PANDEMIC

Yesterday seemed centuries away, as the once packed highway spelled of untold stories. Closed shutters, desserted pavements, empty shelves, combined with confused expressions…sparked reality. For there is yet tomorrow, which held uncertainty, as the ticking sounds of seconds matched racing heartbeats.

Dark clouds rumbling overhead, tugging at each other, as they looked down. Raindrops fighting against wipers, as though the battle had only just begun. Empty churches, offices, stores. What was once taken for granted is now an experience.

Tears trickled down as distance rolled on and on…my babies I cuddled once, was so far away. “One more day, week or months?” I wondered, praying silently, as my eyes flickered open with the deafening sounds of thunder followed by flashes of lightening. “A sure test! lesson learnt,” I whispered to myself, before sliding off the bed.

Written by Nalinie Najem…March 23rd, 2020

VALENTINE’S

“A moment, a time, a day, no different from the rest,” I thought, as I was awaken by…hugs and sprays of kisses. Looking up, to eyes so warm, yet hot with sparkles of love, my heart felt a tug, “am I dreaming or am I awake?” for not today, but everyday is Valentine’s for us.

Heart bursting with love, I trailed my fingers across cheeks and beautiful thick eyebrows, staring into eyes that warmed my soul. “I am truly blessed my love,” I whispered, for love was not a word spoken, but emotions expressed.

I love you my gorgeous, amazing and wonderful husband, so proud of you.

Written by Nalinie Najem…February 14th, 2020

MaMa

A warm smile, gentle eyes and a loving heart. A soft voice, fumbling with the english words to express love and appreciation, while it calls out, “Nal, we’re going out, do you need anything?”

My heart melts for no time has she left, without climbing the few steps, whispering those words. “Is this a dream or is it real?” I often asked myself, as I thanked God for blessing me with another mom.

You have continued to shower me with so much love and I thank God everyday for making me your daughter. Love you MaMa.

Written by Nalinie Najem…February 11th, 2020

A BUNDLE OF JOY

“A blessing, a bliss, a bundle of joy,” I thought, as I looked upon the face of an angel. Tiny fingers that clutched mine as eyes flickered open, “mommy, I am here.” Love that tugged at my heart…the new life, new soul, the world and the challenges.

My arms cuddled protectively, a promise, an instant instinct was born. A mother’s love that is beyond comprehension, to nurture and love. Stepping back to teach independence, strength and wisdom, only few to mention.

My baby is now 21 years old and I am so proud of his humble and loving personality, where family bond means the world to him. I miss you my love and pray for your continued health and happiness.

Written by Nalinie Najem…February 11th, 2020

WINTER

Beauty untouched…the snow that covered the driveway, sidewalk and steps, laying its cold cheeks on branches, hanging onto wires, dripping off roofs and showing the footsteps of squirrels, scurrying from trees to trees.

Like a soft woolly blanket, white and beautiful, yet icy cold to the touch, winter is here. “With every season that brought its beauty,” I thought, remembering the soft crunch under my winter boots, the light touch as my gloved fingers acted as wipers, running across the abandon box, covered like a snow gift, waiting to be touched.

Looking up, to eyes so warm, with fires of love, I pulled my scarf closer, thinking to myself, “I could never be cold ever again, for in the haystack, I finally found the needle.” I am truly blessed to have found my love.

Written by Nalinie Najem…January 15th, 2020

Nal; A journey through life. Book 2

Chapter 1
BLISSFUL

Stepping out of the plane and squinting at the bright sunlight, streaming down on my face, I paused and marveled at the absolute beauty of the tropical weather. Three months seemed forever, and I could not wait to get home to the children. For the first time returning home, I felt complete, independent and strong. Reflecting on the text I had read on my phone, just before boarding at Pearson International, I knew Ned would be there waiting. Instantly feeling uneasy, knowing he was going to explode throughout the drive, I thought of Kovadis, his warm love, amazing smile and mesmerizing eyes. I had to overcome the fear and be confident and strong going forward, collecting the two suitcases, I hurried through the doors.


“Oh, my heart!” I exclaimed, grabbing my phone to video tape Aidan as he proudly tried to walk in his new red rain boots with yellow stripes at the top. Guess it turned out to be his best gift, since he spent the rest of the morning walking the entire house, stopping at intervals to peek down in admiration. “I don’t think you will have a problem with your second child eating,” I teased Sarah, as she entered the kitchen, once more checking on what next there was to eat. Remembering the two months during her pregnancy, where she laid, too weak to walk, since nothing stayed down, not even water, I smiled, thanking God for his blessings. “Well now I have to make up for lost time, right?” she replied, grinning. I was so very proud of the daughter she was, forever supportive with her love, never thought twice about spending her weekends with her mom and younger siblings. Her words… “mom don’t feel guilty finding happiness, you have made such sacrifices and always placed us first, now it is time to focus on your life, live it for you,” her words had been the strong anchor I needed in moving forward.


