bogey & ruby

bogey & ruby

Sunday, June 3, 2018

An Unexpected Bucket List Item

There are some bucket list items you never think about listing until you've actually crossed them off your list. Like the one one I put a line through today: leaping from a moving vehicle.

I've thought about what I would do plenty of times if for example my brakes suddenly failed in between intersections on a busy boulevard, or my car had a blowout on the highway, or I lost control of my car crossing a bridge and it plunged into the river, or God forbid if the concrete overpass I was on suddenly gave way (scream all the way to my death would be my only option).

But nothing prepared me for Ian's car rolling away from the gas pump with me in the passenger seat and Ian inside the station hut paying the bill. After the first few seconds of shocked disbelief, I felt the car picking up speed and screamed for Ian. With my life flashing before my eyes (and an image of the running shoes I'd regrettably exchanged for sandals before leaving the house), I undid my seatbelt, opened the passenger door and leaped out of the moving car. 

Peeps, I gotta tell you, it's a lot harder to do this in real life than they make it seem in the movies. I am incredibly grateful that I recently joined a gym and have been duly practicing my deadlifts and squats. As a result I managed to plant one foot squarely on the ground, drag the other one out real quick, all the while keeping my balance. I swear the only thing missing from this stunt was a Captain Kirk barrel roll. A week or so pre-gym and I likely would have injured myself, badly.

By now, Ian had heard the commotion and ran out of the hut in time to watch his poor jeep crash into a fire hydrant. Awful as that sounds, it was a better case scenario than heading into the busy intersection just beyond. 

We examined the damage and determined the car was drivable but would need to be repaired. My only excuse for flight instead of fight was that I didn't know what else to do. Ian asked why I didn't hit the brakes. Duh, but that would only have worked if I had Gene Wilder's leg length à la See No Evil Hear No Evil instead of Hobbit feet clad in comfy sketcher sandals. Alternatively, I could have straddled the middle console, grabbed the parking brake as if it were a kettle bell, and performed the mother of all deadlifts, saving the day and the front end of the car. Obviously, neither scenario crossed my mind while my magic car ride was underway.

These kinds of accidents always leave us feeling yucky and wishing we had done things differently. Like leaving a little earlier, or stopping at a different gas station and paying at the pump, or maybe keeping our running shoes on and our wits about us. 

If I could channel Hiro Nakamura and alter the space-time continuum, I'd stay in the car this time and somehow stop it from crashing. But I didn't and we didn't, and it's only stuff, right? Stuff that can be replaced or repaired. Besides, nobody got hurt which is the best part. And what's a bucket list for after all, if not for crossing off. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Lone Ranger Rides Again

From over a year ago, right before my dad fell ill and the rest of us fell apart. I've made magic bars only once since.

  • Last night someone in our household was farting the Lone Ranger theme song. Either that or it was me humming the William Tell Overture to a galloping rhythm. 

  • Here's an oxymoron for you: rushing through a new book on meditation so that I can start meditating as soon as possible. Apparently meditation is the new sexy.

  • It's a good thing I did a quick meditation before discovering I had run out of chocolate chips in the middle of baking magic batrs. Rather than shout for Ian, who wasn't home anyway, I turned off the oven, replaced inside yoga pants (jammies) for outside yoga pants, backed over the garbage can lid in the driveway, stopped at Starbucks for a latte (since I was out anyway), remained calm as I counted the cart contents of all the other people in the 8 items or less line at the grocery store, and made it home in time to answer the phone. It was Ian asking if I needed anything from Costco. 

  • There's this gorgeous welcome mat at the local grocery store that reads "Bonjour" though it's not so much the message I like but rather its fresh, grass green colour. Ian, knowing me well, suggested I may do better off with a mat that says "Au Revoir".

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Antie Pat

A beloved family friend died on April 3rd, following a brief illness, and broke our hearts. Unable to attend the funeral in Toronto, I helped my father formulate some memories into a eulogy, one that was read by Auntie Pat's son-in-law, Peter, at the ceremony. I then did the same with my own recollections, crying buckets in the process. 

Many of you may know Auntie Pat already, by her claim to fame as cover model for the Supertramp album, Some Things Never Change. Her resemblance to the Queen of England landed her that gig.

