Writings

Grief Journal

He used to call me, “sweet cheeks”, “hussy” (inside joke), his “squeeze” and, of course, “babe”. When he was trying to be funny in front of his brothers, he would call me, “Puneet” instead of Taneet, and then I would reply with, “who the HELLLL is Puneet?” and we all laughed.

Sometimes he made me laugh really hard. Other times I made him laugh really hard. Lots of times we both just laughed and laughed, especially with our daughters. There were little things about me that he mocked which was actually hilarious to me. For instance, when he found out my family’s nickname for me has always been Mattu (pronounced ma-two if you don’t have an Indian accent), he (being a big Star Wars fan) called me “R2-D2”. Or whenever I made my weird Chewbacca sounds he echoed it so loud that my belly would ache from laughing. He knew how to be extra silly, and I think it came out more around me and our girls. He could be really quick-witted and I loved that about him.

The thing about having a partner/spouse is that you get to see all sides of them. Others only see just their professional side, or sporty side. I saw who he was as a son, a brother, a father, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson. And because we worked together in the same office, I also got to see him in the role of a manager, co-worker, businessman, and all-knowing insurance/sales guy. He showed me his vulnerable side time and time again. Outside of our home I knew when he was pretending in front of others and when he put up his walls. That’s what marriage is. Seeing, experiencing and accepting all truths, the ones nobody else sees.

He taught me so much. I knew nothing about sports when I met him. I was just a nerd getting through life with my nose constantly in a book. But he brought me into the world of horse racing, football, baseball, hockey, soccer. So I wouldn’t get bored when a game was on, he explained every rule, not to mention background stories, biographies of the players/coaches and history of the teams. Before I met him, I never attempted to reverse park. But he taught me how. And to this day, I still use his technique. And whenever Soca/Reggae/Calypso/Caribbean was on (and it was on a lot) he explained what the lyrics meant and where it all originated from. Since I didn’t grow up watching shows like The Simpsons and King of the Hill, he made sure I dove into that world as well.

He was basically obsessed with his brothers and parents. After we started dating for about two months, he asked me if he could introduce me to his family. He wanted the two things he loved most to come together. I became as attached as he was to his brothers; it was hard not to. They were an extension of him.

He loved wearing plaid. Actually, much of his plaid collection came from me. His favourite football team was the Denver Broncos (fave player was Peyton Manning, number 18), his favourite soccer team was Real Madrid (fave player was Cristiano Ronaldo, number 7 – which is also his birthdate), which reminds me; he loved soccer so much that a couple of days after our second baby was born and we were still in the hospital, he asked me if he could go home for a bit to watch the World Cup. I was like, “reeeeallly, dude?” (in my head though – but on the outside I just smiled and nodded because I knew how badly he wanted to see it. I did roll my eyes so hard that I’m pretty sure I felt it in my c-section stitches!)

Also – he was unusually obsessed with ice. Every morning he woke up, walked to the kitchen, opened the freezer and popped a few ice cubes into his mouth and chewed them very loudly. And he could not get through the morning without asking me to “squeeze” his head. I usually didn’t mind it because he had such soft, thick, lovely hair before having to get ready for work and putting that Axe hair product in it.

I knew what his favourite meals were that his mom made; spinach and chicken, and pumpkin and shrimp, but we both shared a deep love for Mexican food, specifically burritos, tacos, fajitas and quesadillas. When we wanted to really treat ourselves, we would look at each other and say, “BURRITOS FROM CHIPOTLE.” It was our thing. He also loved when I tucked him into bed so tight that he was a human burrito.

Just as I saw all sides of him, he saw all sides of me. He saw me in my truest form; a really messy, emotional nerd who hoarded books, documented everything and spoke in too many accents.
He always knew when I was in the washroom taking a poop because I would flush more than once (sorry – TMI) and he would say, “droppin’ a deuce in there?” and turn on the fan because the switch was on the outside of the washroom. I still remember the first time he farted in front of me when we were still dating, he just casually said, “excuse me”, but the first time he heard me fart was in the middle of the night when Annabella was a newborn and I was rocking her to sleep. He looked up from the bed and asked, “did you just fart?” and mortified, I said, “noooooo, that was the BABY.”