Believing in honesty and facing the consequences, led to my very first fight with Kovadis, looking back now, I wondered how I could have been so naïve, not to see it was wrong for Ned to pick me up from the airport. Instead, I had felt hurt and wondered if I had made a wrong decision, for the very last thing I needed, was to live the rest of my life, proving myself. Tumbling behind the clothes in my closet, I pulled out the parcel I had kept hidden, Riyad’s 19th birthday was just a few days away, and it was time to wrap his gifts. “These will be from you,” I told Shakira, holding out the two Under Armour gym tops, as she entered the room, “we have to hurry before he gets home from work.” The following evening, a few of his friends were invited for dinner, games and sleepover, which he often kept, while I was going to enjoy fish, chips and live music, at Pegasus with Shakira. Guess that was his way of finding happiness through the confusion and pain that came our way.


“No wonder these boys love to plan sleepovers!” Sarah exclaimed, as she entered the kitchen, “homemade garlic bread, omelet and homemade pizza!” Riyad’s birthday breakfast being no different from the rest of occasions, I had awoken early as usual, to feed and lock the dogs in their pen, before Roberta arrived to clean the yard. After preparing her coffee and sandwich, I began preparing the usual breakfast I knew, Riyad absolutely enjoyed sharing with his friends. Like his big brother, he loved the simple occasions planned, having fun with friends playing their PlayStation games, board games and table tennis. Peeking through the glass French door leading to the living room, Sarah laughed, “half on the mattress and half on your sofas, think they will be up in time for lunch instead of breakfast!” Riyad had purchased a tennis table and placed it in the living room, leaving just enough space for them to place the extra mattress on the ground after pushing all the sofas against the walls. “Thank god I didn’t agree for him to buy the pools table instead,” I replied.


“Bama,” Aidan called out, peeking from behind his mom’s legs, eyes twinkling with excitement. “My little, precious baby! I exclaimed, bending to scoop him up into my arms and swirl him around, “Bama has pizza for Aidan,” I teased, taking him across to the counter where I had placed the hot pizza just out the oven, “Aidan wants pizza,” he replied excitedly. Pizza was one of the few things Sarah did not have a problem with him eating and because of that, I made sure pizza or macaroni and cheese, another of his favorite, was always made when they came over on weekends. Even though Sarah was very particular with him having all his vegetables, she knew that on weekends, his grandma usually spoiled him. “Bama will feed you pizza, then we will check if Aunty Shakira is awake,” I replied laughing, “let me enjoy you before she takes over.” I absolutely loved the way he tried to say grandma but pronounced ‘Bama,’ his baby voice and eyes filled with so much love, always tugged at my heart. “Relax time for me,” Sarah breathed out in relief, as she slowly swung in the black Basket Swing Chair with red cushions, that was in the corner, neatly tucked away under the steps, next to the back windows.


Riyad had enjoyed his two days birthday celebration, having a fun filled pre-birthday night and breakfast with his friends, then having the entire family over for dinner. Even though, on such occasions, I missed Adam and his family terribly, for the first time, having Kovadis in my life, made the tears disappear and the main focus of having my three children enjoy and continue to build the strong loving bond they shared, meant more. Everyone had to live the life they chose, teach their children the principles of life they believed and tears which once, constantly flowed, suddenly had no meaning. There was definitely no reason or excuse to hurt your mom and for the first time, I realized, all the months I had spent craving to prove myself, was wasted, for at that point I knew that true religion was genuine love, kindness and a pure heart. Even though I was so badly burnt with the worst pain possible, and at times had screamed and cursed, when the walls caved in, I remained ‘me,’ I continued to be the kind and loving mom, daughter, sister and friend, where no experience was going to hamper my personality.


“You guys will never grow up,” I laughed, as Riyad and Shakira raced towards the car, to see who would get to the front seat first. “Not fair your legs are longer,” Shakira usually complained, settling in the back seat. They enjoyed their morning and afternoon drives to and from Georgetown, where we usually played our music CD and sang at the top of our voices, especially Shakira. Her Grade 11 Examinations was just a few months away and she needed the distraction from the constant battle between studying, completing her assignments and finding time to watch a show. “Why can’t they use the bins placed at every corner?” I fretted aloud, it was the day after our country’s Mashramani celebrations and the volume of garbage left by viewers after the parade, never seized to disgust me. “Wish they could be proud of their country and keep it clean,” I continued, as the children laughed, knowing that was just the beginning of me fretting. No matter what economic problems our country faced, I was forever proud of it and the accomplishments of Guyanese worldwide.


“I’ll call and check if the other branch has it,” I replied, hurrying towards the phone. Because of the wide variety of vehicles in Guyana, there were days when we didn’t always have what the customer needed, yet the last thing I wanted was to lose a sale. Guess the determination I felt arriving to work and opening the business on time, also drove me to perform at sales, in the best way possible. Even though over the months, Riyad had learnt a lot, I continued to push for excellence, teaching him by example, no matter what the level, there was always cause for improvement. Assuring the customer that the spares would be delivered to our branch in fifteen minutes, I began writing his bill, thankful that I was not losing the sale of all the other spares he was purchasing. Glancing at my watch and realizing it was time for the big green school bus to drop Shakira off, I hurriedly stamped his bill, and packed his spares in bags. “Time to do inventory and repack your fridge,” I called out to Riyad, he had begun his own little business selling a variety of drinks, water and juices to customers in the new display fridge he had purchased.