The first text is mine:

Yesterday evening, looking for inspiration, I asked my husband to grab a big white box marked “memories” stored high on a shelf in my bedroom closet. In it were a bunch of diaries from my childhood. The oldest one had “Five Year Diary” written in multiple languages all over its black and yellow binding, with a broken clasp in front that once purported to keep the musings of this grade schooler safe from prying eyes. Flipping through it, I needn’t have worried about the contents being exposed as the writing was pretty innocuous. Each page allowed five separate entries, one for each year, with a ration of four lines per annum. The first entry was on February 20th, 1973, my tenth birthday. It read “My Birthday and I got this diary and a Cup from Antie Pat and family.” Amused, I noted that "Auntie" was misspelled and random words were capitalized. What struck me as I skimmed through the entries was that we got together with our friends the Dhillons at least several times a month, be it for birthday celebrations, holidays or just because. Every two months or so, we ate at the Ponderosa Steak House. And whenever anyone from our respective extended families was coming from or heading overseas, we would all meet at the local international airport to either greet them or send them off. I know this because I'd crammed all the "who's who" details into four lines of text in my diary. School night or week-end, it was simply what we did. Indeed, there is a small black and white photo of me, my cousin Eira, and Auntie Pat's daughter, Cheryl, taped at the back of the diary, taken when Eira and her family were visiting from England in July 1973.

Clockwise from left: my cousin Eira, Cheryl, me.

The Dhillons were our true Canadian family growing up. They were the only other family we knew with an East Indian dad and a British mom and Cheryl and Robin were our "too cool for school" older cousins by association. Considering the political and racial climate back then, I think the friendship between our families provided our parents with unconditional support for all the challenges a mixed race marriage can bring, particularly one that produces light brown kids. It normalized our unique situation and provided us with a model of community that eventually included other open and like-minded people. Their friends were our friends and vice versa. As kids, we felt safe and we felt loved, and that, at least for me, provided the foundation for a very happy childhood. It is why neither the miles that have separated us since their move to Toronto, nor the years that have flown by, have ever shaken the deep connection our two families have. And it explains the extent of our grief at the loss of our beloved Auntie Pat.

I have parents and they had these amazingly vibrant friends who would stay up to ring in the New Year long after I had gone to bed, who would dress up for any occasion and dance the night away, who twinkled under holiday mistletoe like teenagers, who outdid one another year after year with their halloween costumes, and who had an Easter party one year and hopped down the stairs wearing bunny ears and cotton tails. Auntie Pat was usually the instigator and everyone else followed suit.

The famous bunny party!
(Pat is the blue bunny and to her left is my mother.)

Cheryl and Robin, we had mothers who married for love and who had the courage and sense of adventure to travel the world at a time when there were no travel guides or itineraries. They raised families, drove cars and worked outside the home when so many of their generation didn’t. They made true, long-lasting friendships, held dinner parties, and together with our dads, connected our respective families over three continents. They sewed, crocheted and knitted endless costumes, including that crazy teddy bear head for Uncle Dhil.

Our parents partied until poor health no longer allowed it.

My parents with Auntie Pat.
New Year's Eve, I suspect after midnight.

Our Auntie Pat was a great story teller and that’s how I remember her best: setting the stage, commanding her audience, elegant hands conducting, laughing that irrepressible laugh of hers through its telling. It’s the picture I will keep in my head whenever I think of her, with love and gratitude for having known her.

We wish so much that we could be there in person with you all today. We share the pain of your loss today and join you in spirit as you celebrate the life of our wonderful Auntie Pat.

And from my dad:

Our friendship began in 1968 when I met Raghbir at an engineering conference in Montreal. 

Our lives would forever be intertwined when I bumped into him again at the airport in July of that same year as coincidentally, we were both waiting for our respective wives and children to return from the UK.

From that day onwards, our families spent holidays together: Halloween, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, long week-ends, and summer vacations. We camped together: weekends in Massena and longer road trips venturing further South in the summer months. There were barbecues in the summer, new restaurants to try when nobody felt like cooking and monthly dances at the local dance club where new friends were made. We attended many of the speeches that Dhil made through the Toastmaster's organization and were so proud of his accomplishments.

Even when they moved to Toronto, Pat and Dhil would return to Montreal every New Year's Eve to ring in the new year with some dancing and partying with old friends. Once a year, time stood still, and we cherish those wonderful times. Of course, we made it down the 401 on occasion too, and have fond memories of visiting Toronto one year to watch The Phantom of the Opera. Life was always brighter, more fun, with Pat around.

Just before our 25th wedding Anniversary, my wife asked Pat to look out for a gold bangle for me, an important symbol of Sikhism. Pat and Dhil brought it all the way from Toronto and helped us celebrate our silver milestone. Thirty one years later and I have removed it only twice, both times for cardiac surgery. Indeed, it is a daily reminder of her and how thoughtful and considerate she always was.

Pat, you were always on the go: smart and filled with energy for new business ventures, travel itineraries and fun-filled projects. You were, hands-down, our children's favourite auntie, not by blood but having earned that spot early on in our friendship. Your children are loved by us as our own.

