“My little girl, Daddy has to go,” said the man to his three-year old daughter. “I’ll be back in a few months, don’t worry.”
The little girl stared longingly at her father’s back as he walked away. She clutched her mother’s hand tightly, feeling a higher need for protection. Her father would be away for a long time. He was their hero, their protector.
A few hours later, her mother rushed her outside after hearing the sound of an airplane passing through the sky. They watched the bird-like structure disappearing into the clouds. “That’s probably daddy’s plane,” said her mother.
The handsome man, in his early twenties, walked wearily to his flat. It had been a long day at the university. Meanwhile, there was nobody there to greet his place. His wife and his daughter lived thousands of miles away. He stopped by the mailbox before he entered the building. He saw one brown envelope situated awkwardly inside the compartment. He took it out and checked the address. It was from home.
He rushed inside the building, sped up the stairs, and bolted into his small bedroom. Carefully, trying not to tear the contents, he opened the envelope. He took out the letter and read it. He smiled in spite of himself, reading the sweet encouraging words from his loving wife. Something else slipped out of the envelope. It was a photo of his little girl.
She wore a cute pink dress and her hair was decorated with a red hairband. Her face was as innocent as a toddler’s could get. Her eyes were like her mother’s, but her gaze was exactly like her father’s. Behind the photo were a few simple words:
To our darling father
A drop of water fell from the corner of his kind eyes.
“I’ll be home soon,” he whispered. “Wait for me.”
“Look at these new shoes, Dear!” The man brought a pair of leather shoes to the little girl’s feet. She stared at the brown bulky shoes. There was a simple floral pattern on each shoe. They were Mary Jane shoes, but they looked really old fashioned. She knew they were old. They were bought at the Salvations Army store near their house. Despite that, they were in pretty good condition.
But they weren’t her style at all.
She tried them on anyway. Despite her very young age, she was already aware of their economic condition. They weren’t exactly millionaires. Compromises had to be made. Being extra thrifty and meticulous were the only options.
The shoes were tight. She immediately despised her long feet. She wanted to please her father, so she said nothing and walked around casually when he asked her to. “Do they feel good?” he asked. She smiled and nodded. She figured lying was acceptable in this situation.
The next day, she went to school in her new-but-old shoes. Most of the other kids wore pumps – the newest style on the shelves. She hadn’t made friends with much of them yet. She was the new kid – the short little Asian girl who was strange and talked funny. She tried not to think of their glances at her feet as she walked by. Meanwhile, her feet started to bug her. Each step was uncomfortable.
Then it got painful.
After a while it got unbearable.
After that, she made up so many reasons to avoid wearing those shoes. She told her parents she wanted to wear her other shoes every other day. “But look at the state of those other shoes,” said her mother. “They’re worse for wear.” She just smiled at her and said it was fine. The next day, she said she had sports day at school so she couldn’t wear those Mary Jane shoes. Then she had to make more excuses. Inevitably, her parents became suspicious.
“Why won’t you wear your new shoes?” her father asked. She hesitated, thinking of yet another excuse. “Is there something wrong?” asked her mother. She looked at the ground uncomfortably.
They pressed on. She had to answer. “They hurt,” she muttered. “You said they were fine,” said her father. “You should have told the truth.”
She felt her face getting red with shame at being caught lying.
“Don’t be so hard on her,” her mother replied.
And now they are arguing because of me, she thought. She should’ve kept her mouth shut.
They argued on. She knew she probably had hurt her father and disappointed him when he uncovered the truth. He was so proud of those shoes. She knew buying them wasn’t easy. However, her lies had caused much trouble and arguments as well. Lying itself was tiring.
After a while, her parents stopped arguing. They bought her new shoes that fit her better. She knew it must have cost a lot. If she had just told the truth earlier, her parents could’ve exchanged those shoes for another. But she lied too long.
She realized her personal trait and rather troubling habit that day. Pleasing the people she loved just made her so happy. It became addictive and progressively destructive.
I’m sorry, Daddy…
Caught in the Act
I am totally gonna fail this test.
The young teenager stared at her history textbook sadly. She was the new kid again. Her lessons were difficult to grasp, especially history.
These words look like gibberish. I’m gonna fail and my parents are gonna be so embarrassed, especially Dad.
Her father was a lecturer. He had already got his Ph.D. Very few achieved that degree at his age in her country. He was awfully smart. So was her mother.
