Archive for the ‘Real Life’ Category

Aspirations

3 Braid Bread

Today is the seventh anniversary of my Father’s passing. I have waited seven years for the full impact of his death to hit me. Assuming it would wash over me like a tidal wave, I braced myself for the sudden flood of grief and sadness.

It hasn’t come.

Instead, the initial shock and anger I felt towards the cancer that stole him has been replaced with admiration, wonder, and regret.

Admiration at the courage it must have taken to uproot his young family and move across the world. Wonder at how a humble young Austrian man of modest means could integrate – without assimilating – into Western culture. And regret that I can’t ask him everyday.

My own son is seven years old, born just six months before my Father’s death. I cannot escape the dichotomy of mourning one life withered while rejoicing the blossoming of another. The two occasions are perpetually united; 2003, the year I became a Father and lost my own.

Having survived World War II, my parents were not fleeing any iminent danger in Austria, but rather they had the wisdom to see that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Whenever I asked my Father about why he chose to leave Austria and come Canada, he would dismiss the question as ridiculous. Although I knew the text book record of World War II,  I could not comprehend the reality of a raveged Europe and  fractured culture. I probably still cant.

To my Dad the answer was obvious:

It was all he could do for his family.

Divided by ocean, generation, and culture, the course of our lives was and is so very different. I am a first generation Canadian, spoiled by the richness this country offers. Like many children of immigrants I carry a self imposed guilt of unearned affluence. In my teens I clashed with my parents because I felt it unfair that I should feel indebted for being born in Canada.

No-one, not my parents or siblings ever thrust this guilt upon me. Rather, It was my reaction to what I interpreted as my parents sacrifice. Since having children of my own, I now understand that parents don’t succumb to sacrifice, they are driven to provide.

Though so different, I am everyday amazed at how similar my Father and I are. And how much more like him I want to be.

It was not until his final days when I rephrased my quesion to “Was it worth it to come to Canada?” that he gave me an answer.

He simply tallied the outcomes. My parents lived comfortably. His children we all healthy, educated, in love, and prosperous. It was not easy, and he never expected it to be.

I understand now that what matters to me is not overcoming the burdern of one’s circumstance, but the resolve to fulfill one’s aspiration.

My Father’s aspiration was to protect his family and produce healthy, educated, happy children.

Thanks to him, I aspire to do the same.

Pictured above; braided challah like my Father taught me to make. This one was made by my son and I.

The Luxury of Loss

Joni Mitchell said it best: “Don’t it always seem to go/ That you don’t know what you’ve got/ Till it’s gone…”.

It’s true that hindsight is 20/20, and that our appreciation for things grows over time, but with age and experience I am learning to spot a good thing when it’s right in front of me.

Sometimes though, it still takes a good kick in the ass to make me sit up and take notice.

At a time when I would probably not have otherwise considered a change in career I am suddenly compelled to focus on uncertainty, next steps, and the stress of navigating from the way it is, to the way it’s going to be.

To make a long story short, my current employment situation is in flux. My department is undergoing a much needed overhaul, which in the fullness of time I must admit offers the promise of more productivity and efficiency. In the meantime though, it has shocked me out my routine and has initiated a great deal of soul searching.

Being a realist I accept that at anytime my ‘job security’ is 50/50. At any point I can choose to walk away. Conversely, I’m not so arrogant as to think that no one else could be found to do my job. It’s a cold equation.

What has come as a surprise however is that despite recent distractions, I still love going to work. Everyday I tackle challenging problems which are stimulating, rewarding, and fun. I have access to the tools I need to be creative and productive in a boisterous, supportive environment. Best of all, I get to do it with a group of people I am proud to call my friends.

I think I make casual friends easily, and I’m sure most work environments spawn healthy camaraderie. However our alliance seems different than any professional relationship I’ve experienced before.

While different in many ways, together we are greater than the sum of our parts. We spar with each other in good times, and rally around each other in the bad.  We are a team of Straight-Men (and Ladies), none of us willing to surrender the punch line. We wage combat with relentless verbal jousting and mordant comedy. Always with admiration, never with derision or contempt.

We do our work with a glib nonchalance that is often mistaken by observers as carelessness. To each other though we expose the breadth of our passion, and our commitment to getting it right. Outwardly bashful, afraid of appearing to care too much – we recognize ourselves in each other.

And there’s the rub.

While I scramble to manage the obvious practical considerations of career path, income, and security I am also aware that I am not at all prepared for the possible end of this collective friendship,  – or rather – kinship.

I’m confident that we will always remain in contact, but we will never be as connected as we are now.

On one hand I feel better that I have taken this time to collect my thoughts, Yet, I know it will not cushion the blow when it comes.

Maybe it’s true that we will not really understand what we have until it’s lost. Perhaps we understand it too well. Maybe, that is the luxury of loss.