April held an emotional birthday for 63-year-old Surrey resident Shangara Sanghera.
Driving up to the edge of Southern Canada, in Aldergrove, and seeing each of his Canadian and American children and their kids rendered him with a face full of tears.
“It was a total surprise. He had no idea,” his eldest daughter Harj Aulakh, who lives in Lynden, Wash., elaborated.
Sanghera – known as “Baba” or grandfather to his grandchildren – had been convinced by his youngest daughter, Hardeep, to go for a birthday drive on April 8.
When they arrived on a stretch of Zero Avenue near East Boundary Road in Aldergrove, Sanghera was overwhelmed with the sight.
“The border may have divided us but it didn’t keep us apart,” Aulakh said.
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In Aldergrove, his son, daughter, and their families, celebrated Sanghera’s arrival with cheering and balloons.
In Lynden, Aulakh and her family, as well as Hardeep’s fiancée, held up a massive “Happy B-Day” sign stretching two car-lengths.
The family of 13 – separated by a ditch bordering two countries – sang the grandfather a birthday song.
Each household made sure to social distance, Aulakh added.
The surprise was also kept from Kamaljit, Sanghera’s wife, to ensure the cross-border birthday bash would remain a secret.
Separated by national boundaries, united by blood
As a grandfather, the impact of COVID has meant Sanghera has self-isolated, without seeing his four children and five grandkids.
“We knew he would be emotional because he’s having a hard time being away from his grandkids,” Aulakh said about the surprise.
Especially since daughter Aulakh, and her two children, live on the other side of the Canada-U.S. border in Lynden, Wash.
“We’re a family divided by the border right now,” Aulakh said, reconizing the federal government’s decision to close the border to non-essential travel was to curb COVID-19 spread.
Before the pandemic, the Sanghera family met at least once a week to visit.
But since mid-March, the U.S. side of the family has only crossed into Canada to attend a funeral.
The Sangheras first migrated from India in the early 1970s, and started a family in B.C.