My dad passed away when I was 15 years, 6 months and 7 days old.
He was an immigrant, my dad. So was my mom. I didn't mind when it when I was younger, but as I became older I started to realize and dislike some elements of my Pakistani culture that differed from the other kids my age. I wished more than anything to be accepted and not given multiple glances when I would wear shalwar-kameez, or when my mom spoke to me in rapid Urdu at the supermarket even though I’d told her to talk to me in English when we weren’t home.
It was pointless, really; all this caring and fretting. No one really cares about what you do or how you act or what you’re wearing. Kind of like a hallucination, you imagine others judging you, you imagine them snickering and whispering.
Up until he passed away, my dad worked hard. And by hard I mean though he used to be a successful doctor in Pakistan and was used to being successful, his degree didn't count here in Canada. Thus, he was forced to downgrade to makeshift odd jobs he’d find to make enough for food and shelter for his family. Never once in my 15 years do I recall he bought anything for himself other than a winter jacket, a few clothes, and a camera.
My mom got a great paying job as an accountant soon, and I would occasionally question why my dad was working if mom made enough to pay for the necessities. Dad would say the exact same thing every time: hard work, whether or not it’s necessary, allows you to be capable and content.
After his death, mom called me one day to hand over dad’s camera alongside a newspaper clipping to me. I expected the camera roll to be empty, and placed both it and the newspaper in a drawer.
A few months later I came across them again to discover that my dad worked at the local amusement park as a hobby as long as we’d been in Canada— and had managed to hide it from me.
Though rare, whenever he did take pictures, it always seemed to probe his eager, optimistic side— and that’s exactly what he did at the park. He took vintage style photos of people for a small fee.
It was remarkable, really, how many pictures of people caught off guard, but with genuine smiles on their faces were on the camera roll. Sure, some were fake, calculated, timed smiles, but they were still smiles; all sending the same message of joy. It made me happy seeing the real smiles, the unexpected pictures. And knowing my dad, I knew that’s what he adored about capturing people in these moments. It gave him a sense of gratification knowing his work gave him and others capability and contentment.
As I glanced at the newspaper, I smiled.
“Hobbies Are the Best Kind of Hard Work” it said.