It’s been about seven years since my dad passed away. My memories of him are forever and seamlessly imprinted in my mind, strumming softly at my heart.
For my kids, his image is blurry and their recollection of him seems tied to renditions of ‘how things use to be’.
Their grandfather has become a mythological super hero of sorts with the ability to throw them high up in the air and take joy rides around the yard in his ever so cool lawnmower. They referred to him as “Abu” and Abu was the best.
As time passes, losing my father is especially painful with that absolute reality that he won’t get to see my kids grow into the little humans they are today. His eyes would light up in their presence. He loved his grandchildren in an unexplainably extraordinary kind of way.
That is why I chose to write a letter to my children to remind them of their grandfather:
My Dearest Children,
Your Grandpa, although born in Pakistan, was a true Iowan at heart. He loved the open cornfields, the quaint small town feel, and the friendly people.
He had a very particular spot on the couch; it faced at an angle with a perfect view of the TV. To and fro he would go to the kitchen to grab handfuls of nuts, making sure not to miss the ‘Headline News’.
Little things about him still linger in my mind The way he dipped toast into his sunny-side-up egg.
The way he loved peaches and tangerines; I can still see hear him saying delicious after every bite. I loved the way he said raspberry, it always sounded like Russ-burry.
His all time favorite- go-to for any problem was duck tape. If it was broken, duck tape could fix it.
He defined what it meant to be a humanitarian. He spent countless hours helping those in need. In our community he was the first to seek out, literally find those that needed help. My childhood revolved around clothes drives and food banks.
I still remember Dad’s urgency to help the influx of Bosnian refugees that came to Iowa in the mid 90’s. He helped them set up their apartments, find jobs, interpret work applications, and even drive them to their job interviews.
With a strong exterior and an ever so soft interior, he was able to captivate any audience. He was extremely knowledgeable about world affairs, geography, religion, history and even the meaning of life. He was my 80’s version of Google. If I had a question, Abu pretty much had the answer.
Your Grandpa had a love of nature (as much as your Grandma doesn’t). He would rock and roll at any opportunity to go on a picnic.
He was a hunter, a walker, a hardcore badminton player, and a gardener.
And then he got sick.
He got sick and our world sort of crumbled. All the plans I had of watching him loving to watch you grow disappeared.
Still, I hold on to the memories of him dancing in the hallway a few days after his diagnosis, ever so thrilled to have his grandkids home for a visit.
I hold on to the memories of his unsteady hand finding joy in being able to feed you dinner, or of him holding your hand as you both walked through the grass picking up pebbles and sticks along the way.
He loved you guys so much that he once asked me in his illness, ‘When I am awake, can you keep the grandkids near by?” That’s what I did, I kept you nearby as long as I could, cherishing and memorizing every moment before it slipped away.
The last thing I want you to know about your Abu was that he was a fighter. He fought hard and never once gave up. His perseverance and faith in God during his illness was astounding. I can’t remember a single moment in which he complained, he accepted his fate and continually held on to God’s plan.
Though I know as you get older the memories of him fade, I will keep retelling his stories and hope that he remains a hero for you as he still is for me.