Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Self-introspection & Arranged Marriages

Quite a roller coaster of emotions these past few weeks have been. My dad is still in intensive care but is thankfully stable, despite one doctor telling my family that he was unlikely to pull through. I recall being prepped before I went to visit him, that I may find all the tubes and machines that he was hooked up to overwhelming. The nurse handed me over some gloves and a plastic apron before I was allowed into his room. There my dad was lying with tubes through his throat, nose and arm. I touched his hand and just stood there silent. My mum was chatting away to the nurse. My brother prompted me to say something to my dad. It felt a bit weird talking when he was lying there eyes shut. The nurse said that he has been sedated so that his body can rest, but some patients can still hear but it’s sort of like when you’re half asleep, you know someone is talking but you can’t reply back.

I wanted to cry, but I thought to myself that if my dad can hear me, then I had to pull myself together and be strong. So, I took a chair and sat next to him. I mentioned that I spent time with his grandson, that he’s got a few more teeth and is stubborn and determined just like him. That we had a lot of phone calls at the house asking after him. In fact, every time the phone rang, we were all reluctant to pick it up incase it was bad news from the hospital. I mentioned to my dad that one of the calls was from his ex-work colleague, David, from Belgium. He thought of my dad as a fatherly figure. My dad’s head shook when I mentioned David’s name, and also when my brother said the cricket scores. My eyes lit up, do you think that was a sign he can hear us? The nurse said that it’s possible.

I couldn’t sleep that night, I cried with the duvet over my head so no-one could hear me. I visited him a couple of times before I had to travel back to work, sitting on the train I just thought, what if that’s the last time I get to see him? I never told him what a wonderful dad he’s been, that I appreciated him having to work abroad, being away from his family. He was simple, never treated himself, always putting others first. One of the calls that I took when I was at home was from a woman from Pakistan, she was from my dad’s home village, and she had a bit of a hard life, so my dad sent money to her family to help them. She said that he was in her prayers.

My mum called me the next morning whilst I was at work. I was dreading the call, what if this was bad news? She was so excited, dad had woken up. He still had a tube in his throat so couldn’t talk, but he managed to write on a piece of paper to the nurse. You never guess what your father wrote? She recalled me telling my brother that dad would hate the radio music they have on the background, but my brother disagreed. I was adamant that I knew what my dad likes, and I guessed correctly, he wrote he wanted to turn that racket off 🙂 I did tell my mum that it’s still early days yet, so let’s not run before we can walk. The sad thing was that I was right, when I came home in the evening, my mum said that they had to sedate him again as he was too weak. I could hear the disappointment in her voice. She told me that when they rang that morning to tell her he was awake, she drove straight to the hospital and was pleased to see his big brown eyes. I felt bad, because I told her off about chatting to the nurse about her life story, but what I didn’t appreciate was that was her way of coping, just like mine was to switch off and hide my emotions. For her, that’s the only man she’s been with and married to since she was 20.

There has been one person that helps lifts everyone’s spirits during this difficult time, and that’s my baby nephew. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and when I first saw him, he put his hand out to me and went all bashful. In the mornings, I’d steal him off his parents, and me and my mum would make him breakfast and then I’d play with him. The cutest thing is when he tries to stand up using the sofa for support, he turns his head and looks at me with this giant grin, as if to say, look at me Aunty Abi 🙂 I also used to hide behind the sofa, and he would try and look for me by peering over, and when I came up to his face he had the most infectious giggle. He’s got my amazing memory, my mum called and said he was looking for me behind the sofa, so they had to play the game. Kids are amazing…

Work has kept my mind occupied, I’ve been like a machine, focused, only taking short breaks to eat. I had another distraction. Yesterday my past caught up with me. I was at Pret buying my breakfast and I heard someone call my name. I turned around and it was a man that I dated about six years ago. It was a really awkward situation. He mentioned that he moved to the area where I work a couple of months ago and spotted me a few times, but didn’t know how to approach me. I’m perplexed, he said, why did you disappear all those years ago? Everything was going really well, I was planning for you to meet my parents, then you just disappeared? I racked my brains trying to figure out whether I’d said or did something wrong, but then I realised there must have been someone else. Was he worth it? I told him there was no-one else, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I just panicked, I didn’t tell him the truth about my situation, I  was embarrassed about my cultural restrictions, and walking away was easier. I was selfish, and for that I apologised. I’ve learnt from my mistakes though, I don’t date anymore. He on the other hand is married with a child. You’re really lucky to have a family, I said. The problem is that I fell in love with you very easily, the same can’t be said of my wife, but I’ve settled and it’s ok, but not perfect. You’d rather everyone else be happy except yourself, is it worth it? I don’t know the answer, as I’ve never been in love before, whether I have an arranged marriage, stay single, or I sometimes wonder whether I should just disappear and start a new life cutting out everyone with no expectations placed upon me…

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