I am a kid of immigrants who highly value education, achievement, and ambition. I’m the kid of a mother who fell ill my senior year of high school – completely restructuring the way my family and I took on responsibility as well as our own griefs, which for some reason felt impossible or inappropriate to process together. There just wasn’t enough time or bandwidth on anyone’s part. It feels improper now to admit that years after, I will still occasionally find myself at a loss for why it happened, catch myself emotionally overwhelmed by the grief I think I have gotten better at carrying. I am the kid of a mother who left me with only positive memories of her overly affectionate attention and care towards me and my siblings, I think the only person on this earth who saw and sees me for who I really am. A mother who was a family physician working in hospice, taking house visits and coming back to me with the most awe-inspiring stories, of patients who had stories written of them housed in the Library of Congress, other patients who had been on Broadway in their previous lives. She would park the car at the dry cleaner’s, come back, and tell me the details of the dry cleaner’s child’s experiences at college. We would drive back home from school, or be heading to Somerset together on Fridays, and I’d sit silently, my mind racing, as she’d unload the reflections she’d built up over the course of that day or week, about Islam, about spirituality, about the power of our individual impacts on our communities. She would take me and my siblings to school. I had snot coming out of my nose one morning from how hard she was making us laugh, and I remember looking into another car and noticing their stone faced expressions; I thought – the worst thing in life that could ever happen to me, would be something happening to my mom. She made every small moment so important, so full of expression and emotion.
I’m the kid of a father who has dry eyes. Every now and then, I’ll catch his eyes water. He’ll take the next fifteen seconds or so to rub and wipe them clean. I didn’t know he had dry eyes until this past year. I always thought he was an emotional man, pushing the tears back every time they came up. I told my sister this theory, and she was in dismay to the point of disbelief that I thought he was feeling so deeply so often. That’s when I learned he had “dry eyes.” I still suspect his emotions overwhelm him sometimes when I witness those few seconds unfold. I know he’s an emotional man. The stoicism has allowed him to accomplish an impressive and unbelievable amount in his life. If I am standing on the shoulders of giants, I am a pebble on K-2. I am still learning to work through my intimidation and see him for who he is – a soft man, who became a cardiologist after his father suffered from a heart attack, who guided his mother through her stroke before she passed, who witnessed his wife passed out on the floor from CO leaking from the bathroom’s water heater, a child who, as he’s said, was always picked on for how thin he was, a child known for his angry outbursts. I suspect he often felt and feared he’d gone unheard.
Today, I take as many of my memories and experiences with my parents and carry them as close to me as possible. I’ve written this in my journal, and have told it to the closest of my friends, that any good I do in life is because of them. That if anyone ever sees me as a positive presence, it is because I have had these two very powerful presences and influences in my own life. To reflect, to remain connected to my authentic emotions and perceptions, to not be fearful of expressing those to others, to “Never Give In” (my dad’s high school motto which he reminds us of often), these are all the influences I carry with me on a daily basis, that will go on to inform how I move through the rest of my life. My persistence, patience, and thoughtfulness is not my own. My being is intertwined with my family’s.