A field of scars

My father’s body is a field of scars. His surgery scars run deep on his chest, his abdomen, his neck and knees. The one on his chest right below his heart, protrudes outward; it forever remains on his skin like a permanent stain. But the invisible scars that no one sees are those that lurk behind his small eyes, underneath the wrinkles, the moles, the lines above his brows.
My father’s hands too are colored with scars. As a child, I used to press my hand against my father’s and we laughed at the difference in size. I held his hands as he walked me to school and crossed the roads in the silence that we both shared and would continue to share as I grew up. His hands are rough, not only because of age and their sensitivity to cold, but also because they bear the weight of separation, immigration and loss. In childhood, my father was immortal. It wasn’t until after immigration, after the surgeries and the strict diets that turned my once strong father into a fragile man where I learned to accept his mortality. Often in my dreams, he disappears and I wake up crying, and the dream haunts me for the rest of the day.
My father’s body is a field of scars. In our house in Virginia, he tends the yard, takes out the trash, checks the mail every afternoon when he returns from work and solves crossword puzzles in an Iranian newspaper. He washes the dishes harshly with a sponge before putting them in the dishwasher; my family gave up arguing with him over this. He lays out plates and silverware on the dining room tables of the Marriott Hotel and accumulates bruises on his arms and knees. When I ask about them, my father smiles and says, “I must have run into something again.”
My father is immune to pain; he is the survivor of a revolution in which he did not voluntarily participate. My father’s hands now hold his eight-month-old granddaughter. In his arms, my niece laughs and my father returns the laughter – the same kind he has shared with me for 24 years. In family discussions, my father is usually absent; he listens and watches but none of us are sure if he is really there. When something worries him like when he forgets where he placed the car keys or when he is lost while driving, my father whistles. And though his memory is weak, his vision imperfect, his body thin, he displays a contentment that leaves me at awe.
My father’s body is a field of scars, and I write to unravel them.

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