Blue Christmas…One Year in Virginia.

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Christmas 2013

 

 I see an empty place at this table. I see a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.

That empty recliner.

It hurts my heart.

On the night of December 19th, 2012…we arrived back home in Virginia. On the 25th of December 2012, my Daddy had sat in that chair, ready for Christmas. Now, here we are one year later. And that chair is empty. I suffered three losses this year. All of them major. Two are private and I will only share them with family at this point. But one…one I will share with you all.

This year was a year of many things, all jam packed into one fast paced year.

I took him for his first hair cut in months, that’s his (our) Redskins jacket hanging on the coat rack by the door.

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He taught Bear how to use the Snow Blower…from the comfort of his recliner inside the house. Bear would have to run inside to asks questions.

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Dad would say “You’re doing a great job, buddy!!” and mean it.

We took my Dad to see the Nationals, the Baseball Team for Washington DC and the surrounding areas.

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President Washington wins the base race!

He would spend a couple times a week at my house, enjoying the scenery and being waited on hand and foot. 😉

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We would go for drives, his favorite thing in the whole wide world to do.

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We would go grocery shopping together, and take a moment to stop and enjoy a particularly gorgeous VA sunset.

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He would laugh at me when I asked for change to ride the horsey outside the Grocery Store.

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Sometimes, he would be too weak to go inside the store. So I would leave him in the car with the windows down and tell him “Now, be a good boy! Don’t bark at people!” and he would make mad barking noises as I walked away.

And then…it all stopped.

My Father, the greatest man I have ever had the privileged of knowing (outside of my loving husband), passed away on September 5th, 2013. The family was by his side as he passed. My Step-Mom held his right hand and I held his left. My husband by my side. My little brother and his wife sitting next to me, my Step-Sister-In-Law by my Step-Mom and my Aunt at the foot of my Daddy’s bed. My Brother-In-Law was five minutes late and to this day…his heart breaks with the loss of not being there to say goodbye.

My Daddy was put in the hospital at the end of June. Eight weeks later, he was finally well enough to be transferred to a rehabilitative therapy center. He was on dialysis. He had lost too much weight. He still had moments of delusions and hallucinations. The chances of him making a full recovery were slim, the chances of him going home ever again were even less.

My Daddy put up a huge fight. He stayed as long as he could. In a moment of clarity, he even declared that he needed more time.

But he had been sick and in pain a long time. It was time for him to rest.

I spoke at his funeral. As did my little brother and my Step-Brother. I’m going to share what I spoke with you all, I’m removing his name and replacing it with ‘Daddy’.

Once Upon a Time…

That’s how most of my Daddy’s stories began. From as far back as I can remember, to as recent as a month before he died.

I could stand here and tell you a great many things about the man who was my Father. Many of them you would know, some you may not. But to me, the most important thing about him was his heart. I feel it was most easily seen by the stories he would tell. Sometimes they were for fun, maybe they were to make a point, and other times they were to teach. But every single time, they showed his depth of his character and his great gift of love.

The one he told me the most often was one about me. I used to think it was just an amusing story. A remembrance. Now, looking back on his life and how many people he meant something to, I realize it was much more than that.

Here is that story…
Once Upon a Time there was a NOISE.
When “Gori Rajkumari” was just a little girl, with hair longer than her dress, she decided that she was mad enough at us to run away.
So she packed her little suitcase with her favorite pajamas and stuffed animal and walked out the front door.
But I ran out the back door, to some trees between our house and the neighbor’s house.
When “Gori Rajkumari” arrived, I said quite loudly “OOOOOOooooo”…and she slowed down.
Again, I said “OoooooOOooOO” and she stopped.
Once more, I said “OOOOoooOOOOO!” and she ran for home.
I beat her there and was waiting at the door when she said “I’ve decided to give you another chance.”
And I replied “That’s probably a good decision.”

You see, my father was wise enough to know that he couldn’t force people to change their minds but he might be able to influence them in different ways. No matter what, he was always proud that you had come to the decision on your own, by your own volition. I could have kept walking, straight to our neighbor’s house…and I believe he would have been just as proud of me for that as he was for me coming home.

