Thursday, 1 May 2014

A wasted life?

About a month ago, I had a particularly miserable day and nobody around me knew why. Husband probably assumed it was something he had done, my visiting in-laws might have worried they over-stayed their welcome, and my maid stayed out of the way just in case. In reality, it was simply the fact that on that day, my dad would have turned 70. I was not really in the mood to try and explain that to anyone.

Thinking about his big birthday, I realised that I was not simply feeling sad because I was missing him, or felt sorry for him not having had a chance to live long enough to celebrate his big birthday. I also felt sad for his wasted life. That's the thought that kept coming into my head. Wasted.

His life, with small misfortunes and failures, attempts to get rich and endless women, gambling and thousands of cigarettes a day does not build a particularly impressive picture. Yet, my father could, should have, had a better life. He was born in a good family, he had brains, he was very sporty, he was artistic, he was talented. He did everything well. He sang beautifully and played a guitar. He had a fantastic sense of humour. With so many talents, what did he achieve at the end of his journey? I kept thinking, driving around Doha on that typical dusty hot day. Nothing, really.

Just like my aunt, who also left way too early, he seems to have wasted all those talents, shamelessly killing himself with bad habits and lazy attitude in life. And I just could not shake off the feeling of frustration and pity about that. Why, I kept thinking. Why did he waste his life so badly?

But then I remembered other things. I remembered how much he loved playing backgammon with friends on summer nights. How much fun he must have had in the younger days when he was part of the famous Baku KVN team. How much he loved women! And how eagerly they loved him back. How much he enjoyed making shashliks and smoking after dinner. How much he loved me and his other little girl, my half-sister. Hold on, I thought to myself. Was it a wasted life? What standards am I applying when trying to measure whether my father had a good life? Am I judging his successes by how much money he left behind? How many countries he travelled to? How many lives he influenced?  How many goals, whatever they were, he reached?

But what if none of that actually matters? What if what matters is how much you enjoyed little pleasures in life? What if what my dad actually really liked was womanising and smoking and playing basketball and singing to his guitar? And maybe if I could ask him now, he would say it was OK, honestly. Don't worry about my life. I smoked a lot, and read a lot of books, and slept around, and watched my children play in the sun. I had good friends, I fell in love, I loved good jokes and good music. I had fun.

Who am I to judge my father for not having looked after his health better? For not having done more with the talents he was lucky to have had, for the missed opportunities and wrong decisions? In the end,  his life, whatever I thought of it, must have been quite a nice one, actually. Not a very long one, not a very impressive one…yet, undoubtedly, full of happy moments, celebrations, naughty habits and guilty pleasures. And maybe that is okay.


  1. I tend to consider every life as a full life. And I'm pretty sure your dad took the most out of his life. Have you heard of people that just have heart attacks, even though they work out a lot a jog many miles a day?
    Just cherish those memories of your father.

  2. hey missus - glad to see you back writing again - also glad you finally got the maid - what a laugh. hopefully she will free you up to write more. take it easy t x

  3. I'm glad you had a change of heart. It sounds like your father quite liked the life he was leading. Perhaps that is the most we can get out of it. :-) In fact, I'm quite sure a lot of people can't say that, in spite of being 'succesful'.

  4. Think about the society he lived in, where the were no true achievers but the ones who had 'connections' and friends in all the right places, You can't judge him by the standard of today's society.

  5. There is definitely a difference between talent and discipline. We like to think of intelligence as being the main or even the only limitation on a person, but the ability to concentrate on boring tasks, set and meet goals, and persevere over time sets limits too. Your father sounds like he was happy-go-lucky down to the core, so I wouldn't call his life wasted at all. Although I never knew him, from what you wrote here I'd say he definitely lived up to his potential, and had plenty of fun while he did it.

    I also think it's interesting how comfortable you are with his amorous side. Most people I know of, particularly when describing loved ones who passed away, like to gloss over that part of their lives. I'd like to think that my own children will be so comfortable with me when I'm gone! Though somehow, I doubt they will.