He lived most of his life for the people he loves and lived very little for himself.
He tries to correct me often that he lived for himself through living for people he loves.
Growing up, I saw the man I idolized wither himself away from the blood, sweat, and tears, a drop at a time, and I told myself I’m not going to become him — I’m going to be selfish.
I was. I still largely am. At least I like to think I am. Because if I’m not, I’ll give my life away for others — a thankless exercise he always took pride in.
I took pride in it too, but I wanted him to be selfish. I wanted him to find happiness in loving himself over others, at least every once in a while.
I wanted him to shed away the very quality that I look up to him for.
He was never too tired to be there for others, and that left him too exhausted to cater to his own luxury and comfort.
If it wasn’t for his sacrifices, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I still wish he was a little more selfish.
I could go on admiring him less.
I already admire him so much, it would only be a gallon gone from an ocean — it would still be an ocean.
For nearly two decades of my life, we didn’t interact beyond the basics.
He made sure I’m provided for, he kept a keen eye on my education, and relentlessly shielded me from falling into dishonesty and immorality.
I am yet to meet a man more allergic to lies.
Despite our usually bland and sometimes lukewarm interactions, we had our moments.
The day he was leaving for Mecca for Hajj, he held me tight and cried.
His whole body shook with the rhythm of his heavy teary breaths.
That was the first time I saw my father cry.
I’ve heard other boys say they felt weak when they saw their father in tears.
I only remember feeling more like a man — because those tears told me a lot — “Look after your mother and sister”, “Today you are ready to see my weakness”, “Be responsible if I never return”.
He had surgery just days before I would fly halfway across the world to begin my graduate studies.
While others told me, “It’s a minor surgery, there’s nothing to worry about.”, I remember walking the hospital ward as if my soul has left my body and it can only return along with my father’s recovery.
Moments like these took our bond to depths I never thought possible.
And I, who until then was known as a mommy’s boy, started to love my father, miss him, admire him, feel his pain even more than I did for my mother.
It was as if I’ve always had a father, and he has had a son, but for the first time, we had each other.
I discovered his artistry as a poet only over a decade after writing poems myself.
I came to know he wrote for a publication only after I started writing articles too.
I learned about how he would trek his village in his youth with a 35mm years after I’ve done photography for years and had my work exhibited.
I always learned about his adventures a lot later than I would like to, but every time I did, I found another piece of him in myself.
I look a lot like him now, and I know now I’ll converse with him as I grow older.
I didn’t realize I have my father’s walk memorized so well until I started to notice how I walk.
I didn’t see this coming, but I realized I breathe how he breathes.
The same rhythm, the same silence, the same calm, the same storm.
Everything I saw in my father, I see in me now.
Nobody is perfect but he comes as close to it as one can be.
And yet, I believed I need to be unlike him to be happier.
I thought I need to be selfish.
I tried so hard to avoid repeating the mistakes he made, I made mistakes he would never make.
After years of running from the truth, I admitted to myself — my mistakes were much bigger, and his mistakes weren’t even mistakes, to begin with.
After three decades of walking the earth, my sincerest feelings conclude that my ultimate happiness rests in the happiness of the people I love.
Nothing can replace its presence and nothing can compensate for its absence.
I need them to be happy.
I need everyone I love to be happy.
I tried for years not to be like him, not because I don’t admire him but despite how much I do — because I believed his selfless path is a difficult one.
But now I know, I am him, only a generation away.
I’m an iteration of almost everything he is, and I am destined to become so regardless of whether I want it or not, like it or not.
Thankfully, I want it now.
I like it now.
After years of foolishly escaping, I know he pursued happiness that was much greater than my understanding, much above my aspirations.
I didn’t see this coming, but I’m becoming my father, and of all the discoveries I’ve made in life — this one takes the crown.