We could complain about our family members to each other, or talk smack about certain co-workers, and share our “dutty” jokes with each other (i.e. that’s-what-she-said jokes). Oh, he loved the show, The Office and Michael Scott was his favourite character. But he wasn’t into it as much when Michael left the show.

We shared a mutual love for Batman. I’ll never forget when we went to see The Dark Knight Rises in theatres. Our favourite scene was when all the bats emerged as Bruce finally escaped that cave. But again, he taught me a lot about superheroes and the original comic book stories that I didn’t know growing up. On the day of our wedding reception (which was two days after our ceremony) he pretended to be Christian Bale driving the Tumbler (in his Nissan 350Z) and yelled to me, “RACHELLLLLLLLL! HANG ON RACHELLLLLL!” And when I was on maternity leave, every morning when he left for work I would send him a quote from a Batman movie to his work email so that he would see it as soon as he got to the office.

The sweeter side of him told me I was beautiful, gorgeous, and recognized my strengths and talents. One day at work, I used my lunch break to walk around the office and get people to sign a birthday card for my team leader that I had made out of bristol board, and when I got to his office, he said to me, “this is what makes you so special.” He would tell people how easily I could personalize things through my writing.

He helped me pay off my student loan early in our marriage. Most of the downpayment for our condo came from his many years of savings. He used his line of credit to buy me and our girls a car after we separated. And when that car was totalled in an accident, he was the one I called first and the one to bring me home from the hospital.

When I got food poisoning at work one day, he was the one I called to pick me up (this is when we were separated) and he brought me home (to the condo we all used to live in) and then picked up the girls from daycare. We all stayed together that night and the next few days. When I fainted twice from having literally no energy or food in my system, he was the one who lifted me off the floor and carried me to bed.

Some of my favourite gifts from him are: one year for my birthday, Disney re-released Cinderella from the ‘vault’, as the Diamond Edition, and knowing it was my favourite, he got it for me; another time he got me a Kindle because I love reading (and also because he thought it would stop me from buying so many books – I didn’t stop by the way); a little Flamingo pin (which is currently sitting on my dresser), a tiny bear made out of glass with my birthstone in it for mother’s day, a random bouquet of flowers, and my absolute FAVOURITE; tickets to see Aladdin live in theatres, where I cried during the “a whole new world” scene and he looked at me and said, “are you CRYING?” and I said, “shut up.”

Of course, there were much darker times in our marriage which led to our separation, but after some time apart, although we lived at different addresses (five minutes away from each other and eventually an hour away from each other), we still managed to stay connected, every day. Mostly because of our daughters, but also because we were great friends. He didn’t agree with many things I shared through my writing, but he also made sure to applaud my parenting and my role as our daughters’ mother.

We worked together to ensure our girls knew we are still always a family.

I sometimes catch myself picking up my phone to call him and tell him something and have the sudden realization that he isn’t there to answer me.

And that’s when the pain hits.

I’ve read about the different stages of grief and mine are all over the place. It’s not linear and clear cut. One day I feel I’ve accepted his death. The next I’m screaming in my head, “HE CAN’T BE GONE.”

When I sleep, I dream of him – about him coming back to life.
When I’m awake, I see his face in the casket. And it’s like the wind gets knocked out of me.

I miss hugging him. He was so tall that my head was at his chest and my arms would wrap around his torso. We always greeted each other with a hug and kiss on the cheek whenever I dropped the girls off with him, and again when I picked them up. I always said, “I love you” before getting in the car and he always said it back. It was important to me that our girls saw this exchange so they understood, parents can be separated and still love and respect each other.

I’m remembering a time last year when I couldn’t sleep, it was around 3am. He couldn’t sleep either and he called me. We talked and laughed. I don’t know anymore what we said to each other but I remember a huge smile on my face.

photo from our honeymoon

Writings

Wandering, Withering, Widowing Words

There was a time when I believed in a god.

When I was a child I remember imagining a big man sitting in the clouds watching over all the humans. If things went right, we gave thanks to that man. If things went wrong, we said it was part of his plan.

