My father, my baba, was a muscular man once, clean-shaven, with just the right amount of cologne. He was the man, who looked after his children when the Islamic Republic of Iran imprisoned Maman. My Baba, an honorable man, a loyal man, never left his family, even in the hardest of times.
“If you stop her from her political activities,” Mamanbozorg, my grandmother, warned, “she’ll divorce you.”
So my Baba stayed, out of love for his wife and children. He looked after his little girl and two boys for the five years that Maman spent behind bars, with the uncertainty of the future before her. Would she live? Or would she be executed like the many women and men, who were killed only because they spoke up against a dictatorship. In Iran, imprisonment is as normal and common as putting food on the table for the family.
Maman lived and a year after her release, she gave birth to me, a light out of years of darkness. She was 38 years old.
Growing up, my Baba was strong. In my childhood eyes, he had no flaws. He prepared my breakfast sometimes and walked me to school. He made my sandwiches. Once he put honey in bread that literally had holes (Sangak). The honey leaked into the little baggy. I don’t think I ate that day.
In the afternoons at home, I called my Baba’s office. He worked for a textile company. I asked the secretary to put him through and I waited patiently for him to answer. We may have exchanged only a few sentences, but it was comforting to hear his voice.
In America, my father speaks broken English. He always has, and he always will. In America, my Baba works the same job he's had for the past 10 years His memory worsens day-by-day. His recent MRI revealed that because of his prior blood clotting, his brain has shrunk and his memory, as a result, is inevitably disappearing.
This is Baba’s disappearance and it hurts to write about it, to acknowledge and accept it as fact. It hurts to see him, a man of skin and bones, shrinking right before our eyes. Will he remember me the next time he sees me?
No matter what happens to our Baba, he will be the greatest father we, his children, have known. No one could have replaced him, replaced his loyalty, his forgiving heart, his unconditional love, his relentless fight to survive, to live, and in his own way, to dream.