Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Can I Forget

This post's subject has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time. I wondered whether to post it here or to my private journal due to its very personal nature. I realize, in the end, I want to share the thought with my friends, family and readers.

I learned a couple of weeks ago that my father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I'm still absorbing what this means. My mind's racing with what we need to do to treat him. This is a bit challenging given he's on a trip to Iran. We're lucky my wife, one of our dearest friends, Ferchie, and many relatives are pharmacists, doctors, or somehow involved in the science of providing health care. So, gathering information has been easy.

But I realize I want to take on a more personal project.


You see, my father's a great storyteller. Most people remember their parents reading them children's stories when they were kids. My father never did that. He read me the great works of Iranian poets and philosophers instead. I remember the nights when I sat by his feet and listened to him recite Hafez, bits of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi, or tell me about Avicenna's work. Most of all, I loved his stories about how he grew up and the lessons he learned on the street corners, in the shops, the alleys, from people's follies in the heart of Iran, in Tehran.

This may seem trivial. You have to realize though that he's an eternal optimist. He was born in 1935 and in the midst of Iran's depression. The hard times forced him to start work in a butcher shop at the age of six! He had a hard life growing up, but still managed to pull himself out of the slums of Iran, provide for his family, start a multitude of businesses, and remain politically active. He's successful because he's an optimist...and he has a heck of a sense of humor. I'm proud I got his humor. He's always been my hero and source of inspiration.

Even though he had a hard life, he spoke about the joys of his childhood, of enjoying life and knowing when to say "the hell with it." He often reminds me of the Zorba character from Zorba The Greek with his unrelenting smile, zest for life, and risk-taking behaviors that lead to his many business start-ups. I learned many lessons from his stories that still reverberate in my thoughts.

In the past ten years he's often talked about how he wants to write an autobiography. He tells me he's started the project many times, but the painful memories stopped him each time.

So, I'm taking this project as mine instead. I plan to tell his story. I will capture his life story on audio and video before the memories and his way of telling them are forever lost in the broken synapses of his mind. This'll be a good present for the family and something I can share with our kids, nieces and nephews. I hope to inspire them by his stories as he has done and continues to do with me...and to make them laugh at life, the way he always has.