His life. His purpose. His morals. They all touched so many of us, in our own unique ways.

No single story belongs to just one of us. We all have an “Daddy” Story to tell. But as much as we have an “Daddy” story, I know that we also have an “Daddy” lesson.

Somewhere, at some point…he gave us more than a smile and a laugh. He shaved off a piece of his wisdom and shared it with us. To carry on.

“Daddy” loved many things in life, his family, his work, his sports, and his causes. But I think one of the most important legacies he gave to us, were the stories he told. These stories taught us something without us even realizing it.

The stories showed his love for life. They showed his love for us and ours for him. When we tell others, he will live on through us.

These stories are what make my Daddy immortal.

So….Once Upon a Time, there was a man named “Daddy”…

There was also a poem that one of my Father’s good friends read at the service. It was one that had comforted my Step-Mom and when she had shared it with me and asked me if I thought it would be a good verse to use at his service and on his memorial cards, I wholeheartedly agreed. It speaks to me.

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads his white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. he is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch him until, at length, he hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, he is gone.”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. he is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as he was when he left my side.
And, he is just as able to bear his load of living freight to his destined port.
His diminished size is in me — not in him.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, he is gone,”
there are other eyes watching him coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “here he comes!”

And that is dying…

For years, my one greatest fear has been what would happen to me when my Daddy died. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend it. He had always been my best friend and my first love. He was my moral compass, my sounding board, my biggest fan, and the character in which all other’s were measured.

I felt like a little lost child, left out in the rain.

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How was I to possibly live in a world in which he didn’t exist?

But so far, I am existing. It’s a different life. It is not an easy one by any means. I’m anxious and on medication for panic attacks which I had never had before. Depression lurks around every corner…I stave it off with light and laughter. But I also fear that I am holding off the heart breaking task of mourning for my father. My Step-Mom says that I must be patient with myself, that everyone grieves differently. To let it come as it comes.

But I fear I am not doing it right.

My Doctor says that my anxiety is coming from pent up emotions.

So obviously, my grief is mashed up inside there, cramped and shoved down…

Christmas.

This year I was manic in my shopping. I adopted a senior and a child in need and spent the love and money on them that I would have bestowed on my Daddy.

I spent the day with my family. My Mom, my Husband, my little Brother and his Wife, my Aunt, my Step-Mom, and my Step-Brother and his wife.

I did not cry.

We all recollected stories about my Dad. The funny things he said and did. The Christmas Gifts we had surprised him with over the years. A saw, a coat, a pair of glow in the dark crab boxers.

We shared love with one another.

So…this is my second post this year. It is also my last for 2013.

I hope next year is better. I hope I can come back and write more. Share life with you all. Inspire. Challenge. Grow.

Till then….

Happy New Year my friends and loved ones.

Till we meet again….

©2013 Gori Rajkumari

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Prelude to a New Beginning

A park near our new home, on a rainy day adventure.

A park near our new home, on a rainy day adventure.

 

For a long time I stared at this blank page and wondered where to begin, at what point of our new beginning I should start from, and I came up as blank as this page was.

But then I realized that I needed to start where one story left off. Because really, it’s why this new chapter had to begin.

My Father.

He suffered, recovered and then dealt with all that Esophageal Cancer can give. He had chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries. He had double pneumonia. He had Liver dysfunction. He had many infections. And through it all he was his positive best.

And I was a mess. Sitting in India, waiting for a sluggish US Immigration system to finally accept that my marriage was real and give my husband his green card so that we could join my family in the US.

Finally, our struggle was over and we began packing our lives up in to 10 suitcases, purchasing plane tickets and preparing for our long journey to our new home.

We arrived at Dulles International Airport on December 19th, 2012. My younger brother came in our step-brother’s large truck to help us cart our entire luggage home. It took two hours to clear Immigration. It felt like a longer wait than the Green Card was. But finally we were cleared and with the help of a very nice attendant, got everything loaded up and was ready for our final two-hour trip home.

