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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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DADDY | 4 YEARS AGO or A LIFETIME AGO

4 YEARS AGO or A LIFETIME AGO: “When you live it’s how you are. When you’re gone it’s not how you lived, but how you’re remembered.”

I say, with deep and significant love.

DADDY | April

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.

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DADDY | GO BIRDS or HUMBLED BY THOUGHTFUL

Dad was the biggest Eagles fan. When you think of the speed bumps his fandom took on the way to becoming what I consider to be their #1 fan, you’d agree. How far he traveled to get here. How many sports he immersed himself in to get here. How much time he gave up to give himself time to watch. A politician’s son from India, to a Sunday afternoon loyalist of all things Eagles.

But that wasn’t all. My Dad may have been the last known adopter of the DVR. Which means all games were scheduled for and around, and All were consumed (not watched, but voraciously consumer) … live.

He died effectively the day the Eagles won their first Super Bowl. It’s cruel. When you consider the evils inflicted upon him. The mythological travails of an Eagles fan for effectively their whole NFL existence. I mean, Richie Kotite alone. And on the doorstep of greatness he took his last breath.

While you live, it’s how you are. But when you’re gone, it’s not how you lived, it’s how you’re remembered.

Which is what makes this recent gift so incredible.

DAD | Eagles 1

I have no words for it. I bawl as I write this. Just as I did when I received. Just as my sis did when she saw it. Just as my mom did when we placed both in her lap.

“Thank you for being here with us in spirit to guide our Super Bowl victory. We’re grateful for his presence & the joy it brought your family to celebrate with us. He will be missed!!!”

It’s amazing and humbling how many people have kept him and us in their thoughts, prayers, hearts and minds these past few months.

I am humbled beyond belief. I feel like I should walk only with my hands clasped, head down, knees bent, and mouth open…

“Whispering on repeat, thank you thank you thank you.”

Because thank you. To the friend who did this. I won’t tag you here and now because “it’s not about you” (but it is). I won’t tag you here, now, but we are here for you now and forever.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for great friends. We all are.

Go birds. Forever. And thank you, @najee Goode and the Philadelphia Eagles
#GoBirds

and next?

#GoSixers

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.

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DADDY | MEMORIAL SERVICE DETAILS or KISHORE KUMAR SAID IT BEST

“Zindagi ek safar hai suhana
Yahan kal kya ho kisne jaana”

Family, friends, incredibly supportive community members, we invite you to join us in celebrating the life of Kiran Chandrakant Bhatt.

>> Day & Time: Sunday, March 4th from 3-5:30/6
>> Location: The Indian Cultural Center in Marlton, NJ

His physical presence left us on February 4th, but only after he laughed heartily at videos of Anaiya and Jaan, his grandkids, after he told Anita, his daughter, how much he loved her, after he indulged in two (not one) ras gulas, after he took his typically brisk morning walk around his favorite place in the world, Ahmedabad, and after he returned home to be next to the eternal, undeniable, incredible love of his life, Renu.

He left us at the pinnacle of happiness. For all he has done for us, we are blessed. For how quickly and how painlessly he found peace, we are comforted.

We invite you to join us for a few bhajans, a few stories, and the opportunity to participate in saying not farewell, but thank you, for all the joy he brought us.

Love,
The Bhatt Family

“Arey o leiyo leiyo, oleiyo leiyo
Oleiyo leiyo, oleiyo leiyo
Oleiyo leiyo, oleiyo leiyo”

PS – Skip the sorrow, tears and flowers. If compelled, send smiles and support our way, and any financial contributions to The American Heart Association: https://donatenow.heart.org/

PPS – The song referenced in quotes above: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wZDU-DDTOU

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.

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TMLYFI… | “Never”

My magic. I’m inspired to share this moment with you. I promised myself that after year 1 I’d reduce what I posted out of fear of embarrassing you at some odd point down the line. Digital history from birth is still new to us, and is just becoming a point of debate. So I don’t want to do something you’ll regret.

But today, you made my life (let it be noted that on a daily basis, you tend to do this.) Yet, see, I haven’t seen you in three days. And my exposure has been limited. Partially because you are in Canada on an amazing trip with family. And partially because I am in NY working on work … that maybe I didn’t need to work so hard on.

Your extraordinary mom FaceTimed me this evening and what i saw when I accepted and the screen came to was you, head heavily rested on her shoulder, eyes, debating the world outside and the dreams inside. A hell of a debate, IMHO.

So I looked at you. I said your name. I kissed. I did everything in my power to get a response and you blinked, but nothing more. So I went to our ritual. The words I whisper to you every night since the day you were born. The words that showcase the ends of the earth I will run to for you. That close with the same word. Every single day for the past 18 months and 30 days.

That word? “Never”

And as I have done since you started acknowledging, I leave the last word for you to say. And you did.

With God (your mom) as my witness, you finished our exchange like you would had you have been on my shoulder right here in JC.

“Never.”

You said it. And I know,t hat you know, how much I know, that word means to me. The rest of the world will never know our exchange. But may the know now how it ends.

“Never.”

As in…when I will forget this moment. You are magical, my bbcc. A not so good day, turns into the greatest day ever.

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TMLFYI… | Trial and Error (and Success)

“She’s got to be hungry.”

“But she just ate 45 minutes ago.”

“Maybe she’s gassy?”

“We gave her those probiotics. I held her up for 40 minutes. And she was all burped out.”

“Did she poop?”

“Yeah. And she’s all clean. I checked.”

“We should try swaddling her with her arms in.”

“They were in. And then she jailbroke.”

“Maybe she’s hungry.”

“You already said that.”

