4th May 2021
The truth is, Papa you weren’t just my Dad. You were my best friend, my protector and guide. Yes, you provided and disciplined like a father is ‘meant to’, but the love you gave me – that unconditional love – it was unique. Simply one of a kind.
Growing up, you made it your sole purpose to give us the best life you possibly could. Coming to a whole new country from Pakistan at the age of 22, all on your own, and having to learn a new language must not have been easy. Yet, you silently worked your absolute hardest and built a business from the ground up, to provide us with everything we needed.
Even after I got married, and was no longer living under your roof, Papa, you made sure I knew that my happiness and needs would remain your responsibility, no matter how far I was or how old I was. I can’t remember a single time where I wanted something, and you didn’t answer my request. A day or a month, you always fulfilled your promises, you gave us everything you had – just to see a smile on our faces.
Memories of you…
I look back now and my heart bursts reliving those precious memories. It’s like a reel playing in my mind.
Memories of you bringing home my Eid clothes that you had so carefully and lovingly picked out.
Memories of you straightening my hair for a special occasion (yes, he would sit there brushing and straightening mine and my sister’s hair). You wanted to be involved. Whatever it was, you made sure we knew that you cared.
If I ever hurt myself, you would put together a home-made turmeric remedy and ensure my wound was covered enough for optimum healing.
If I had a cough, you would be rummaging in the cupboard, mixing the honey and pepper – you were adamant that it would solve all my croaky problems. Somehow, it always did.
If I had a headache, you would sit me down and give me one of your famous oil head massages. I laugh at the time you gave Labeed (my husband) one after he mentioned having a headache – I watch the video and I smile so much. You treated Labeed like your own son. I love you for that. He loves you for that.
It didn’t matter how big or small, you cared so much about every aspect of my life (our lives – if you were to ask my siblings, they would say the same too). At times, as a moody teen, I found myself wishing you would let me ‘do my thing’, but now… I see just how much those special moments have pieced together to make me the person I am today, the mother I am today. Thank you, Papa. I’m sorry I made it difficult to love me sometimes, because I know I did.
The passport situation
As the memories run through my brain, one event in particular stands out to me.
I was in Year 7 and was meant to be going on my first ever day trip abroad to France! Remember how excited I was? All my friends were going, it was going to be brilliant. However, a couple of nights before we were meant to set sail, Mama took out my passport only to find that it had expired months ago.
DISASTER. You probably remember my tears. I was so heartbroken (I was in Year 7 okay, it was the end of the world for me). But, Papa, you refused to let it be.
You took me to get a new passport picture taken and reassured me that you would sort it. I wanted to believe you, but it was looking impossible. How could I possibly get a new passport with the trip a day away?
I went to school the next day and remember telling my French teacher the bad news. I was no longer joining in on the exciting trip chatter. Mentally preparing myself for not going.
The day after that, I finished school and instead of you or Mama picking me up – it was uncle. I got worried as that wasn’t ever the case. But, I came home to find you in your best clothes, crisp suit and tie. You sat me down and carefully told me that you had tried everything and were sorry.
Tears filled my eyes. I knew you probably tried your absolute best, so I forced them back not wanting to show you my disappointment. But, the moment you saw me visibly upset, you reached inside your jacket pocket and pulled out an official brown envelope, telling me to look inside.
There it was, my fresh passport. My dear Papa, you had left 5am that morning and had spent the whole day trying to get my passport renewed. I don’t know where you went, or how you got it done– I wish I had asked you properly. How ever it was, you followed through with your promise, just like you always did.
As a self-employed shop owner, it was a big deal for you to take a whole day off, without cover, but you did… just for me. Just so I could get my passport for a trip I was dead excited about. I’ll never forget that. I don’t remember if I told you just how much I appreciated it, I hope I told you enough. I was probably too over the moon that I was getting to go on the trip. I’m sorry if that was the case.
But, I promise that I’ll show Aaira the same level of love. Your kind of love, the kind that anchored my heart and made me feel secure.
The bus drama
Years later, one dark winter evening, I was coming back from university late and the bus I was on decided to break down quite far from town. You might remember me not so elegantly venting on the family group chat that it was minus degrees something and the vehicle’s entire heating system had died with the engine. You were the first to read my message and give me a call.
