It was a little while after Fajr. I smiled at the sound of giggles wafting down from the bedroom at the top of the stairs. I soon found myself standing outside the door, my heart uplifted at the sight of my young daughter, her chubby face glowing with sheer innocence and joy as she stroked our cat. I couldn’t help but feel happy when I saw her, like all of my troubles were gone for a while. I swiftly took her up in my arms and tickled her. She burst into full blown laughter and gazed up at me with wide brown eyes and two shining front teeth.
“I love you mama,” she said with such sincerity in her small voice.
“I love you too my darling,” I responded joyfully.
As we sat there in the moments that I would treasure until this very day, my father entered upon us looking cheerful after returning from congregational prayer at the masjid. He was holding a small decorated box in his hands.
“There’s my little girl,” he said as my daughter squealed and ran to hug his leg.
“What’s in the box Abba?” I asked him, my mind filled with curiosity. He sat on the bed, taking his granddaughter onto his lap and slowly opened the box. He removed a shining gold chain and secured it gently around her neck.
“It’s beautiful,” I said softly. “What a beautiful gift. She can wear it always.” He hugged her tightly, a look of sudden concern on his aged face.
“More importantly, I hope that she will always have what’s in here,” he said, pointing to her chest. “I pray day and night that she will always have faith.”
I simply couldn’t talk to my Mom anymore. She never seemed to understand, never seemed to be able to grasp where I was coming from. It felt like she wanted me to be perfect, wanted me to give up “the bad habits”. I wasn’t willing to do so. Most of our talks ended up in fights with her in tears and my anger at its maximum. I could faintly recall a time when we had been close, when she had meant so much to me. But things had changed and I started to feel like she was suffocating me. I had come to a point where I wanted nothing more than to get away from her. I often found myself in my grandfather’s room, listening to him recite the Quran, tending to whatever little needs he may have had, and sometimes just holding his hand. I would tell him about my problems and he would get it. He didn’t always agree with my choices and was sometimes quite frank with me. But, I felt safe with him, like I didn’t have to hide. Like I didn’t have to pretend to be something I clearly wasn’t. But, I still had a secret that I couldn’t bring myself to tell even him…
“Are you thirsty Nana?” I gasped one afternoon, my face flushed. I used to rush home after school just to keep him company and that particular day was warm and sunny. “It’s so hot outside.” He finished counting his dhikr upon his fingers and looked up at me.
“Assalamualaikum. I’m fine. Go greet your mother, my dear. She worries about you. She was crying again after you left today. She loves you very much,” he said. He always tried to remind me of that, and this time I brushed it off as usual. Sure, I had slammed the door in her face that morning, but she wouldn’t stop pestering me about being careful on my way to and from university. I felt that my actions were completely justified. He started to rise from the bed, groaning in pain. It was becoming difficult for him to move much.
“Wait, wait!” I exclaimed, rushing to grab his hand and steady him on his feet. “Be careful.” He looked at me and smiled. But there was worry in his eyes.
“You just don’t seem to realize the goodness inside of you,” he said. I swallowed hard, and kept silent. “I always pray that you will find your way, my dear. Always.”
The giggles had turned into sobs, each one seeming louder than the previous. Frustrated, I walked out of the bedroom and leaned against a wall, my head throbbing. I couldn’t seem to comfort her anymore. It was at these moments that I missed my husband the most. Allah had taken him back and I knew that was for the best. But I couldn’t help but wonder if he would know what to do, what had caused things to change so drastically in such a short amount of time, what I could do to keep them from getting worse. I needed my father. Much to my relief, he soon returned, walking hastily past me into the bedroom. Moments later, the crying had ceased.
“She just won’t go to sleep unless you tuck her in,” I said as he emerged, closing the door softly. His chuckles came to an abrupt stop when he saw the silent tears streaming down my cheeks. “I don’t understand Abba. I don’t know what’s wrong.” I felt myself falling gently into his arms. We just stood there like that for a while, enveloped in silence and the dim glow of the streetlamp through the window.
“Perhaps you’re holding on too tightly,” he said. My mind began to process the thought. It was possible and he was aware of that. I knew of loss…my mother, my husband, one after the other. In my eyes, they had been like strong, indestructible pillars. I had forgotten that they too would meet humankind’s mutual end. I had so much love in my heart, I felt like I never wanted to let go.
“It’s getting late, I must do my prayer and get to bed,” my father remarked. I stepped back into the shadows and watched him go back downstairs. Before I went to sleep I took a glance into his room and found him in sujud. I smiled, knowing he wouldn’t forget me in his dua.
The house was quiet when I arrived. Mom was still at work. I unlocked the door and tiptoed to my grandfather’s room, just in case he was sleeping. On my way, I quickly folded a stray hijab that was hanging on the stair railing. Mom must have been in a hurry this morning. I didn’t give it much of a second thought. Suddenly I had reached his room. My eyes focused on the blowing curtains, the spinning fan overheard, and then I saw him. My heart seemed to dive right into my stomach. He was just lying there, nearly motionless, his eyes gazing upward, his breathing heavy. I couldn’t stop my tears from falling and he gazed at me as I started crying. My purse and books escaped from my hands, landing with a hard thud on the floor. I heard the door slam and moved aside quickly as my Mom came rushing into the room. She started to try to help my grandfather off the floor and onto his bed.
Find out what happens in A Grandfather’s Prayer: Part 2!