It may be a well-worn cliché, but as I was about to find out, clichés are not to be easily disregarded and in my case, it was and is totally true: I am a daddy’s girl.
From forever to today, my Abu is my original superhero. There is no problem he can’t fix. No anxiety he can’t smooth. No enemy he can’t destroy. The perennial good cop, he always understood me best.
Most of the time, this care and understanding was expressed through actions, not words. So in some ways it is pretty delightful that one of the most incredible pieces of parental advice I ever received came from him.
In truth, this advice was more of an observation – as the best advice usually is – and it changed the way I looked at life altogether.
We were standing in the middle of a suburban florist shop on the day of my parents anniversary. That year, like every year, my father was there to buy red long stemmed roses for my mama. And I, being the moody 14 or 15 year old I was, didn’t care too much to be there. My early 90s, flannel-wearing self was “into” being different and misunderstood and committed to forging a distinct and spectacular path. I acted, like all teens, as if I had invented this angst.
Not for me the things that everybody else liked. Not for me a routine boring existence. No. My life would be fresh and amazing, with experiences unlike any other! It had to be offbeat, it had to be new. It was all that mattered.
With this in mind, I felt a bit annoyed by my Abu’s annual insistence on long stemmed red roses. I mean, c’mon – was there anything more conventional or overdone? The longer we stood there, the more grumpy and short-tempered I became until I could hold it in no longer:
Abu, why don’t you buy different flowers? Something not so cheesy and cliché? Everybody buys red roses. So common. So… unimaginative.
I looked at him, defiantly waiting for a response. But there wasn’t one. He carefully chose the longest, most luscious red roses from the display, thoroughly inspecting each stem, had them wrapped up, paid and then motioned to leave. We got in the car. Still no response. I tried again.
Abu, you should have gotten more interesting flowers. Roses are so predictable. Especially red ones…
I turned to frown at him. Challenging an explanation. He gave a short sigh and half-smile:
Ya Aiysha, the sun rises and sets everyday but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or miraculous.
And there it was: My light-bulb moment.
The warm glow of it has followed me through the years as I carefully attempt to navigate a world where the overwhelming narrative privileges “the new”, “the latest” and “the best”. Nobody wants the same old same old if they can help it and that includes not only material goods, but emotions, feelings and relationships.
So, how amazing, that with one simple observation, my father changed my frame of reference and imparted to me the most profound of lessons.
Not just his patience with my petulance, but the knowledge that beautiful things will always remain beautiful, even if our proximity and closeness to them threatens to make us forget it. Seemingly “ordinary” everyday things are not made less phenomenal by their regularity – on the contrary, the fact that they take place so consistently is part of what makes them extraordinary. And most importantly, not to discount the magnificence in our lives and the world around us just because the same things are sought after and enjoyed by many.
It’s been years since we stood in that florist shop but I will never forget how, in an instant, his thoughtful words dared me to look at the world differently. And because of them, I am still able to see my “everyday” suns rise and set and know with absolute certainty that they are completely, unquestionably, perfectly radiant.