My father never told me: “I love you” or “Happy birthday!”. But not for one moment did I ever doubt his love and devotion to me. He was a man of deeds. I’ve written about how he demonstrated his love by helping me with my school work, spending time alone with me and showing me the world. I’ve also written about the life lessons he left me as a legacy. Tonight, on the eve of yet another anniversary of his passing from this physical plane, I want to write about how he loved his grandchildren.
For eleven years, his grandchildren lived outside of the US and would only visit for a month or so during summer vacations. But for those few weeks, my parents would transform their house into a children’s zone. All decorative items, furniture with sharp edges and dangerous objects would be removed. My father would clear his calendar of everything except his afternoon nap. From sunrise to sundown and beyond (because these kids never went to sleep) he would play with them. The days would start with him preparing morsels of bread with butter and honey, served with sweet tea. One after another, they would sit on his lap or on the chair next to him and he would feed them. This practice continued until his death when the children were way past feeding age.
A performer himself, he loved and encouraged their theatrical antics. There are numerous videos of them jumping on furniture, dancing and singing in three languages. Pillows and blankets would pile in the middle of the living room for all kinds of pretend play. I don’t remember him ever buying them a toy, but he did rescue a play kitchen from somewhere, cleaned it up and spent hours playing restaurant or store with them.
What he did treat them to were fruits. There were always several snack breaks where he would serve them cut up apples or oranges. But his speciality was watermelon. He was known for his talent in picking out the best watermelons. Often he would be seen in the produce section with two shopping carts, one to put the watermelon he was going to buy and the other to place all the other ones he had to remove to get to the good one. The children especially loved the bowl that would be left over after the watermelon was cut. They would dig into it with a spoon to get the last available flesh.
One of my father’s wishes was to put together a dance performance that involved the whole family. In 2004, a few months before his passing, he choreographed a Persian folk dance that included him, my brother and my four children. (He knew not to ask me!) My mother sewed the beautiful costumes and they performed at a Naw Ruz (Baha’i and Iranian New Year) Celebration. I know that at the time, my children aged 14 all the way down to 5 years old, did not particularly want to participate in such a project. But they good naturedly went along. It is one of the most precious memories we have of my father in his final days.
“. . .from him I learned about integrity and hard work, doing the right thing without expectation of recognition.”
“ . . . He represents what it means to be dedicated to your family and make sacrifices for them to have a better life. I think most about what it took for him to bring you all from Iran and to start a new life.”
“He taught us about integrity and justice. He also demonstrated the importance of having an upright character and how people remember you for it even after you pass away.”
“Baba joon taught me to be happy and joyful.”
My father left us fourteen years ago. It warms my heart to know that my children have such profound memories of him. As the years go by, I continue to feel his presence in our lives and his promise to care for us and watch over us.