When our plane landed, no one from the family had come to the airport to greet us. I thought maybe because I hadn’t told them the exact time of our arrival, they weren’t able to make it. Early in the morning we hit the road, going north. Our daughter was sleeping in the car, when I heard the horrible news. My excitement to see my family, was interrupted, abruptly, when without any warning, my wife gave me the news of my father’s passing, two days before.
Two days ago? and I had just found out?
My mind was overwhelmed by a sudden rush of mixed feelings: why and how do people take it upon themselves to hide such news? I hadn’t noticed this part of my wife’s personality until then; how could she bear not telling me? my father? Death? I was shocked, confused, and my mind was not working straight.
Like some other people, I tend to get emotionally involved in a given situation, so much deep into it, there’s no escape. I couldn’t keep my train of thought on track! I was overwhelmed by many unimportant, insignificant, questions, circling in my head. Why was I not crying? Being fatherless, suddenly sunk in, and that one day, as nature has in store for us all, I too will die, just like my father had. What about my daughter Goli? she was too young to deal with the death of a close family member.
My father? How did he die? Did he suffer? Was he scared? What about the friends that I was supposed to see? what about the plans I had made? I could hear my wife’s voice, calling out my name, fading in the background, but I had the feeling she only wanted to make me feel better. I heard my name, being called out, over and over again. I finally snapped out of it, and found myself, weeping. I now was able to hear my wife, asking me to stop. She kept saying: “stop it! please try to calm down. For Goli’s sake, stop it! Please!”
My daughter rushed to my arms, with teary eyes. Both our faces all wet from the tears. I tried giving her a tearful smile, and said to her: “we are crying again, and the movie hasn’t begun yet!”, referring to the fact, that almost every time we had watched an emotional movie together, it would make us cry.
We parked the car, near a roadside restaurant. As we were getting out, I felt the the mountain chill, and decided to take a walk, and asked my wife and daughter to go in the restaurant without me. In front of me, were the hills of the mountain, and with a little attention, I could see herds of sheep, with two shepherds and several herding dogs.
Once again, the overwhelming rush of unwanted thoughts to my mind, followed by tears. The downhill journey from the high mountain of memories through every moment, every image, every thought I had of my father. I let it all in: his voice, his smile, his laughter, even his hands, that always seemed big. Most of my father’s life, just like mine, had been spent, far from “home”. He moved from another city to be with my mother. And for as long as I could remember, he had no father himself. We had so many differences, my father and I, but at that moment, all I could remember, were the similarities. I had always wished to be as calm and peaceful, as my father, and not to expect much, just like him.
The thought of losing my father had crossed my mind, some years back, when he celebrated his 80th birthday. Four years before, on my trip to Iran, I noticed the way he was looking at me; we both had that longing when looking at each other. From then on, every time he got a chance to talk to me, he would mention how he had a feeling that he might never see me again.
Now I really couldn’t see him anymore. I could not fathom his loss. I couldn’t wrap my chaotic brain around it. It was as if I had been faced with the reality of death, for the very first time. My father was my creator, along with mother. Mom and dad, fifty five years of marriage, and their children.
After not fighting my father’s death anymore, and accepting the fact that he was actually gone, I became so vulnerable, insignificant and small. As small as, northern raindrops, falling on and barely touching my face. I was frightened, and really scared. Even though I had always been terrified of death, now I felt it even more. A sense of emptiness and void had come over me, hovering in my head. I couldn’t bear to stand up, to look, think, or even cry.
Wishing when I opened my eyes, I’d see my daughter, I turned my head around, towards the restaurant entrance.
And there she was, teary eyed, waiting for me: my every reason to live, my inspiration, my beautiful, adorable daughter Goli. And she was the circle of life, the connection between her father and grandfather. Seeing her, all vulnerable and fragile, I suddenly came to my senses.
I crawled back into my fatherhood, and the sense of loss I had, had been lifted. I suddenly had a new reason to be strong: my Goli, who needed her father, now more than ever, to protect her, to take care of her, to be her shoulder to cry, and make her feel safe. I started walking towards her to embrace fatherhood.
Translation from Persian short story by Vandad zamaani