Category Archives: PDA

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.

 

 

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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!

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

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My $.02 | IMHO | Moms

I’m a Dad. Which is fantastic. But as amazing as that is, I’m not and never will be a Mom. Which is humbling. Mom’s are cut from a different cloth. Which is why the best thing we can do is surround ourselves with them. As our own. As grandmothers. As aunts. As siblings. As friends. As … my wife. I’m blessed and amazed to have been raised by someone so amazing and now, to find myself standing next to someone equally brilliant.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mumma. I am and would be nothing without you. My compassionate and loving sister and I are and would be nothing without you.

Happy Mother’s Day too, Mom. You make a word I never thought I could associate to someone else, roll off the tongue.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Ba’s (gone too soon), my Masi, my Fai, my Mamis, my Kakis. And Happy Mother’s Day to my friends’ moms who represent the village that raised me. Happy Mother’s Day to my sisters, through blood and (or) through my own sheer luck. Happy Mother’s Day to all of my amazing friends who have served as role models leading up to 1/12/2014 and now, beyond.

And Happy First Mother’s Day to the love of my life, my wife. I’ve always been awed by you. And the past few months have only proven that I’ve had every reason to be. Happy Mother’s Day. Happy, Happy, Happy Mother’s Day.

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PDA | Anaiya | Happy First Mother’s Day!

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(Photo by Shannon Christopher in Savannah, GA. Hire him if you’re down there.)

Hi Mumma,

I’m growing up fast aren’t I. I’m saying that here, to you, because I know if we even imply it around Daddy he’ll get teary eyed and cry (by the way, can we work on that?) It’s my last day as a three month old. Can you believe it?

It’s also your first Mother’s Day. It’s better if we make this post about you.

I know you can believe how fast I’m growing because you spend every day with me. I’ve been around for almost four months, and you’ve been around every single day since — but the truth is, you’ve been a Mom for much longer. There’s no denying it actually because it’s all documented in the book I wrote you on your birthday.

When I first wrote that I was still figuring things out, but the world makes more sense to me now. You. My Mommy, make more sense to me now. And watching you in action is the reason why I feel the most comfortable around you and in your arms. Sure, I love everyone I meet! We proved that in Savannah didn’t we? It’s hard for me not to like people when even random passersby say things like “she’s the absolute cutest” or “look at how happy she is.” But there i s nobody in the world like my Mommy.

I love when people look at me and comment on how happy I am. I wish I could get into the conversation with them (lord knows I’m trying) and tell them why!

It’s because of you. How you take care of me. How you play with me. How you feed me. How you put your whole world aside for me. How you take me out. How you help me see the world. How you take me to music class. How you play peek-a-boo by using the soles of my feet to cover your eyes. All of those things make me so happy, Mommy.

How could I not be happy? You sing Pharrell’s “Happy” to me at every waking moment. As an aside, I hope when I grow up, I’ll be able to sing like you. If not, I’ll be equally happy sitting back and watching you sing, just like Daddy does. And I’ll smile with him when you forget the words or just make up your own.

You’re a Mommy. You’re my Mommy. You’re the best Mommy I could have hoped for. And even though I’m only (almost) four months old, I want you to remember the most important thing ever. When I’m teething. When you’re sleep training me. When I’m just cranky because I’m a baby and I’m allowed to be. When I’m being stubborn and not letting you finish feeding me.

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I want you to remember that every single time I smile, it’s because you put me in position to. You made it all possible in the first place, and now you make it all possible every single day.

Smile with me, Mommy. You’ve earned it. Happy Mommy’s Day!

Love,

Your Munchkin

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PDA | Love in the Time of Shoulder Surgery

To the general reader: I am really not sure how to begin to tell you how lucky I am. So I’ll start by telling you about a bit of bad luck.

January 30th, 2012
I’m not wise beyond my years, but I’m certainly old beyond my years. When my shoulder pain hit a level where rest and cortisone shots weren’t helping, it was time to investigate further. Hearing doctor after doctor say things like “How did something like this happen to you” or “We usually don’t see this in patients under 50” kinda sucks. Perhaps the doctors thought they could alleviate my physical pain by focusing on psychological torture? If so, very innovative. Kudos.