“There comes your daughter,” Riyad called out, as he glanced up from restocking his fridge, “drivers never stop for you to cross, they just ignore the pedestrian crossing!” he continued in annoyance. “ So true, but nothing prevents her from smiling,” I replied, feeling relieved when the car stopped for her to cross, “she is always so happy and excited to see her mommy,” I teased, laughing as she headed for the fridge. Between Shakira, the staff, customers and the Car Wash boys next door, there was constant sales for Riyad. “Hurry up children or we wouldn’t be able to leave before the rush hour traffic,” I whispered from the counter, noticing the car that was pulling up, “customers will keep coming if we don’t take down the shutters.” “Just in time,” the customer announced excitedly, as he rested his old pair of shocks on the counter. “Please tell me you have this,” he continued, “the mechanic now realized this also needs changing.”


“When will we ever reach home!” I exclaimed, observing the two lanes on each sides of the highway. Leaving work twenty minutes late made a vast difference and it seemed as though customers’ favorite time to come rushing in, was at the very last moment when the shutters were about to come down. “Could you answer the phone for me Shakira? it must be Kovadis thinking I am already home.” “Hi Kovadis,” Shakira answered in her suddenly shy voice, “mommy is driving, she’ll call you when we arrive home.” “Why can’t you use that voice when speaking to me,” Riyad teased, glancing at the back seat. Even though they were three years apart in age, they had such a close relationship, their fights for the front seat or other minor things, seemed to just last a minute, after which they would be teasing each other, giggling over something or the other.


Turning unto the bridge, I sat smiling at our two beautiful white American Pitbull dogs, who never seized to amaze me the way they hurried towards the gate in excitement, as soon as the car turned the corner. “Beast! Princess!” the children called out, as they tried to enter the gate without them escaping. Guess calling Beast’s name was not a good idea, since instead of backing away, he always thought it was time to play and became more excited. Switching the alarm on the car, I hurried in behind the children, “plantains and fried fish for dinner,” I announced, turning the key in the lock. That was the easiest thing for me to prepare whenever we arrived home late and being one of our favorite meals, we always enjoyed. Tumbling through my bag for the phone, I dialed Kovadis, “hi honey, arrived home safely,” I whispered, smiling. It felt precious being pampered with so much love and attention, as though I was Cinderella and there was no clock chiming midnight.


“Honey, it is after 11:30p.m. and we both have to work tomorrow! I exclaimed in surprise. Even though it was just one month since I returned home, it felt like a lifetime away from Kovadis. His morning, lunch break and evening calls that continued until late at night each day, filled my heart with happiness. “I am enough,” I often whispered to myself in amazement, “my voice, happiness and conversations meant so much to him.” Each night, I fell asleep smiling, hugging my extra pillow, while Shakira cuddled closely. Even though Kovadis was still contemplating moving to Guyana to get married, since he knew that would mean the world to me, I was the happiest woman, I had his love and the opportunity of spending quality, precious time with my children. “Baby, forgot it is one hour earlier here, have a good night and I promise not to call you too early in the morning,” Kovadis replied laughing.


Could not believe it was already Saturday, my favorite day of the week when Sarah either arrived at the business with a taxi to travel home with us, or I would drive to collect her. After a busy, stressful and extremely hot day, I felt relieved as I replaced the phone. “Your sister will be here soon Riyad, you could begin pulling down the shutters,” I said, smiling at his excited expression of closing an hour earlier than usual. Shakira had remained home to finish off a few of her assignments and I always felt uneasy leaving her alone, even though the two dogs patrolled the entire yard all day. As Riyad hurried out to pull the shutters down and the staff left through the side door, I glanced at my phone once more, there was still no text or call from Kovadis. “Why were we fighting?” I silently asked myself, feeling confused and hurt, it seemed as though Ned was always going to be the reason.

I was still working at his business and constantly saw him whenever he needed to make deliveries or collect documents, there was no way of not seeing him. Reflecting on Ned’s arrival at the business that morning, smiling as he came towards my desk, while placing the boxes of food he brought for our lunch, I pondered on the difficult position I was in. How could I not continue to care for someone I shared twenty-eight years of my life with? “Kovadis was right to feel hurt, as I know I would have been, guess it was natural, but if only he could understand my heart,” I thought to myself.”


“My precious baby!” I exclaimed in excitement, hurrying towards the taxi as Sarah came out followed by Aidan. “Sarah could you please drive so I could enjoy Aidan in the back seat?” I pleaded instantly. “Oh no! not again mom,” she laughed, already getting accustomed to my regular pleading. “It’s fine, just teasing,” I replied, settling into the drivers’ seat and buckling the seat belt, “can’t blame me for trying.” It was a breeze driving home on weekends, since there was always less traffic, especially during the day. “Everyone ready for fried chicken, fries and a movie?” I called out, as I slowly reversed from the bridge, excitement! excitement! excitement! that was always the feelings when we were together.

“Bama music?” Aidan asked, in his cute adorable voice, “your grandson knows you so well mommy,” Sarah laughed, as Riyad hurriedly placed the music CD in the player. Our annual New Year’s Eve parties, birthday parties and the regular Sunday’s record playing session, were great memories of my childhood and had contributed to me loving music. My heart was always filled with pride when surrounded by my children and grandchildren, “I am surely blessed bounties upon bounties,” I thought, as the sound of Aidan’s little voice, mixed with the chattering of Riyad and Sarah filled the car.

