Fathers From Around the World

When I was not yet three years old, John Richard and Grace Elizabeth Ingram adopted me from an orphanage in southwest London. When I was four, a stroke left Dad paralysed down his left side; he died when I was 18.

I can still hear the cranky squeaks of your wheelchair. And the clicking of the calipers attached to your legs below the knee. There was the incessant wheezing from the asthma that later attended the paralysis. Your body was your burden. Your light relief was watching the BBC news and โ€œbeing tickled pink,โ€ as you liked to say, by the old classic British comedies. Dad’s Army. The Good Life. Rising Damp. As a child I longed to pick you up and carry you on my back. Far and away from your wheelchair and back to the fleeting memory I had of you as my able-bodied dad. Now as an adult, I believe there are no accidents. You are still my role model and I have found my dream job serving persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Thank you, Dad!

Michele at Michele D’Acosta, Museum of Documentary and Fiction

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Charming, intelligent, belligerent and very Greek, my father is one of those people you meet and never forget.

When I was little, he would often regale my siblings and me with stories of his childhood in the mountains of Greece. His eyes would light up as he recalled the deep snow that carpeted the land each winter and how every night he used to lie listening to the wolves howling in the freezing cold. I could never quite believe this story. I had visited Greece only in the summer months when the cicadas hum through the trees and the cool Mediterranean offers the only welcome respite from the heat.

But my father assured me it was all true, and he would describe how during these snowfalls Yiayia (my Grandmother) would make Stifatho, steaming hot beef stew. If my father and his brother misbehaved, Papou would threaten to throw the bones from the stew out near the house so that the wolves would come prowling down from the mountain tops. This both terrified and fascinated my father, and he admits he sometimes wanted my Papou to carry out his threat so that he could steal a glimpse of these great creatures.

Whenever it snows now, my father can’t quite contain his excitement and we indulge his boyhood memories by asking him to tell us the story again. Stubborn, impatient and thoroughly Spartan he may be, but show my dad a snowflake and his heart melts.

Ekaterina at Ekaterina Botziou, It’s All Greek to Me!

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Even as a kid I knew my father was more fun and affectionate than most Korean men. He differed in another way. Back then expecting parents wanted a son. You couldn’t have too many boys. My father never cared. Seems he was one proud dad when I was born. Gifts poured in from the office. He threw a big party on my birthday the next year and danced with me in his arms.

We immigrated to America a few years later. When I was in fourth grade, Daddy joined the ranks of the best drivers in New York City. He became a taxi driver. A classmate from Pakistan approached me one day. “Your dad drives a cab. Mine does, too,” said Rukshinda in the glad relief of a confidante.

“No. No, he doesn’t,” I lied. She looked confused.

I hadn’t known I was ashamed of what my father did until I had to acknowledge it. I also didn’t know he was held up at knifepoint doing it. One afternoon the passenger wanted to go to 106th Street, close to Harlem. Before they got there, Daddy suddenly felt a blade digging into his neck. He rubbed his fingers to say money, then pointed to the pocket of his sweat pants. The guy dug in and bolted from the cab. Daddy had been sitting on the day’s earnings, the bills in his pocket just change.

I wish I could write in the sky that no job was beneath my father to keep his kids clothed, fed, and safe. I would tell the world a thousand times over that my daddy was a cab driver.

Wayfarer on A Holistic Journey

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I kissed your bones before I immersed them in the water with your ashes. As I watched the river carry them to the ocean, my tears ran, bringing back memories.

You would get into our bed Sunday mornings in England and tell us stories of wonder. This wakened our imagination and allowed us to seek magic in the world. You raised us with iron discipline, and I knew that the army did not impose this on you. It came from within, and I rebelled. You wanted me to follow your path into the army, and yet supported me in my own journey. As I grew older, we spoke of your childhood in undivided India, and I learned how your family lost everything when Pakistan was carved out of India. We managed to get a video of our ancestral home. We watched it together, knowing you would never see your childhood home again.

What I learned from you was to conduct myself with grace and dignity. I learned that people respect us for what we are, and not for the position we hold or the riches we gather. As I lit the fire that consumed your flesh, I looked upon the faces of the people who had gathered to pay their last respects, and I saw that this was true.

We often did not speak much, but we did not need to. We communicated. As I looked into your eyes in the hospital, I knew you were going to die, and I knew you knew it as well. I promised that everything would be okay, and I will keep this promise.

Rajiv at RajivChopra

 

 

139 thoughts on “Fathers From Around the World

  1. Oh I’m so late!! But I’m glad I finally got to read this amazing feature. I have goosebumps! This was beautiful:
    “As a child I longed to pick you up and carry you on my back. Far and away from your wheelchair and back to the fleeting memory I had of you as my able-bodied dad.”

    And this!

    “Stubborn, impatient and thoroughly Spartan he may be, but show my dad a snowflake and his heart melts.”

    And this too!

    “I learned that people respect us for what we are, and not for the position we hold or the riches we gather. As I lit the fire that consumed your flesh, I looked upon the faces of the people who had gathered to pay their last respects, and I saw that this was true.”

    And of course this:)

    “I wish I could write in the sky that no job was beneath my father to keep his kids clothed, fed, and safe. I would tell the world a thousand times over that my daddy was a cab driver.”

    I think I’m going to cry now. I also wrote something about my dad a few days ago. I’d love for you to read it in your spare time.

    Keep on shining Diana!!! *hug*

  2. I like how eloquently each writer ‘spoke’ about his or her dad. The words could not hold the emotions. I met each dad, on the wheel chair, in the army, in the cab, during the snowfall, and I thought of my dad. Happy Father’s Day to all in arrears.

  3. Your dad’s cabdriver story reminded me of a valedictorian speech at one of the universities– during which the speaker mentioned how this year’s graduates wouldn’t have to flip burgers for a living. She was later criticized for those words, particularly by one gradate whose father worked at a hamburger stand, which helped to help send that graduate to college. Afterwards the speaker apologized for her unthinking but innocent mistake. All jobs have importance necessary to our society. Nice post. Peace.

  4. Hello H. W.

    My father was estranged from me for some 35 years, along with much of my family, due to my serious mental illness, But what joy I found in his coming back to me in 2004. For seven years he was my hero and my best friend. I forgave everything. How could I not? He had changed and now at 80 was the father I had always wanted. Sadly, but inevitably, he died some two years ago, and is greatly missed. I am only so very glad we had those seven years of reconciliation and real friendship — for I learned that he was a tender and kind man, or had become one after years of meanness and tyranny, and I loved him for it. I also learned that for all of that, I was after all and always had been his favorite child, the one closest to his heart, that despite the years of silence, he never once forgot or really divorced his soul from mine, however hurt I may have felt by the estrangement. Somehow, even then, I knew he would come back, that he would not die before doing so, and that he needed me as much as I needed him. Luckily for both of us, this all came true in time.

    Thank you Holistic Wayfarer for your blog, and for visiting mine at Wagblog.

    • What an amazing story. How awesome you were relatively well enough to enjoy him again and that he changed as a grown man (very difficult to do). Just beautiful – shines hope. Thanks for sharing, Pamela.

      HW

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