Memories and lessons learned

Stories

My father was a cop

You may know already that my father was a police officer in Afghanistan. What you might not know is that the Police Academy there took 3 years to graduate from, the equivalent of getting a Bachelors degree. That time was spent learning law, criminology, and judo, among many other subjects like the video that ATTN: released this summer on Facebook points out. In his time on the force, he fired his gun only once (during a fire fight with a drug cartel) and he got shot only once (during the war with the Soviet Union).

When I was about 6 years old, I remember asking him why he didn’t become a cop in America. He said he looked into it but he didn’t think the training was good enough for how dangerous it is here. Let me repeat in case you missed that, a man that fled a war said America was too dangerous of a country to be an ill-trained cop.

When I got old enough to really understand what that meant, I realized how true his statement was. For everything we expect cops to do, for every potentially dangerous situation we throw them in, we owe them the proper training to handle those situations without having what seems to be the default answer of “draw my gun and kill him” be their first instinct.

I understand a lot of police fear that the next call they get sent out on could be their last. No one wants that. I don’t want that. But I honestly believe that an officer who is properly AND CONTINUOUSLY trained has more than one weapon at their disposal for most of the situations they find themselves in.

We find ourselves in a situation today where the public is losing or has already lost trust in the police. That’s causing a lot of police to distrust and in turn, fear the community they’re charged to serve. And thus begins a cycle of distrust, fear, and ultimately, violence. Again, I think training is a huge step in breaking that cycle.

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My dad loved to tell stories…

…and like most good fathers out there, he liked to tell you the same ones over and over again.  I’m not sure when it began, but I at some point in my life, I realized I may never hear his stories again. So, I made a conscious effort to ask him for a story whenever I could. Here is my top 10 list of how his most favorite stories began:

1) “In my country, I was Chief of Police…” (this was a good one that scared a lot of boys)

2) “I came to this country [America] with one suitcase!”

3) “In the police academy, my teacher wrote the word “trust” on the board and then quickly crossed it out…”

4) “When I was your age…” (these were typically stories intended on teaching me respect)

5) “Sit down, let me tell you a story…” (these were typically about Afghan history)

6) “Did I ever tell you about the time…” (these stories were typically about his or his family’s athletic prowess)

7) “OK, tell me if you’ve heard this Mullah Nasruddin story already…” (stories of a wise fool – always good for a laugh)

8) “Fart it out.” (not really a story, just some advice to a little kid with an upset tummy)

9) “This one time, at band camp…”   Oh, wait. That’s a different storyteller…
Here’s a good one: Instead of simply answering, “Of course I think you’re pretty!” to his insecure little girl when she asked him if he thought she was pretty, he told me the story of a little baby porcupine who asked his momma if she thought his fur was soft. So the momma porcupine took her paw and ran it over the quills of her child, scratching herself up and said, “You have the softest fur I’ve ever felt!”  I was never really sure how to take that story, but I appreciated the attempt. Thanks, dad.

10) “You can achieve anything with hard work in this country…” That was probably his truest story. He had everything – wealth, material possessions, job prestige, etc – and gave it all up to start over in a new country with his wife and daughter. He put his ego aside and worked manual labor jobs the rest of his life so that we could all be safe and together. We were never as rich as we were in Afghanistan again, but we were certainly wealthy.

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I was almost a “Feelings Hooker” …

Therapists are "Feelings Hookers"

Therapists are “Feelings Hookers”

When I was in high school, I remember telling my mom and some of my extended family that I wanted to go into psychiatry. My family laughed and thought it was cute in their usual condescending way and my mom thought it was a lousy idea. But I remember taking a few psychology classes my freshman and sophomore years at Emory and it was as interesting a field as I thought it would be, albeit much harder than I thought it would be, too. I was en route to becoming a Feelings Hooker. But I kept getting pressure from my family to be “a real doctor”, as if a psychiatrist didn’t have to go through medical school and have an “MD” at the end of their name also. Eventually, I got fed up with everyone telling me it was a shitty idea. So, I came up with a shittier one – Sociology, society’s Feelings Hooker. I guess I showed them…  huge-mistake


Happy Mother’s Day, Dad!

My mother and I had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday. We spent the day together, went shopping, had a nice dinner, and I gave her the 3-month membership I bought her to LA fitness so she could use the pool for the summer. She has always loved the water and her arthritis and diabetes affect her knees and feet to a point where she has trouble performing basic tasks, let alone working out. So the pool allows her to stay active and get out of the house.

At dinner, I was telling her about a friend who has 2 small children and whose husband neglected to do something for her on Mother’s Day. My mom got angry for her. “It’s the husband’s job to take care of Mother’s Day while the children are young!,” she would’ve said if her English were better. Then she told me about how dad always came through for her on Mother’s Day, no matter how old I got.

“One Mother’s Day, when we were still living in California,” she said, “you were maybe 4 years old and your dad was working as a janitor at a local theater. He came home after a long shift and he literally opened the door to the apartment, looked in, said hello, and then walked right back out.  I was so confused! ‘What’s going on?,’ I asked myself. I bet he has a little harlot on the side!!”

Like I said before, my mother’s English isn’t this good, so this is how she would’ve told it if she were fluent. At this point in her life, she’s lived half her life in Afghanistan and half in America. Not only is her English broken, but so is her Persian! It’s cute.  But it makes communication tricky. Anyway, on with the story…

“So I grabbed you and we followed your dad to see where he was going. We didn’t have a car then, so we walked everywhere. We walked down the street, making sure your father didn’t see us behind him. We walked for a couple minutes when I realized that he was walking to the local grocery store. ‘Oh, maybe he just went to pickup some food!’

I felt silly and decided we had to go straight back home to make sure I got back before him. Ten minutes after we got home, he came back. He walks in the door and I saw what he went to the grocery store for: he had a bouquet of flowers in his hand for me! He must have forgotten it was Mother’s Day until the last minute and he wanted to make sure I had a gift!”

She told this story with the most beautiful smile on her face. She looked radiant. And it is always wonderful to hear her happy memories of her life with my father. We both miss him dearly.

My dad always told me that he loved me. But he always made sure to remind me that my mother loved me more.

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