I don’t remember when that visual entered my mind but I assume it had something to do with the media. I continued to believe there was a god, a male god, who just lived in the sky somewhere or whose presence was just part of the wind. I remember hearing words like, “why did god do this? how did he let this happen? why are people in the world starving yet others over eating? why is there poverty and war, etc etc etc?!”

I guess at some point I decided that human beings just needed someone or something to blame because they have no other answers for their questions. They were desperate.
I didn’t want to be desperate. I watched my mother pray every morning, before the sun was even up, my grandmother, my aunts. Praying, praying, praying. But their pain never went away. There was no one to take it away.

After I began questioning religion and why god had to be male and why we always blamed him for our suffering, I started to feel this connection to some sort of power in the universe. I started praying to the universe, to the sky, the stars, the galaxies. And at home, I continue to keep my paintings and portraits up of Guru Nanak, because He was an actual human being at one point who walked on this earth, and since childhood I felt a strong pull towards Him. Like He has always been a guardian in my life.

I’ve seen a lot of death. And I’m only 34 years old. When I was a small child, I knew about death because my mom often spoke about losing her mother at a young age and my father often spoke about losing his father at a young age. It was never too confusing to me, I guess I felt I just got it. They died.

When I was 19, I watched my 18 year old friend’s body be lowered into a grave. I saw the bodies of the parents my close friends lost. A few years ago I watched my mom’s only brother take his last breaths. He died right in front of us.

I always accepted it. And I listened when others said, “it was god’s will. It was in his plan. God works in mysterious ways. This is what god chose.” etc. etc. etc. etc.

I can’t anymore.

Three Mondays ago, I woke up feeling great. I texted Andrew, “good morning, how are you feeling?”

Still haven’t gotten his response.

My message was sent at 9:50am. He died 40 minutes later.

When I spoke to him the day before over the phone, I didn’t know it would be our last phone conversation.

People have been sending so many messages. So many phone calls. Flowers. Sending so much love. It’s been a blur. Like one really long day that just wouldn’t end.

I started to hear those words again, “god chose this.”

I keep quiet. Because that’s what I do. My anger, my pain, it brews in my body until my skin and bones can no longer contain it and it comes out of my fingers and onto this page.

Andrew was my co-worker, and then boyfriend, fiancé, husband, father of my children. We separated but never divorced. There were days I hated him and days I truly believed I could not live without him. That my heart would literally break without his love. During an argument one night in our condo, I actually threw a very heavy-framed wedding photo of us at him (I missed, fyi).

He was the first one to say, “I love you” when we were dating. He said it when he was leaving my apartment: got into his 350Z, put the window down and said, “you don’t have to say anything back, but – I love you.” And I just stared at him, like a moron.

Two days after he died was his 37th birthday.

37.

Not 73. He wasn’t old and grey and wrinkled. He was young and beautiful.
And he left behind two little humans who need him.

But god chose this. Right?

God chose this young father of two to just die one day. God chose for two sweet little girls to grow up without their daddy. God chose for their hearts to shatter.

Within the last 11 years, I’ve often thought about Andrew as a little boy — big radiant smile, and wished that we had known each other then and grown up together.

I didn’t get to grow up with him. Or grow old with him. My time with him was short. Only 11 years when I thought we had a lifetime. But I do get to see his little girls grow up.

He deserved to see that too. He deserved to see Annabella get as tall as him, one day towering over me and Talia. He deserved to see Talia become a teacher or a fashion designer. He deserved to walk them down the aisle and get through school and teach them how to drive.

He deserved to get old. I really wanted to see his thick head of hair turn into that distinguished salt and pepper.

But god chose this. No one knows why though. No one has that answer. But hey – we can blame a male-gendered entity up there in the clouds for taking my daughters’ daddy away.

Because we can’t fathom it. We cannot understand why one day he was right here, heart beating, and the next day – gone.

And now just ashes.

He isn’t here to tell the girls, “mommy is the captain of our ship.”

All I can feel in this moment is that our ship is sinking. And no spiritual entity, gendered or not, can stop it.
People think I’m strong. But it’s a lie. I’m in pieces. Broken and incomplete.

