My Father always loved the sound of the Spanish language, but despite being a language enthusiast himself, he admittedly never took his Spanish very far; but he did use it to befriend people on the street and name his children. The result? Fiel Mahatma Sahir.* Three different languages: Spanish, Sanskrit, and Arabic. No one can guess where I’m from neither by looking at my face nor by simply reading my name. If we were to poetically translate this potpourri it could be rendered as “a Faithful watchman with a great soul.” Not bad Dad! A lot of my friends dismiss me as the “naturally international kid.” How could you not if someone has a name like that? Truth is, blood, sweat, and tears from my parents went into planting the seeds that make me who I am today.
* The Indonesian government basically made it illegal to have Chinese names in order to assimilate ethnic Chinese, and somehow this name was chosen for our family. We have no idea how our version of Sahir is pronounced or written in Arabic but friends have given 3 possible meanings: magician, watchman, or artist. Internet searching will cite the Qur’an.
The Planting of Wanderlust:
Maps and other geographical charts have painted the walls of my rooms (at least my half) since I was a child. Thank God for Costco. Staring them down and identifying random countries was a thrilling routine. When Dad came home, it was story time. He would recount me stories of people and friends from these faraway places. Not only that, I was deeply enamored by the banners of different nations. What a weird kid. My favorites were South Africa, England, and Kenya. Brunei freaked me out. Papua New Guinea had the Bird of Paradise, which was cool. Malaysia’s looked like a rip-off the Star-Spangled Banner, which in turn was from the British East India Company, but Liberia received no criticism. The fact that they all have to do with the British Empire is pure coincidence. Scrutinizing them wasn’t enough. I would ask my Dad to draw flags for me on a piece of paper and every few days if I was good (and if he had time) I’d get a new one on the same sheet. When I asked him to draw Spain or Portugal he would look at me, suck his teeth, and regretfully tell me it was too difficult to do it on such a small scale but would smile with relief when I asked for the Scandinavian ones.
In addition to maps, my grandmother would present me with banknotes from different countries, and my Dad would clip off stamps from the various letters we would receive. Family friends would jump in on this as well. One person in particular just gave me his whole collection! For some reason, I didn’t have a stamp album so instead they were put into a clear Ziploc bag. Every so often, I would pour them all out onto the floor and spend hours absorbing it all. What in the world were CCCP, Helvetia, and Magyar Posta? “CCCP,” my Dad said. “Is from the Soviet Union which doesn’t exist anymore! It’s when Russia took over all those other countries on the map!” One of my favorite stamps was North Korean (from the family friend’s collection) because it had a Pterodactyl and another from Tajikistan because of a HUGE porcupine. We would spend hours pouring over the stamps together, only to put them back in the Ziploc bag. It was through this that loving the world became natural to me. Father and son. στοργή.
Of course, like most American children creativity came in the form of LEGO®. Instead of playing with iPads, I had the joy of Cowboys and Indians, Knights, and Ninjas. Long live the 90’s. I would make up my own stories and universe. Taking the figures with me around the house. In the evenings, I would beg my Dad to help me build airplanes and ships because, at my age, it would take an eternity. Why do that when you can just ask your Dad to construct one? Then I found out this amazing product was Danish. I was mind blown. “Leg godt,” talk about absolute genius! Little by little my dad was setting himself up with an expensive and wanderlusting child, but it was a risk both my parents were willing to take because, in reality, they were creating a world citizen. The Ancient Greeks called this love “στοργή” pronounced storgē. Naming me was step one, nurturing me was getting the job done.
Fill the Need:
The older I get, the more I understand what it means to be a father as I reflect on it while on my daily business observing dads being dads. It’s such a beautiful sight to see. The precious child in the middle of a crowd on his shoulder’s letting her feel like she owns the world, and that everything is gonna be OK! Not long after I was born, my Dad was in and out of sickness and Cirrhosis of the Liver eventually kept him in bed for 20 some hours a day and too weak to do anything else while awake. There was nothing he could do. When he was healed of his terminal illness, he wanted to use his life to do things worth doing. He knew there were times when I would sit sadly not understanding why he couldn’t play, and decided he wouldn’t miss out on it (not that he did) any longer for as long as he could.
I’m neither a father nor terminally ill, but what I can say is: impact. We all have it. We have the power to impact someone in ways that we could never conceive of. Heck, we may not even realize we’re planting seeds when we bother! Be an inspiration. My Dad wasn’t trying to be, but he is now! Whether it means being a better uncle, cousin, a family friend, or role model go out there and fill the need. Give someone a smile and see where it goes. Happy Father’s Day Dad!
Got a story to share? Let me know in the comments below! Please give your old man a call and tell him you love him!