, at a bar near your house, at the now defunct Argo Tea, or on the couches in your lounge. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 5 minute swing by that took 30 minutes to prep for; doesn’t matter if it’s longer and later at night.

None of it matters.

Except the ‘script.

For 20 years since that night you became Mommy, I want you to know that I’ve done my best to practice finding ways to be shockingly comforting. I think it’s shocking how discomforting I am and can be; but it’s not for a lack of effort, or on account of poor role modeling.

You crush as a role model. You suck as a nail model. But you crush as a role model.

I’ve gotten to a place where I actually feel my happiest when I’m able to shockingly comfort someone in some ridiculous way. Some unexpected way. Some simple way.

It’s been 20 years, Mommy. I’m still not healthy. I’m still finding reasons to avoid, to skip, to ignore. We all find reasons.

It’s been years since Charlotte and all that’s happened since and I’m also telling you right now that I’m past the videos and the #boom t-shirts and I’m dropping this for you because I haven’t had a falafel in a long-time (this quarantine is ridiculous on my food game!)

I’m dropping this because I felt like it was important to acknowledge one thing before I take that step into the second half of my 40’s.

Know this, Mommy.

If anyone ever asks me what my single favorite food is.

My answer is going to be one thing and one thing alone:

“A reheated falafel”.

Falafel

I love you, Mommy. You. Your ‘scripts. Your crazy reheated falafels. You #makemestronger. Daily.

Now. LEGGO!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under PDA

TMLFYI… | Beyond Explanation

I don’t know how to explain it or you. I’m dumbfounded.

You’re 5 years old and change. Sometimes you have the auditory sensibilities of an 80 year old Roadie who traveled with the Stones but “never could afford those ear plugs”. But sometimes, you demonstrate the auditory acuity of Superwoman wearing Miracle Ear.

The best part? Those often toggle on and off as personas in the same conversation.

But I’m here to write for you today because there are times when I do just feel. Heavy. Old. Dragging. Barely carrying my own weight let alone being able to pick you up when you want.

And the most magical sound and the most magical face for me is yours, in that moment. When literally not a soul is attuned to my self-awareness of my own inabilities, and life is just moving forward — Godspeed – life is just accelerating like Cole Trickle on a comeback lap.

When literally, that’s the scene, and the studio audience is waiting for a feeling.

You step in.

Every time.

And make eye contact. It’s one of the times you treat me like you treat everything else you focus on, and nothing else matters. You drop your fork. You drop your crayon. You drop your dolls. You drop your interests.

And you look at me and you keep saying “Buhboo” until I look back.

And then you drop it like Thor’s hammer.

“I love you.”

And with that, my wings have wind.

You’ve done that to me since you were born, Buhboo. With your actions (when I was stressed and needed you to chill or sleep or stay asleep, you magically did), and now, with your attention.

Thank you, Buhboo. You heal me with your words and your attention. I love you, Anaiya.

Image from iOS (1)

Leave a comment

Filed under #TMLFYI..., Uncategorized

MY $.02 | The Chicken and the Egg of Priorities and Choices

I run a couple of small businesses right now. I also advise two others. Much of my time is spent helping the people I work with identify priorities.

What should they be focused on? What is their priority?

It is the priority that dictates the choices we make. More often than not we’re in position to make choices based on our priorities. I’ve worked with people who cherished such constraints. So much so that they would create them artificially (I believe creating artificial constraints is an incredibly powerful force, depending on the constraints you dictate of course). I have my own philosophy on creating constraints that I’ll write about at some point — as time permits.

If we focus on the priority we can be motivated in good times (or when there is no other choice). We can also be demotivated because of the constraint that we’ve committed so much time to; that may not be working out as well as we had planned.

There is always then a discussion about whether or not we have the right priority. That’s an easy discussion. Because often times, it’s easy to change. Simply adjust the priority and you either have new goals that are more attainable or, you at the very least, have no priorities that can be invigorating purely because … they are new.

These are easy discussions at work. At home, they are sometimes not so easy. The choices we make are more permanent. Which is why I think it’s most important to realize that before the priority, came a choice.

