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Monday, June 10, 2013

My Father

       I was driving home tonight and there was a program on NPR called "Snap Judgment" a special called   “Big Poppa”  exploring the unique relationship between fathers and children. Stories about father figures, doting dads, protective pops' (and even those not in the running for “Father Of The Year.”). This description is  from NPR about the program. Anyway, listening to the stories people were telling about their dads made me think of my dad whom I lost May 9, 1991. 

At the time he was in Iran and I was living in California.  For my sisters and brother who were here this was devastating news so it was for the rest of my siblings who lived in Iran. He never recovered from his surgery for stomach cancer, but he died peacefully in his home, in his bed and my older sister was by his side. He was 80 years old.  My impression of his life is that he had a full and rich life. He had a large extended family, brothers and sisters, lots of nieces and nephews. His father lived in his home until his death at a very old age. My dad had a few occupations in his life, he was in the  transportation business, he had large trucks and drivers, he had a garage, he was a rug merchant and he was also a builder who usually had large government contracts. He traveled a lot, had lots of friends, he was involved and dedicated to our small Armenian  community where we lived. People from all walks of life knew and respected him. He was a benevolent patriarch not only for his large family but for the people of our town. Any one who needed a job or money would come to him, and he would help them any way he could. He had lots of ups and downs in his life, sometimes business was booming and sometimes he was broke, but that never changed him, he was always the same in terms of his character and what he would do for people specially for his relatives. Once he saw a young boy of maybe 12 or 13 in his garage trying a hitch a ride from one of his trucks to Tehran. He asked the boy where he was going and why. Upon hearing that he was an orphan and was trying to go to the big city to find a job and fend for himself, my dad brought him home and told my mom to take care of him. This boy lived in our house and went to school with my older sisters and brother until he was 18 and then my dad let him go. After 30 years he had found my dad who now lived in Tehran and came to see him with his wife and kids.  He introduced my dad and mom to his wife as his mom and dad. 

     I have plenty of good memories from my father. The sweetest one is from when I was just 6 years old. It was the beginning of summer, my mom had taken my little brother and had gone to Tehran to see a doctor of some kind. I wanted to go with her but she couldn't take me. I remember that I was sad for about a few hours but playing with my sisters and cousins I soon forgot. One day dad came home and told us that he was also going to Tehran on business. I immediately asked him to take me too because I had missed mom so much. He said he couldn't because he had to stop at Qom for a few hours and couldn't possibly take me. Again I was heart broken, not only I was missing mom now I would miss dad too. But it was summer after all and I had so many playmates and games to play I soon forgot this too.  A few hours after he left,  suddenly I saw his car coming through our big gates. I got so happy and excited, I ran to the car and asked him why he had come back. He said that he had forgotten something, I asked what? He said I forgot you. I guess he had a change of heart and came back. He told my sisters to get me ready. So I was given a bath, my little suite case was packed and off we went. I don't remember if we had nay conversations on the way, I was probably speechless from happiness. When we got to Qom he bought me a big bag of pistachios and told me to stay in the car and that he would soon return. I was a good obedient girl so I did what I was told. I ate my pistachios and waited. Cars didn't have clocks then and I didn't have a watch, but I could tell he was gone for a good hour if not more. Now that I think about it,  it makes me very scared. That city is a Muslim holly city, it's a center of learning about Islam, full of young and old men in turbans. How could he leave me alone in such a place? yet he did and nothing bad happened. Knowing him now I think he had probably paid someone to watch over me while he was gone. I don't remember the rest of that summer only that he came back for me. 

       Another memory that I will never forget is his coming home on New Years Eve. As usual he was gone on a business trip for months, we all had missed him dearly and without him New Year and Christmas meant nothing.  Besides,  if he wasn't home we would get no presents. Our mom was too busy with 10 kids to go out and by us gifts. That night we went to bed with broken hearts. But at the stroke of 12 o'clock there was a loud nock and we all jumped out of bed. We all ran outside to our snow covered balcony in our pajamas and bare feet. And what did we see? Our father's car coming through the gates. That was the best New Year I have ever had. He came with suit cases full of presents. We got books, note books, pencils and pens, shoes and dresses, necklaces and bracelets, and best of all candy. I treasure these memories and love my father for making my childhood so sweet. 

One other reason I loved him was because he loved books, I always saw him reading. When he was home and didn't have company, he was reading. So I loved to read too. When summer came I would be so happy that I could read uninterrupted for hours without worrying about homework or going to bed early. I would read laying down for hours and would get horrible headaches. I always asked him what to read next.  He always had good suggestions. He had already read all  the books in our wast library. We had books by Armenian, French, English, Russian and Iranian authors. Because of him I came to know my Armenian heritage and cherish our rich culture and appreciate other cultures who had given the world such treasures.  

My father was a peoples person. he could have conversations with every kind of man, educated city businessmen and the day laborer.  Even though he had only studied to ninth grade he was well read and very intelligent. With today's standards he was probably not a good businessman because he never saved when had had money and never invested. Once he had a great deal of real estate but he sold them for business purposes and also to help others. When I was a teenager I asked him once if he regrets loosing all his real estate or not saving any of his huge earnings. He said he never looks back, never regrets anything he's done. He also said money is like dirt on your hands, you better wash it off.  
From all his actions and deeds I came to value family, loyalty, friendship, integrity, generosity, and compassion for my fellow human beings. 

When I heard of his death by a phone call from Tehran, I didn't cry. I had lost something precious to me a few weeks back and I had no tears left. I didn't mourn him at all. My loss was too great and painful already. My father will live in my memories and in my values that I have passed on to my children. 

He would be happy. Rest in eternal peace father. I will always love you.

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