On Monday, January 30th I went in for surgery on my right shoulder, my dominant hand. Orthopedists have told me this is one of the most painful procedures they perform, not because of the surgery itself, but because of the recovery:

  • In a sling for 4-6 weeks
  • Not able to be on a treadmill/elliptical for 6-8 weeks
  • Full strength at 6 months
  • PT 3x a week all the way through

This was going to require commitment. As I learned, the real commitment was not going to come from me.

Little/Big Things
What is love? Does it ever peak? Does it morph and transform? Is it like an old, favorite book? One that is beautiful at first because of its substance, but grows more beautiful over time because of everything else? Because it’s been your favorite for so long? Because the lines and creases give it character that’s uniquely yours? Because the words haven’t changed, but what they mean has changed with you?

I don’t know how to define it. I’m 36. Cut me a break.

I don’t know how to define it but I have borne witness to it, delivered fully, placed at my feet, swaddling me through the past few weeks—all at the hands of my amazing and extraordinary wife.

This story needs no embellishment, no creative license, no artistic flair. It merely needs accurate and honest context, and documentation of facts.

First, it is important for you to know about my wife’s work life. She is an investment banker. Except for the two weeks we were traveling through India and the UAE, from before Thanksgiving through this very week, she has worked 100+ hours a week. That’s at least 15 hours a day, 7-days a week. We expect it to continue. Awesome.

Next, you need to understand my circumstances post-surgery. Imagine what you’d do with the temporary loss of your dominant hand. I tried to simulate the experience before my surgery so I could troubleshoot what I may need to have in order to exist post-surgery. I failed because I overestimated my abilities and underestimated my limitations.

Off the top of my head, here are some of the things she did for me…in the first 24 hours:

She did these while taking work calls and lugging around her laptop looking for hotspots. These are some of the little/big things she did. Little for her because she thinks nothing of it. Big for me because without them I would have been, in-order: blind, hurt, disconnected, and naked.

My Guardian Angel
I never really thought about the phrase “Guardian Angel” before. I thought of the term “Dark Angel” before, but mostly because it is how the world met Jessica Alba. But “Guardian Angel”, what an apropos term for my wife. She’s both my “guardian”, someone who has protected me and cared for me through my recovery, and my “angel”, a benevolent, attending spirit.

As I’ve watched my wife care for me with grace, sincerity, and such instinct and intuition, I am infinitely proud and happy to share that more than once she has moved me to tears.

….She refused to sleep in our bed. I have to sleep on a recliner to protect my shoulder. So she slept on the couch next to me. Every time I shifted in my seat, adjusted my strap, coughed…my wife’s upper body would pop-up from the pillow and a feathery, luminous, graceful voice would elevate slightly higher “Hi Baby”. She acknowledged me and supported me in the way I prefer to be supported. Every. Single. Time.

….She insists on taking me to Physical Therapy. So we wake up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:30 am so she can drive me to PT, sit with me there for 90 minutes, drive me back home, get ready for work, and then head out the door as soon as she possibly can. In the beginning, when I was taking meds, she would wake up earlier and make me some sort of breakfast so my stomach could, well, stomach the meds.

….She makes me presentable. I couldn’t think of a way to say it better. She showers me. She gets my toothbrush ready. She has to put on my deodorant. She has to dress me since I still have a wicked hard time even getting a T-shirt on. She has to do this at 5:30 when we head to PT, and then again before she leaves for work. In the midst of getting herself ready, she has me to take care of as well.

….She smiles the entire time. If you’re reading this you know my wife, and if you know my wife you know her smile. Whether 2am for a Percocet fix (usually accompanied by some food or beverage as outlined above), 7am while she’s watching me struggle through lifting my shoulder, Noon, whenever possible, when she tries to bring me lunch…whenever, whatever, however…she smiles. Even when her eyes have been open for an unreasonable streak of consecutive hours…her face smiles at me.

She makes me feel, every single day, that everything is going to be ok. And you know what, it is. My life is so very much better than ok. Because of her.

Luck Be My Lady
It’s been a tough couple of weeks purely related to my ability to function, day-to-day, independently. I’ve never experienced it before. Yet over that same period, I saw the most beautiful and amazing woman in the world taking care of me in a way I did not think was possible. In return, and surprising to me, I found myself willing to give in completely.