Instead of the priority dictating the choice in our personal lives we must never forget that it is our choices that dictate our priorities. To go to college (and beyond). Where we live. What career we choose to pursue (and what environments we choose to work within). Who we marry. And perhaps penultimately, whether we choose to have kids.

Each one of those choices dictates another set of priorities. And along the way, each one of those decisions elevates a set of priorities and clarifies a future set of choices.

KIDS--Halloween

Of all the choices, the most unique one is the decision to have kids. Whereas all other choices are ones that are designed to make you better, to advance your self — I’ve often told the people I love, the people I work with, the (few and far between) people who (stumble into) asking me questions about life — I’ve often told these people that the two most selfish decisions you make in your life should be (1) the career you choose (and as a subset, the jobs you take and the people you choose to work for) and (2) the person you choose to spend the rest of your life with.

Those are the two most selfish decisions one can make. And if made selfishly, they end up being the most valuable decisions and personally advancing decisions you can make.

KIDS--An--HalloweenKids, however, are something else. They become the most selfless decision you can make You have to embrace and realize that more than anything else, all decisions from the moment of conception or birth forward, are made with their life, their livelihood, their success, as the top priority.

I often hear parents talk about life with kids as a limitation and restriction on

KIDS--Jaanu--Halloweenchoices. I don’t feel that way. I never have. And after this past year and this past few weeks as time to reflect around the annual approach of important Indian and US holidays — I realize kids aren’t restricting.

They were my choice. They were more honestly our choice. Our BEST choice.

And they will always be, as a result, our top priority going forward. Ourselves, dutifully, practically, deliberately, in service.

Leave a comment

Filed under My $.02

DADDY | DALI’S PERSISTENCE or HAPPY FATHER’s DAY

This won’t be my last post about all of this. But I’m putting a period on a 4.5 month sentence today. I knew I would. With the way life happened and with all the life that has happened since we got that phone call on that Saturday night and heard the news. That you. You were the news. You leaving was the news. I had this day in my mind almost as soon as I got my mind back. So I’m putting a period on a sentence today.
It’s a hell of a sentence by the way. Faulkner and Joyce turned a sentence into pages; this one’s days, weeks, months. And also lifetimes.
Death sucks. It warps the world. It bends time. It confuses the senses and it makes no damn sense. It’s like a Dali painting in some ways.
BLOG | Persistence of Memory
For you, it sucks because of all the things you didn’t get to do. All the things you didn’t get to resolve. All the things you didn’t get to finish. See. Taste. Address. For most other people death also sucks for all the little things you didn’t get to do: shower, shave, comb your hair, put your shoes away, make sure your wallet was in its place, meticulously organize your entire estate so nobody who followed up on anything had to worry a lick about anything. You know. Big and small things.
Death sucks for me, for mom, for Tita, for all the rest of us, death sucks for all the things we will do without you. Forever. That’s the bottom line. Death sucks if we focus on all the things we will do without you. Crushingly sucks.
But it doesn’t have to. I’m so focused on the fact that it doesn’t have to.

Death sucks when we live in a Janet Jackson world of “what have you done for me lately”. Death sucking is so much of what’s wrong with our world. We forget how we got here. We forget what made us. We forget what we loved. What we enjoyed. What we experienced. For all the recycling bins out there, we still dispose at order of magnitudes more than we reuse. More than we recycle.

More than we relive.