And I am going to fail and be a total embarrassment.
At this point, she had no liking for logic and reason, for they had betrayed her. She needed other measures. She remembered how one of her friends had slipped a piece of paper scribbled with history notes under her skirt.
I couldn’t do that. She couldn’t bear being caught lifting her skirt ad exposing her legs.
“How about your arm?” asked a small voice in her head.
It was easily hidden if she wore a jacket. It was also easy to steal a few peeks this way.
She started hastily copying facts from her history book onto her arm. She would have to go to school in about 10 minutes. This might just work…
“Hurry, Dear. We have to go now.” Her father walked past her to start the motorbike. “In a second!” she replied.
Suddenly, she felt a shadow hovering above her. “What’s that?” her father asked. “Just a scribble,” she replied. “It was an accident.”
“I know what that is. Those are notes.”
She froze. He is gonna go ballistic. She waited for the torrent of words as color deepened on her cheeks. She was gravely mortified.
A chuckle broke the silence. She looked up in surprise. “Now, don’t cheat. You know it isn’t right.” With a goofy grin, he casually walked to his motorbike and started the engine. She smiled sheepishly and joined him on the motorbike.
On the way to her school, she rubbed the back of her arms vigorously. She knew it was wrong to even think of cheating. Her father could’ve scolded her, and she would’ve deserved it.
But he didn’t.
I will never do this again, she thought. Thank you, Daddy.
It was a hard Math problem. He didn’t have to be so mean.
The teenager slouched on her desk, reading the question for the hundredth time. She had been at it for hours. What did she miss? Why is this so unconceivable?
Her father’s words rung in her head. Didn’t they teach you this at school? As annoying as those words were, he did make a point. The teacher must have said something about it. She should remember. She mustn’t let her mind be lazy. She shouldn’t give up so easily.
She closed her eyes and tried to picture the question in her head using simple analogies. She used commonplace variables. Then she forced her logic upon the story. Then something clicked.
Of course. It was so simple.
She realized that her father needed to be hard on her sometimes. It stirred up her ambition.
A wide smiled spread across her face as she realized another thing. I do like math. I would have given up by now if I didn’t like it. And I am stubborn as hell.
I am my daddy’s daughter.
Curiosity and Discussions
The young woman always loved talking to her father. He was so informed about practically everything. He listened well. He was open-minded. He used exceptional logic. He was witty. He was ethical.
Meanwhile, she was always a curious child. She asked questions and sought answers hungrily. Her parents fostered this characteristic by giving her all kinds of puzzles as her toys in the early years of her childhood. They bought her many books, including giant encyclopedias and atlases. Her father, who majored in computer science and mathematics, taught her quite well. She learnt how to use the computer when she was just a toddler. She came to love working with numbers. And it was never enough. She wanted to know everything.
“Daddy, do you believe in aliens? We can’t be the only life existing in this wide universe.”
“Do you think ghosts are real?”
“Why do you think God does the things he does?”
“Tell me about your childhood.”
“Why did you choose math and computer science?”
“What do you wanna do when you retire?”
“Wouldn’t it be cool to build a garden in the middle of a house?”
“What’s your testimony on the statement that most government institutions are corrupted?”
“Let’s talk about classical-crossover music.”
“No, Daddy. You cannot make a series of aptitude tests for my fiancé later.”
“The crisis in Egypt? Problematic. Tell me about it.”
“Let’s talk about proper eating habits.”
“Tell me about Einstein’s theory of relativity again…”
He always gave good answers. There were almost no limits.
He continued to foster her curiosity. She asked more questions. The discussions went on.
Undoubtedly, she would expect more to come.
All the above are based on stories of my life, since I was a toddler – those that I can remember at least. They’re not 100% true but my purpose is to convey the meaningful lessons I’ve learnt from them. I dedicate them to my father.
Thank you for being such an inspiring father. You have taught me so much in my life. You are a role model for me. I aspire to be as smart, kind, responsible, and strong as you.
I am still learning to be a good daughter. I have stumbled many times, but you, together with Mom, have always embraced me and the rest of your children with your patience and love.
May Allah be forever in your heart and may He grant you much happiness in your life. Continue to be the greatest father, and teacher, in the world for me.
Happy Birthday, Daddy! You’re never too old for us, for age brings you wisdom and your cheerfulness sustains your youth.
Your loving daughter and devoted student,