Chapter 2
THE TOWN OF CAMPBELL RIVER

“You will love it in British Columbia!” Kovadis exclaimed excitedly, as he tried to place the phone at a better angle, “beautiful mountains, lakes, trees and trails,” he continued, as every trace of tiredness from driving four days to British Columbia from Ottawa, disappeared. We both loved nature and the idea of living on the island, where the winter months were not as cold as Ottawa or Toronto, seemed a perfect decision. “Waiting now on the ferry to cross from Vancouver to the Island baby, try to get some rest now honey,” he teased, knowing that it was already wee hours of the morning. Quietly opening the bedroom door, I stood beside the bed, staring down on Shakira who was snuggled deep under the comforter, “how could I ever leave my babies?” I asked myself, so badly had I quietly yearned for Kovadis to choose Guyana. Lifting the comforter and slowly sliding under, I hugged my baby, comforting myself that she would soon be sixteen years old. As tears slipped over my eyelids, drenching my pillow, I cuddled even closer.


Splash! Splash! Splash! Aidan was in the pool with his little cousin, who was visiting from the countryside. “Good luck when it is time to take them out,” I laughed, hanging the set of towels on the chair, “they are having so much fun with the balls.” Sarah had a great relationship with her husband’s family, and I was very proud of her kind, humble and simple personality. “Just be careful with the steps when coming out of the pool Sarah,” I continued, “don’t forget you’re seven months pregnant.” “No way of forgetting that,” she replied, pointing to her tummy, “will just remind Aidan Bama has pizza for him and he will come out quickly,” she laughed, swirling the bright yellow baby float towards the ball. Tears suddenly dampened my eyes, as I thought of British Columbia, I had not found the right time to tell them. Placing the two pizzas in the oven to be baked, I hurriedly blended the fruits to make the jug of juice. Kovadis had already found a beautiful apartment and had begun working at his new job.


“I am going,” I kept repeating to Ned, who was in Las Vegas when he heard I was leaving to join Kovadis in British Columbus. Even though his painful expression tugged at my heart, I knew it was already over, as it had been from the very first moment I found out about the other woman. “I don’t want the business,” I whispered, feeling drained, “I don’t want the Audi.” Guess after living with me for twenty-eight years, he still did not know who he was married to. Wealth was the least important, for I knew, no amount of it, could ever buy happiness, wipe away tears or make your husband faithful to you. “I am so sorry Kovadis,” I apologized, wondering silently how it was even possible for him to hold on to what we shared, through all the trials of my previous marriage. But he did, not once was he willing to give up, no matter if we argued or stopped talking to each other for a few days, he continued to love.


Hugging my three children and Aidan closely before they left the following morning, I held on a little longer, not knowing what, where or in which direction my life was leading to, but the time had come for me to walk my path. My heart had broken into pieces when Sarah had pleaded at the very last moment for me to cancel, while Riyad and Shakira stood nearby with all their emotions locked inside. “I will be back, I promise,” I had whispered, not knowing if the words had left my heart. “Why is my life filled with sacrifices?” I often wondered, knowing the close bond I had with my children. I had been their mom and best friend, they had been my anchor of strength, my babies whom I protected with love. As they walked towards the gate, I kept repeating to myself, “don’t run after them, don’t make it harder,” suddenly, Riyad turned and came back for yet another hug, my heart leaped with joy as the tears began to flow endlessly. My children understood, they knew I was not a bad mom, I was not neglecting them, I was not being selfish, I just needed to survive.


After spending one night in Toronto, I was again, on my way to Pearson International Airport, to board my flight to Vancouver. “I am so familiar with this airport,” I thought to myself,” as I sat in the back seat of Lisa’s vehicle, already knowing what exit they needed to take. “I have come such a far way in becoming strong,” I thought, remembering when once, I had scurried behind the passengers who had disembarked, feeling confused and overwhelmed, thinking there was no way of me finding my way. After being sheltered for so many years, I was suddenly forced into learning independence, not only in travelling, but also driving in the worst possible traffic. I had learnt from all the pain, not to take life for granted, not to depend solely on anyone, for no matter how much I may be sheltered, in the end, I had to be capable of facing the outside world. “You are a professional traveler now,” Lisa laughed, as I hugged and reassured her, she did not need to park. “I could never have made it this far without your support,” I whispered.


“Arrived safely and now waiting to board the final flight to the island,” I replied, “I am sure you are already at the airport.” Knowing Kovadis had not slept a wink the night before, I was convinced he arrived at Victoria Airport, hours before time. “Can’t believe I will be seeing you in an hour,” he laughed excitedly, “there is no time difference between us now baby.” Thankfully the airport in Vancouver, was not as big as Pearson International, and I had easily located my gate, before flopping down into the nearest seat, to begin texting him. On one side, he was so happy I was coming to him, on the other side, my children were heart broken I left. “Why did finding happiness have to come with a price,” I thought to myself, as tears slid down my cheeks. “I am here honey,” I replied, unaware I had become silent, “just missing my children,” I whispered in a broken voice, wiping away the tears.


