My father’s smile

In my ability to overcome obstacles

Rajas Habbu

10:26 p.m., March 12, 2007. My sister and I were ushered in to my aunt’s house. I turned back to see my mother and father driving away. My sister grabbed me by the shoulders and assured me that everything was going to be fine. I looked at her as I would look at my mother; she stared at me, eyes wide open as if trying to hypnotize me into believing her. I was in first grade and she was in fifth, but I knew she was giving me false hope. Nothing was going to be the same again.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know where my mother and father were going, but I knew something was wrong. The more I thought about it, the harder I cried. There was never a time when at least one of my parents was not next to me, and suddenly both of them weren’t there. My sister and I slept in separate rooms; I thought about going to her room and sleeping with her, but I realized I had to be mature and face my fears myself. 3

The next day my aunt received a call from my mother, and I was able to make out a couple words in Marathi, which I translated into a sentence. “He is in the hospital.” The tears pricked at my eyes again, but I suppressed them. It was hard to believe my father was in the hospital, but I was late for school and had to finish my breakfast.

It was around this time that I developed my interest in volleyball. I liked it because of the excitement and the rush that it offered, but truly it was to get my mind off of my personal family problems. I needed something in my life that would help me forget, albeit temporarily. I never played to one day become a state champion; I played so I would never have to remember the pain I had endured as a child. Over the years I was able to deal with pain better, but as I got older, I realized the reason I put in so much effort was because I was still covering up that painful time.

A couple of years ago, I realized my focus was off. I was making the mistake of not enjoying the sport, and my sole motivation to play was tied to the darker times in my life. It was hard to think about happy moments in the sport when the sole reason I started playing volleyball was to forget the bad moments, but I tried and I eventually found the joy in playing again.

In 2017, my team was qualifying for the national championship in a division I always wanted to play in. I remember the final point and how estatic the team was. I turned to the right and saw my team rushing to the court to hug and congratulate those of us on the court — but my eyes were stuck elsewhere. I kept looking at my father, and his soft, pure smile. I could tell from his grin that he was not exaggerating, and he was beaming with honest-to-goodness pride. That same smile that I thought I was going to lose forever was now in front of me once again.

If there is anything that I can do to keep that smile on his face, I will do it.

Despite the health problems that my father endured, he still continues to come to every one of my games, manage a law firm and take care of my family, including a daughter attending college on the other side of the country. He is more than just my father; he is my role model.

May 26, 2018. I was playing the hardest match of my life, the Division 1 NorCal Championship. With every point and rally, the pressure of winning increased, and gradually I became anxious. I took a deep breath. I took a sip of water. Nothing helped me calm down. I then glanced at my father, and I saw his smile once again.

The same smile I had seen 11 years ago. The night before he left for the hospital was once again replaying in my mind. I remember before he dropped us off he told me, “Don’t worry, it’s nothing.” His voice and his words kept playing in my head throughout the game.

The game started to wind down and we were down 13-10 in the tiebreaker set. I looked at my father with those words still playing in my head. I was lost in my thoughts, tears starting to form in my eyes, and I felt a sudden urge to fall on my knees and cry. My teammate awoke me from my daydream and I knew there was no option to lose — I had to win it for him. I wanted to see that smile again. I was not going to disappoint him. I made it my responsibility to help win the game.

The score was 16-15 in the fifth set and we were one point away from becoming Division 1 NorCal champions. As soon as the last ball dropped on the other side of their court, I felt a rush of adrenaline and a sense of accomplishment. I had made my father proud.

The biggest reward that I have ever achieved was to see my father smile at me from the side of the court with immense joy. The face that thought I would lose made a reappearance and I could not be happier. Throughout my life, I have always received what I wanted from my father, whether it be a video game or a new pair of shoes — my father has never made me feel like I miss out on anything.

Every day I wake up, I realize that everything I do is because of my father. I do it to see his smile. It is hard to admit that your father may not be with you your entire life, but it was a thought that I had to accept for myself a very long time ago.

Life’s not about the pain and the suffering; it’s about the fight and the reward that you get for fighting. Life is a struggle and if you do not hold it back, it will never show you mercy. All my life I have fought and conquered, but never do I admit to my successes. I always fight to see my biggest reward — my father’s smile.