Remember Love

By: Monthly Happiness Project Blogger, Shamyla Tareen
I struggled with this topic for February. Like many women, I love to love. I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve and handed it over naively more times than I care to admit….in return, my heart’s been handed back in a messy bundle, sometimes accompanied with the following note: “thank you very much for your application. At this time, your heart did not qualify for the position you applied for. Best of luck in your continued search.” Although Iheart am always optimistic about it, love was really not on my mind this month. For this blog, I debated  just listing the things I love doing or the places I love visiting… And there’s always the two most safe, adorable, universally loving organisms on earth – dogs and children – the purest kind of love. Or I could write about how I take care of myself. (I love blasting Arethra Franklin on my iPod during my walks, feeling this gush of self reliance and freedom!)
Then I went down to Florida to visit my parents, and life kind of got in the way.
My parents are remarkably smart – and – stubborn people. Each of us thinks we know the best way to live, and that makes us critical of one another. My parents are immigrants, but despite the 50 years they’ve been in the USA, in so many ways they remain cored in the values they were raised with. Which, sometimes is a gift, and other times is very frustrating. We’ve had our struggles over the years; now being a first generation Pakistani American woman, I felt like I had learned new ways about life and I wanted recognition.
While visiting, we found out that my dad had to have emergency triple bypass surgery. I was nervous, but I told myself I was not really scared. I knew he’d be fine. I went with him to all the doctor’s visits. I handled all the calls from local and overseas relatives and I did whatever I needed to do to take care of things. I was numb – just one more health crisis, I told myself, just one more thing we have to deal with. I can do this. I’m strong.  I’m an adult. It happens.
Last night, I walked into my dad’s hospital room in the ICU. Despite my resolve to be strong, I was shaken at the sight of all the tubes and wires that my father was connected to. He opened his eyes, and gave me a huge smile. He motioned me over, then squeezed my hand, then motioned for me again to come closer for a hug.  He managed to say: “my sweet daughter. Always here when I need you.” A lump formed in my throat. And then he said, “I don’t talk about it much, but you make me proud. I love you.”

With those words, suddenly the past came back in an avalanche. I remembered. For the first six months of my life, my dad told me he would excitedly go out on his lunch break every day and buy me a new outfit, whether I needed one or not!  There were so many happy trips to McDonald’s, the Stone Park, the airport park to watch planes take off and land. All the Barbies I ever wanted were mine; every time I was scared of the dark, he was the first one  to comfort me, telling me no, the Muppets and the Jackson 5 in the posters were not really talking to me. Hours of my childhood were spent at various airports, excitedly waiting for his arrival from an international “mission” with my brothers, screaming “THERE HE IS!” when we first saw his face in the crowd.  With a smile, I thought about how he wouldn’t leave the International Office at the University of Maryland, demanding an answer until my admission as a freshman was confirmed.  I thought about all our discussions and arguments about my future, driving, studies, goals, friends- my whole life. “Forget the past!” he always insisted. “It’s done. Move on.”  I remembered the lectures, the scoldings, the pushing, the prodding, the fear, the love. Only a father 100% invested in his children would go to the lengths my father did to make sure I would be somebody someday.  My strong father, who could build or fix just about anything.
We all make mistakes. We all have a hard time loving when we’re angry. In the end, we are just breakable boys and girls, as Ingrid Michaelson sings. Seeing my father sleep in the hospital room makes me realize how important the love is no matter what’s happened. Remembering love might make you cry, but eventually it will make you so glad you did.

3 Comments on “Remember Love

  1. Very heartwarming! I agree that love is important no matter what the situation. I think sometimes we take family for granted and it is in the most toughest of situations we realize how much they mean to us. Being a first generation Indian American woman myself I can recall my fair share of differences between my parents and I regarding well…life:)!

    Growing up in a small Caucasian rural town I would have to say the dynamics were different to say the least compared to my Indian American counterparts that resided in urban areas. Like you mention in your blog that your parents are smart-and-stubborn people; I would have to say my parents are the same way. We each have our own ways on how we should live life and are critical of one another. Nonetheless, my parents remained even more true to the values and beliefs they were raised with because we were constantly surrounded by an environment that was foreign to them. This is where differences would arise and I would feel singled out, and would think why was is it so difficult to make my point of view be seen?

    However, when we would go to the nearest town to grab Indian groceries which was in an urban area I would observe the way adolescents interacted with their parents. There was a sense of embarrassment to be seen in a public place that was Indian. I guess in a way this could be attributed to adolescence, but I couldn’t help analyze whether it was their Indian Identity that they were fighting with. I, in turn, would want to associate with anything that was remotely Indian related because I had this desire of wanting to “fit in”. Now that I look back I really wasn’t wanting to “fit in” I just wanted to come to terms with my Indian Identity because I would constantly be in an environment that represented my American Identity. Maybe it was to appease my parents who feared that I would become to “American”, but really what is truly “American” in a time and place where the demographic is shifting to represent different ethnic groups?

    All in all I would have to say it is through these struggles with myself and my parents I realize that family is family and they will support you and be there in the toughest of situations. It is these experiences and struggles that have shaped my bi-cultural identity, and it continues to be shaped by the situations I encounter today. So I agree with you when you say that remembering love might make you cry, but eventually it will make you so glad that you did:) Very well said!

  2. I particularly related to your father’s words while he was in ICU. My dad, also, very rarely verbalized his feelings and yet I knew that he loved me and was proud of me! It was always important to me to remember that during the difficult times and particularly, following his sudden death in 1986, without time to say goodbye.

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