Was this all part of god’s plan?

Writings

Date Like a Mother

As DJ Khalid says, “and another one!”

I waited a full year before diving into the shark pool again. You know, the swiping and the messaging and the meeting. Then there’s the lying and the ghosting and the blocking.

Exhilarating stuff.

Once, this guy showed up high off his ass, wearing sunglasses indoors, jeans sliding down his non-existent waist. Inside of the RH Courtyard Cafe, he thought it’d be cool to take out his vape pen/stick/thing and start smoking around some very expensive furniture. He took out his phone to show me photos of his puppy and ended up showing me naked ones of his ex-girlfriend.

Ahh, the wonderful world of dating.

My marriage ended five years ago and because I’ve been a serial relationship-ist since the age of fifteen, I did not know how to exist as a single woman in her thirties, let alone as a single mother, who is also ostracized by the Indian/Punjabi/Sikh community.

Enter: terrifying dating apps.

No, dating is not what it once used to be.

I experienced love at first sight at fifteen, sitting on the couch at an Indian Aunty’s house, drinking tea with her and my mom, when her fifteen year old son walked in and we locked eyes. Of course, everyone labeled it “puppy love”, but we knew the authenticity of our feelings. And we assumed we would just be together for the rest of eternity.

Three years later I was accepted to a university four hours away from home. He asked me to stay. I didn’t. He married someone else.

Love happened to me two more times since; once with the boyfriend I had in university (whom I thought I would marry and I didn’t) and then with the man that I did end up marrying.

So, yes. Single. Thirties. Two Kids.

There was a small window that opened in which I saw myself finally settling down with someone. I even told my ex-husband about him. But it turned out he was cheating on me with one of my best friends who was cheating with him on her husband. Oh, and he “borrowed” thousands of dollars from me.

(Yes, you can definitely expect a novel about that one).

After my younger sister got married, I thought, “what the hell. It’s been a year. I’ve healed. This time will be better”, whilst love swirled in the air around me.

Nope. Nooooppeee.

Until….

I met Mr. Chivalrous himself: Prince Fucking Charming.

He held doors open for me. He looked into my eyes when I spoke. He complimented my accomplishments as a person, a woman, a mother, a writer. He told me how inspired he was by the many adversaries I’d overcome. He drove hundreds of kilometers just to give me a care package when I was sick (complete with Buckley’s, Thai soups and curries, a family-sized Nutella jar, chocolate, macaroons, cookies, a pink Orchid plant, etc). He paid for all our dinners and drinks because he thought it ungentlemanly of him not to. He always made the drive to make it easy on me. Brought a bottle of red wine with him. He laughed at all my jokes. We played a relationship card game called “Husbands and Wives.” He brought me roses, a balloon and a card on my birthday, because when he’d asked weeks earlier what an ideal birthday gift was, I said, “roses, balloons, and a birthday card.” He even made notes about what I need on my period! Finally, he asked me to be exclusive with him, wanting to see me more, wanting to know everything about me, wanting to get serious. I said yes. A week later he didn’t answer my phone call when he was supposed to meet with me. He said he was heading to Vancouver for work to deal with some issues.

You know. Work issues. It happens, right?

But, alas, Charming was not in Vancouver. He was in Toronto.

When I saw his Instagram story pop up on my dog’s IG and not on mine (I knew it was a good idea to have social media for pets) I texted him and … he blocked me.

And that, my friends, was that.

Swiping, messaging, meeting.
Lying, ghosting, blocking.
Dating.

Mind. Blown.

My news feeds are filled with couples posting their perfect photos and I don’t feel envy at what they share because there is no such thing as a perfect marriage or family. But I do, however, envy their unknowing of the vicious, bloody hunger games we singles call “the dating life.” They will always remember dating as something completely different. A courtship during high school. Meeting at a party. Office romance.

Not this.

My mother tells me not to question why this happened to me, but to ask myself, “what did I need to learn from this experience?” She also tells me I am worthy, I am kind and beautiful and wonderful. A good person who will one day be swept off her feet.

