The House of Dreams
The house is a simple two story brick building in which dreams, shattered hopes and tragedies dance together. My childhood memories are of tall accomplished uncles and eloquent aunts who often visited us after they had studied abroad at the best universities, of my father’s siblings who stayed with us for long periods as he guided and protected all of them, of many story-book weddings, of my friends who were always curious about the ideas emanating out of that house.
From the MIT and Berkeley engineering magazines that fascinated me, to legal books and the works of the best Persian poets, to the people gathered there to discuss the latest political or personal issues, to the melodious piano notes struck by my oldest brother, there was the raw material to build anything you wanted. At the source were two beautiful, successful, open-minded people, mom and dad. The energy was electrifying, and the variety of characters and ideas coming through that simple door more exhilirating than the stories written in all the books resting on the shelves.
One morning, my dad called me to come and have breakfast with him. Looking at his face in the dark kitchen, I saw a devastated man that I had never seen before. The thin but always confident and powerful man was sitting in the small kitchen asking me what I wanted for breakfast but there was nothing on the table and his eyes were full of tears. We were all alone.
My sister and my three brothers had left to study abroad and my mom had taken a leave, a long leave to sort out her own life. There was no talk about it but the emptiness I felt in his eyes was overwhelming. There in that small kitchen, I told him that I want a milkshake. He took a banana, mashed it with the fork, poured over some fresh milk, and gave me the best milkshake in the world. I told him I had never had such a delicious milkshake in my life. Soon, I realized that despite sadness, I could fulfill my wishes if my dad was there with me and if there was a will to go on. That drive, we found it in each other, as in those moments we had nobody except the two of us. Soon, all his dreams and expectations started pouring into me and his work.
As he climbed the ladder of the judiciary, I soon understood that he not only loves and longs for his family but also for the just treatment of every member of the community. He would work for hours writing legal articles, protecting the poor and the rich as long as they were right. He taught me lessons in hard work, honesty and integrity, always by example. With his career success, his travels began, and I remember him taking me along to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. I will never forget the day that my brothers joined us for a visit. Guided by my oldest brother, we wandered around Amsterdam and The Hague, discovering our new surroundings. Learning and questioning glued us all together.
It was obvious to me that my father was struggling to decide what would be best for me, to stay in Iran or follow my own path alone in France. Our separation was difficult but gradual. In The Hague, he would go to the court all day and I could wander around but would join him for lunch with his colleagues. He sent me to Strasbourg alone one summer to see if I could get by.
Our family had become widely scattered. My sister started her studies in October, 1968, at the faculty of architecture in Rome and soon my oldest brother followed her. My two younger brothers left to study at the University of Wisconsin. They were drawn by the progressive atmosphere of the campus at Madison, which at that time was a center of anti-Vietnam protest.
My father had a government scholarship to study at the Institut International d’Administration Publique (IIAP). This institute was just around the corner from Pantheon-Assas where later I studied Economics. My dad insisted that I go with him to the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève just so I could see what it is like to do research! While at IIAP, he forged an enduring friendship with one of the most honored French families. I continued in his footsteps furthering my own ties with the family members, who were a great source of support and help to me throughout my time in Paris.
The news of the Iranian Revolution while I was studying in France caused elation among the student body abroad. This period did not last long. While I had always received letters from my father, the communication stopped and soon I realized that his life and the lives of all of us and the whole country had changed. Those letters, which were always full of poetry as well as advice, were a pillar of support for me. I have saved them all and still draw inspiration from them today.
From his early dealings with Dr. Mosadegh to his views on legal issues, I started to see another face of my dad. Courage. While many fled the country, he housed those who were scared despite his own position in the government. He would stand tall and confident that he is a man of law and he would fight until the end. My father, a handsome, charismatic, powerful, elegant and humble man, seemed quiet to many but he was not quiet when it came to the rules of law. When he saw people behaving unjustly, his finger would shake with rage and in his contained manner he would assert the principles of law. He started writing books about those principles. He would publish articles about his views no matter what the consequences and would live to the end of his life based on his sense of right and wrong and his belief in the power of law.
Despite his achievements, his wisdom and his unique view of the world, what I remember the most is his simple quiet kindness. He was a very humble man. He had a long battle with Alzheimer’s during which my mother and his nurse took care of him. He has left us now, but has left behind my caring and accomplished mother and my four siblings whose achievements realize the dreams that my father had for us.
As I say farewell to my dad, I strive to attain the courage and will power that carried him through life in every struggle he faced. Easier said than done, but I will always be guided by his love and wisdom.
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