Walking out onto the tarmac to board the little plane, I glanced across at the beautiful mountains that could be seen in the distance. It was just ten passengers boarding and within minutes, we were already in the air. The cute little plane reminded me of dad’s boss’s plane, where as a child, I had peeked through the tiny windows in excitement and awe at the extreme beauty that laid below. Settling comfortably in my seat next to the window, I again peeked down at the beautiful river that seemed to stretch for miles and miles, with boats of all sizes, complementing its beauty. While some were anchored at various docks, others were sailing, leaving in its trail, clouds of white bubbles. For a moment, I thought of dad on the boat, stepping onto the pontoon, walking through trails and flying in the little plane, he had loved the outdoors, loved his job and loved his boss. Because of the contentment he experienced, loving everything he did, he had faced life positive and strong, yet loving, pleasant and humble. “No wonder his staff loved him,” I thought, “he was the greatest boss.”


Stepping out of the little plane, I smiled, knowing Kovadis must have seen it descending and could very well imagine his excitement. Within ten minutes of clearing customs and heading to the baggage area, I looked up confused and surprised, “are you allowed to be here?” I asked. Suddenly, I was lifted in the air and swirled around a few times, before he answered, “no I’m not, just couldn’t resist, my love.” Grabbing my suitcase from the carousel, he apologized and thanked the security for allowing him into the baggage area, before kissing me again for the tenth time. “I can’t believe you are here my love,” he whispered, closing the trunk and opening the car door, “you will absolutely love the island,” he whispered, as he closed the door and walked over to the driver’s side. It was two months since I last saw him and missed his twinkling brown eyes and warm loving smile, which always melted my heart. “I promised mom I’ll let her know as soon as you arrive,” he was saying, as he dialed her number.


“Here’s a camera I bought you honey!” Kovadis exclaimed in excitement, “totally forgot all about it,” he smiled, “now you can capture its beauty.” We had already driven for twenty minutes along the highway, which was hugged with beautiful trees of all types, shapes and colors. “Oh! the Japanese trees are my favorite!” I exclaimed, hurrying to collect the camera that was resting on the cup holder between us. “Dad would have loved to live here,” I whispered, “not sure about the kids though,” I added laughing, “they were not exposed to as much countryside vacations as I was.” I had felt sad flying from Toronto to Vancouver, adding more distance between myself and the children. Somehow, a straight flight from Guyana to Toronto had always comforted me, knowing that it was just seven hours flight distance between us. I had cried and felt helpless and confused, trying to survive the challenges I was experiencing. Wanting desperately to remain strong, as I thought of my beautiful children, I clicked yet another picture, as we drove by the beautiful cottages and barns.


It was approximately three hours later, when we finally entered the town of Campbell River. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the drive, I would have preferred if Kovadis had realized there was an airport less than an hour drive from where he lived. “You were too excited not to realize that,” I laughed, admiring the beautiful town, we had entered. It felt as though the mountains in the distance were protecting and hugging the town, which had beautiful houses on each sides of the street. Huge shopping centers and supermarkets with coffee shops were in the complex, close to the Movie Theater, “are we here?” I asked surprised, as Kovadis turned into the lane. It was a two flat long building, which comprised of different offices on the bottom floor and apartments on top. “I just have to cross the street to get to the shopping center!” I exclaimed excitedly, “everything is within walking distance,” I continued, unbuckling my seat belt, as he held the car door open. Climbing the wooden side steps, I stopped in awe, admiring the mountains in the distance and all the trees that seemed to stretch beyond and beyond.

“Welcome home baby,” Kovadis whispered, opening the car door and hugging me closely, as my heart tugged, at the expression in his beautiful brown eyes which began to twinkle in excitement, complementing his amazing smile. “I’ve missed you so much honey,” I replied, tracing his thick eyebrows, before hugging his face into the palm of my hands as he leaned lower, kissing me gently. “Time to check out our home before we freeze out here,” he laughed, as he held my hands and led me into the apartment. On the left was the laundry room with storage space and hanging racks, followed by the washroom. On the right was the huge bedroom with a built-in closet that took up an entire wall. Pulling the shades up, I stood admiring the mountains in the distance, “so happy you got the apartment at this end of the building,” I said, losing myself in his warm loving hug. “Wait till you see the view from the living and dining room!” he exclaimed excitedly, “you have only just begun.” Laughing, I ventured to the end of the foyer and stood gazing in astonishment, as the full view of mountains, trees, bright blue sky with white fluffy clouds, birds and beautiful buildings across the street at the complex, came into view.


“He just wanted to make sure I arrived safely,” I tried to explain, knowing that Kovadis may never understand, “guess it’s because we’ve been married for twenty-eight years,” I continued, “he still tries to protect me. If it was understanding I was searching for in his expression, it vanished when he replied softly, “you are no longer his wife Nal, no longer his responsibility.” Suddenly the walls of Tim Hortons seemed to cave in, “why am I feeling as though I am so selfish and cruel,” I thought to myself, reflecting on the countless times I had given my marriage yet another chance to make it work. Feeling the warmth of his hands as it covered mine, I suddenly felt a flicker of inner strength, not only did we love each other, Kovadis was my best friend as I was his and no matter how rough the path became, we could walk it together, for I was finally enough for someone.

