Friday, December 26, 2014

The first Christmas without dad

Yesterday was the first Christmas day without my father here. It was so strange, it was sad at various times in the day and we didn't like the feeling - my mother, sister and I. But now, the day is over and I never thought I'd say this, but thank God it is. I always love Christmas, but yesterday, this entire season was too much at times.

I wonder if we'll ever get accustomed to not having dad here? I imagined him at various times throughout the day, what he'd be doing if he was here. What he must be doing in heaven now.

I believe in heaven, and I believe he's there. I just know it to myself, that he's ok. And anytime I feel terribly sad I always get a little mental relief, I don't know where it comes from, but soon after I always have this thought that dad would not want us to be unhappy, he would want us to continue what we were doing. He would want us to continue living, in his honour.

Still, it is the hardest thing to move on without those we love not being around to share in our joys and sorrows.

Everyday is a mental struggle, and some days are harder than others.

All my family and I can do is try, that's all we can do - try.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nobody tells you how to feel about death

Nobody tells you exactly how you should be after a death in the family.  Some offer limp words of advice, others don't say anything at all. A random few say things they don't mean. Everyone is hoping that in some way, they can ease the pain, subdue the loss that death causes.

Those who have been through this before all have the same weathered, sad-eyes. They all say the same thing - it doesn't go away, the pain, it just becomes more tolerable.

Death is that one thing that makes everyone uncomfortable, no one wants to face it. No one wants to admit that it even exists. We all just hope that death will skip our house and hit the neighbour's house instead.

But death comes to us all. It's just a matter of time. And with that in mind, it dawns on me, maybe it might occur to you someday as well, that most of what we concern ourselves with in this life is just pure and utter nonsense.

No matter who we are, what we've achieved, what's missing in our lives, what we still have left to accomplish, all our unfinished business, all our desires, fears and dreams; all of that death will take.

Death will level the playing field when it takes away from this life what once existed, but now no more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My dad's Eulogy

Paul Martin Mohammed was born August 26th, 1932 to Faiz and Violet Mohammed, although his mother swears his birthday was 19th of August instead. So our dad had two birthdays that we celebrated. His father died when he was just 24, and his family converted to Catholicism thereby adopting their mother's maiden name – Emmanuel.

Our father became the informal 'head' of the family after that, the man of the house. It's a role he would keep until his death. He would call his siblings regularly to check up on all of them, and whenever there was a problem, his sisters and brothers always called him for advice. He would make it his duty to ensure his siblings were happy, if they needed anything, our dad would do his best to get it done. Even if he was tired or sick, our dad did everything and more for those he loved so dearly.

Our father was a family man. Mom used to say dad never wanted to go anywhere, but then again he wasn't out drinking with the boys either. He used to tell us that mom was a catch that he couldn't let get away, he met her by chance back in 1969, delivering a letter from a mutual friend, and that was it, he was hooked. But he had one small problem – his mother-in-law to be (our late grandmother – Avis Cuthbert) wasn't too fond of him, but she would eventually warm up to him, it only took 29 years.

Mom and dad lived a very simple, relatively happy life. Every year when we wished them 'Happy Anniversary' on February 7th, they would always say 'Oh shucks, it's today?' Which means they forgot every year.

When we were kids, our evenings and weekends were usually spent in the Queens Park Savannah flying kite, playing cricket, baseball or football. Sundays were beach days. Saturday nights were treat nights – KFC or Royal Castle. We did everything as a family.

Dad loved sports, he knew everything about cricket – he would watch every test match, analyzing the plays and mistakes, I always told him he'd make a great coach, but he never took it seriously. He once rang up Sir Wes Hall on the phone when there was a cricket convention in Trinidad and made a few suggestions. I asked him after if he knew Wes Hall, and he said 'Nah, but he seemed like a nice guy'. Dad was bold like that, if he wanted to call up a famous cricketer, he would. No inhibitions.

He was an avid baseball follower, any team other than the Yankees was his favourite. He loved his football, we would try to catch every Barcelona game, he always cried when Leo Messi scored. Sundays was golf, all day. He always got annoyed whenever Tiger Woods won.

