We’re sitting in the living room, in the middle of a conversation when a familiar melody starts to play, to the point where we can’t even hear one other. The source, much like the caller are easily identifiable. All three of us jump instantly to grab my mother’s phone, to answer the incoming call.
My mother beats us to it and starts talking at the very instance the connection is established. They talk for a while, about usual day to day things, the usual concerns, they laugh at they joke as they have been doing for the past 25 years. I’m lying on the couch, phone in hand, probably browsing Buzzfeed and overhearing what they have to say. And feeling like my family is complete, for about five minutes.
She has to end the conversation because some housework is left, so she yells out, “anyone want to talk?”
And I jump up from the couch and reach out for the phone. I need to talk to him.
Well, I don’t need to. There’s nothing urgent. Just to hear the sound of his voice and make sure he is okay. I know things have not been at their best at his job, I know he has been feeling down because of his limited vacation days, because he’s gotten too tired of being away.
And I know, from my side, I have not been the best daughter.
When the phone rings everyday and my mother asks who wants to talk, I have a full list of reasons why not: I’m going to the gym, Ahmad’s coming over, We’re going out, I’m sleepy, I’m tired.
And my personal favorite: I have nothing to say.
How can someone have nothing to say to their own father? How could I come up with such a lame excuse to avoid five minutes of conversation?
In my head, I tried to justify. I have nothing positive to say. Because what I really wanted to say to him is Baba, I’m frustrated when I should be happy. But I hold it back, because my wedding planning concerns, my inability to find a wedding dress, my undecisiveness about the venue, my issues about the guest list are all nothing compared to what he is going through. I say to myself, if he were here, it would be so much easier to talk.
Because he’s not here, our talking time has gone down from once a day to maybe once every two weeks. He is no longer the first person I turn to because of the natural progression of life, because I’m with someone who takes up my time without me noticing it, because of a job that sometimes drains me of my positive outlook.
But that particular day, I do have something to say. And I will say it.
I hold the phone and adjust my seating so he doesn’t see how tired I look. I can tell his face has lit up, I can hear it in the way he calls me by one of my many nicknames. We chat for a while, about pointless random things: work, making fun of my mother and sister, what movie we last saw, before I take a deep breath and say:
Baba, I’m frustrated. I’m overwhelmed by this whole wedding thing and I’m scared of what’s yet to come. We’re doing so much for the house but it’s nowhere near done. And I don’t know if I ever feel like I will be ready.
And on the other end of the line, there he is, looking at my video feed, with a look of parental wisdom and guidance, the one that he always has on for these heart-to-heart moments. I have found him- even though his laughter is not echoing and his perfume scent is not lingering in the air
He pauses for a moment then replies, “I believe in you.”