I’m not advocating living in the past. That’s not healthy either. I am advocating appreciating the hell out of it though. Every day has to start with thank you, not a to do list. Only when you start that day off with a thank you, and subtle nod to everything in the past, does death suck less.
I’m 43.
I’ve got an amazing wife.
I’ve got ridiculous kids.
I’ve got Mumma.
I’ve got Tita.
I’ve got in-laws who, well, I’ve got folks. Just more folks.
I’m pursuing (finally) some of the things I love in the hours between those kids, that wife, that life.
I’ve got …
…and that ellipsis can go on for days. I could keep going and not have space, time, need for a period. (Absalom! Absalom!)
I’m not advocating living in the past. I’m advocating that never ever forget that today is the product of an infinite set of moments and yesterdays — and you, Daddy, were essential to all of those.
It starts there. It really, truly, so ridiculously honestly helps, to start there.
It’s also important not to end there. Yes. There are a million things I see every day that make me think of you. Whether it’s how your granddaughter eats cherries. Or how your grandson ensures he has a good time at every party. You’ve got your legacy. And it’s $%&*’ing wonderful.
But sometimes, that’s what makes death suck even more. You’re so visibly here and you’re so clearly not here.
It sucks.
But there’s a moment when it doesn’t, Daddy. There’s this amazing moment when it doesn’t.
It’s when I hop on the elliptical (not enough).
It’s when I make a ridiculous dad joke (too much).
It’s when I make practical sense of emotional nonsense at work (no comment).
It’s when I try and make sure that Priya feels the way that Mom always felt (I failed at that pretty hard a couple of weeks ago, btw, you’d have hated that.)
It’s when I focus less on emulating on, less on recognizing you, and more on honoring you. Honestly.
Just trying to do the things that would have make you smile.
It’s what works for me.
I don’t know what works for anyone else.
But it’s what works for me. I can’t forget this, you. As long as I remember to say thank you every morning, and to honor your spirit every day, you are simply: persistent.

Like time. Time is persistent. Time is stubborn. It doesn’t care what else is happening in the world. It just keeps moving. It can warp. It can bend. It can feel too short and it can feel eternal. But in the end, all time does is keep moving forward.

That’s what made me think of that silly painting that every college student had in their dorm room or at least, on their floor.

The front of that painting is disturbing, warped, bent, liquid, fluid. But meticulously done. Precise. I bet you read about this already, Daddy. But Dali was meticulous and deliberate about every stroke in a manic way. That’s time. That’s today. Warped. Bent. Fluid, Strewn about and exhausted.
But the back of that painting is time too. It’s fixed. It’s beautiful. It’s stunning. It’s Catalonia. It’s Dali’s home. It’s alright.
Happy Father’s Day. For all the warping that’s been in front of us these past 4.5 months, Daddy, I’ll tell you. You’re Catalonia. You’re Catalonia when I look back, and starting today, deliberately, painstakingly, in a way that would make Dali proud, you’re Catalonia when I look forward.
I love you. I’ll do better. You’ll be proud. We’ll move forward. Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.
We’ll make it not.
Period.
WEDDING | Lets Go
Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

1 Comment

Filed under daddy

My $.02 | Preparing for the Inevitable

I’ve written this post 3 different times in the past 24 hours. Each time I write it get caught up in a theme and a trend, and I end up talking about things and giving advice on things I really have no business talking about.

I’m just a guy. Who lost his dad. And who learned some things as a result of that process that I thought would be worth documenting and sharing here. Each situation is different. I am happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk and share my $.02. Email me if you want: suneet (@) gmail (dot) com

The purpose of this post is to build on those fundamental steps and move forward; as a result, I’ve organized the post into four sections:

  • The Fundamentals (what to think about first)
  • The Individual (my Daddy)
  • The Spouse (my Mom)
  • The Intended Beneficiaries (my sis, me, Priya, the kids, everyone else)

Each builds upon the prior. An important distinction because as a person, depending on age and responsibility, you can be the Individual thinking through legacy, the Spouse of someone who’s thinking through legacy, and, the Designated Beneficiary responsible for carrying forward someone else’s legacy. Most of my friends and peers are actually all three.

A Note on the Fundamentals

There is an underlying assumption here. That you have already:

  1. made a will;
  2. considered and evaluated a trust;
  3. documented all assets and ownership (financial accounts with joint ownership or designated beneficiaries, hard assets with titles of ownership, like cars and house(s)); and
  4. created a digital will, too. Yup. Accounts, usernames, passwords, for all online presences.

None of the below matters unless you’ve completed the above and established a baseline. There are hoards of resources available to you if you want to move forward; I urge you that if you are to start with an Estate Attorney make sure you talk to the Attorney about their services included up to the inevitable moment, and, what they provide after. Get clarity upfront. I issue this warning a few times because it can’t be overstated.

A Note to the Individual

If you are a person with things, then you are “the individual”. The person who will die at some point and who will leave people behind to take over. This is one of the biggest things I learned in my experience with my Daddy. He had everything incredibly under control, but, he was also terrible at communicating about it.

Lesson #1: When you’re gone, you’re gone. You won’t be available for questions.