The smell of freshly ground coffee filled the air, as the cool temperature continued teasing, challenging me to sneak deeper and deeper under the soft white quilt that covered the bed. “Coffee is ready baby,” Kovadis whispered as he snuggled back into bed, peeking under the covers and laughing at my expression, “we still have to see more of Campbell River,” he teased, knowing that would get me out of bed instantly. “That is not fair,” I laughed, as I ruffled his hair and traced his beautiful thick eyebrows, trailing my fingers down his cheeks and hugging his face lovingly.

“You promised not to spoil me,” I reminded him, “but how can I possibly refuse?” Shaking his head from side to side in mocking defeat, he signed in surrender, “guess we will just have to spoil each other then,” he whispered quietly, before showering my face with kisses all over again. After a cup of coffee and a quick shower, it was time for the delicious breakfast of homemade garlic bread and omelet, followed by a day of sighseeing and a visit to the locksmith. “My very own set of keys,” I teased Kovadis, “now I can explore trails while you’re at work.”

Chapter 3
ELK FALLS
“Honey, I think your daughter is here,” I called out in excitement, hearing the sounds of hurried footsteps up the stairs at the side of the building that was close to our bedroom. Seeing him as a dad for the first time, through the eyes of his daughter the previous week at her home, had made me love him even more. The precious bond of love, understanding and trust between them was priceless. Pulling a light sweater over my plait shirt, I hurried out to welcome her, smiling as her happy chatter filled the usually quiet apartment. Like her dad, she was humble, loving and kind and had instantly welcomed me with warm hugs, which silently expressed her happiness and acceptance. Guess she never realized what that meant to me, or how much I appreciated it. “Welcome to our little home Alessandra,” I smiled, as she gazed in awe at the beautiful scene before her, “oh I love it, I absolutely love your home,” she replied excitedly.

The happy chattering of Kovadis and his daughter in the front seat, as she teased him on his selection of music, the beautiful birds that were either perching of roof tops, trees, or flying in groups, creating natural patterns of all shapes, combined with the beautiful town, trees and mountains in the horizon, was surely a bliss beyond imaginable. Unbelievable as it was, within minutes, we came upon the sign ELK FALLS and turned into the open space to park. “We have a Falls so close by and never realized!” I exclaimed in excitement, hurrying out of the back seat and feeling like a kid all over again, where walking through trails and discovering tiny falls within the trails, were always magical moments and memories spent with dad, Lisa and my little brother. Like myself, Kovadis also had the love of nature, where he experienced the thrills of climbing trees, hills and spending endless time outdoors, discovering different species of insects, birds and even snakes, during his childhood. “Come on Nal, time for an adventure,” he smiled, reaching out for my hands, as his beautiful brown eyes expressed his feelings of excitement and happiness.

Each step forward, wonders upon wonders unfolded. Trees that hovered over our heads, with branches swaying softly in the wind, seemed to sing a silent lullaby, as though protecting us from the outside world. Each tree, a beauty of its own, either a shade darker or lighter from its neighbor, taller or shorter, older or younger. The extremely old trees were our favorite, where the trunk seemed to tell stories. “Honey, where are you?” I called out for the fifth time, before noticing Kovadis way back on the trail, busy taking pictures, as he tried to capture the beauty of every tree, trunk and branch. “We will never get anywhere ahead at your speed,” I called out, as he hurried along the trail, feeling pleased with the shots he had taken. “I can just imagine our home here Nal,” he whispered, as we came upon the majestic Elk Falls and the rope bridge that crossed from one side to the other. The magical moment of standing on the wooden platform in front of the Falls, seemed timeless as we watched the force of the beautiful clear water tumble all the way down, creating a huge mist that rose up and evolved around us as though we were sailing in clouds. “Oh! this is heavenly honey,” I whispered, as he circled his arms around my waist, pulling me closer and resting his cheeks on my hair. “Time for a picture,” Alessandra called out, as we looked back smiling.

After a thrilling walk on the rope bridge, a second visit to the platform in front of the Falls and a blissful walk back through the trails, it was time to head towards the car. Slipping into the back seat, after thanking Alessandra yet again for such a beautiful morning adventure, I thought of the pure natural beauty of nature untouched and how precious it was that Kovadis loved it just the same, instead of tall fancy buildings, night clubs and all that made up city life. As usual, a sense of guilt overtook my excitement, as I silently wished my children were with us to experience it all. They loved both the city life and the bliss of the countryside experience. I missed their constant hugs and cuddles and was happy we had decided not to get married in British Columbia, after being told, I may have to return to Guyana for the immigration papers to be processed. Even though I had laughed when Kovadis said there was no way he was going to be separated from his wife after marriage, I had felt a sense of fulfillment and happiness, experiencing the warm love he poured out every second of each day and knowing for sure what a wonderful husband he would be. Even though the children always placed my happiness first, and was in no way selfish in letting go, our hearts had broken to pieces silently and I honestly could not imagine getting married without them being there beside me.

