When he left

I don’t remember the first time my father left Iran, but I remember the time he left again after a six-month visit. I don’t remember the first time because I didn’t think that he had no intention of returning. I knew he needed to leave for medical reasons, which turned out to be surgeries. I knew that he wasn’t okay, that he had trouble walking, which for a man who always walked faster than everyone else, was a sign that something was seriously wrong. Or maybe it was the simple fact that I was eight and didn’t think a father would leave for another country and not wish to return.
That night I remember that everyone came, most of our relatives, and we gathered on the second floor. Our apartment had three floors, and each was occupied by relatives. We were on the third, so every gathering and occasion had its own proper meeting place.
I and the other children sat together, and the grown ups in the big dining room; though I could only think of Dad, and how little time I had left with him. He had an early flight the next morning. I was quiet that night, hardly laughed, like I was not there at all. I didn’t want to be playing games or acting silly. I wanted to have my father stay. I wore one of my more colorful scarves; it was white, but covered with green leaves and red and pink flowers. It was soft, and felt right on my head, and I had decided to wear it that night.
Then it was time to finally saying goodnight, for I had school the next morning and couldn’t continue to stay with the grownups. It was then that in front of everyone, I began to cry and couldn’t stop. One of my cousins took my hand, trying to hold me close, give me a hug perhaps, but I pulled away and ran upstairs to my room. I continued to cry before I fell asleep. I prayed out loud, for I knew no one would hear me. I said a lot of things, mainly I was asking God why he was doing this to me, why he was taking my father away from. And that I would miss him, a lot. I also wondered, at a later time, that perhaps if my mother had come upstairs that night, had comforted me, or had just been there, maybe it wouldn’t have been so unbearable. I should have realized that his leaving was just the beginning of a more serious change, that if my mother had really believed it was temporary, she may have comforted me after all.
The next morning my Dad hadn’t left. He’d missed his flight. I knew he needed to go, but I was still relieved, for myself. I had a few more days to spend with him. And though I cannot recall them, what was said between us, or how we spent it together, I know that those were the happiest days.
I came to Virginia for the weekend to celebrate my sister’s birthday. My father was especially happy, as if he hadn’t expected me to come. He repeatedly said how happy he’d become that I came, and hoped I would do it again. He still remains to be a fragile part of my life. I’ve never really felt like I had him, and I always worry that I will lose him. It’s like I will always remain the child who missed her father. It’s like a wound that won’t heal, and I imagine it is the same kind of wound that never healed for my siblings who spent many years without their mother.
When you realize people can leave, people you love like your father, your life changes. When you accept that people do leave, and that they may not return, you grow up. My life changed when I was eight, and I have been struggling since then to accept it. I haven’t grown up.

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