Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Man of Action

Seriously - was it really 
          21 years ago that I skidded my way
 o  n 
                             bla k
   c                            c
i      e 


try to make it for your birth day? 
You were ready to get going 
from the moment you opened 
your espresso eyes 
into this world.

You were and 
have been 
ahead of the curve
        ahead of the pack
               ahead of the game
                       ahead of your time

You gave us
"Keep Calgary clean" when you were 2
"Judgative" when you were 3
"Because" at 4
"Why?" at 6
"Stay in the car" at 9

And at 11
You looked at my love seat
with awe in your eyes
and said,
"I bet you could get
 a lot of action on that couch ..."

And so the Legend of the Action Couch
 was born.

All you've asked for
  in my will
is the AC

They say that life begins
at 17 -
yours could have ended.
At 17 you gave me a
wake-up call:
What a chasm your leaving
would carve in my heart!

That was the day
I besought God,
"Keep him safe;
Keep him always ..." 

At 20 you walked slowly with
 your grandfather across
    that snow-flecked street
after McDermott,
  your turn to play
guardian angel,
your arm resting
across his shoulders

And I told myself
If he makes 21
He gets the
Action Couch.

Happy 21.

I adore you.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Brothers From Other Mothers, and the Third Annual New Year's Progressive Indian Feast

Look who was in the purple chairs!
I mentioned a few days ago that New Year's Eve is one of the highlights of my year. This year, I had even more cause to celebrate.

Two of Mum's and Dad's "kids" came to spend the New Year with us. Dudley and Solomon took time out of their busy lives to travel from their homes in the States to visit Dad and all of us. They arrived on New Year's Eve and brought all of us, but Dad in particular, so much joy. We had Solomon for only two days, but Dudley stayed a week. The times of food, fun and fellowship were sweet - bittersweet at times, as we remembered Mum, Dudley's Dad, and Solomon's Mum and Dad, who have all gone on to meet each other in Heaven. (If the conversation was lively down here, I can only imagine what was going on up there!)

The celebration started on New Year's Eve. BA picked Solomon up from the airport and after breakfast at Deb's place in Calgary, brought him and Dad back to Three Hills. With our dear Norma joining us, we had a light supper in the TH ...

... and then we put Solomon to work!

Putting cups and saucers
away on the Wall of Great China

As the evening dipped toward 9 o'clock another sibling arrived from Calgary with Dudley, who had had an exhausting day's journey to make it in time for New Year's Eve at the TH.

You already know that we played games, we sang beloved old songs and we each drew a promise for 2013, which had just broken the surface moments earlier.

And we talked and laughed, remembering the old days (Dudley: "Karyn, remember Kumbulgud, where you tried to teach us how to swim?!").

Playing Catch Phrase - harder than it seems!
Dudley's first cup of tea at Nilgiris:
Tiger Hill, of course!
Solomon could drink coffee from
morning to night ...

Char trying to figure out what
on earth Deb is talking about

Finally, when Dad started nodding off in the corner, we thought it was time to shut it down for the evening and grab a few hours of sleep before embarking on Deb's great tradition of the Annual New Year's Progressive Indian Feast - this would be our third!

The next morning, shortly after 10, we slowly and blearily began to congregate back at the TH for my favourite part of the day - Indian breakfast! This year there was a bonus because we had invited our dear friend and "adopted sister" Zeba and her family to join us for breakfast ... and Zeba had said she wanted to make puri bhaji, some of Dad's favourite food in the world.

She and her two eldest sons arrived - Navaid was on call at the hospital and Amma and little Sam were a bit under the weather. Zeba disappeared into the kitchen to join Deb, and Allan and BA swept Saad and Asad into a game of Take Two ...

Samosa queen!

Fastest hands in the west ...

Take Two
Sonnie supervising ...

Puris and idlis - the little TH kitchen
 was so happy!
Time to eat! The best food in town bar none
this New Year's morning ...
The cooks and the pretender

We gathered for a moment of thanks and then, in true self-sacrificial fashion, the women let our men folk help themselves first - and it was worth it to see their faces! "The best food we've eaten in a long time!" seemed to be the consensus.

All too soon after breakfast we had to say goodbye to Zeba, Saad and Asad, who had to go check on the invalids and deliver food to Navaid. How grateful we are to him for coming to Three Hills and bringing his wonderful family!

Packing up food for Amma and our faithful
doctor on call!
We have so much for which to
thank this country that has
brought us all together

Before we could feel too bereft, the Calgary contingent arrived in the form of Spilsburys and Matthew. Deb whipped back into the kitchen to heat the curries and vegetables for lunch; BA made lassi, and Bronwyn put out the pakoras, which were immediately pounced upon with great delight.

Sonnie made sure we knew what year we were embarking upon ...

Allan slipped home to pick up his carrom board and his beautiful wife (how she found the pieces is still a source of amazement!). From then on the next few hours hummed with the clicking of the striker hitting the carrom men, always with an eye to the Queen, and punctuated with shouts, laughter, groans and high fives. Powder sputtered fitfully into the air.