We all take our mom’s and sister’s for granted because they have always been there, they have always done for us, and they are our family—they are us, they did not choose us. With my wife, however, it is something different. On June 1st 2010 we finished navigating years of living, masses of people, expanses of land, millions of experiences … and we picked each other, forever.

There’s no self-deprecating comment for me to make here. She chose me, she loves me, and because of her choice I feel like the luckiest man alive (“feel like”, lest I diminish the sentiments of others who are lucky enough to feel the same.)

Priya, you are extraordinary.

9:40am(-ish), 2/1/2012
You were exhausted. You had worked late the night before. You had no sleep that night. You woke up at 5:45am to wake me up at 6am so you could feed me, dress me, medicate me before we got on the road at 6:45am for my first PT appointment. You also had a critical 10am meeting you needed to get into the office for.

I, of course, slept through the night.

You got everything ready. You helped me undress. You bathed me, taking extra care to avoid all the gadgets, drips, bandages, and wounds on my neck and shoulder. You dressed me. You did all of the same for yourself, alternating fluidly between me and you, you and me.

You might remember what happened next, you might not. I do. I watched it all with wonder.

You had just spent about a minute helping me put a T-shirt on. A full minute. You then watched me put my sling on. Trying to pull one loop over my head, strap the other around my waist, and make sure the padding attached to my sling that is used to keep my forearm straight hadn’t decided to go rogue. You knew I wanted to do this myself, I felt like I had to do this myself. So you stood right by me with your hand on my other shoulder, just encouraging.

Time.
Ticking.
Away.

I made it work and you patiently supported me through, even though my efforts led to a 2-inch velcro driven scratch down the middle of my forehead (it’s finally disappearing). After I put the sling on, I turned to you…

…and I broke down for a moment in your arms.

I broke down because you were shouldering our burdens—not just yours, and not just mine, but ours. You were doing all of the work. You were meeting me all-the-way. You were my wife, my nurse, my cook, my therapist, my eyes, my hands; you were literally my everything and you made me realize how lucky I was to have someone to lean on so fully and completely.

Tuesdays
Have you read Tuesdays with Morrie? I have, and I thought it was great. I’m not sure how many people one meets in heaven. And I remember rooting against the Fab Five when I was growing up. But in “Tuesday’s with Morrie”, Mitch Albom wrote a simple, emotional, beautiful book. I’m pretty sure most of the people in my life read it because Oprah told them to. I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

I read TwM years ago, when I was even less of an adult and less of a man. My reflections and memories of the book are now a random snippet of still shots, words and phrases, and even self-produced video clips based on the images and senses conjured by the words on paper. Of those memories, the single most powerful revolves around this quote:

“Take my condition. The things I am supposed to be embarrassed about now — not being able to walk, not being able to wipe my ass, waking up some mornings wanting to cry — there is nothing innately embarrassing about them. It’s the same for women not being thin enough, or men not being rich enough. It’s just what our culture would have you believe. Don’t believe it.”

Let me explain. For all intents and purposes I am fully capable of wiping my own backside. As some members of Fuqua’s Class of 2006 can attest, I am also the only person who has ever done this (entertaining story). But this quote resonated with me because it reminded me of my Ba (paternal grandmother), who lived with us for 17+ years, fully bedridden.

I read TwM a few years after my Ba had passed. TwM was anchored in my memory of her, her condition, her experience. Morrie was my Ba. TwM triggered sympathetic emotions because of this association, and my relationship with this book has continued as such for most of the past decade. I viewed Morrie’s lack of embarrassment as a concession, something he had to do because he had no other choice. I thought it was an amazing man simply finding a way to deal.

A couple of weeks ago, things changed.

Thank You
I’ve reflected on Morrie’s quote over the past few weeks and find myself relating to his words in a very new way. There were so many moments when you were doing all of the little things for me, where I felt like an absolute child. I was completely in your hands.

And the entire thing felt completely natural. Utterly comfortable. The furthest thing from embarrassment. With each new thing that I could not do and that I needed you to do for me, I realized that I was luckier than even I had imagined on our wedding day. I had found that person who would shield me from pain, doubt, and embarrassment for the rest of our lives together. In you, I found the contentment that Morrie discussed in his final days.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Birthday, Baby. But more importantly, thank you. Thank you for helping me feel capable at my weakest, privileged at my neediest, and loved all the way through.

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