You were a beautiful and bright star in our lives and remain so in our hearts, our great and dear friend. We will miss you terribly.

Love always,

Paul, Jennie and family 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Boy Blue Valentine

Ian and I met as thumbnails in the summer of 2012 through a random Facebook encounter. My profile picture at the time was a vintage shot of me holding my ex-husband's telecaster. Ian's only comment was "nice tele" to which I replied, "Thanks, it doesn't live here anymore." We met in person six months later at a comedy venue, another chance encounter, and Ian's first words then were, "You're not that short." Real time Ian was a lot less scary than virtual Ian, and back then, a lot less hairy too.

I don't believe things happen for a reason. When relationships end, when dreams die, we are left reeling. We feel pain and we grieve. We carry the people we used to be and the people we used to love with us like layers of clothing. They are part of us like chapters in a story. I wish I could say that love has nice neat borders but it doesn't. It overlaps. Its fuzzy lines bleed from endings to beginnings and back again. Taking responsibility for this doesn't help so much as acknowledging that what once worked is no longer working and that some things in life cannot be fixed.

I met Ian at a time when my pain was easing but his was only beginning. Recognizing this made me very cautious. Zero to sixty is a great song title but in practice, can make one's stomach lurch and one's head spin.

Thank goodness for friends who knew better.

Soon after we met, Ian recorded an original song called Be Myself which he sent to me via a YouTube link. It wasn't so much a love song as it was an I'm okay, you're okay, you wear your crocs, I'll wear Birkenstocks, thank you for being a friend tribute. Bemused, I showed it to my friend Leslie who watched it with tears in her eyes and said, "Sharon, this is it. This is it."

Several months later, while visiting Ottawa for a few days, I received a note from our friend Richard writing on Ian's behalf.

Dear Sharon. Ian has come over for dinner. We've had a great time and a bit too much alcohol. Just want to let you know that Ian is one of the most authentic and honest people on the planet and he adores you. He's sleeping here tonight so don't worry about him driving home.

Ian also wrote to me that night. Here is his wine and limoncello-inspired poetry:

3/5, 11:14pm
Forlorn. Rich is playing guitar for me and I am forlorn. ****, Sharon. Forlorn. You know what that means !!!!!!?!?!?!!

3/5, 11:24pm
Take me home you silly girl. Take me home you silly girl. Take me home you silly girl. Take me home you silly girl.
'Cause I'm still in love with you!

3/6, 1:25am
i am on the couch. stupid and silly. we played galway girl 30 times. i am a bit bent, as you can imagine. i feel. i feel. i can feel what you do to me. you, you glorious altruistic beauty. you shrugging godess! my love for you astounds. knows no bounds.

Seduction by lemon liqueur. How could I possibly resist? But I did hold off a little longer even when friends told me they'd never seen me happier. It felt too good to be true and I told Ian as much In response, he wrote this poem, my favourite to this day.

The Other Shoe

The other shoe
doesn't have to drop
I placed both shoes
next to yours
Quietly when we met.
So as not to disturb
The perfect peace
Of being with you.

In the book "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life", by Karen Armstrong, there is a chapter called, How Little We Know, and in it the author refers to the French Philosopher, Simone Weil, who used to say that love was the sudden realization that somebody else absolutely exists. I like this notion because it is so much more forgiving then other definitions we tend to use. Less like an arrow through the heart and more like the dawn rising or a fog lifting, making everything that was once dark, perfectly outlined.

The great thing about milestone birthdays is the opportunity we get to take stock of our lives. I'm not considering twenty or thirty to be milestone birthdays because usually at that age, a life lived is far ahead of us. Beyond forty however invites reflection and brings with it an acute awareness that the sands of time are running out. With that awareness comes less ambition and more mindful living. If we haven't already arrived at this point, we are at least closer on our journey to getting there. And the realization that we aren't going to live another forty, fifty, sixty years begs the question: how do we spend the precious time we have left?

What I call living an authentic life, Ian refers to as truth and beauty. Choosing an authentic life doesn't mean opting for an easier one. It tests our integrity in the face of expectations. It risks disappointing the people we love. It sometimes feels like stepping off a cliff, hurtling towards the unknown. It is both frightening and liberating. Hey, in my experience, plan A almost never works out so might we well get familiar with the rest of the alphabet.

So here's what I know about Ian so far, apart from the fact that he's the real dude and he rocks long hair and we should all abide.

Ian's gift is his capacity for deep and meaningful connections with people. His openness and vulnerability to share and to receive what is heartfelt is what makes him a loyal and supportive friend. His ability to hone passion for music in the absence of traditional talent is what makes him a great teacher, and as a result, there are many birds singing (in harmony) in the woods. On a personal note, it has encouraged me to play music again after a long hiatus, and sing out (egad), without fear of judgement. 