Anyone who has a newborn has had exactly that kind of conversation with their spouse, parents, nanny, experienced friends. You instantly turn into Henry and Liza trying to figure out where the hole in this d*mn bucket came from in the first place. All the while, your baby is crying (wailing) in the background.

Anaiya Doped Up on Milk!I’m a marketer by trade. I tend to think I’m a pretty good one, but maybe that’s just because I’ve done such a good job marketing myself to myself. We’ll leave that alone as it becomes an infinite loop. Marketing is a fairly broad discipline but one of its foundational principles is the idea of test and learn. I will probably write a post on this separately so I’ll spare the details here, but the bottom line is that the only way you get to the right answer in Marketing is to test your ideas live with your audience, and commit to learning from them. No amount of analysis up front will bring you all the way to your answer. The right answer.

Munchkin, you put my test and learn skills to the test. Some people tell me you’re supposed to have different cries. It’s been 3.5 weeks and I agree, you do have different cries. Heartbreaking. Gut-wrenching. And awe-inspiring. Three very different cries, but they don’t help me a lick.

What has happened over the past few weeks is a few things that I believe change our lives forever.

First and foremost, I believe that I now have in my power, the ability to stop you from crying. Somehow. Some way, I can make things better just about all of the time. If I don’t get frustrated. If I don’t give up. If I don’t get lazy. If I don’t let tired dominate. I can find a way to make you feel better. That’s a beautiful feeling. Because you are both my responsibility and my concern. Knowing I am getting better at fulfilling one and alleviating the other makes me feel better about the father I can be to you forever.

Next, comes the approach for solving your crying. I can sometimes feel myself making it about me wanting you to stop crying. Those are the times I fail you. My body tenses. I am not holding you as softly. You feel my energy and are thrown off. If I allow myself to get overwhelmed in trying to make you stop crying for me, I can expect you to continue crying in spite of me. Instead what I need to do is pay close attention. Life is better when I make the answers about you. Isn’t that what parenting is about?

Even at 3.5 weeks my munchkin, you are extraordinarily expressive. I can tell so much about how you’re feeling by how much I pay attention to how you respond to all of the little things. To being cradled or being placed on your back. To being in a swing or in the MamaRoo. To being swaddled (hands in or out) or being left to roam free. To being stroked from your bottom up, or from your shoulders down (and being stroked with the whole hand or just the palm of the hand.) To having your head near my heart or having your heart near my heart. To hearing a babbling brook or standard white noise.

Anaiya Mom LapWhat I have learned is that as a father, it is my job to listen to what you tell me and pay attention to what you don’t tell me. But no matter what I do, I have to make it about you. About all of you. It’s not enough to be wrapped around your fingers, because that means I can’t hear or see what the rest of you is telling me. What a realization the past few days! And there’s nothing more inspiring than finding a way to put you at ease. To stop you from crying. To get you doped up on milk to a point that you’re limp and wiped out. To get you to sleep for a few consecutive hours at a time. All of these nuances change frequently, with the things that worked yesterday not quite working today. You’re teaching me already how to stay on my toes and pay attention to you. Not because you’re demanding. Not because you’re spoiled (if anyone says or thinks that ever, let them feel my wrath.) Simply because you are my daughter. And that is my job.

Finally comes recognition of something I have noticed more and more since your birth: I will not have all the answers. Many timesyou’re just better off in your mom’s hands (who isn’t?) Some times we need to let you soothe yourself (we haven’t quite gotten there yet, but we know we have to soon.) Some times you don’t want anything specifically, you just want to be held. My job is to try when there is an answer, and let you know I love you and am there for you when we can’t find one. That will never change.

I promise to always do that for you, my lovely. Today my love for you manifests itself via trial and error (and god willing, success.)

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TMLFYI… | Simply Not Enough

(Note: This covers January 14th, our first night home from the hospital. In some ways, my least favorite day. Ever.)

D*mn. You’ve got some pipes. And it’s our fault you had to use them as loudly, often, and consistently as you did. We simply didn’t know any better.

We tried changing you. We tried feeding you. We tried burping you. We tried swaddling you. We tried everything parents of two days could try. And nothing worked. Your screaming got louder. On and off. You were exhausted. And every time you wailed our hearts shattered into a million more pieces. There is no sound like your cries. Nothing could have prepared us for it. And nothing will ever make me forget it. Consider me well trained to avoid your tears ever again.

It was this very night I realized that loving you to the end of the world, to the end of time, will sometimes not be enough. I also realized that feeling the kind of love we feel for you can be crippling and debilitating. I have never felt so hopeless. I have actually never been so worthless. Your Ba-ji, your Naniji, your Dadaji, your mom — they were all extraordinary in action. Your Ba-ji and Naniji are the only reason we made it through the night. I feel like they are the only reason you made it through the night. An interesting study in contrasts. Where mine was love inaction, there’s was love in action. Troubleshooting. Collaborating. Trialing, erroring, and trialing again. From 10pm to 8am the next morning they operated at a furious pace. Forcing me to rest. Standing beside your mom and magnifying her existing strength. Holding you in their hands every step of the way (even if they weren’t actually holding you in their hands at certain points in time.)

I witnessed something powerful and amazing that night, in the shadow of my own limitations as a father. My angel has angels. Specifically, two guardian angels in your Ba-ji and Naniji, and you couldn’t be more blessed. Because sometimes the love of your parents may not be enough. And in those times, you’re blessed to know that you have a love that’s even more unique and tireless — the love of your grandparents.

Yes, lovely. On this day, my love for you was simply not enough. Instead, I learned by watching your grandparents display one of the greatest performances of my lifetime, leaving me humbled and inspired to pursue my apprenticeship in parenthood under them.

(Knowing full well that if I screw up in the slightest I’ll have them to answer to.)

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