Originally written for Gulf News “Off the Cuff”: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/some-things-never-change-not-even-with-time-1.1114270
I’ve always loved Dad’s eyes. He has these deep grey eyes, which somehow give an impression of being ringed with violet when light falls upon them. I sit on the floor beside him and put my head on his knee.
It looks as though nothing has changed and little time has elapsed since those chilly winter mornings when I would stand by the front door in my brown uniform, greeting Dad before I left for school. He would walk over to me from his arm chair and his morning paper and would take my little hands in his big warm ones and comment on how cold they were. Then he would cuddle them and give not just my hands, but also my heart some much-needed warmth.
Lately though, Dad has not been keeping well. It is perhaps loneliness or perhaps the troublesome knees that just seem to be a part and parcel of old age. His face is lined, yet calm, and his silver white hair is cropped short. His legs are stretched out on an ottoman and he is leaning into his arm chair. I’m visiting him back home because I’ve been missing him a lot and it seems like ages since the children and I spent any time with him.
Our lives in Dubai have become like mechanical clockworks, where we compulsively follow timetables, meet deadlines and plop thoroughly exhausted in bed to refresh ourselves for the strenuous day that will follow. I hardly get a chance to ask Dad how is doing, to enquire about his day and to let him know how much I miss him. I am grateful for the moments I am getting to sit by his side, enjoying his company.
However, the conversation we are having is nothing like I had planned. Dad is in fact asking me how everything is with me, whether the opportunity I was hoping for worked out and so on. Soon I am talking animatedly and Dad is nodding interestedly and saying a few appropriate words here and there. A profound feeling of deja vu puts me in thought.
I marvel inwardly at that special sense of security and comfort that one can experience exclusively with one’s parents. Here is somebody who genuinely cares about what I am up to — who has all the time in the world to listen to everything I have to share, a person who has nothing in it for himself, but is full of selfless consideration and concern just for me. I do not mean to say that other relationships in our lives are not wonderful or that all our friends are insincere. I am stating the obvious: The tender love and care a mother or a father can give their child — regardless of the age of the child or parent, is simply unparalleled.
I continue to talk and Dad listens, engrossed. The conversation (or should I say monologue) takes a turn and I can’t help but discuss everything that has been troubling me lately. I chide myself silently — Dad is unwell and the last thing I should be doing is give him more stress by dumping my personal issues on him. Yet, the affection and the concern in his eyes spur me on. He gently runs a hand through my hair and offers no explanations and no solutions and most importantly, he refuses to judge me.
“Sweetheart, I’ll pray for you. I’m sure you’ll come out of this phase and look back at it as a bad dream. I promise,” Dad says softly. Suddenly a deep feeling of calm descends upon me. I feel emotionally uplifted, as though empowered with an internal strength to tackle head-on this thing called life — assured in the knowledge that Dad’s blessings form a sort of invisible umbrella of peace over my head. My hands feel cold and clammy with all that flushed talking. Dad takes them into his warm ones and a tear slides quietly down my cheek. I’ll always be his little girl with cold hands.