Involve the people you love in your process. Talk to them about your attorney. About your plan. About your goals. About where things are. It doesn’t matter how organized you are; life happens in the most ridiculous of ways. Involve the other two cohorts above (spouse, beneficiaries) in the discussion early (as you plan) and often (as things change).  This is the single most important thing you can do, even above being organized. Because being organized may be helpful to you, but in the heat of the moment, it’s hard for people to think like you’ve thought and follow your logic — as organized as you think you are, if you haven’t tested your plan with the people on the other side, i assure you, it won’t be perfect.

Make sure your account lists are up-to-date. Make sure your key documents are easy-to-find. Make sure your usernames and passwords are available. Make sure none of this stuff is more than a year old.

In Daddy’s case, he spent a lifetime providing for everyone around him. He was better organized than most people I have spoken to about the same circumstances — but there’s always room to be better.

Lesson # 2: Think about the first 90 days after you’re gone. What’s the plan?

Most guidance on how to think about your death focuses heavily on what you have ready at the point of death. A will (for assignment), and trust (for added coverage and protections), a list of documents (for easy tracking of assets). The better you are on that front, amazing. But I don’t think it’s enough. Stop. Take a step back. What does the life of your spouse and your beneficiaries look like for the first 90 days after you’re gone. Who should they be working with? (Have they met before?) What things do they have to address immediately (Maslow’s hierarchy – house payments, healthcare, monthly bills, utilities, etc?) What do they have time to manage? I guarantee that if every person who reads this were to think of the first 90 days after they’re gone, and what their family has to address, the way we think about estate planning would change dramatically.

Perhaps the thing that gets left the furthest behind here is your interaction with the professionals managing your estate. Make sure your spouse and your beneficiaries know who those people are — humanize those relationships. Also, make sure you’ve worked with those professionals on their role in the estate during that first 90 days. If you don’t outline it upfront, your family will be taken for a ride. My father’s estate attorney was — terrible. The offensive way we were treated from the moment my father died up until this very moment is something to learn from. My advice to you is establish terms upfront. It’s amazing where and how people will try to make a dollar these days.

Lesson #3: It’s easier to remove someone from an account, than it is to add them.

Whatever can be joint, make joint. Whatever can have a beneficiary, designate two generations deep (spouse, children). It’s easier to remove someone from an account then it is to add them after the fact. If you have anything in one persons name, fix it. Either make the account joint (ideal, but there are tax considerations), designate a beneficiary, or designate someone clearly as the recipient and owner (will). Every. Single Account.

Lesson #4: Consolidate. Accounts. How you log in (usernames, not passwords). Where you receive statements. Where you store account information. And where all physical documents need to be.

I’m all for complex passwords; but keep your confirmations and registrations and logins from one email address. These provide a paper trail that make it easy to catch the things that slip through the cracks. Once a year spend an hour or so making sure all of your accounts are coming into one email address to help whoever gets access to your phone or laptop know how to find what they’re missing.

Lesson # 5: Try and avoid hierarchies.

Unless there are clear family dynamics at play, my recommendation is to avoid a hierarchical structure to the will. Instead of requiring certain people to take up work or relinquish rights, focus on “or” scenarios where rights can be easily transferred between people without requirement. For us, my Mumma and my Sis were designated as actors on the will before me: but I was the one who was going to do the work; things were delayed 2 weeks at least simply because we had to get the rights relinquished before I could do anything on our behalf.

It’s hard to give specific advice, but the spirit of the advice above should be helpful as a framework.

 

A Note to the Spouse

If you’re married to a person with the things, make sure you’ve thought about all I’ve outlined above. You have twice the responsibility: because you’re the person, and then you’re also a spouse of a person. For you, all of the above apply, plus…

Lesson #1: Everything is important. Not everything is urgent.

It’s incredible how helpful the state has been, the government has been, the financial institutions have been, the utilities have been. I once believed that the world loved no human being more than a pregnant women. Really. The world bends over backwards for a pregnant woman (as it should). I was happy to see that the world appears to do the same for a grieving family. You will not catch everything and trying to do so before it happens is not worth the stress. Do your best and as new things make their way to you as they inevitably will, don’t stress — simply share the truth.

