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 I
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.