Thinking of you
Never got to meet my Amu Hamid and Ameh Nahid
By Roozbeh Shirazi
December 24, 1999
I think the idea of family is among the greatest in the world, but then,
I am horribly biased. We always covet what we do not have. How many of
you have all of your family members around you? Do you remember the last
time, if there ever was one, that you had three or four generations of
your family in the same house or park? Or both your grandparents talking
to you at the same time? I do not.
I am as much a stranger to most of my family as they are to me. However,
I have always had the fortune of charming the families of my American friends.
I have been invited to weddings, graduation parties, family vacations,
and barbecues -- and I have been to funerals, witness to arguments, and
asked for my opinion in their family matters.
I have never given much thought to my role as a family observer, I have
always just accepted it and for the most part enjoyed it. And I know exactly
why I have enjoyed it -- it is my only way to envision what an entire family
looks like when it comes together for an afternoon in the park, for a dinner
party, or for a holiday. It stands in stark contrast to my world, where
my family is scattered throughout the planet, on four separate continents,
separated by the realities of exile, time, politics, and economic inability
My parents never intended to stay in America -- they arrived in 1975
to get their graduate degrees and return home. For many reasons that did
not happen.Twenty four years and a revolution later, I'd say we do our
best given what we have. I do believe I have the most incredible parents
in the world, not just as parents but as people. Throughout my life they
have given me everything they were able to. They inspire and make me want
more out of life in general, and our relationship has transcended from
one of authority and acceptance into a partnership.
Me and my parents grew up together in the U.S. We are best friends because
we both came of age here. My brother is my pride and joy, and my confidante.
We are united, and the closest I come to believing and thanking a God is
when I think about the extraordinary people I have the luck of calling
At the same time, all of us are aware, silently, that there are many
who are absent from our lives. And so I pretend, and let my imagination
collect the images of other people´s intimacy. I watch American grandparents
beam over their new grandchildren, aunts and uncles chide their nieces
about colleges and boyfriends, and I watch cousins play chess and chase
each other around while uncles get quietly drunk with nephews in a corner.
I use these images and then desperately try to substitute the faces
of American strangers with Iranian ones -- the grandfathers who I never
got to meet, my Amu Hamid and my Ameh Nahid and Ameh Aghdas and Ameh Pari.
I try to picture me laughing and talking about women with my arms around
my cousins Babak, Arash and Miad -- whose voices I hear once or twice a
year -- instead our awkward Noruz fiber optic family experiences.
I wish I could have seen my maamaan-bozorg one last time, or wrote her
that letter I hesitated in my uncertain and infantile Farsi before she
passed away a month ago. And I would have liked an evening with me, my
father, and his father -- the three of us having some drinks and some conversation,
and experiencing one of the most powerful moments I can imagine a male
ever having. I know I love all of them -- and I long for the day to be
with them and get to know them finally.
I look with awe and envy look at my American friends, who take their
family and their time together for granted, unable to understand their
indifference as I wonder if there ever will be a day when I have all my
family together. And right when I begin to feel bad for myself, I look
at my father, who has not seen most of his family for 25 years now, and
wonder how the man marches on.
I look at both of my parents, who lost their fathers without saying
goodbye, and my mother who just lost her mother, unable to go home and
pay respects to a woman who she should have known better -- but was unable
due to circumstance. And then I burst with love and pride and respect for
them -- look how far they have come and how high the price of this American
life has been for them. It has been high for all of my family.
And I am sure, one day when all my relatives finally gather around each
other, we will talk about whether or not it has all been worth it.