Dad cried for sports, he cried when talking about horses and of course his favourite movies. Dad was very free with his emotions as he got older to which mom would say - 'stop being so emotional Paul!'

But his growing emotional side also meant that dad gave the best hugs. We hardly ever cross paths with him just outside the kitchen without being stopped with a “Where's my hug?” followed by a long, enveloping, 'I-got-you-kid' embrace.

Opera was his music of choice, he knew more about all the various composers and opera singers than anyone we ever met. Del Monaco, Gigli, Pavarotti and Bochelli were his favourites. He loved jazz, he was a huge fan of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.

Our father lived life exactly how he wanted, he ate ice cream every night, he never worried about diet. We always thought he never worried about anything much, that he was the happiest man alive. But he always worried silently about those he loved.

In the last ten years, dad became a professional practical joker. He started asking cashiers everywhere he went for 'GHD'. At Laughlin & Degannes, they made a service announcement over the PA system to see if there was any GHD in stock. There was none in store, and so when the cashier asked him what it was, dad simply replied 'Grey Hair Discount'.

He rang the bakery department in Tru Valu supermarket and asked for 'space pies', because the pies they were making had more space than meat in them.

Dad once got into a skuffle with a piper (neighbourhood petty thief) over some force-ripe zaboca (avocado) he had bought a week before and when the guy asked him if he wanted to fight over the two new zaboca that dad was claiming as free compensation for bad goods, dad simply replied 'I don't mind'. Dad came home huffing and puffing, proclaiming proudly that he had just gotten into a fight.

He sometimes parked in the handicapped spots if there were no other options available, and proceeded to get out of his car and walk with a limp, much to our distress. He once parked in the VIP section at Piarco airport, putting on a Latin American accent and pretending to be from the Venezuelan embassy.

A few years ago he had to collect a parcel of books at Customs & Excise for mom, when he arrived he was told that the customs officer was on lunch and he would have to wait an hour. He sat down, but got back up quickly, explained to counter staff that he was a heart patient and he wasn't feeling well, could he please get the package now? He was told he still had to wait. So he went and sat back down, and began to make facial expressions (holding his chest) until the customs officer rushed out with food in hand and signed the package to which dad quickly and happily paid the customs fees and left with mom's books. When he got home, he was almost crying as he told the story, as if he had just won an Oscar. Mom was not pleased at all, he just faked having a heart attack.

Our dad loved politics, he watched Fox News all the time to see what 'the Right-wing enemy' was up to. He started calling various talk show programs on TV and radio to argue points about religion and politics. He knew a lot about history and all the various wars. He was our living historian.

One day, he stumbled upon the 'Adopt A Pet' program on Power 102 FM. On that day, when they were trying to find homes for dogs and cats, dad told them he'd like to get a wolverine. He waited about two weeks and then called the show with his greatest masterpiece. He told the host that a few years ago, him and his uncle came back from an African safari, they managed to smuggle a baby elephant in his suitcase, greased the hand of a customs officer and thus brought the baby elephant to Trinidad. The elephant was very happy living under the bed, but now, it had gotten too big, had jumped up on the bed, breaking three mattresses in the process, and now it was so big it couldn't fit out the door. And so he asked the radio hosts, 'what should he do?' He was laughing until he was crying as he related the story to me, the hosts just kept laughing saying 'Caller? Caller?', till they hung up. However, he complained, they hung up just as he was going to tell them that he had eleven ostriches in the yard and the children were pulling their necks and jumping on them like horses.

So if anyone of you have time on your hands, please call Power 102 on a Thursday afternoon and ask about the guy with the elephant, I'm sure dad will have a good laugh.

Dad, I only hope you've managed to continue your great sense of humour in heaven, I look forward to hearing all about it someday in the long distant future.

Thanks to all our family, friends and to all the strangers who contributed to our campaign to help raise funds to recover dad's medical expenses. This was a nightmare for us that we never saw coming. Thanks to all our loved ones for your support at this time, it's been a real source of comfort to us. Thanks to all the doctors and nurses who looked after dad. Dad visited Cuba in 1959, and oddly enough, most of his nurses both at St. Clair and Mt. Hope hospital were Cuban, maybe they were his guardian angels coming to take him home.