We have a tendency to measure our accomplishments using numerical values: productivity, material accumulation, items crossed off a to-do list, number of likes on a Facebook post, number of albums sold, etc, and in the process forget that what really counts when living an authentic life is not so much what we have or what we do, but rather, who we are.

Truth and beauty reflects truth and beauty. It attracts truth and beauty. It brings out the best in all of us and provides us with a safe place to just be. Be ourselves. The only thing that really matters in this life is the difference we make in other people's lives and the our contribution to the village around us. What we pass on when it's time to leave this world is our one true legacy. It's what's truly earned while the rest is simply inheritance.

I look around the room and see Ian's community and feel privileged to be a part of it. So many new and dear friends. It is a community of teachers and artists and supporters of artists and contributors and brilliant people who shine on.

I know Ian is feeling the pressure of turning sixty, the need to increase his output, get all his songs out there à la Willie Nelson. But let me share what I observed in the making of his last cd. It was like exhaling after holding his breath for so long. That the best moments in the making of the album were the little things. The laughs with George, the thrill of working with awesome local musicians, editing with Danny, the blast we all had in the making of Don't: both song and video, and feeling profoundly moved by feedback received from the listeners who connected with the songs on a really intimate level or as Ian would say: they just get it. Let Willie Nelson continue to inspire you with his great volume of music but know that you have already arrived and anything you produce from this point on will be enough.

Ian, our younger selves would never have hooked up. We would have looked right past one another. Our fifties showed us the way and we have lived a lifetime of love in a few short years. My Boy Blue Valentine, sixty is simple. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

House Arrest

My sister-in-law visited my mother in hospital this evening and found her tied in a wheelchair. Chantal described it as a gentle restraint, "a padded, open-faced underwear that goes over your clothes". My mother's version was that she had been arrested for doing something wrong but she didn't understand what it was.

According to her nurse, the reason for the house arrest was that she was forgetting to use the walker that had been plonked in front of her and therefore was at risk of falls. I say plonked because up until now, eight days into her hospitalization, nobody with the necessary expertise has come to asses her gait and balance, never mind her cognitive status. Whoever said that forgetting to use a walker was a crime anyway?

One could argue that I have the necessary expertise to assess this, at least the physical part, and that may be true. But she's my mother and all I can think of right now is there are worse things in life than falling.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Here is a list of things that will guarantee you a spot in my bad books:
  1. Insist I must be pregnant when I tell you I'm not. 
  2. Ask me to guess your age immediately after you mistake my muffin top for the third trimester of pregnancy in an effort to distract me.
  3. Ask me where I'm from then proceed to tell me how much you hate curry.
  4. Complain about your East Indian neighbours stinking up the neighbourhood with their cooking smells.
  5. Practice your fake East Indian accent on me and think it is in any way charming.
  6. Tell me how much you hate curries using a fake East Indian accent.
  7. Refer to all East Indians as "Hindus" because you don't know any better.
  8. Tell me I'm lucky I don't look Indian.
The only way to get back into my good books is to tell me how sorry you are over a plate of curry while doing the Indian head nod. Click on the link for directions.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Long Goodbye

My father came home this week after spending six out of the past eight weeks hospitalized. The good news is his heart, after one hell of a tune-up, has the potential to recondition itself, to a fixed frequency of 80 beats per minute, thanks to a new pacemaker.

Some things though, will never be the same. Feet swollen to a point of no return, the flattened soles/(soul) of a failing heart, are now clad in medical-gauge, velcro slippers, worn indoors and out, that make him trudge with the weight of them rather than roll heel-toe.

Then there's the peripheral neuropathy that burns through the night. There's no cure for that kind of nerve damage and little to no relief from the meds. He's had it longer than the heart failure and about a year ago, I suggested he ask his doctor if he could try pot. Dad was keen but the doc was not, at least for now. You see, long ago in Pakistan, a prankster offered my father a hashish-stuffed pakora and what he remembers the most is that he felt no pain when his mother slapped him hard across the cheek for doing drugs.

Since early April, my father's looming death has felt like a long and painful goodbye. I lived on bagels, neglected my son and distracted myself by reading best-selling thrillers instead of the usual "book club" fare.

I rehearsed the words I wanted to say to him over and over in my head. The kind of speech you hear in the movies, when somebody is dying. But the night before his surgery, he couldn't breathe and his heart rate was dipping below 35 and my mother was too distraught. So I said nothing except, "See you on the other side, Dad." And as it turns out, I did.