As much as I yearn for my daughters to see me being loved and respected by a partner, I fear that it will remain a dream. They are gonna grow up, move on with their lives and call each other every weekend to arrange who will be checking up on mom and all her random dogs.

Because there are a lot of cowards out there who don’t have the slightest clue how to date like a mother.

Anyone want a pink orchid?

Writings

Gratitude Journal

Why is it that when I sleep soundly, they are restless, yet when they sleep soundly, I’m wide awake?

I’m listening to my daughters’ light snores and even breathing, feeling at peace that they are next to each other, next to me. Several nights I tuck them into their own beds in their own bedroom, only to find them next to me in the middle of the night. But on other nights, like tonight, I do not fight their protests to sleeping in their own beds.

They don’t know this yet, but I need them more than they need me. Even when I do get a night when they let me sleep alone, I curl up to the same side of the bed, make myself small, and miss their small warm bodies sprawled next to me in deep slumber.

Just over two months ago, life was quite different. Parts of it, anyway. There were schedules and routines, timelines and curfews. Planned meals, packed lunches, pre-picked outfits. I only saw my daughters in the mornings for about an hour, and then in the evenings. On weekends there would be a hundred other things scheduled.

Now, we spend every moment together. Mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, weekdays, everyday. Weekdays and weekends really have no border between them anymore. Its all the same. Some weeks have been delicious. So many cuddles, laughs, games, fun. Movies and baking and eating and dancing. Planting and walking and colouring. Other weeks have been torture. Sibling rivalry, yelling, crying, stomping, slamming. Needing space, solidarity, sanity.

Meanwhile, the world we’ve shut ourselves out of seems to have fallen into shambles. Sickness and death and panic and disorder. More death. Fear.

We’ve finally started going out again, other than just walking down our street. Driving the car again, although the brakes make sounds now, complaining to me that I waited too long to put them to use again. We wear masks, take shallow breaths and quick steps.

One thing has been constant, though. Our own form of medicine, comfort, cure. Which is our hugs and kisses. So many hugs. So many kisses. Maybe more so than before. Despite what has happened moments before, or what is happening outside our home, we tell each other, “I love you”, we kiss each other. We hug each other, tightly. Sometimes we don’t let go for a long time.

Writings

Not Hiring Single Moms

– “Upper management doesn’t care if you’re a single mother. What they care about is if you’re here, meeting business needs.”

– “I’m not telling this to put you down but you do have the highest number of absences in this office.”

– “Can’t you find a teenager in the neighborhood to watch your kids?”

– “You’ve already used your personal days to tend to your kids. Moving forward, you’ll need to use your vacation days.”

– “Why don’t you go live closer to your parents?”

– “You’ll need to make up the hours you missed when you left the office for your kids.”

– “It doesn’t matter that everyone else here is fresh out of school with no parenting responsibilities, I’m sure they have other responsibilities.”

– “No, we are not able to change your shift schedule.”

Photo courtesy of Tintalee Photography


The popular term ‘working mom’ is a redundant one. Being a mother is a job on it’s own. Annabella asked me about 15 mins ago, “is it hard being a mom?” It is. Of course it is. Being a mom to these two girls though? It’s a dream. Really, it is. I get them to myself for three weeks? Dream.

The quotes above were said to me directly, verbatim, during the times I struggled to be 100% present in the corporate world and 100% present for my children. What I learned was: it isn’t possible.

I often spent my rides on the TTC after having these conversations, sobbing, huddled into myself, wondering if I’d ever stop feeling like a failure. Until one morning I literally could not get out of bed because of the heaviness. I knew if I continued on like this, killing myself to get to an environment surrounded by negativity and uncompassionate behavior, that the light inside of me would burn out.

I chose motherhood. By choosing motherhood it meant also choosing myself. If I am mentally and emotionally unavailable for my children, being there physically is meaningless.

I had to evaluate myself, inside out, head to toe and decide to heal so my daughters can look at me without evaluation and say, “We love you mama. You’re the best.”

Tantrums, tears and tattle tales are rough, however feeling worthless is worse.

