For my parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

Though you are divorced now, you are still my mom and dad and thus I address you together as the parents who raised me.  Of course with my own child on the way my mind has drifted many times to the type of parent I will be.  There are plenty of people who have advice for you when you tell them you are expecting a baby.  A lot of it is good advice, some of it seems strange.  Some advice I imagine might make more sense once the child is an entity outside the womb.  Ultimately you can never really know exactly how good any set of parents are without seeing them in action, and there are few parents that I have seen  as intimately as I have seen my own.  As I look back on who I was and who I am today, I am proud.  I think I was and still am a good person.  I hope that doesn’t sound egocentric to say, but I also know that I am by no means perfect.  I have made mistakes and still do, but I have learned well from them.   I have strength, compassion, love, and try to be humble (even if this doesn’t sound very humble right now).  It would be foolish to think that any of my qualities that I am most proud of are simply some genetic trait, even though I know that those things do help shape you.  Ultimately I know that it is my upbringing that has had the largest impact on who I am today.  I then ask myself, what is it that you did that made me into someone that I am proud of today, and that for the most part, have always made me feel free to be who I am?  What are the lessons that I must make sure to teach my son so that at the very least he can become the man I am, even though I hope that he will be even more than I can dream.  I am not sure I know the answer to this, because I think a lot of the answer is just working hard to be the person that I want my son to be.  So instead I am writing this letter so I can let you know what things you gave me that I am so thankful for and that I hope my son will also be thankful for.

I first wanted to thank you for the things you both gave me, which was extreme amount of dedication to providing me with a life you could not have.  You wanted better for me, and you worked so hard to get it.  I am probably not even remotely aware of all the things that you denied yourself so that you could give me something that I wanted.  You cut corners everywhere to save money for your brothers and sisters, your parents, and for your children.  You gave me my undergraduate education, you helped me even afterwards when I had unexpected large expenses.  Your kids always came first in some way or another and I am so grateful for that.  You always showed a tremendous amount of confidence in me.  You’ve trusted me.  You have never tried to interfere and make decisions for me and have let me make my own decisions. And if after I made mistakes you’ve always been there though to help pick me up.  Even now with a child on the way, a situation in which many parents become over involved you place so much confidence in me and it is a source of strength. You’ve also taught me great lessons in tolerance.  Through mutual respect of each other’s cultures and other ethnicities you have made me extremely respectful of people’s differences.  More importantly though you showed me that despite the color of skin or particular beliefs there is nothing to fear.  We all just want good company, a good meal, and to learn from one another.  You’ve taught me the value of togetherness.

I also wanted to thank you for valuing education.  Even though both of you did not have a lot of education post high school, you recognized its importance.  More importantly you taught me to love learning.  It would have been very easy to work your jobs knowing nothing more about the world than you already did, but you always enjoyed reading and learning more or watching documentaries, nature shows, playing scrabble, boggle, doing puzzles etc.  You both enjoyed learning more about the world and challenging your minds, and made me feel like it was natural to do so.  This in turn made me value all people a lot more.  Not many in this world have a Ph.D. and it is easy for the educated to turn up their noses at those who aren’t as educated, but you taught me the value of every job in this world and that having a job that doesn’t require much education doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning.  And you exposed me to so many good people from the places you worked and made me appreciate the goodness in people from all walks of life. You always saw the positive in what you did.  You always wanted to do your jobs well even if there was some other job you would have rather had in life.

There were also things unique to each of you that have meant so much to me and so Dad I will start with you.  There are two things that you always said to me that are so important.  “I just want you to be happy”.  It’s simple but so important.  These weren’t just words to you either, because you made them the truth by how you acted.  And I just want you to know that I do have happiness and so if my happiness is the thing you wanted the most for me, then you can say that you have successfully completed that mission.  Also, although I have just mentioned education there is one line that sticks out in my mind, “Don’t get grades for us.  Get good grades for yourself.”  You always reinforced this selfless notion and as a result, ironically, I wanted to make you guys proud of my success in school all the more.  But you made me recognize that letting yourself down is ultimately harder to overcome than letting down others.