Lesson #2:  Be honest about the role you will want to play.

This is the single most traumatic and life changing moment you will experience. There are very few people who will be able to make visits to banks and attorneys within the first month, if even after that. Make sure that the appropriate people in your life are around and designated to help with the administrative parts of the estate in the short-term while you get your bearings.

Lesson #3: Gain visibility.

Statements. Accounts. Assets. Titles. Anything. Make it a point to understand what is happening on a quarterly basis. Just make it a point and don’t settle for anything less.

Lesson #4: Define the plan.

As important as it is for the individual to define the first 90 days, it is equally important for you to think through those firs 90 days. Scenario plan. What are you ready for? What aren’t you ready for? Even a 20-30 minute exercise of thinking through what will happen in that environment will carry you far. If it helps, think less in terms of what happens when someone dies, and more in terms of: “what did I do the last 90 days, and what are the things that are being done for me?”

 

A Note to the Beneficiary

If you are a beneficiary, you may be in position to have the most work of anyone — you could be the individual in one case, the spouse in another, and, the beneficiary in yet another.

All of the above applies to you. But you have a few added steps to take.

Lesson #1: Be ready.

If your parents travel overseas, have your passport and VISA, ready. It’s simple. Do it.

Lesson #2: Double check your work.

If you know you’re going to be doing the work, you should be asking questions before it’s time for the work to be done. Make it your priority ahead of time as it will be your priority at some point in the future.

Lesson #3: Order your priorities, and acknowledge this will all take time.

Work your way through the urgent items according to Maslow. Acknowledge that new things will come up that were unexpected. And maintain your wits about you. Don’t change anything until you absolutely need. to. Don’t notify anyone until you absolutely need to. Give yourself the space to operate. It will make a difference.

Just My $.02

These are my thoughts and some of what I’ve experienced. Daddy was incredibly well organized but he couldn’t have planned for some of the things that happened even on his best day (being in India, selling an investment property the day before he died, having an attorney who was more focused on the next dollar than actually being of service.)

Note: I wrote a bunch of posts about my Daddy’s death that some have found helpful; either as they’ve gone through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to find ways to support others. You can find all those posts organized here.

Leave a comment

Filed under My $.02

DADDY | JUST MONDAY or UNVARNISHED TRUTH

I’m good. I’m truly honestly and undeniably good. But, I wanted to share this because I think it’s the kind of thing that…more folks just need to know, or read, or share. Just because…good doesn’t mean purely good, there’s always an underlying truth. 🙂

Four times. Today. On four distinct, unique, unrelated moments, I’ve had tears stream down my face. Not a tear. Not a couple of tears. Not the kind of tears that are wiped away with the back of one hand swiftly, or hell, even slowly.

DAD | 5-21

Nope. Streams. The kind that form patterns on your face. Where one tear blazes a trail for others to then follow. Drops turn into flow, and it’s the kind of flow so smooth and so steady that even the greatest Nuyoricans would step back and hand you the mic.

That’s my face. But my face and my tearducts are a mere preview, a trailer. of the thoughts and memories. I’m rocking your polo right now. I got angry when something wasn’t in its right place earlier today. I got angry because it wasn’t. I then got mad at myself for being you. I then got sad because there was no (practical or physical) you. I ate eggplant and mushrooms almost as a rejection of your palate.

I struggled at work, really hard today, because I felt like there were objective truths that weren’t being acknowledged. And I found myself having a handful of very productive, unvarnished and fully honest conversations with people that were representative of your spirit (it’s not about me, it’s not about the idea, it’s about your contribution to the bigger, collective idea, that’s what will make the world move forward.)

And then…mom…your wife. 45 minutes between wrapping up dinner with Anu Kiran and Drinda Kay and closing her iPad and heading up to bed with your granddaughter (who still misses you so publicly and so potently), posted this pic.

And it’s just Monday.

And this photo, just says it all.

And you know, it all just sucks.

But we’ll also, just keep moving forward.

That’s, just life.

And I’m good. Just, good. I’m good.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for this polo. I’m going to sleep in it tonight.

Just…because.

I miss you and I love you, and … we’ll keep just doing our best to honor you.

PS – Make that five times. Once while writing this.

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

1 Comment

Filed under daddy