When we arrived, my father was in the hospital. He had edema and severe liver dysfunction. He was hospitalized for four days. He finally came home two days after our arrival. Frail and thin and with very little energy, I found that the ashy face of my father no longer the positive one I had known.

He suffered from extreme anxiety and depression. We couldn’t leave him alone in the house for longer than 5 minutes without his having an attack and calling us from his cell phone. He couldn’t get out of bed on his own and fell several times in the night. Bear and I set up a schedule where we all took turns, my Mother, Bear and I, to get up with him in the night to help him to go to the bathroom.

He began to lose weight rapidly. From the time he was released from the hospital to January, he weighed 140-145. By mid to late February he weighed in around 135 and we began new doctor’s appointments to find out the cause. He was getting B-12 shots every 2 weeks. Getting blood work. Having tests run to find the reason his Liver was leaking proteins. He had no energy and began sitting in a chair all day long, snoozing during his favorite TV shows.

By March first he weighed in at 128 and we were terrified. Finally, one of his doctors ran a fecal test and found that Dad had C-Diff. It’s an extremely contagious infection of the lower bowels that does not allow nutrients to be absorbed by the body and causes severe diarrhea.  Dad, already taking 15 medications daily and complaining bitterly about each little pill, was put on yet another medication to help clear up the C-Diff.

After two rounds on of the medication for C-Diff, he was finally deemed recovered. His weight was up to 133. After another week, they felt he was strong enough to have a biopsy done on his Liver.

Back to the hospital he went. I stayed with him for 9 hours. Through the biopsy. Through admission. Feeding him when he was hungry because the meds they gave him made him weak and groggy. Then I went home to rest. We learned from the biopsy that his Liver dysfunction is normal and due to long-term diabetes. It’s stabilized and they have changed some of his medications around to help delay any further damage.

Now he’s recovering, if but slowly. He’s going to physical therapy to help gain back muscle that he lost and to a psychologist to help gain back his mental strength as well.

He’s driving himself again, if only for small trips. We no longer have to have someone stay at the house with him. He’s fine being left alone again. He’s able to get up in the middle of the night on his own. This last one is in no small part due to Bear.

Bear spent every moment with my Dad, watching him and analyzing. He came up with ideas to help Dad eat differently (and not get so tired or choke while doing so). He found a way for Dad to lay on the bed that would enable him to get out by himself. He encouraged Dad to use his arms for support when walking, touching the walls or furniture. He reminded Dad about his medicines or to drink more liquid.

Bear also had to care for me. I ran myself ragged during those first couple of months back home. We lived with my parents for some time to help them get strong again and to give my Mom a break from caring for my Dad 24/7. I ran up and down steps 6-8 times a day. I made three meals a day. I cleaned and then cleaned again. I did laundry, washed dishes, vacuumed, changed bed linen, washed the tub, picked Dad up off the floor and then got up to do it all over again the next day.  I began seeing ways that my Dad was taking advantage of this. If I was there to ask, then he would…knowing I would do it. But then it robbed him doing it for himself and showing that he COULD to something to himself.  We began to argue. Me begging him to do things I KNEW he could do and him crying that I just didn’t understand what he was going through. Guilt.

And so I landed in the hospital myself. I was in the ER for 8 hours while they checked to be sure that I wasn’t having a heart attack. No, it was a severe panic attack. And so it was that I too was put on anti-anxiety medication.

But Bear. My loving, considerate, intelligent, patient, wonderful Bear. He was all our rock. He was stalwart against any storm we brewed. He took care of us all. Even while he spent hours a day applying for a job, he would drop that to go when Dad or I called.

My husband is perfect. Have I ever mentioned that? Yes? Well…it never hurts to remind someone.

So now, Bear has a wonderful job that he is very happy with and only 30 minutes away from my parent’s home. We moved into our own home the first week of April. We’ve moved to a lovely and very small town 5 minutes away from Bear’s work.

We can hear the birds singing, church bells chiming and the water in a small brook behind our home.

It’s clean and peaceful and the air smells like fresh-cut grass or newly bloomed flowers.

Everywhere you look here, it’s a painting. A picture of perfection and beauty waiting for you to behold. We never get tired of looking about us and thinking how good life is. How peaceful. How serene.