The day after dad transferred to Mt. Hope the sky was dark and grey every day, and ever since his death the sky has been a beautiful, radiant blue. I can't help but think that his soul is free, and that he's smiling down on us.

Rest in peace dad. Thank you for everything. We love you.

The worse thing happens to my family

I have not blogged since August. I was in Canada for a bit till the end of summer, then I was in Trinidad for most of September. I returned to Toronto just before October, and then my dad got sick.

It all started October 2nd.

At first we thought it was the mosquito-borne virus - chikungunya. But the tests came back negative. He had fever and stomach pain. He did an ultrasound and CT scans and it was confirmed he had a gallstone and his gallbladder was infected and needed to come out. He checked into a private hospital on Thursday, October 9th, because we honestly thought it was a simple surgery and he'd be out by Monday.

We were wrong.

His surgery went well the following day, although his gallbladder ruptured spreading sepsis throughout his body, and on Saturday, October 11th he started hallucinating, late that night he began having trouble breathing. I flew back that night to Trinidad, only to arrive to find my sister in a panic - dad needed to be moved to the ICU.

At 9am on October 12th, dad was moved to the ICU, where he was diagnosed with ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). He was on a full ventilator. He was sedated as there was a tube down his throat into his lungs helping him to breathe. He was stable, but his lungs were full of fluid. Added to this was the fact that he only had one functioning kidney at 40%, which could complicate matters. The next few days were critical.

My sister and I would go visit him about three-four times daily. He was awake but sleepy. His lung xrays were not looking any better, but he was breathing more on his own. However, any attempt to take him off the machine was futile as he started getting bronchial spasms. The ICU doctor couldn't understand why.

In the meantime we were amassing a huge medical bill. We desperately tried to move him to a public hospital, but there were no beds available in the ICU. We waited. On October 21st, my dad underwent a tracheotomy because the tube was in lungs too long now - eleven days and his throat was inflamed. His surgery was delayed till the evening. It went well and he was resting.

October 22nd - we transfer him to the ICU at Mt. Hope public hospital. We wait hours to see him, the doctors there give us a grim outlook, but we hope that with his new trachea tube that he will recover. Because the hospital is a good distance from where we live we take turns going to visit him. Mom is also not able to visit as she's suffering with chronic pain. It is hard for her to be away from him, to not see him, he's her main emotional and physical support.

On Sunday October 26th, dad is very alert and bright. He was breathing up to nine hours on his own. There is hope that he will be out of the ICU by end of this week.

Monday takes a turn for the worst - a new infection causes his blood pressure to plummet, he goes into cardiac arrest. I wait an hour and a half to see him, he looks terrible. His eyes aren't focusing. The doctors have stabilized him but his blood pressure is very high.

We get the prognosis late Monday night and it really doesn't look good, too many complications.

My mother, sister and I don't sleep a wink that night. Finally at 7am the next day, I get the call from the hospital - dad is slipping, please come as soon as possible. It is at that point that I break down. The sound of hopelessness is a terrible wail, and beyond painful to endure. But it's the only sound I can make.

My sister stays with mom - she needs help walking anywhere in the house. A friend drives me to the hospital. Dad is slipping away, quietly. His blood pressure is decreasing, but the doctors tell me that he is comfortable, he's not aware of what's happening. His kidney is not producing urine, his heart is not pumping blood throughout his body. The machines are keeping him alive, but he's unaware of what's happening. Perhaps that is the best way to go? To slip quietly away?

I pray over him, cry over him, anoint him with holy oil and tell him, the hardest thing anyone will ever say to a loved one, that 'it's ok to go, go home to Jesus, we'll be ok. We love you dad'.

I leave the hospital, and no sooner I reach back home do I get a call from the ICU doctor - dad has passed. October 28th, 2014 at 82 years of age.

We're in shock, family start pouring into our house. How did this happen? What went wrong? We would have to wait a few days to get the answer.

The surgical team has requested at autopsy and after a miscommunication between myself and the doctors about what's the proper procedure, the post mortem gets done on Friday, October 31st. Dad died from a recent heart attack, hypertension, sepsis shock, organ failure (kidneys mainly), fluid in the lungs and severe coronary artery disease. All these things wrong with him and we never knew. He never made a fuss. He was the happiest man alive.

