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May 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Papa :)

Birthdays were always a special event for my father. Well, his daughters' birthdays were. There was never a  year when our birthdays were not celebrated. Whether it was small and homey or an extravagant party with a huge guest list - we made something of the day. It's my father's birthday today. And last night, I lay in bed thinking about him, and about all the birthdays we celebrated, thinking about his face, his smile when we blew out the candles, I thought about him until thinking about him and missing him no longer became bearable and a cry of anguish tore out from my chest. My daughter got up and rolled over to me and said to me, "Its Ok Momma, don't cry. I'm here". I quieted myself, not wanting her to get scared and I lay there and wondered how to celebrate his birthday today...and of course, I had to do what feels most freeing for me and that is to write. But what do I write? There are so many stories I could write about him.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a status on Facebook - When I look at my daughter...everything I think and feel seems like poetry in my head ...or a painting before my eyes...she is my work of art, my masterpiece, my legacy...

The only other person who gives me a similar feeling is my father. But w him, its not poetry or a painting...its a story, a book, a biography, a history, a legend... because for me, my father is a Hero. Years ago, my answer could have been anyone... Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, and if you asked me when I was 11 years old, I would have said Xena the Warrior Princess. But today my father is my Hero, he inspires me to be a good person, he is the reason I am what I am. When he was alive, I never consciously recognized all the sacrifices he made or struggles he faced in order to be a devoted father, but I do now and I so wish he could see me as I am today...see that nothing was in vain...that him being my father was the greatest gift I had had. I am nowhere near as kind or as giving as him; life has hardened me, taught me that people can be so cruel but still his soul lives inside me and that is enough to make me good, sometimes even remarkable.

I started doing my Masters last week and during my first day of class, I missed my father so very much. I thought back to the first day of classes during my undergrad. My father accompanied me to every single class; I remember him being the one of the only 2 parents to be there with their child standing outside the classroom doors and our first years classes had hundreds of students. Sometimes it was embarrassing, having my father stand beside me holding my bag and my text books like I was a little school girl. And after class finished, I would come out of class to find him still standing there, an eager look on his face that tells me he wants to hear just how much I must have loved the class.
He stood with me in line for student loans at the beginning of the semester, and all though I was slightly relieved he was there with me, I scolded him for being so overprotective. He pointed out that the line was almost 300 students long and I would get lonely standing for hours on my own. I told him I would have been fine and he could go home. He pointed out that there were other parents waiting with their children too. I looked to the back of the line and then in front of me and indeed there was...maybe a total 10 parents out of 300 had come along with their sons or daughters. I rolled my eyes and I know that was such a disrespectful gesture on my part but my father didn't mind. As we stood in line, my father decided to ask me how I was going to do it all alone? You see my family still lived in Toronto, and I was going to be attending University of Ottawa. I had never been away from my family and I wanted to experience life at university AWAY from my parents. My father of course couldn't bear the thought of being apart from me. He reluctantly left Ottawa after my first week of classes and for the next month, every phone call I got from him ended with the question, "If you need us, just ask. We will leave everything and come to you. Are you sure you don't want us to come? " Eventually, after a month, the silent pleas in his voice broke me and I told him they could move to Ottawa. My father was so happy, he almost cried. A few days later, he had packed up my family and our home and moved to be with me. Almost exactly a year later, he passed away. What I would give to have him there waiting for me outside my classroom, what I would give now to tell him how much love radiated towards me, supported me, as he waited for me in the hallway.

There was a lot of love and happiness in that last year and a lot of heartache and grief but all that for another post maybe. We celebrated his last birthday on earth that year, threw a party and invited all the Bengalis in the neighborhood. As a birthday present, I had given him a bracelet at the time with Papa engraved on it (engraved bracelets were such a fad at the time). He wore it around a lot, to show me that he loved it and only had to stop wearing it when his wrists became to slender to hold the heavy bracelet up. And although he smiled through the entire birthday party, I could see the worry in his eyes. Even with all the hope he had for a recovery, I overheard him telling an uncle that this could be his last birthday. I wish I could tell him now that as long as I live, he will have birthdays...and he will have the greatest gift I can give him - my respect, my love and my memories. I realize now, too late as it may be, that no material gift would have meant more to him than the gift I give him now. The gift of stories I write about him, the memories I honor, the little things I thank constantly him for.


My middle sister's birthday :)

1 comment:

Afsana K said...

this is so nice bubu, brought tears to my eyes

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