You being you, were ready to come and get me. I was around an hour away from home and told you to stay put, because the replacement bus was already on the way. I didn’t want you to venture all the way out, only for the bus to arrive and your journey be wasted. But, nope. You insisted I send my location, and if the replacement bus was to get there before you did, I should hop on.
45 minutes later the replacement bus arrived. I was reluctantly walking on, while on the phone to you, telling you that this was exactly why I didn’t want you to venture out. I clearly remember you laughing, telling me it was fine and that it hadn’t taken you long at all. Indeed, you had sped all the way to me and pulled up behind the new bus. I couldn’t make out your face from that far Papa, but I could hear you laughing on the phone.
My heart burst with pure gratitude, it really did Papa. I had such a man as my father. A selfless man who cared so much for my comfort that he’d drop any opportunity to finally put his feet up after a long day at work, just to ensure my safety. I told you I’d jump off and join you, feeling so guilty that you had wasted a journey, but you told me to stay on and that you’d follow us back to the station. Which you did.
On the way home from the station, you showed no annoyance or tiredness (having driven almost two hours back and forth). Your only concern? Whether the heating was high enough in the car.
Only you, Papa.
It’s because of you that I’m used to that kind of wholesome love. Pure unconditional love that you showed us til the very end.
This past year…
In your final year, last year during my pregnancy, we had FaceTimed every day – multiple times in fact. You would ask me every morning ‘Meri Nooru kya kari hain’ (what is my Nooru doing) and I’d tell you the same thing every time: she’s wobbling in my belly somewhere. It didn’t matter if I said the same thing every time, the very fact that she existed was a source of pure joy for you. Wasn’t it? I know it was. I could tell by the look on your face every time I told you she’d kicked me.
Giving birth to Aaira Noor via emergency c-section was so traumatic. I never expected it to be, but it was. She was born exactly a month before you passed. You were seriously unwell by this point, in indescribable pain, yet you braved the journey to come and see me and Aaira – three times. Pure happiness was on your face when you met your little granddaughter for the first time. You had waited 9 months to meet her, and there she finally was.
What I remember the most from those visits is your concern for MY well-being. I would see the hurt on your face every time I winced getting up from the sofa. Yet, you refused to say when you were feeling waves of pain yourself. Regardless of the chaos going on inside YOUR body, what bothered you was the discomfort I was in. You would look at me and say ‘Oh Meri Jaan (Oh my life)’ the look on your face clearly wishing you could take my pain away.
You very rarely said my name, or any of our names in fact. Instead, you would call us ‘Jaan (my life)’ ‘Shezadi (princess)’ ‘Choozi (little chick)’. You took every opportunity to show us affection, no matter how old we got – you would make sure we knew that you loved us with every ounce of your being. I hope you know we felt that love, every single day. I hope you know I call people I love by cute funny nicknames because the best kind of love showed me that.
You succeeded, Papa. You made sure we knew we were your priority above everything. It’s that love, that outright declaration of love, that has carried me through life, that moulded my view on what it means to love and be loved. It’s that love I will cling onto for the rest of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, if we were to misbehave, I knew you would be the first to let us know. And maybe back then I didn’t get your reasons, but I understand now, Papa. Especially now that I have a little human of my own that I want to so fiercely protect.
Though, Papa you should know, on the rare occasion you would tell us off, it never ever changed our view of how much you loved us. It’s because you loved us so fiercely 100% of the time that if you were ever disappointed, it had to be something serious and it was enough to make us reflect as kids.
Thank you for being such a way that respect and love naturally sat in my heart for you – so much so that when things didn’t go as they should, when I made mistakes, I wanted to understand and learn from you. Those experiences made me a more sensible, understanding and patient human.
There are so many occasions and events where Papa’s beautiful soul shined through. I want to share each and everyone one of those experiences. I want people to know just how much of a devoted father he was. He was known as a husband, brother, an uncle, a friend or the friendly DIY shop owner, but what made him so very special to me was his effortless ability to be a perfect father.
One day I hope to share more of my childhood memories of Papa, but for now, I will leave that part of things here.
Thank you for coming this far. I want to share my journey over last year or so, maybe I will? And, if you did manage to read up to here, please do drop me a DM and let me know.