I have already mentioned about your jobs, but I just wanted to make a specific mention about your job Dad as a machinist.  I can’t even count all the times you would come home and show Joni and I the new cuts on your fingers from shards of metal that would fly out at you while machining.  You worked your body hard and bled for us to have a better life.  I will always be thankful for that.  I have also already mention your appreciation for other cultures, but the stories of your travels always gave me a bigger sense of the world, and has made me feel like it is natural to go where the world takes you to try and make a better life for yourself.  You came a long way to make a life in Canada from India.  That journey is what made me, and that is wonderful story.  I also appreciate how you always wanted to take us to different ethnic restaurants because you have given me my love for good food.  But really what I value most about that is how you were always interested in experiencing the food of other cultures the way they experienced it, because you recognized that all of it is part of the cultural experience.  And your interest in learning about other cultures not only developed my interest, but seeing how happy you made people when they saw your genuine interest in who they are, made me realize that the world always gives back when you truly care about it.

Finally, the most important thing you gave me was the fact that you were affectionate and emotional.  A lot of fathers are not.  I have many memories of lying in bed with a cold or flu and you sitting at my bedside before going to work, putting your hand on my forehead and cheek and looking at me saying how much you wished your touch could take my sickness and give it to yourself.  That was so wonderful for me.  You also gave me many hugs and I remember many times lying on the couch together watching hockey games or movies together.  I don’t know if this is a lesson you intended on teaching me, but from you I learned tht there is nothing wrong with men showing love through affection regardless of gender.  Touches from men are often seen as sexual in our society and that’s simply not true.  Your feeling free to show your affection is also what let me know that you had a big heart.  Even though you didn’t share deep emotional feelings with me growing up, I knew you felt things intensely and could not help but show those emotions outwardly.  I am emotional too, and I am very proud of that aspect of myself.  So many men are distant towards their sons emotionally and affectionately.  You were never that way and I am a better man for it.

As I start writing the part of this letter to you, Mom, I find myself at a loss of words.  It’s not easy because when I think of you, what you have given me is harder to breakdown.  To say you weren’t also affectionate would be untrue, so I don’t want to minimize your outward displays of love but unlike Dad who I attribute what is outward and obvious about me, you are my inside.  You are my perseverance; you are my humility, and my compassion, you are the glue that holds me together when life throws things at you in an attempt to make you fall apart.  You were a safe harbor in a storm and a rock who kept shape against all the elements.  You were thoughtful, reflective, protective but without ever lying to me.  You were both honest and kind.  Although I don’t believe in the divinity of Christ, I admire who he was as a person, and I know of no one in this world who is more Christ-like than you.   All those things you gave me were not just words, but they were things you lived and still do today.  Even if we don’t share the same faith, you taught the value of faith.  Having faith that everything is going to be alright is because of you.  All of us fight and struggle, but you conquer, and it makes me always believe that I can conquer as well when I need to.   And all these amazing things about you and you still had all the boundless energy that mothers always seem to have.  For all the cleaning, laundry, sewing, cooking, helping with school projects, doing crafts, I mean the list goes on and on.  All this on top of going to job all day that wasn’t particularly stimulating.  You showed me that love is as much a function of space as it is of time.  When it comes to being a parent, I don’t know if I can compare to you.  I don’t know if I can be as amazing as you were and I’m honestly a bit scared, ut everything will work out.  I have faith.

I hope you will forgive me for posting this letter to you both publicly.  I do it in part to let people know where I come from.  I do it also to remember where I come from so that I might better see where I am headed next.  Most importantly I do it because I think you both were wonderful parents and that maybe there is nothing really magical about it all, it’s just hard work.  I wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world.  Nobody is perfect and you weren’t always perfect and that’s okay.  I don’t know if your jobs made you feel ordinary, but you will never be ordinary to me.  You both game me so much love and never asked anything in return.  The best way I know how to repay you is to give my child all the good things that you gave me.  I know you both live far away and won’t have the chance to spend as much time with your grandson as some other grandparents, but I promise you that my child will know you because of what you’ve given me.  I hope that I make you as proud of me as a parent as you’ve been proud of me thus far.  I love you both very much.

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4 thoughts on “For my parents

  1. Wonderful post, Swarn. It’s great to be able to recognize the positive aspects of your own upbringing and think about how to pass that on to your children. Almost as important is to be choosy about what kind of books you want to read to your son. When you’re in the bookstore looking one over, ask yourself, “Would I like to read this book a hundred times over?” If the answer is “Yes” then buy it!

    It’s too late for me, but you still have a chance.

    Like

  2. Swarn,

    This tribute to your parents is extremely touching and heartfelt. I wish we all had such gratitude and great parents to share deep love.
    I am sure you will pass along greatness to your son in the forms of wisdom and love.
    MicheleElys

    Like

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