So that’s it.

That’s my story up to date. It may be a little thin on the details. Never fear, I’ll get around to telling those soon enough. The joys of packing a life into 10 pieces of luggage with weight restrictions and nothing but a body scale, for one.

But I wanted to take a moment to check in with you all and let you know that I haven’t forgotten about this blog or any of you, faithful readers.

I just need some time to settle in and calm down.

But rest assured the time is coming soon that I’m going to have some tales to tell.

 

©2013 Gori Rajkumari

 

 

 

Moving but not Leaving…

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December 19th, 2012. On that day, I will have lived in India for 3 years, 1 month and 28 days.

It also marks the first day of our new lives in the US.

Yes, we are moving to the US. No, we don’t know for how long…potentially indefinitely.

I am excited and happy to be arriving in time to spend Christmas with my family after many years absence. I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends whom I haven’t seen in years.But….India. Incredible India. Really, I’ve sat here since we made this decision to move back to the US and all I can think about are the things that we will have to leave behind. Our friends. Our neighbors. The dogs. The food. The culture. The people.

But most of all…our family. They have given me so much. Anything and everything that I could want or ever hope for…our family here in India has provided. I will miss them above all.

I know that family and friends are still yours no matter where you go in this life. I am not leaving them so much as moving forward towards our next part in this life. But still…I’ll miss them.

And who knows what the future may hold…India and I will never be done. She has gotten into my heart and soul and will forever be a piece of who I am.

India has made me into a better friend, family member, wife, citizen and human being.

Incredible India. Yes…that fits.

DH and I will be flying out of India on the night of the 18th and arriving in the afternoon of the 19th. Yes…we are travelling in time. 😉

So that means, from today I have exactly 14 packing days to go. That means very little time for online activities.

I know…I know…I’ve been quiet for a while anyway. But I had a good reason. It’s called “Going through the extremely torturous US Immigration Visa Process”.

I promise to fill you all in the moment I get a chance.

And no…I won’t be closing this blog nor while I stop writing about India and my Intercultural Relationship. Mainly because neither are leaving my life, they’ll still be there.

There are still a lot of things that I need to tell you about, stories that I need to share, opinions that need expressing, vents that need venting.

But it will take some time to wrap up our lives here, to travel and then to settle into the US.

I promise though…I’ll document it and share it.

Till we meet again!

Sincerely and with so much Love….

Gori Rajkumari

 

© 2012 Gori Rajkumari

 

Vastu Puja 2012

Vastu, the protector of the house, embossed on a metal sheet, is then laid in a certain part of the house, out of sight but omnipresent.

Vastu, the protector of the house, embossed on a metal sheet, is then laid in a certain part of the house, out of sight but omnipresent.

 

Prayer or Pooja room – Vastu blessing

One of the most important areas in many homes is a zone of tranquility, a prayer or meditation area.

Vastu in Sanskrit means nature, a surrounding or environment. The word “vastuu” came from Vasthu, denoting anything existing such as house, shelter building etc. Shastra in Sanskrit means systems. Vastu shastra is an ancient art and science containing principles and practices of constructing buildings which ensures a harmonious balance between man and nature and brings happiness, health, wealth and prosperity.

According to the philosophy of Vastu, the north-east corner zone is best suitable for the prayer room or home temple. This area is considered to be the best for lifting one’s mind and heart to God.

Many families will place a small gold or silver token under the floor or tile of the furthermost north-east corner of the home to further protect the home and its inhabitants from imbalance and negativity.

Our family recently held a Vastu puja in our home. We had a tile person come in to cut a piece of tile out of a section of our flooring in which no one would tread. It’s important that this area is not a “used” area or that it receives any foot traffic. It also must be away from the bathroom and kitchen stove as well as being in the most northeast corner of the home.

We used a small gold token like the one you see above. It was placed in this hole during our puja. Afterwards, it was sealed again by the tile worker. The token has two sides…the side with God on it must be placed face down as he will hold the responsibilities of our home on his shoulders. His head must face northeast so that he can draw power from this and let it radiate throughout our home.

