I know you’ll never let me say this to you, because you say you already know how much I love you but you don’t know how.
You don’t know Papa that of all my childhood memories, I cherish most the ones in which you figure. You’ve been a father I’d love every girl to have. Despite everything we couldn’t have back then, you made me feel like a princess. You let me think I was the girl around whom the world revolved and you let me believe that at least one man in this world would do my bidding! You gave me so much love that I could go through life without anyone giving me anymore.
And while you were the Dad in shining armour, you were also man enough to cry for us – when we got hurt you would comfort us till you wept, when we wept in pain you sat in your room and prayed for us because you couldn’t bear to look at us cry. And I never forgot that when I cried, I hurt you more than I was hurting. You sobbed when you said goodbye to me when I got married and you didn’t care if the world was watching you.
You say we’re friends and I agree. You’ve been my friend, Papa, because you’ve accepted me for who I am. You knew when I argued with you that I loved and respected you just as much as when I nodded my head in agreement with what you said. You made me feel like a friend when you sought my opinion on things and I gave you an honest one. People laughed at us when you said I’d helped you make up your mind about Sh (my sister)’s choice of guy, but I love you Dad for believing in me when I told you he was the right guy. And I’m glad we both have nothing to regret! I know, Dad, that I could have told you what I think and that you wouldn’t rubbish it as a child’s babble. It made me respect myself the way you respected me.
I always wondered how you fielded queries about not having a son – am sure there must have been plenty of those when there were so many directed at us for not having a brother. But I do not remember even once having felt inadequate for being a girl. Thank you Dad for treating me as your child before you treated me like a daughter. I understand now that the confidence we grew up with was something you and Mom passed on to us.
Do you remember Papa how you made me your partner in crime – playing little pranks on Mom, smuggling me away for kebab-parathas in the middle of the day, plotting a surprise on mum’s birthday? You were a hit with my friends – always there to say ‘hello’, crack a joke, leave with a witty one-liner but never over-bearing, never intrusive, never inquisitive.
But you were not perfect and I knew that. However, I love you Dad because despite your bouts of temper, you didn’t shy away from saying sorry. I’ll always carry that lesson with me – that it’s okay to err before your child and it’s okay to say sorry. You’ve taught me the smallest and the biggest lessons in life – I learnt from you that no matter what happens, it’s alright – that nothing was big enough to lose your sleep over. I learnt from you that letting go isn’t the toughest thing in the world.
You taught us to take responsibility for what we do and the lessons started young. On those rare occasions when mom asked us to study, you told her off saying if we didn’t have the sense to study, we’d be the one flunking the exams! You never pestered us with what to eat and how. You never told us what was right and wrong and let us make our own mistakes.
Do you know Dad how much you’ve made us proud? More with your hardwork than your success, more with your honesty than your clout. I regret not having given you the pride of having your daughter be a lawyer like you, but I know you don’t hold it against me. And I know it still makes you proud to have daughters who’re doing well where they are.
There’ve been times when I’ve been very, very angry with you. I remember one time you and Mom had a fight and you wouldn’t have your medicine just because you were angry with Ma till I asked you to. I hated you for doing that, but you know what I liked? How you took my chiding for what you’d done. It was the last time you did that because you understood what I meant when I said you weren’t doing any of us a favour by taking care of yourself, that it was okay to quarrel but not okay to emotionally blackmail by causing yourself harm, that the next time I wouldn’t come to ask you to have your medicine. I’m so glad Papa, you could take that from me and never forget it.
I’m amazed at how much I’ve turned out like you! I know I’ve inherited your side of the genes more than I’ve inherited Mom’s. But as I grow older, I’m more and more surprised at how much of you I see in myself. It’s not just that I resemble you, it’s how I react to things, how I talk, how I sleep at night that makes me my daddy’s daughter! I know I have your flaws, but I also I hope I have some of your better qualities as well!
I hate to think you’re growing old Papa, because I have no idea how I will live my life without you. I have no idea how it will feel to not know you’re going to set things right if they go terribly wrong. Or how it would feel to not have your humour to lighten my day. And that’s why I need to tell you how much I love you.
Happy Father’s Day!