Just Like Baba

This is the story of a cliché.

One of the earliest memories I have is one of discontent. Somewhere around the age of 4 or 5, I was struck with the realization that my sister was the firstborn and my brother was both the first son, and the last born. Ergo, I, middle child – second daughter, was surely of no import to my parents. They, in all likelihood, had felt grievous disappointment when I arrived. I was convinced of it.

I suppose I must have expressed some sulky version of this to my father at what I considered an opportune moment such as being asked to go to bed on time. And true to who he was, my father forever after that, communicated to me in a myriad of ways that I was in fact just like him and, shhh don’t tell the others, totally his favorite. In 4th grade, I was prescribed glasses. It came as a blow to me and I cried. How come my sister or brother didn’t get glasses? Why did I have to? Baba said “Hey now we’re just the same! I have glasses, you have glasses! You are just like me!” and I puffed up with pride.

A few years later, my sister got braces and I looked at my own buckish teeth in the mirror disconsolately. “You didn’t get me braces. You spent all that money on Baji, what about my teeth? I hate my teeth”. Baba looked genuinely amazed. “What are you talking about? I love your teeth! They are just like mine. You and I smile just the same. We both show our teeth. Your mom and siblings don’t even show their teeth when they smile. You are just like me!“

If he wears glasses and I wear glasses: I am just like him.
If he smiles with his teeth and I smile with my teeth: I am just like him.

Such small things. Tiny warmths for a sensitive and insecure little girl which slowly and steadily turned into prized knowledge and unflinching security: I am JUST like Baba.

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As a parent of three myself, I now know that there is no such thing as disappointment at a baby of any gender and any birth order. I now know that, at least for mentally healthy functional human beings, there is also truly no such thing as a favorite child or any child being JUST like one of the parents.

But what I also know, is that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is to let them hear what they need to hear until they hold it to be an unwavering truth in the very bones of who they are.

I was the middle child, sensitive as a little bird and I needed to hear that I was valued, loved, very much wanted and of great and precious intrinsic worth and that is exactly what my father helped me hear. If I was a cliché, then here are a few more:

Love does not spoil children.
People become what you believe them to be.
A good father is like a roof over you.

I don’t know when and how but somewhere along the way, becoming more and more like my father became a journey and a destination. ‘I am just like Baba’ and ‘I want to be just like Baba’ blurred until they became one.

Some of my friends who know me and my siblings well joke that they’ve never met grown adults who held their parents in such high esteem. Like, we consider them perfection on earth and will pretty much blindly follow them to the ends of our days. We laugh it off but secretly think “Yep.” And I think its because not only did both of them, but especially my father, set the bar pretty high for what it means to be an incredible human being but also because adoring our parents helped and helps us become more ourselves.

You see, when you believe something about yourself to be true, you start acting like it is true. For years I have been living the imitated life. Fake it till you make it has worked for me unfailingly. If Baba is honest and hardworking then I am honest and hardworking because I am just like him, therefore I must be honest and hardworking so I can be just like him. If Baba is kind and cheery, I am kind and cheery because I am just like him, therefore I must always try to act kind and cheery so I am just like him. Convoluted but what do you know, its gotten me this far.

And now that I am here, he is gone.

The roof has blown off of me and there is a crater sized hole in my grateful heart.

At this point, the only thing sustaining me and filling me with inexplicable joy and peace, apart from copious amounts of carbohydrates, is an unwavering faith that my father is resting in a beautiful place reaping the rewards of a life well lived from a Merciful and Benevolent Lord. I believe it in the very deepest part of me. I believe he is completely free from pain. I believe all the funeral attendees who said they had never seen such noor before. I believe his grave is as expansive as far as the eye can see. I believe he answered the three questions in the grave easily and convincingly. I believe there is a window showing him Jannah and that his heart is content knowing where he is headed. I believe the air he breathes is perfumed and his companions in the grave are friendly and kind. I believe he considers his final illness over in the blink of an eye and remembers none of the suffering he endured in this world as anything significant.

It is this same unshakeable belief that, as he drew his very last breath, caused me to raise my hands to the heavens and say Alhumdulillah. All praise be to Allah who has rescued my father from the pain of this world and brought him back to His fold. Alhumdulillah! I said as he departed.

Because I am just like Baba. Therefore, if he has returned to his Lord, as nafs al mutmainna to receive glad tidings, I must live a life like that too. It took me many, many years of his illness to get here but I think or I hope that saying Alhumdulillah at the time of his death is reassuring proof that I am finally, slowly, entering the sacred space where a believer experiences gratitude for everything and lives a life worth living.

A life where the bar is set high, where my children hear what they need to hear in order to grow into secure, good people, where my daughter expresses gratitude when her mother has passed so sure she is of her glittering destination, indeed where I get that kind of glittering destination – an afterlife of never ending joy by the blessings of an Allah in whom I believe relentlessly and love unceasingly.

All thanks to my father.

Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera.
Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera.
Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera.

Hiba Masood is a writer, storyteller and speaker. You can find more of her and her work daily on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/etdramamama

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3 responses to “Just Like Baba”

  1. Abu Sufian says:

    MashaAllah, very nice story. May Allah subhana wata’ala put barakah in you and your family.

  2. mahjabeen says:

    Oh Hiba! I have no words.. so beautifully articulated :’) Rabbir humhuma kama rabbayaani sagheera.

  3. A says:

    Sorry, but what is meant by “final illness”?

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