I grew up in a way that seemed pretty average, and for a long, long, long time, I thought it was average, too.
But as I get older, I realise with increasing certainty, that my childhood was actually rather spectacular. And not in the way one might assume, with materialistic spoils, but rather with those aspects of youth and maturity that make more sense as time marches by….
My Dad passed away on the 02nd March 2005, almost 11 YEARS ago, and I still remember every single moment of that day and the days immediately following it – the days that would define the rest of my life and force me to find a strength even I didn’t know I possessed. As the days, months and years pass by, I miss him more and more each day, with more and more I wish I could say…but as time dances on, I am more and more grateful each day as I realise the impact his life has had on mine – and always will…
My Dad was VERY strict, but also one of those really funny people, someone who could find something hilarious in almost any situation, but at the same time, he was also the go-to person for so many people who would constantly hog our landline (before mobile phones became the norm, that is), and seek advice and perspective from him – and then there was the philosophical side, that would make itself heard at the oddest of times! I miss those fragments of eternal wisdom so, so much! And I know I’m not the only one…
I’ve learnt so many little truths and mammoth life concepts from conversations with My Dad, the kind of conversation we don’t often hear between fathers and children today – and in hindsight, I have come to understand him as quite progressive in terms of thought processes, while still holding true to the fundamental goodness of what it means to contribute to humanity.
He would say things like “Don’t get caught up in gossip. Not even if it’s about you, because the people who know you, will know you well enough to know what’s true, and those who don’t know you, why do you care what they think? As long as you can answer for your own words and actions when you face your Creator, you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone, only yourself!”. That seemed like really dumb advice to give a 12-year old, but I value those words now, having come across so many absurd rumours – many involving me!
We once spent two hours discussing the concept of what our purpose is here, and he said that people were created to worship who they believe in, and to be of service to each other with clean hearts and no expectation of personal gain. And even though he was pretty happy being religious, we were taught to understand the differences between being religious – and being spiritual, remembering always that irrespective of what one calls their Creator, that He always needed to be prioritised as a God-conscious life left less space for arrogance, pride and attitudes of oppression. If I look at the all the global and political issues our planet and its inhabitants are currently fraught with, this very difference makes all the difference! Imagine if politicians and the world’s religious leaders took a spiritual, rather than religious approach? There would be practically NO discord, as each person would be more concerned about the value of soul-worth, rather than selfish advancement.
I learnt how to deal with difficult people, how to extend myself to those who have less than I do without any condescension, how to value the people in my life, but to be mindful of the fact that even my children have been given to me in trust and custody and don’t BELONG to me. I’ve learnt that people react to everything from their own frames of reference and that I should make my decisions by trying to look at a projection of what that decision could influence, instead of short-term gratification – a lesson I often think our youth today are oblivious to.
A man who was very proud to be Muslim, he felt it was exactly this that necessitated respecting everyone else’s religion and encouraged us to gain knowledge across many forums and subjects, saying we need to equip ourselves with knowledge, rather than blindly following those who seemed to be in the know.
Obviously we all have our own faults and my dad was not without his own quirks! He would often poke fun at us for doing silly things and then remind us about it days later, while still laughing as though it just happened! He had a tendency of sometimes wanting to help someone to an extent that it would often play on his mind for hours until he found a solution, sometimes making it impossible to get his attention on simple issues. I remember calling home from a Seychelles holiday on Christmas day, which was My Dad’s birthday, only to have him say: Why are you wasting your money on calling me? Everyone’s here, say hello to your mom and I’ll tell everyone else you’re on the phone, too!
His birthday was always funny, because we’re Muslim, but always had a celebration on Christmas day, and he loved the attention! I remember wishing him, only to have him say “It’s my cousin’s birthday also. Did you wish him?”. We would then answer that we didn’t. Then he would reminisce fondly about some story or other with this cousin who shared his birthday with him, and then only acknowledge the wish!
Through all the philosophies, and life teachings, My Dad was also really funny! There was no way anyone could be left wondering whether he was there or not. His presence was strong – and loud, with a deep, BOOMING voice! A really robust, boisterous and fun-loving person to be around! My cousins often still comment how they miss him at family weddings and other gatherings, missing his jokes, and having him sing his favourite songs with other members of my family, making memories that will last many of us the entire duration of our lives. It was this seemingly opposing character traits of being relaxed and fun-loving and simultaneously philosophical and wise, that pretty much meant we shared my dad with the entire family, knowing he saw my cousins with the same emotion he bestowed on us.
Many of my family still comment on how they miss his smile and those hugs that could brighten up anyone’s day – or that stern voice that would suddenly change as they realised he was teasing them about something arb! He would find such immense child-like joy in the littlest of things, like model remote-controlled cars that he said he bought, while on vacation in Johannesburg, for my brother back home in Cape Town, only to be on the floor himself, watching in wonder as this little toy car was put through its paces, while my cousin looked on!
My dad lived for his family and would’ve done pretty much anything for any of us, being rather possessive of all his nieces and nephews and letting them know at every opportunity that they were important to him. He would pinch their cheeks and inquire about school, their hobbies or whatever was important to them at the time, being able to relate to anyone of any age. He would often spontaneously suggest a picnic or a drive or anything really, just as an excuse to get the family together, and he would love every moment! Everyone in his life was valuable and cherished and he would often “just pop in quickly” when we were about to pass a relative’s home, only to leave an hour later, but he loved spending time with everyone and they were all left feeling just important as he felt they were!
I vividly remember many times, he would come back from somewhere, obviously having been listening to the radio in the car, only to come in and crank the stereo singing those golden oldies at the top of his lungs and the sad ones, with an added fake cry, and then screaming between the verses, “RAFI is the MASTER!!!!”, in reference to world-famous singer, Mohamed Rafi! I agree, Rafi is still one of my ABSOLUTE faves! My mother, a lot more conservative by nature, would often just shake her head in defeat!
I know if he was here now, he would be doting on my naughty sons, teaching them how to be even more mischievous and stealing them from us at every chance! And i know he would be immensely proud of my brother for just having graduated with his second qualification and i can just imagine how he would’ve passed out our business cards to all and sundry, likely offering them free treatments, probably to our dismay! It would’ve been so funny to see!
I miss all these things and so much more, but the best advice My dad left me with, is the need to seek balance with everything, and the idea that i need to be serious about my purpose in being alive, but still careful not to take myself too seriously!
I often hear My Dad’s words coming out of my mouth when i’m dealing with my own kids, and even more often, i hear his words coming from my younger son, who is SO much like his grandfather, even though they’ve never met!
After all of that, one thing’s for sure – Time and Emotion – are Rivals to the end! I MISS YOU MORE AND MORE EVERY DAY and look forward to the day we meet again.