No wonder he was having a hard time recovering from ARDS, his body wasn't able to cope. It was hard to see him with all those tubes and needles in him. This was his first surgery and he didn't survive.

It's been two weeks now since his passing. We're in shock still, but every day we find something to laugh about, something dad said or did, and that eases the pain for just a little bit.

Losing a loved one is never easy and we take solace in knowing that this sort of thing happens to everyone at one time or another. We're also holding on the fact that he's not suffering or in pain anymore.

Time supposedly heals every wound. But we will always miss you dad.

In the wake of his passing, we still owe the private hospital a fair bit of money and we are sorting out dad's affairs, and suddenly life is a rush, suddenly we are dealing with death and life without my father.

And I know, it will never be the same again. I wake up first thing in the morning with the thought 'Dad's not here'

I wonder when that will ever change.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dream the dream, even if the actors change

The hardest thing in life is to follow a dream. Some folks don't have any dreams at all. Others don't know where to start. Most are too afraid to fail or succeed or even worse both. The few that stick with it inherit a double-edged sword to live by. On one hand, if you don't do anything with the dream, it rots inside, eating you away. Bitterness consumes you and the excuses made are the lies you feed the public to keep their questions at bay. However, the other option is an unmapped road figured out solely on your own, stumbling through the dark with a faulty torchlight at best.

And where do you start? From whom do you seek advice? How to separate the genuine help from the snakes and sharks?

All these questions with no correct answer.

There is no true and tried foolproof method. It's got to be made up as you go along. The only way to fulfill your dream is to simply do. Nothing else to it. Find a way to make it work. It doesn't matter if you make a substantial living via your dream. Who cares if you're not known by thousands of people for your work. The only thing that matters is that you continue to live your dream. Living the dream is the end in itself. Because no matter where you are in your pursuit, at least you're still trying to bring your dream to life. And that dream is you. You were born for one purpose - to become your dream. Nothing else. Don't just fantasize about having this dream. Give birth to your dream. Don't put it off for another day. Begin now.

That's why it hurts so much to watch it die. So don't kill your dream. Not even for the sake of stability. That word technically doesn't exist in the working world. It's just an illusion. People with stable jobs get fired all the time. So don't get stuck in the stability trap.

All you need is one thing – a willingness to try everything that might help further the dream. That's all. Be open to your dream. It will speak to you.

Your dream is alive, didn't you know?

Sometimes the stone you might consider throwing away may very well be your solid foundation to stand on. Open up that head of yours and accept whatever might come your way. Try something new everyday that will help grow your cause.

Keep it simple.

You can, if you like put your dream on hold for a lil bit, but please pick it back up. Your happiness depends on it.

Don't expect to travel the same path with your peers. They will have their own agendas and a time will come when you will part way with family, friends and partners. That's ok. It's all part of this journey. The actors and the scenes, even the geography may change, but your dream stays the same. It is your dream after all, not theirs.

Start small, don't jump headfirst, baby steps. Your dream may never be more than a hobby, or it could become a full-time career. It maybe seasonal. Whatever the particulars are, make it work for you.

Be happy with your dream.

And when the time comes to take flight with your dream, pack your bags but do pack light. You'll travel faster.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Now that's something nobody really likes to accept. The fact that we will fail more than once in life, over various things or even worse, the same thing numerous times.

Like my favourite footballer - the great Leo Messi found out on sunday, we all have to accept defeat at one time or another. No matter how badly we want something. I so wanted Argentina to win, for Messi to finally dispel all the talk about him not being as good as Maradona or Pele. I was born long after Pele retired and I was just a kid when Maradona won the world cup back in 1986. But I've watched Messi religiously the past three years and what astounding footwork he has. I've never seen anything like it. And yet he'll have to hope and wait another four years for a crack at the World Cup.

Failure is crippling. Failure and the fear of it can keep us trapped for what seems like an eternity.

I learned last week of my failed attempt at attaining my diploma from the Associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). I sat the exam in April. I prepared the ten pieces over two years, I struggled and laboured with my flawed technique. I had to drop two pieces because my right-hand ring finger kept jumping (it seems electric guitar playing is not the best thing for proper classical guitar technique). Funny enough this summer, I found a way to fix that said finger and have started playing both pieces better, albeit at a slower pace, but definitely more consistently (go figure).

