Mastering the Unconditional - June 17, 2012

Many of our parents complain that they had nothing.  They wore minimal clothing and walked in six feet of snow to get to school.  My father bared the breathe of it all.  It was true, in his case.


He landed in this country from India with a piece of paper stating he had a scholarship to Syracuse.  That was it.  Subzero temps and no real clothes to show for it.  No proper jacket and no proper shoes.   His host had to be a saving grace and share what he wore to keep him from shivering.


My father is my saving grace.  He built a life here, from zero to 60 in just a little over 10 years.  Not a short time, but safe, sound and one full of value, like a Lexus.  He built a nest for my mother, my sister and me.  Not a short time, but definitely full of certain.  Certain that I would never have to worry about whether there would be food on the table or whether we were stable, monetarily.


Sometimes, I can’t even fathom, what not knowing a language or a culture and being dropped off like a food crate would feel like.  He did it all.  I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t taken the fall and landed in this country.


My father loves my daughter.  Somehow, when she was two, the word “grandpa” translated to “buggha” for her.  That’s her nickname for him.  It’s the one word that makes him smile so wide that I swear the tips of his lips almost reach his ears.


He always promoted tough love when we were kids.  When I was four, and it was below freezing, he still made us take ski lessons.  There was basically a blizzard going on, but we had to tough it out with old school mittens, probably two sizes too big so we would grow into them.


It’s true that people grow softer when they get older.  They age like a fine wine.  It’s cliché grand central but overused for a reason.


Whenever I use tough love with my daughter in front of him, he tells me to “leave her alone.”  I’m not talking about skiing windy slopes, either.  I’m talking about finishing a meal without skipping directly to a snack.


His granddaughter can do no wrong and it’s endearing.  To love someone completely without expectation is clearly an age-related characteristic.  Conditional moves across the spectrum to unconditional, as the years pass.


I used to say I wanted to be a fashion designer or a writer, which is what I am now.  He said, “think of a sensible career in business, the sciences or engineering.  Move on from your crazy dreams.  It is not allowed.”


Now, my father is my biggest fan.  He supports me in being a mother and a writer.  He says, “Do it everyday.  Believe in it.  I support you.”


Is it ok to say that you’re proud of your own father?  He is one of my two favorite FOBs.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Indian, first generation humor, it means Fresh Off the Boat.  The other, obviously, is my mother.


Happy Father’s Day, Dad!


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