The person on the other end of the phone cleared his throat before identifying himself.
“Good afternoon. This is Mr. Brown from Immigrations Canada office in Kitchener.”
In a somewhat kindly yet serious voice, the caller proceeded to ask me a few simple questions to confirm he was speaking to the correct person. He seemed satisfied with my responses.
At first I wondered why I was getting a personal call from Immigrations Canada. A few things flashed through my mind, one being I had not filled out the paperwork properly on my application for citizenship. Easy fix, I rationalized.
“I am afraid I have some bad news,” Mr. Brown said.
A thousand things ran through my head now. Here I was a mom, a wife, a law-abiding citizen – or so I thought.
“Um, what do you mean—bad news?” I didn’t want to sound disrespectful or defiant, after all this was a government official I was speaking to on the telephone. But I needed to know right away what was going on.
“As we were processing your application we noticed a discrepancy.”
“A discrepancy?” I was beginning to sound like a parrot.
“I’m sorry to have to be the one to inform you, Mrs. Belec, but until we get matters sorted out and the paperwork corrected and approved, then we have no alternative but to issue a deportation order.”
I sat down.
“We have checked with the British Embassy already on your behalf so the process has begun. We need to attend to this matter immediately.”
I lost it. My heart fluttered. Panic triggered in my brain. I didn’t know how to respond appropriately.
“Pardon?” is the only word that fell from my quivering lips. I thought about my husband and my two young children. Didn’t deportation mean something like being kicked out and sent back to your country of birth?
The adrenalin kicked in and this wife, mom and self-acclaimed law-abiding citizen went into action. My life as I knew it, flashed before me, and my cubs became the priority of this now steaming Mama bear.
No longer was I concerned about the proper way to speak to a government official. My voice rose a few octaves.
“What do you mean, you are issuing a deportation order? You can’t deport me. I’ve done nothing wrong. I immigrated to this wonderful country a long time ago and if there was a problem with my landed immigrant status, surely someone would have contacted me!”
Mr. Brown continued in his monotone, droning tone. “I am sorry Mrs. Belec. This has only come to light since you applied for your Canadian citizenship status.”
My life flashed before me. Why had I put off applying for my citizenship for so long, I chastised myself? But, all the same, I still racked my brain wondering why I was in trouble now. My father, mother, brother all obtained their Canadian citizenship without an issue. What was going on? Why was I being singled out for a discrepancy?
I lost all sense of composure. My growl must have scared poor Mr. Brown.
“I can’t be deported! I have children. A husband. Responsibilities. I have a home here. I work part time and I am a contributing member to Canadian society and I have never cheated on my taxes [why I felt the need to confess that I don’t know!]”
“I’m just doing my job…” Mr. Brown tried to meekly interject but my wailing and ranting did not allow a breath.
“What am I supposed to do? How can you deport me? This is ridiculous. You don’t just tell people over the phone that you are deporting them? I will appeal. I won’t leave my children. My children!”
I’d said the word. Children. The sobs bubbled. I had been determined not to let this annoying immigrations officer get to me, but when I thought about my children without their Momma bear for goodness knows how long – I lost it.
The decibel level on my end rose.
“I am NOT leaving my children. Who would I ever get to care for them?” I rationalized that my dearly beloved husband would be too busy fighting my extradition to care for our darling offspring.
I continued to rant and rave.
“You could ask Ray Sauder to care for your children,” came the feeble words.
“I am going to fight this. I am going to get to the bottom of this. I’m calling my mother. . .Ray Sauder?” I suddenly heard what Mr. Brown had said.
Ray Sauder – the sweet young aspiring sign writer and artist who my husband had hired a few short months back? My brain was fuzzy. Ray was a gentle soul with an amazing gift. What did Ray have to do with Immigrations Canada?
Then I heard it. I was on speaker phone. Peals of laughter on the other end; telltale signs that I had been had. I recognized my husband guffawing away along with other employees who obviously had nothing better to do on their coffee break that day.
I was always one for a good laugh and a practical joke. I was notorious for crafting funny stories about my hubby. Payback is sweet retribution, he philosophized later. Those rascals got me. Turns out they picked Ray to do the dirty deed because they figured I would be less likely to recognize his voice on the telephone. But poor Ray, by the end of my less than calm performance, was pretty shook up himself – especially when I started with the sobs. I’m thinking he learned his lesson that day – maybe.
(Fast Forward 2017 – I’m still plotting my revenge … )