For the exam I also prepared my program notes based on my recital, had my teacher look it over as we discussed at length what questions might  be asked.

But what I didn't really focus on was my sight-reading. Oh sure, I practiced it a day or two a week, but not everyday, and not for very long. I was so worried about getting the pieces correct in time that I neglected sight-reading. I was convinced that I had read enough with all the new pieces I had to learn. And that's what did me in. I had five minutes to look over the piece in the exam, seemed simple enough and I did try it through. But when it came to playing it, I was a wreck. I started and stopped a number of times. It was inconsistent and certainly incorrect. It was a mess really.

And so when my results came back, after waiting almost three months (the higher exams - Dip, LRSM, FRSM are reviewed by a committee in England), the results were a follows - I had a clear pass with my recital, my program notes and subsequent interview, but I failed my sight-reading and hence I failed diploma. All three sections must be passed.

I was so sure I was going to succeed. I was so wrong. What a shock.

I so wanted to pass, I had this whole trajectory in my head, DipABRSM by 2014, LRSM by 2016 and FRSM by 2018. Then I could properly apply to be a classical guitar lecturer at a University. That was my dream. And now, it's off-target. Now it's uncertain.

But I have no choice - it's either to remain stagnant, give up and accept the fact that I might never be great at sight-reading, or to forge on no matter how difficult it is for me, and try to at least get good at it.

If it's one thing this summer has taught me about my technique - it's only when every angle is tried, when every possibility is looked at, and when pieces are attempted very slowly such that the problem is identified and solved, only then is success possible. I never thought I'd solve my ring finger problem. And yet now, it's almost gone. And I wonder why didn't I think of this solution before.

Now, I just have to apply this same mind-set to sight-reading (yuck, but seriously). Sight-reading you will become my best friend very soon. Because you're the only thing that stands in my way now. And I'll be damned if I let a bunch of "swigglies" (what my students call written sheet music) on a page scare me to death.

I will re-sit my diploma exam in 2015 and I will do my utmost to pass, no matter what.

Messi, I hope you will be in the best shape of your life in four years time and that you will get to bring home the World cup to Argentina. You deserve it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We create and sometimes add to our own private hell

Unknowingly, we become our own worst nightmare. We manifest our problems. Subconsciously unaware of what's happening around us, we build a life based around problems and suffering.

And we justify our suffering as part of our existence. In fact, if there were no suffering in this life, if there was no stress, no unpaid bills, tragedies, sickness; then quite frankly we as humans wouldn't know what to do with ourselves.

Countless limitations that exist only in the mind serve well to keep us rooted in 'reality', a reality that we create to a great extent.

There's obvious facts that none can deny - we will all someday die. But the question is, how exactly will we live in the meantime?

Will our lives be a stressful or a peaceful one?

Will we succumb to a physical illness and just accept it as fate? Along the way will we load up our lives with so much material possessions, debt, eating disorders, unhealthy diets, substance abuse and reckless living that before we know it, we are sick and have to spend a fair bit of time and money trying to undo our own mess.

Sometimes life throws us a curve ball in the form of sickness, but it's how we deal with that very sickness, that's the key to ensuring our survival. How do we adapt to what's out of our control?

Life has a way of sending us warning signs when things aren't going right, and the question is - do we ignore the signs and live as if nothing is happening, or do we shift our focus, try to solve our illness, and rebuild our lives in light of everything?

When I keep quiet and mull over all the thoughts in my head, even the darkest ones and counter-argue those thoughts with new ones, then I see things differently. And I see how I contribute to my own hell.

I see how I have made my life miserable at times. It's very disturbing and liberating.

I know I've just begun but at least I've found my way out of my own mental hell.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The life you knew and the one you wished for

I remember back in 2001 when I was engaged, finishing my undergraduate and working in a stable company and feeling almost absolutely unfulfilled in my life.

Now, thirteen years later, I am single, without a 'regular' stable job and other than the want of a consistent 'salary', I am living the life I dreamed of one day having but didn't know how to get it.