Writings

Beautiful Fear

July 11, 2018

Another writer from my workshop group told me she hated public speaking but promised her husband she would face her fear. She said, “you have to do it, Taneet!” And so we both wrote our names on the list.

Photo courtesy of Humber College (Lakeshore Campus)

So here I was, hair clinging to my forehead and neck with perspiration, heart pounding, pulse racing, hands shaking. I read a poem I had written at 3am several years prior.

And the words danced out of my mouth delicately, pirouetting en detours, completing a grand jeté before the timer rang. I kept my head down as I absorbed the applause, into my pores, into my veins, shocked that I shared dark words from my heart with award winning/critically acclaimed authors, my living inspirations.

Regardless of how shit scared I was, my words had a voice of their own that did not falter or tremble the way my fingers did. They were not just destined to be spoken. They were determined.

 

Writings

Dear Narcissist,

You must’ve celebrated your birthday yesterday because, well … how could you not? You’re a narcissist.

You didn’t send any wishes my way on my birthday. That’s okay. You gave me a much bigger gift: a realization. What did I realize? That you’re a thief because you literally and metaphorically stole from me? That you’re a pathological liar because you cannot keep your stories straight? That you’re unreliable because you never keep your promises? That you’re manipulative because you gaslight women? That you have a superiority complex because you refuse to respect any authoritative figures?

Nah. I already had those things figured out. You were so obvious with them. All of the signs. They were always there. I just chose to ignore them.

Your actions allowed me to realize that I am not a victim.

I learned that humans such as yourself (ones who constantly take) gravitate towards humans like me (ones who constantly give). A leech of your caliber will suck their prey dry and move on to the next. Often times, there is more than one person at a time that you mindfuck.

My realization allowed me to forgive myself for trusting you; for being vulnerable. Because it means that I was brave.

So – thank you for that.

Forgiving myself was nearly unbearable. But I did it. Forgiving you though? It’s currently out of the question. Maybe when justice has been served and you’ve been put in your place (the fiery pits of hell), I’ll consider it. Maybe when I’ve spread the word about you and so many others like you, to prevent innocent women from being denigrated the way I’ve been, I’ll consider forgiving you.

My birthday wish for you:

May you lose sleep over your corrupt lifestyle. May you lose your sense of entitlement. May you become educated. May you put the needs of your children before your own. May you admit to your wrongdoings. May you shed your many layers of facades and lies, finding peace in accepting who you truly are (the scum of the earth). May you gain a sense of work ethic. May you give back what you have taken.

Life is a temporary thing. That’s why I’ll never allow a narcissist into my life or my daughters’ lives again. You, too, should consider that our days are not promised and that life is not guaranteed. You can pretend and pretend until you die, but you aren’t fooling anyone but your slithering self. Riding on other people’s successes does not make you successful. Stealing money from others does not make you rich. Believing your own lies does not make you truthful. You gotta face your demons like everyone else on this earth does, and put an end to being a demon yourself.

Sincerely, the best thing that ever happened to you.

Writings

Storyteller

So happy to share a blurb about me from She Said Notes (a journal for the art-interested, the feminist-minded, curated to connect the unexpected) in a piece I wrote for them! Please check it out here

Taneet Grewal’s passion for storytelling began at the age of six with many fictional/magical characters. This grew into a love for journalism in post-secondary for human rights issues. Over the past few years, her writing has centralized on mental health, abuse, and support/empowerment for females of all ages. Currently, she’s working on a few long-term projects in creative non-fiction. For now, you can read her pieces here.

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Writings

Bedtime Conversations

Annabella: Mama, are you upset?

Me: No baby, I’m just tired.

Annabella: I really hope you get some rest!

Me: Thanks, Bella! If only there were two of me….(sighs)

Annabella: (eyes wide) Two of you!?

Me: Well, if I could make a clone of myself, I would.

Annabella: (giggling) You can’t do that!

Me: But then I wouldn’t be alone.

Annabella: You’re not alone, mama, you have US.

Me: (heart glowing) I know, my love. I just mean I need another grown up to help me out sometimes.

Annabella: (embracing me tightly) You don’t need anyone but us, mama.

Me: (heart glowing. tightens the embrace. doesn’t let go.)