I had always been adamant in my desire to never have children. But the first time I stood at my Dad's resting place, I decided that day to have a child. One day I'd like to be able to hold my baby and see the sparkle that was forever present in Dad's eyes. Someday I want to be able to tell my young ones stories of their grandfather and be laid to rest knowing their hands rise in prayer for me. It's the circle of life that I won't deny myself. Only then I'd know, out of all my wrongs, I did something right.
Visiting Dad now is always a sweet and sad reminder of the final months of his life and it makes me wish that I had the strength, humor and foresight my sister had when helping him face the end of his life.
Dad lived a long and, by all measures, full life. I knew even then before his death that every moment with this larger-than-life man was precious. He was the strongest, smartest and most accomplished man I had ever met. He worked hard and was eternally devoted to his family. He would help anyone that asked, and some that didn't. All of my life, I haven't ever been without. That was Dad. He kept giving.
I've spent many months struggling with and celebrating his imprint on my life. Since he died though I've realized how profound an impact he had on my life, how much he shaped me; how the main guideposts of my life were ones he put in place. How much I was, in a word, his daughter. Over the years, he made sure that I wouldn't make some of the mistakes he did. Others, he let me make on my own. The one thing he never taught me was courage, there, he led by example.
As a child, I never felt much need of him in my rush to explore the world. It was only as I was nearing the end of medical school and beginning to settle into this career and get comfortable with it that I longed for his advice and guidance on worldly matters, going through the nightmare called life. Even now, I yearn for his pride, his approval and just assume it is there. Whenever I remember him, I see a solidly built man, with the confident gait of a lion and a kid (me) strolling along in his shadow.
I knew my father for close to twenty four years. But in the months following his death I've struggled to know how to describe him to those who didn't know him. I can see him in my mind's eye. I can feel who he was. I remember the texture of his skin and all his unique gestures. Yet, I find it difficult to explain who he was, how to decide which details to pick out of the panorama of my life with him. The qualities I remember are his curiosity and his integrity, his gentleness of spirit. The sounds and memories are of his laughter and wit, his lack of cant or pretense, the way he called me 'Ashee'. But these recollections each stemmed from those first three qualities. He never had any real wealth and never held a position of power. But at every stage of his life he was surrounded by this web of devoted friends who gravitated to him, like something that grew up around him wherever he went.
When I was child I couldn't see this, or rather I didn't understand it. When we're young we treat everything we experience as a given. Only when we grow older and our horizons broaden do we see the range of alternative possibilities in life and start to understand who we and those around us really are. As I grew older and stopped seeing my Dad as the all-knowing, all-powerful figure I saw through a child's eyes, I saw him as a man. And I saw how people were drawn to him, loved him. I would come back home for holidays to see him in some new community or setting but with the same pattern always recreated. He would introduce me to the new people in his life. And they wanted to know me, in part I think because of what he'd told them about me, but more, I knew, because they thought I'd be some reflection of him.
You don't measure the life of a man by simple facts, simply told. It's been said that you measure it in the truths he learned, or in the times he cried, in the bridges he burned, or the way that he died. In his 63 years, my father learned much, rarely if ever cried, never burned a bridge and pretty much knew when he wanted to make his exit.
Here is how I measure my father's life. I measure his life in the warehouse of photographs, movies, and the trail of soundtracks he left behind. I measure it in the size of his hands. What I remember most about my father is his hands because from my earliest age, he held my hand in his and we discovered the world together. I remember my times with my father as vividly as a great piece of music where you know every word, every note, and every solo. You know it until it becomes part of you, until it becomes you.