I am a travelling musician, with no place to call my own. I am a guitar teacher without a mortgage, no wife and kids (and perhaps that is the only thing missing) and a modest list of responsibilities.

It may seem careless, but truth be told I have the world of worries.

I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder who am I? Where and how did it all change? Would I, could I change back to a 'normal' life? What about certain milestones that people should attain by 40? I don't have those achievements. What would/do my colleagues think? Some of them have done so much better than me financially.  Knowing what I know now, would I have made the decisions back then?

And the answer is yes, I wouldn't change a thing. All the experiences I've had since 2002 to now have been an adventure beyond my wildest dreams.

I was so unhappy in 2001 that I did what I could to make my life better, albeit not more secure.

But maybe security is overrated.

The trick now is making the dream be able to sustain itself, so I can carry on living this crazy, unpredictable, fulfilling life. The kind of life that only happens from being in the arts.

Do I wish I had a more normal life with a more simple schedule? Sure. Do I wish for stability? You bet.

Do I see myself meeting and one day marrying a lovely, kind gal who would understand (within reason) this umm, 'usual' way of existence? Yes. Hopefully.

Anything is possible in this life. I know that now, anything truly is.

I sometimes look back on my life and think 'wow! I was once there wandering around lost and unhappy, and now here I am!'

It's like living two lives.

What an amazing thing. This life.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Five-year cycles

I've discovered something recently, my life runs in five-year cycles. It's a pattern. Every five years, something earth-stopping happens and it changes my entire mindset, plan and direction. It's not a subtle change, it's a drastic makeover.

Almost without fail, the last ten years have been anything but conventional, to say the least.

I'm not too sure if it's been happening all my life, I can certainly not remember what happened to me when I was five or ten, and for that matter, I'm not too sure if 'it' happens in even or odd numbers. My cycle might've started when I was three or twelve for all I know.

All I do know, is that from 2002, my life turned upside down. My 'plan' was destroyed completely. I was finishing my Bachelors degree, and going to get married. Music was a small part of my life and I had no idea how to make a career out of it, especially in a foreign land. But, in April that year, I discovered my fiance was having an affair. Within two weeks, I applied to migrate to Canada, I just had to get out of Trinidad, I couldn't stand to be here. The following year, I left for Toronto.

In 2008, I decided to teach guitar full-time and travel more as a musician. Over the next five years I would spend time travelling between Canada, Trinidad, Europe and America. It was scary at first but this apparent 'unstable' career (labelled by some friends and family) became my life. I felt like a bit of a nomad, but I got accustomed to it.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with cancer and in an instant, my life's plan was stolen, and replaced with a new one.

Now, five months after surgery. I have changed my diet, I am getting regular check-ups. I'm trying to be more aggressive than my cancer 'friend' living in my body. I am still teaching guitar, but I almost feel as if I could be doing something else musically. I'm in a strange place, trying to figure out what's coming next. A summer tour is planned with KOBO TOWN, I'm gigging with a theatre group and I just sat my DipABRSM exam, so life is still moving along, in-spite of everything.

But one thing is sure, the winds of change are in the air. And I have decided to follow the wind rather than resist it. Change is hard, it's even harder when it's being made for you, then you almost have no choice but to follow through.

I saw a former lecturer of mine the other day, he told me ''In everything, put God first, talk to him constantly'. Then he said 'Forest Gump was right, life is really a box of chocolates'.

So, I'm in the next five-year phase of my life, by my calculations my next big shift will be 2018.

Unless, of course my cycle changes to a three or four-year pattern, then I'm really screwed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

You can never go back

We all have this habit of looking back at the past and wishing we were still there. Funny thing is, we were probably not fully enjoying that moment anyway when it was happening back then. It's only appreciated when it's gone and some worse experience comes along, so in it's relative state, the past was great only when compared to the present.

It's like when we leave a place - home, for example, and dream of coming back one day, only to realize that it will never be the same. It might look the same and certain aspects of it may well be exactly as before, but it's not.

Things have changed, you've changed. Home, then outside and now you're between two worlds, with a different view.

It messes up your head, this double-sided view. You're not too sure which one is real, the old picture you had in your head, or this new reality of what once was, now all but lost to the idolized memories in your head and heart.

