Thursday, July 30, 2009

"You were a phonograph, I was a kid. I sat with an ear close, just listening."

Lately, I've seen how rich life can be. I am completely in love with life. In its glory, in its uncertainty, in its tragedy. I find myself constantly thinking that I should be writing more. Especially, on these days when my feelings are lit. With happiness. Or sadness. When life seems ... louder.

This past week, my dad's uncle passed away. A man I've never met. But, it brought my dad's emotions to the surface and his eyes were teary as he told me about a man he considered more a father to him, growing up, than his own father was. My mom, sister, and I were sitting with my dad at lunch when the stories of this man started flooding his memory.

My dad thinks he was around 7 years old when he was following his uncle to the bus station. He was asking his uncle to buy him a knife from the market. His uncle would turn around every few minutes to tell him to go back -- that he needed to catch the bus and go to work, so my dad needed to head back home. He followed his uncle all the way to the rickety bridge that children weren't supposed to cross on their own. Once his uncle crossed the bridge, my dad followed him, all the way through the market, to the bus station. His uncle got on the bus and was seated and my dad was standing right next to the bus, staring at his uncle. His uncle stood up from his seat, made his way to the front of the bus, and stepped off. He smiled, shook his head, and said, "My God." He took my dad back to the market, bought him a knife, and walked him back home. Missing work that day. He couldn't resist my dad.

I have always heard stories about this uncle and how he used to hug my dad and his siblings so much. Toss them in the air. Play with them. He was so affectionate -- particularly compared to my grandpa, who was very strict and distant with his kids as they were growing up.

Ever since my dad moved to the United States, he has sent money back to his relatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He used to send $100 a month to this man. Which, 'back home,' is a lot of money. This man was getting old and having a hard time working. When my dad was in Pakistan a few years ago, this man asked if it would be too much trouble for my dad to send $150 each month, rather than $100, so that he could retire. My dad said his uncle was able to 'live like a king' with the money he sent him.

My dad spent that day, last week, on the phone -- talking to all of his relatives back in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As he spoke with his aunt (this man's wife), she said, "You'll never know how much he loved you; you were his world." It's been 48 years or so since that day at the bus station. Yet, I imagine that if my dad were at this man's side as he passed away, he would have looked at my dad, smiled, shook his head, and said, "My God."

I see my father as an incredible man. I think I've always loved hearing stories from others who see him the way I do. However, this story was different. Because, at the end of it, I found myself filled with gratitude for my father's uncle. It's true, I've never met him. But, I completely believe that this man taught my father how to be a father.

"Well, time has a way of throwing it all in your face;
the past is haunted, the future is laced.
Heartbreak, you know, drives a big, black car;
I swear I was in the backseat, just minding my own."
[gregory alan isakov]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Your mother's selflessness. Your father's drive.