“Lunch is served,” Kovadis called out, as he happily laid the table with a bowl of garden salad, buffalo wings and baked potatoes. Even though wings were not his favorite, he knew I absolutely loved it. “Lunch first then it is time to look at all my pictures,” he said smiling in the most adorable way. “Seems we will not be served lunch if we refuse to look at the pictures,” I teased, as I hurriedly placed a few wings, potatoes and salad in my plate. After the most delicious lunch and connecting the phone to the television, we relaxed on the sofa with our cup of tea, admiring all the beautiful photos he had taken. “Great job honey,” I commented, as I linked my fingers through his, admiring the different angles of the pictures he took, to capture the beauty of everything we experienced that morning. He was a great photographer and so was his daughter, who was a professional photographer. I had lived my life monotonously and had never paid much attention to the importance of capturing every precious moment, not ever paying attention to the fact that every second which passed could not be relived. I thought of Sarah and was so proud of the way she was taking pictures and documenting each and every stage of Aidan’s life, making diaries and albums with beautiful creative designs. She had made me so proud of the mother and wife she was, never too tired to take care of her family with a balance of her chores, reading to Aidan daily and explaining everything to him, as though he was old enough to understand. Her patience and abundant love flowed and caused her to beam in happiness.

Hurrying towards the huge window to wave, knowing Kovadis would refuse to reverse, until he saw me at the window, made me smile as usual. Not only would he wait for me to get to the window, but would also chat for the entire forty-five minutes drive until he reached to work. “Bye honey, have a wonderful day at work,” I whispered into the phone, waving and smiling, as he drove out onto the street. “I miss you already Nal,” he whispered. Expecting those to be his next words, I teased, “honey, you still have eight hours more to survive.” Knowing I was on speaker while the phone was rested in the phone socket, had made me comfortable talking to him while he drove, as though I was sitting right there in the front seat beside him. Reminding myself yet again, that it was going to be my 51st birthday in another two months, I pinched myself after hanging up the phone, “Nal you are not an eighteen year old, now experiencing love.” He loved beyond loving, he appreciated beyond appreciating and treated me with such respect. It was like a magical fantasy and I was so afraid, one day it would disappear and I would awake and realize it was all a dream, a dream answered from the silent prayers of tears that rolled down my cheeks all those months ago, when I felt it was impossible to take another step, afraid to face life and its pain and only wanted to hide between the branches of my children and grandchildren’s love.

“My boy should be landing soon!” Kovadis exclaimed, his eyes twinkling with excitement and pride, “Alessandra is on her way to the airport,” he continued, as he ended the call. “So happy for you honey,” I whispered, cuddling closer, as I felt his arms wrapping around me, “I can’t wait to meet him.” I thought of the recent calls from Shakira, the sound of depression and anxiety in her voice had broken my heart to pieces and I had cried all day and night. It was from that moment, I knew I had to return. Even though she had expressed strength and acceptance, beneath it all, was a sacrifice she was not ready or old enough to deal with. Unaware that tears were rolling down my cheeks, I thought of how much it meant to be there in time for Sarah’s delivery of her second baby and the beautiful sixteenth birthday party we could both plan for Shakira. As a mom, I realized, no matter what the circumstances, my children’s happiness would always matter more than mine.

“It is Sunday right?” I asked, feeling tons of soft kisses trailing over my forehead, cheeks and eyelids, “honey, your coffee is ready,” he chuckled amused at my expression. “You are such a baby,” he laughed, as I tried to dive deeper under the quilt, pulling my legs up to my chest. The sunlight was beginning to stream into the bedroom and the loud chirping of birds could be heard. Knowing it was going to be yet another glorious sunny day, I finally accepted defeat, allowing the soft white quilt to be pulled away. “You only won because of that tantalizing aroma of coffee,” I teased, as I slid off the bed, hurrying towards the washroom. “Now I am fully awake,” I called out, after splashing water all over my face. “Looks like you just had a bath,” he laughed, pushing back the wet strands of hair, as he tilted my chin, kissing me softly. “I love you my baby,” he whispered, looking deep into my eyes, “love you too honey,” I replied, tracing his eyebrows, allowing my fingers to trail down his cheeks, cupping his face. I knew he was trying to ignore the fact that I had, just one more week with him, before I flew back to Guyana and he drove back to Ottawa. Knowing he moved to British Columbia just for us, made me love him even more.

“Yummy, this looks delicious!” I exclaimed, sitting in the chair Kovadis had pulled out for me, “thank you honey, you do spoil me,” I continued with a guilty expression. The slices of the freshly baked olives, sundried tomatoes and mix nuts sourdough bread, was complemented by a pan of mushroom omelet cut into triangular shapes and the two cups of freshly brewed coffee. “It has to be a lazy day after a breakfast like this,” I teased, feeling the soft and light texture of the bread, “this is enough to fill me for breakfast and lunch.” Kovadis never ceased to be amazed at how little I ate and seemed determined to stretch my appetite at every opportunity. Thankful that I had finished the three loads of laundry the previous day, I hurriedly packed the dishwasher after breakfast and joined Kovadis, who was still searching for a good movie. “Stampede or thunder on a bright sunny day?” a silent question from my surprised expression, had us both jumping off the sofa in time to hear the loud banging on the door. “It is your daughter,” I laughed, hearing her excited voice call out as we both hurried towards the room. “I will be right there,” Kovadis shouted, grabbing his shirt as I pulled a dress over my shorts. Smiling I thought of how respectable he was, his children had never seen him without a shirt.