Your friends change, they move on with their lives, you move on, you all grow apart, you meet new friends, you change career paths, you don't see much people anymore, you stay indoors pretty often, just writing and practicing your craft. And suddenly, you look back on the last ten years of your life and wonder how many lifetimes are you living - one or three?

Perhaps it's all the travelling? It's a time-zone thing. While you're outside people at home have no real clue what you're doing. And when you're home, the outside world carries on just fine without you. You straddle two-worlds and live three places - here, there and on a plane.

You yearn for stability, but miss the fun of the road. You suffer withdrawal syndrome and homesickness, all in the same week. The old stable, 'safe' life seems like twenty years ago. Friends admire the freedom and risks but would never do anything so crazy with their lives - forego safety to pursue a dream that is not secure nor financially viable.

Your father tells you that you have to stick to the path you're on, too late to turn back now. The new you was born out of a love tragedy, you don't even recognize your former self. You wonder how differently your life turned out from what you had initially planned. But in all objectivity, it's pretty darn nifty, albeit a bit scary.

The new you loses heart sometimes and lives in constant fear of being a failure and dying alone.

But it's too late to hit reverse.

You can in fact, never turn back. This is a one-way fare your purchased and your ticket in non-refundable. The old life has disappeared and along with it, the old job, the old safety net, and a life of predictability.

Anything can go wrong at anytime and you have no control of what comes your way, only the response given.

The slate is almost wiped clean again and the road is pretty much open.

Where you go next, it totally up to you.

How scary indeed.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Life changes in a blink

I read somewhere that 'Life is what happens when you're busy making plans', but then again, nothing can happen unless you have a plan of action to begin with.

It's a bit of a contradiction really. Focused, new-age individuals will tell you that a proper plan and positive thinking will help put things in priority and then, almost like magic, good things will come your way, you will 'attract' everything you need for yourself and you will live happily ever after.

Like magic. Poof!

I'm not too sure if I ever believed in that, the whole law of attraction thing. Maybe I'm a bit of a pessimist, but I just honestly thought that hard work was the key, then the good opportunities will come your way when the time is right, when you've earned it, and you could make the most of it.

I honestly thought the messy part of life, that part could be avoided, once I had a good idea how to manoeuvre around the mess. My plan you see, was preparation.

But I was wrong, because in the midst of making plans for my life, I got sick.

And just like that, all my plans were thrown out the window of my life.

In the aftermath of my cancer surgery, my mom started getting sick. And now, in a matter of months, my life has changed almost completely. What I once knew is no more, I'm not sure if it will ever come back - my old life, the way it was, it disappeared from me like a thief in the night.

One day I was fine, next day I had cancer. One day my mom was healthy, next day she was in chronic pain.

All I can do now, is hold on to what was there before and pretend to carry on as if nothing happened. Pretend to live my life as normal as can be.

Everything is just a passing phase, that I know. But I'm not particularly fond of this phase of my life. Without warning it came. It landed on me while I was minding my own business. Without regard, respect or kindness.

That's life I guess, take the good with the bad. Turn lemons into lemonade.

To say that it is a stressful time is an understatement.

But one thing's for certain, my life changed for the worse. At least for now.

I am trying to find the reason for all this, the silver lining, the lesson that life is trying to teach me, but I just simply cannot.

This is the part of life I wish I could get a refund on, or an exchange voucher or something. If this part of my life was a movie, I would fast-foward to the good part, just to see how it would eventually make sense.

For now, it doesn't make any sense at all.

Now, all I can see are the aftershocks from the earthquake that stole my old life.

And it changed in a blink.

Monday, March 24, 2014

You never really know someone, ever

I'm always amazed when I find out something new about a person I know. Like when I hear my dad re-tell stories of his youth, I'm in awe most of the time, other times I'm laughing or crying, or both. When I hear what my mom's childhood was like, when I hear tales of my ancestry.

It makes me feel that I have so much more to learn about the people whom are dear to me, that I will never truly know enough about them.

I feel that way about everyone, and yet I never ask them enough questions, I just assume the minor details about them and their history and how it all fits in with my life.

