Tuesday, August 24, 2010

To All the Boys and Men I’ve Loved Before (pt 1)

This isn’t an entry about men I’ve romantically loved before, as the title may imply. It is about men who I love in one way or another. In fact, the first two guys here are in my family. The title is a reference to Willie Nelson’s song, “To all the girls I’ve loved before”, which starts out …

To all the girls I've loved before
Who travelled in and out my door
I'm glad they came along
I dedicate this song
To all the girls I've loved before

This is an entry about boys and men who I’m glad came along in my life. Here are snippets of moments which weren't really monumental, but I remember them like they happened yesterday. Their significance has, in some cases, taken me years to comprehend or apply in my life. In any case, they've stuck with me through the years.

My Father

When I was around 10, I came home with not so impressive grades. In my parents household anything less than 100% is unimpressive. So it wasn’t hard to be unimpressive. What was hard was finding enough plausible excuses to cover so many instances of unimpressiveness. This time I must have given my father some lame excuse, but convoluted enough for him to not want to poke holes into it. He listened. He told me to try harder anyway next time and walked away.

Later we bumped into each other as he walked out of my parent's bedroom, and I from our study room. We were headed to dinner. Out of the blue he said, “Minim bihon min, lela sewin gid yelem, irashin gin atatay ishee?” (“Whatever happens in life, never mind other people, but never fool yourself, ok?”) His face was wearing the brightest of smiles. I was taken aback. I knew he was talking about my grades. But there was nothing accusatory or vilifying in his voice. He said it like one'd say, 'Merry Christmas!' Except there was nothing merry in his message. I just nodded on, probably faking the best confused look I could muster. The truth was that, yes, I could have done better.

To date, when I justify things to myself and people, I stop and wonder if I’m fooling myself. Sometimes I find that I am. Most of the time, I think I still forget to ask myself the question.

My Brother

When I was around twelve, family friends came over for a visit. Their kids' ages matched my older brother’s and mine. We loved having them around. The adults had fun too, so it wasn’t unusual for that family to visit us or for us to visit them for hours on a stretch. That day, I felt like they were at our house for 10 hours. They probably weren't, but it was hours and hours of game, and fun, and more games. When they left, it was close to bed time.

My parents had very strict rules about studying. If you were found loitering before 8-9pm, you were generally asked, ‘hey, what have you studied today?’ That day it was past 9pm. I happily skipped into the study room to probably pick up a fiction before heading to my bed. Lo and behold, there was my brother, sitting at his desk reading school work. At 9pm!

I told him, ‘But you don’t have to, it’s 9pm.’

‘I know.'

‘Do you’ve a test coming up?’


I kept on standing there, completely befuddled. It just didn’t make sense to my 12 yr old mind.

‘It was a fun day. I’ll feel like one day I’ll feel guilty for not having done anything productive on a day like this. I have to read’, he explained, and buried his head back into his books. He didn't look sad, or burdened. It was stated as a matter of fact. You know, that's how life goes ... in his universe!

I watched him for a bit, thought “Crazy!” to myself, and skipped on to my lovely bed.

To date, when I’m having too much fun, I stop and wonder if I should take a break and do something that feels more ‘productive’. Have I used this day/month/year to the fullest, or will I look back and regret it one day? Sometimes I opt do whatever feels fruitful at the time. Sometimes I continue to play.

As each year passes, I’m more and more in awe that a boy at 13 or 14 put this question in my mind. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even remember. I don't see him on a day to day basis anymore. Haven't for over a decade. But I'm sure he still lives his life with the same sense of purpose and responsibility.

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