“Your son reminds me so much of Riyad,” I noted, watching Kovadis as he made the Aglio Olio pasta with prawns. I was only accustomed to cooking Guyanese dishes and wasn’t sure they were ready to experience something new. “Look at the way he is programming everything onto the television so easily, he is quite a genius at such a young age,” I continued, watching Peter, as his fingers moved quickly and expertly over the keyboard of the laptop that was connected. It was quite an enjoyable morning and I had totally enjoyed observing the blissful expression of love and contentment in Kovadis’s expression as he chatted and kept hugging Alessandra and Peter, who were almost as tall as he was. “That smells yummy,” I whispered, reaching into the cupboard for the plates and glasses. I had always loved laying tables and this time was no different. Smiling in satisfaction, I stood back and admired the beautiful dining table Kovadis had built a few weeks earlier. “Lunch is ready,” he called out, placing the bowl of pasta in the middle, followed by a bowl of garden salad and the jug of freshly made lemonade.

“What is happening?” I silently pondered, opening the beautiful leather diary Kovadis had bought me, as tears streamed endlessly down my cheeks. “It is my last night with Kovadis,” I kept reminding myself, as the pen flew across the pages. Reflecting on the beautiful sunny morning, when I had rushed to open the door as usual, after hearing his footsteps on the stairs, I had stopped short of diving into his arms after noticing his expression. “Had an accident with Betsy,” he had whispered looking distraught and tired, I have already called up the Insurance Agency, will have to take her in and use a rental for the time being until she is fixed,” he had continued. Even though Betsy his Audi, was not badly damaged, it was his sudden occurrence of allergies, that took a toll on our last few days together. Guess it was all because of being spoilt with overflowing attention for the five weeks, that caused me to feel overly sensitive the few days prior to leaving.

The drive to Victoria Airport felt different, all the beautiful trees, rocks, wild flowers and buildings I had previously admired, seemed to fade in the background of my deep thoughts. I knew the three hours drive to the airport was agony for us both, especially Kovadis, who had to also deal with the pain he was feeling from his allergies. After two coffee stops, we were finally approaching the parking lot of the airport. Knowing my tears were hidden behind the dark shades, I jumped out, grabbing my jacket from the back seat as Kovadis collected the suitcase from the trunk. “Good timing,” I laughed, glancing at the time on my cell phone, while trying to ease the tension. Kovadis had been distraught throughout the journey with the helpless feeling of me leaving. Even though we both knew, it was better for us to get married in Guyana and return to Canada as husband and wife to begin the immigration application, it was yet another sacrifice being laid unto our relationship. “Have a safe flight my baby,” Kovadis whispered, hugging me tightly, “call me as soon as you arrive at Pearson International.” Knowing I was too chocked with emotions to answer, I hugged him back tightly and shook my head in acknowledgement before heading to the customs section. It was yet another chapter, and with experience, I had become stronger in facing challenges positively, knowing that everything happened for a reason and even though it may not be clear at the moment, it was there written in my destiny.

LIFE

Life…A vision, a journey, a time that travels on of what we make of it. Eyelids that flicker open as the rays of sunrise reflect on window shades, ponder on what lays ahead. A new day, another beginning of a chapter, a prayer within the heart.

A mixture of bliss, anxiety, gratitude, for every second is new, leaving behind the past as it drifts on from seconds to seconds. Tomorrow which seeems far away, has begun, leaving behind yesterday…a certainty, tomorrow… an anxiety and today, challenges upon challenges of emotions.

A sacrifice that tears at the heart that blossoms with the love, which makes it stronger and stronger. It was and will always be the ‘Circle of Life.’ What once was, could not always remain the same, for each second, life unfolds pages upon pages.

Written by Nalinie Najem…January 12th, 2020

YEAR OF 2020

The new year of 2020 has begun, leaving behind trails of anxiety, pain of sacrifices and moments of confusion. Supported by a strength stronger than imaginable, a love that inspired, I travelled through it all as the greatest warrior would, facing an entire army.

I have learnt that by true love and support, there are no challenges beyond your capability. Looking back at the once weak soul, that craved love and attention, appreciation and companionship, where the mere presence of a spouse was luxery… a soul was born.

A new beginning…sunshine, flowers blooming, buds resting its cheeks on soft leaves, snow flakes, raindrops, a goublet of happpiness that filled to the top then began to overflow, spreading as a stream, fresh in its overlapping waves, touching stones and rocks, sand and tumbling seashells of different colors and shapes.

The parting of clouds as rainbows stretched its colors beyond and beyond, searching for the end. Wonders unfold layers upon layers.

What was once a question, “who am I?” or “am I enough?” is now a confidence born from inner strength and pure happiness, discovered by true love, to face the year of 2020 with head held high, shoulders straight and heart strong. Love that poured beyond comprehension for the one person who made me found ‘me,’ my husband, my love, my best friend and my companion to the end.

With the soft blanket of love from my husband, children and grandchildren, that softly covers me at night, tucks under my chin in the morning and keeps me warm always, I am now ready to face the world, proud of who I am and what I stand for, my principles of humbleness, kindness and unselfish love.

For me, my amazing and wonderful husband, beautiful children and grandchildren… A Healthy Happy 2020.

Written by Nalinie Najem…January 6th, 2020