Friday in Vermont, I was reminded of just how naive that assumption can be. The band was in Vermont to play a gig, and our drummer Rob - who has been with us from the start - the true heartbeat of this band, started to play the piano in our green room.

Usually I fumble through the opening notes of 'Head over Heels' but not Rob, he played various classical pieces, extensive, complex works. He took piano lessons for ten years, never sat any exams though. But his technique was very solid. I sat there in utter amazement, along with our bassist - Don, we were both speechless.

And then we went and played our set, and Rob became our drummer again, holding it down onstage.

But for thirty minutes before that, he was a pianist and we, for a change were his audience.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Suddenly you were gone

An old school-mate of mine was murdered almost four weeks ago.


He didn't die in a car crash, not by a heart attack, not taken early by disease. He was brutally murdered.

We were good friends for about two years in high-school and then we lost touch after graduation. That's part of life I guess, people drift apart and move on. We all assume rather naively that we'll stay in touch, and that we'll always be involved in each others' lives throughout the years.

He ran his own company - an anti-theft car retrieval service. He wanted to do something positive to fight crime in Trinidad. He was going to be the change that he wanted in his world. His name was Rawle Francis.

Rawle paid for that 'change' with his life.

Crime here is out of control and the most that the authorities can say is 'new initiatives are being worked on the combat crime'. Sounds reassuring doesn't it? Whatever initiatives that are being deployed certainly are not working. As of March 2nd, the murder rate for Trinidad stands at 91 for 2014, in a small country of some 1.2 million people. I'm pretty sure that's higher than the murder rate of all of Canada - a country of 30 million.

Rawle leaves to mourn a wife and three kids. The details of his murder are sketchy. To date no leads have been made in his case.

I wonder if his murderer felt any compassion at all, any remorse after reading the obituary. I wonder how could someone be so cruel, so wicked, so heartless.

At Rawle's funeral, there was a fair number of old Fatima boys - his classmates. His family look devastated. Who wouldn't be?

All the old boys greeted each other and stayed back to talk about what had happened and life in general. Some of us went for a drink in Rawle's honour. Some guys I had not seen since 1990 when I graduated.

I don't know if Rawle's killer will ever be brought to justice because of our terrible excuse for law enforcement and legal system here.

This country needs a lot of prayers and a concrete plan to combat crime on many levels, to deal with the root causes - trouble in the home, the breakdown in family life, unemployment, training and education programs for unskilled youths at risk, and initiatives to help those living below the poverty line find a better means of earning a living. Not just an increase in police vehicles. That's just dealing with the symptom and not the problem.

And yet, no government seems to have the common sense to understand our crime situation. They've all just dealt with the problem when it occurs. Like a reactive, clueless idiot they behave and hope that the country will be happy with their 'solution'

God help us all, because the government doesn't know how to save this country.

Rawle, rest in peace my brother. May your death not be in vain and may your killer be brought to swift justice.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What divorced parents don't know

My parents are still married, 43 years later. They've had some rough times, and they've had some laughs along the way, but they're still together. So that's one thing I am grateful for - married parents.

Today is their anniversary and as my sister and I wished them 'Happy Anniversary', they both said the same thing 'Today's our Anniversary?' It was the joke for the evening.

Many married couples don't last and I can understand why. It's hell really. It's hard work, all the time.

And very shortly, after I made my choice to teach guitar I became painfully aware of what some of my students have to endure in the lives, as young as they are, with their family life.

Yesterday at one of the schools I teach, one of my students, a nine-year-old started telling me how his parents got divorced earlier in the week and how he is stuck in the middle of this battle with his parents telling him secrets about each other. He almost cried and I did a horrible attempt of trying to change the subject and console him.

I should've done a better job of being there for him, but I had no idea what to say, other than 'it'll be okay in time'. How silly did that sound? What the hell does that mean? He probably felt so lost and asked for my advice and I just tried to console him as quick as I could.

Not because I didn't want to be bothered, but I really and truly, had no idea what to say to him.

I had no idea.

I can relate to why parents would want to split, but they must realize one thing - it is a terrible experience and feeling for their children.

Parents - your children want you to stay together, no matter what.

Please parents, do what's best for your children.


Friday, January 3, 2014

A good friend sent me this