Every father is a son. My own is away this Father’s Day, being a son and visiting his mother in Tehran. I actually know very little about my Father’s upbringing; some of it because we don’t have the kind of relationship where we talk about these things. Some of it because I did not grow up with my grandparents or around my aunts and uncles to ask them, or at least watch them for clues of apparent nurture or the invisible hand of nature. This gap in my Father’s story means that I attribute things about him to my life with him; not when he was only a son, or a new husband, only as a father. His story begins with me.
Us moving to Canada meant my parents aged away from their families. My Dad was not with his father when he died, nor was my Mother when both her parents passed. My Dad handled it differently than my Mom. He took it harder, from 7000 miles and two decades away. Both my parents are extremely loyal people, I get that from them. I think my Father puts all that he missed not being there with and for his family into what he can do for family nearby.
My Father has more books than I have seen in some bookstores. When I was very young, I found one on his shelf called “How to Raise a Bright Daughter”. The cover had a photo of little girl finger-painting. Whatever it said on the inside, I can’t remember, even though I looked at the book a few times over the years. The endearment I feel for my Father for having this book is hard to put into words. Through whatever conflict - and there were many - it was a running theme in our relationship.
There is a story I tell about my Father, my favourite story about us, which has grown in importance and meaning as I age and think about what has made me who I am. I was 12 and somewhat new to the neighbourhood. We had moved into a large house in a middle- to upper-income area where people had pools, alligator and polo shirts, gold initial rings and summers away at camp….from an apartment in a lower income neighbourhood filled with buildings, townhouses and subsidized housing. I was a fish out of water in my new setting, and I was already entering teenage-dom and all its social pressures and hormonal horrors. A few months in the new place, my Dad, with a Masters in electrical engineering, had lost his job. He talked to me one night to say he had taken a job delivering pizzas and that he might deliver to my friends’ homes and they might recognize him…will I be embarrassed? How did I feel about that? Maybe in a parallel life, I would have been ashamed. But that he considered the implications - as petty as they may be in the grand scheme of things, but defined my whole life at that age - made me feel so loved and respected that I felt both proud and very protective of him. I recalled what I had already been taught, there is no shame in any work. I told him I didn’t care, work is work.
So I think I get this from my Father, too. The importance of having difficult conversations about hard truths with the people you love; it shows them how much they mean to you to put in that work.
It also made me realize how difficult it must have been for him to be in that position, for all the reasons imaginable. Whether or not it was his intention, that chapter also shaped how I see people in what many think of as “small” and invisible jobs.
Father’s Day in Iran falls in the month of Rajab, which is considered a holy month when warfare and battle are prohibited. I hope he remembers it’s Father’s Day here.