Vol. 5 Num 989 Tue. March 13, 2007  

When I remember, he lives

How does one live in world without one's father? When my father, Shahed Latif, died exactly five years ago to this day, I hadn't considered living in a world where he didn't exist. Where we wouldn't discuss how I'd gotten harassed in an American airport after 9/11 or how abominable the Iraq war has been or whether or not I should take this job or the other one or my spending and my increasing prejudice with the world.

Wait. He existed before 9/11, before Afghanistan, before the Iraq war, before I turned 30 and before all the pain in our lives that was our lives before he had passed. The last time I wrote something that was published was my father's first death anniversary, and now it is his fifth.

I seem incapable of being inspired by anything but his loss, living with it, remembering it, trying not to forget and as the years roll by one after the other probably forgetting and not even realizing that I have forgotten so many little things here and there.

One night on the subway I thought of my father's fingers and I couldn't remember what they looked like. The more I tried the more hysterical I became. The panic that gripped me was like the panic I felt was similar to the one I'd felt when they'd told us he was terminally sick. What were his fingers like? How could I not remember what his fingers looked like when I'd looked at those fingers for 29 years of my life? Then I began to look for old pictures around the apartment to see if I could identify his fingers. I couldn't really find any but I peered at all of them in a mad panic looking for the way his fingers looked. I went to bed sobbing as if I'd lost him all over again, this time forever. But by morning, I'd remembered his fingers, the way they were stubby in the bottom and the way the looked holding mine.

There is sea of people who share the pain of a lost parent. A pain I had no idea I could feel and strength in being able to keep on living, working, playing and doing most things I always enjoyed doing. I never knew I could bring back myself to what I was. Perhaps it was from somewhere in my overly loved more than comfortable upbringing that I was able to go on. I have friends who have lost a parent and one always reads accounts of unknown people talking of their loss, what they did afterwards, how they coped. Not everyone can boast a great dad or a great childhood but somewhere within us I feel that most of us can understand the pain of a lost loved one, of a constant of the sort that one's parent is in one's life.

Today is my father's fifth death anniversary. And almost everything I am, I owe to my father believing in me and my mother telling me I could do it. It breaks my heart every moment to think that I cannot share anything anymore with my father. Some days it feels like it was a world away, but usually, every day almost every hour, I remember it. Not that he has passed but what he would've said to something, the way he would've reacted to something else and most of all, I remember how he was with me, my mother, my brother, and his close ones. I remember all of it and over the five years, the remembrance of the good has outweighed the initial trauma of his passing and of being able to only remember the intermittent period in our lives when he was ill.

Can he see me? Can he hear me? I have little faith in the afterlife and in those lost to us being able to see and hear what we do. I will never know. One can never know for sure, even those with the strongest of faiths. But the important thing I tell myself over and over is that I remember, and when I remember, he lives.