At the beginning of the puja, we must enter the home with our right foot. The lady of the home will use a beetle leaf and blessed water to sprinkle about the home. Each room must be attended to. The Pundit will recite the proper schlock’s and mantra’s during this time. This welcomes God into our home.

The puja itself is anywhere from 1 to 2 hours long. Ours lasted about 1 hour and 40 minutes. We must sit before a fire and do the necessary prayers to complete the puja. A Pundit guided us during our puja and chanted the proper schlock’s whilst describing the meaning for each with regards to this particular puja.

Most families will do this puja upon taking possession of a new home, but my DH and I have been so busy these past three years we have never had the opportunity to attend to it.

Now, with our families blessing and presence it has been done and we are feeling relieved and happy.

Since I try to keep this blog private as much as possible, I cannot show any of our Puja function pictures (we’re in all of them!!!) but I did find this lovely slide show from the Toronto Star!

You can also find it here: http://www.thestar.com/photoplayer/1242537

Does your family follow Vastu? If so, when did you do it and what were your experiences?

 

© 2012 Gori Rajkumari

 

Diwali 2012!

Happy Diwali 2012

Happy Diwali 2012

Popularly known as the “festival of lights,” Diwali is primarily a five day Hindu festival  which falls between mid-October and mid-November.

For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes.

The name “Diwali” translates into “row of lamps”. Diwali involves the lighting of small decorated, clay lamps called “Diya” which are filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil.  These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome.

Firecrackers are burst because it is believed that it drives away evil spirits, although many now are beginning to realize the deep environmental impact that the firecrackers have and instead chose to only string lights and more diya’s.

During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.

This year, my DH and I spent Diwali with family outside of Pune. We stayed with my SIL and her family. Aai, Baba and a few cousins also came for the celebrations.

It was a wonderful time, full of good fun, amazing food and happy laughter all throughout the house. SIL’s children are getting bigger and seem to be more fun each time we see them.

Aai and SIL joined in Diwali celebrations by being a part of SIL’s Society functions and competitions. They cooked and cooked and we tasted and tasted! Finally it was decided to go with one sweet and one snack. The snack was Kothimbir Vadi and let me tell you…if you’ve never had it…run (don’t walk) to the nearest place and GET IT! It probably won’t be as good as Aai’s and SIL’s but it will still be worth running out for!

Kothimbir is Marathi for Cilantro. This nifty little snack is basically made with fresh cilantro that has been chopped finely and then fried with masala’s, coconut and raisins and then placed onto besan masala flat bread, wrapped and deep fried. YUM!

Below is a representation that looks similar but if I showed you Aai/SIL’s Vadi…I’d have to…well you know. 😉

Kothimbir_vadi

NOT Aai/SIL’s Vadi…but close.

Aai and SIL won all their entered competitions with first place! We were so proud!

We also had a lovely family puja where everyone dressed up in their finest and newest clothing. Below is a close up of Aai and my sari…we wore the same color/fashion sari this year and didn’t even know it!

Our Sari's! I'm on the left, Aai on the right.

Our Sari’s! I’m on the left, Aai on the right.

Afterwards my DH and his brother and his children went out to light the crackers. I went to take some pictures and the one I used above it just one of many I took.

My SIL and cousins went door to door to distribute sweets and snacks. Aai and I stayed to receive the same from friends and neighbors who stopped by. We had enough so that we did not have to cook dinner that night!

After going to bed, the crackers continued on till the early morning. I was expecting to go outside and find huge amounts of paper from burst crackers littering everything like we see every year for a few days in our own Society, but the workers were already outside cleaning these up. When we left from my SIL’s city the day after, the roads were also very clean. Pune has a lot to learn!

So, that was our Diwali this year! How was yours?

© 2012 Gori Rajkumari

Coming Soon!

I’ve been away and so busy with family obligations lately, that I’ve neglected you all!

For that I’m truly SORRY!

But, I’ll be back tomorrow and will have all sorts of lovely updates for you.

So…just hold on till tomorrow.

Take care and Talk soon!