Although we finally persuaded them to take a break for long enough to eat some of the best kanna any of us had had in a long time, I venture to say that this year, the carrom board was almost as much of a draw as the buffet table!

Lunch buffet

Allan poured sweet lassi and we happily filled our plates with saffron rice, chicken curry, lamb vindaloo, brinjal bartha, aloo gobi, dhal, parathas, pakoras and raita.

Thanks to this woman for a feast fit for a maharajah!
After lunch we played games to wear it off - 

Okay, some of us did ...

 Soon it was time for chai and sweets - kir, gulab jamun and jelabis - and an opportunity for Dad to catch up with some of his children.

The kir was that good!
Fortunately the coffee hadn't run out ...

When you're in charge of a tea house,
how can you not
rejoice in a man who loves tea?!

Matt even regained possession of The Couch
for a short time ...

... until the cousins connected
As the evening crept up on us we instinctively drew together in a circle; someone handed out song sheets and we started to choose our favourites. Allan led the singing for the most part this year - Dad's throat and lungs had been bothering him - and we sang songs most of us had all but forgotten until someone called out the title.

As the last notes dissipated in the suddenly sacred space, Dad got up and handed the youngest, Oliver, the framed Psalm 1 to read aloud for us:

And then Dudley prayed - he prayed for each one of us in the room by name, asking God to bless us in the coming year. He prayed for his family and for Solomon' family and for Sonnie's family and for Paul's family and for Angie's family too.

We sang a closing chorus and then those who had to head back to Calgary started reluctantly to pack up their things and say their goodbyes.

But just before we called it a night, Dad and Solomon had one more tradition to see through together:

In honour of Jacob Chelli - Solomon's Dad and one of Dad's greatest friends - the two of them sat and ate dhal, white rice and plain curds. This was Jacob's favourite food and whenever possible he would end his day with this simple repast.

Those who have gone before were very close to us in those moments.

But that was not the end of the celebration! The next morning Deb made uppuma and took it over to Dad's home for breakfast. This would be Solomon's last day with us, and we stayed close to home and to each other.

Later that afternoon, as Solomon was about to leave for the airport, the guys wanted to stop at Mum's grave to pay their respects.

The moment was too sacred for pictures as they stood there in the snow and talked about how much Aunty Pat had meant to them. Dudley placed some Christmas flowers gently in the sparkling snowflakes that sought shelter at the base of her beautiful tombstone. Dad prayed briefly, almost a benediction, and then it was off to the airport to say goodbye to our youngest Chelli brother. Please, Solomon, come and see us again soon. Your visit was a precious reminder of the deep bond our families share, a multi-threaded bond that cannot be broken.

The next day it was off to the mountains for some of us (others of us had to work!) to show Dudley the beauty in our back yard.

Time for lunch in the Storm Mountain Lodge!

Out of many children who came into Dad's and Mum's lives, Dudley was particularly close to them and especially to Mum, who had had a great influence in his life. We reminisced about times we had spent together on this earth; and he told us of a dream he had shortly after his own father had passed away. Dudley asked his Dad who he had met in heaven, and Dad responded by listing some family members. 

"What about Aunty Pat?" Dudley queried. 

"She was one of those there to meet me when I arrived," was the answer Dudley received from his father in his dream. 

The second last night of Dudley's stay Dad, he, BA and I had dinner in the TH. We relaxed over hot roast beef sandwiches and chatted together with the ease of people who know you, who know where you come from and where you are going, who can glimpse your heart.

Then, all too soon, it was the night before Dudley had to leave to go back home; it so happened that we had the Manor Bible Study Christmas dinner that night, otherwise known as the Oldies' January Christmas party. Dad had Dudley sit beside him and introduced him to all our old friends as a much beloved friend and almost-son. Then he asked Dudley to ask God's blessing on the food. As Dudley prayed I realized the great influence that Dad, too, has had on the life of this wonderful man.

Right after the dinner Dad, Dudley and I climbed into the car and drove to Calgary in preparation for taking Dudley to the airport in the early watches of the following morning.

It was hard to let him go, this brother of our heart. His visit was one of spiritual refreshment and deep joy. He has suffered much in his life, and yet he is radiant with the love of God and manifests deep confidence in His faithfulness and mercy.

Saying goodbye - for now
As I reflected on the gift that the presence of Dudley and Solomon was in our family's launch of the new year, I was made aware afresh that it is primarily because these two "brothers from other mothers" and we share the same heavenly Father. It is He who can create bonds that go as deep as flesh and blood.

And boys, while we're at it and all still here on the earth together, I am also willing to share our earthly father with you as much as possible!

The last word goes to Angie. As our New Year's Eve celebration closed out, with teardrops sparkling at the tips of her eyelashes she whispered, "This family is so sweet."

And then she looked up at Dad, who was walking over to her, and she opened her arms wide.