for my father picture of me and dad at olympic stadium in seoul

For My Father, On His Birthday

I could say a bunch of stuff for my father that everyone says. Things like, he always supported me – and he did. Things like, he was always there for me – and he was. I was a daddy’s girl from the beginning, and he was always there to make me dissolve into helpless laughter.

But you know that story.

When I was in high school, my dad got hurt. It set off something in his brain, because he left a successful law career and decided to produce a multimedia show that spoke of hope and change. It was called Not This Day, and I was, as I always was, his partner in crime. He did everything for it, gave everything for it, invested his life savings in it.

But my dad wasn’t a show producer, and he didn’t know how to produce a show. The whole thing was too big for him, and eventually, it crashed.

Just after that, he was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

In the following years, Dad did everything to fight back. For my father, who was always so active, slowly losing control of his body was the nightmare. He wrote about his experiences and tried to be an author/speaker. He changed his diet and tried to exercise away his MS.

Then he declared bankruptcy, and applied for disability.

It sounds like a sad story, and I suppose it is. But my dad is not a sad person. These days, he goes out in his wheelchair and rides for ten miles. He comes in and does his duolingo courses for one of the three languages he’s learning. He reads books and articles, and writes long, researched blogs about the economy, human rights, and the future. He paints. But he still has MS. He is not an author or speaker, nor a show producer. He is, however, at peace.

A short documentary about my dad’s journey

When I was a kid, my dad was everything. When I was a teenager, he was a hero.

Now I’m an adult, and I realize there are two things my dad taught me that are absolutely and utterly priceless.

He taught me how to fail. Not the kind of failure millennials like to talk about and talk up, like oh yes you have to fail, but it’s a story that always ends in a lesson or some success that was bigger than the original dream. The thing is, sometimes you just lose. And that’s it. It takes unbelievable courage to lose, and not try to make it into a win. It takes unbelievable courage to be wrong, to change one’s mind, to turn around and say, it’s not that I was wrong or I shouldn’t have, it’s just that I lost.

Secondly, he taught me that taking huge, stupid risks for small changes of wonderful will cost you – but it is worth it. My dad is the only other person in the world who is as willing to take risks as I am. He paid his price for it, but he will say that it was worth it.

I’ve wanted for awhile to make a piece for my father, and I guess now is the time. The soundtrack of this piece is his voice, from a concert he did in 2008 shortly after being diagnosed. He wrote the poem, and the song is a cover of an old hymn, How can I keep from singing. I made one other video with his music, called Happily Ever After.

In the coming days, I’ll be posting a few videos from that show we worked on, just because what we made was good, and what it meant was better.

In the meantime, here is the piece. I filmed it in Lahore, and my phone’s autofocus went a little crazy. But what it means is intact. Made with love, for my father.

Happy birthday to my dad, the strongest and most courageous man I’ve ever met!