Back when I was in high school, my father told me a story about his dad, my grandfather.
When my father was in his twenties, he was still living in Pakistan. He had dreams of coming to America, of starting a new life with opportunities he did not have in Pakistan. At this time, he had two older brothers, in America and they were doing pretty well for himself (I will tell the story of the first uncle getting to America some other time). They had begun to make enough money to be able to send some back to my grandparents. However, at that time they did not have enough to be able to travel back home to see them.
Soon, my uncle was starting to begin the paperwork needed to sponsor my father for a visa to come to America. My dad was so excited that he would be able to come to America and live out his own American dream. My grandfather, on the other hand, was not too excited.
He tried time and time again to keep my dad in Pakistan, and yet my dad would not listen to him.
My grandfather would ask my dad, “Why do you want to go to America? You can stay with your family and friends and start a business here.”
And to that my dad always replied, “I need to go to America so that I can make some money and then be able to send it back home to you guys, of course.”
One day, my dad had received money from his brother in America and went home to give it to his parents. When my dad handed him the money, my grandfather grimly glanced at him, and then he just lost it.
In a fit of rage, he yelled to my dad, “You think I care about this money! I raised all of you children without any help from anyone, without asking anyone for money.” He held up the stack of money. “You think this money helps our family? I have been eating the same meal for decades, and now you think when I am an old man I want some kind of luxurious lifestyle. Two of my sons left me, and now they’re stuck there.”
“Where are my grandkids? I don’t even know what they look like. I’ll never be able to see them. I’m going to die before I get to see them. But you think that’s okay as long as I have some extra money. To hell with your money! Get it out of my sight.” And he threw the money on the floor and walked away.
After that, even with my grandfather begging him not to, my father moved to America. I never got to see my grandfather, and he never got to see me. I hate to admit it but sometimes I even forget his name; I have to constantly have my father remind me.
My dad likes to tell me how his father had been right all along. He says he should have never left Pakistan. He misses his friends and family every day.
A lot of people joke about how a lot of immigrants come into this country expecting to stay for a while and then get enough money to go back home and retire. And I’ve heard so many Friday khutbahs talking about how we need to see ourselves as American first, and commit to a life in the states instead of constantly looking back home.
But I don’t think that applies to all people. I mean, my parents might have spent a long time in America, the majority of their lives were spent back home. All their friends and family are back home. To my parents, Pakistan will always be home.
And I didn’t realize what they were missing out on until my trip back home. Back in my dad’s neighborhood, all of his childhood friends like to meetup after work everyday and just hang out in this gated garden of theirs. They did this everyday. They would order a meal, sit back, crack some jokes, share some old stories, and drink some tea before calling it a night. The sense of brotherhood between these people was something that I had never seen before. It’s something that I wish I had here in the states.
I have heard this story from my dad. If what he said is true, then what I have said is also true. I have told you this story, may you go on to your with your life in comfort and gladness.