I arrive in Tehran two days after my brother called to inform me about my father’s death. “A car hit Papa,” Milaad said, his voice cracking like phone static. “It happened close to his home. He died on the spot. The driver fled the scene — we couldn’t find him. There is also something else, which I’ll tell you when I’ll see you.”
Thankfully, Milaad accompanies Maman to meet me at the airport. Maman and I had a fight on the phone six months ago and we haven’t talked since. That was the night I came back from Paris, the last place I saw my father alive. Our squabble doesn’t matter now. I am here to be with my mother during the forty-day mourning period. I might even stay longer — for six months, a year, or, who knows, the rest of my life — if Maman and I can get along now that the source of our separation is gone.
Nor does it matter that my mother wrongly accused me of siding with my father. In truth, Papa and I had a row at the end of our trip and he accused me of the exactly the same thing: of supporting her. This is what our parents did to me and Milaad all our lives. Each wanted us in their camp when they fought with each other. And once they made peace, they would divide their children between them. Milaad was hers and I was his.
My situation was much worse than my brother’s during the times when our parents quarreled. As a girl, I was supposed to side with my mother. This wouldn’t have been difficult, if her true reason for being angry was that my father was a miser. We lived very close to poverty because the only money that came into the home was from our mother’s meager salary. Papa used all of his money to buy property. However, the real reason behind my mother’s anger was to control my father and keep him, like Milaad, under her thumb. I believed my father should have his independence as much as I wanted to have mine. I wanted to have freedom of association — to like, love, and assemble with whomever I chose, including my aunt Raazi, Papa’s younger sister.
Entering the arrivals area and dragging my suitcase behind me, I look around for my mother and see her, along with Milaad, walking toward me. In her black winter coat, slacks, and wimple hijab, she looks slim and miserable. I speed up and we meet halfway. She throws herself into my embrace and wails. “You see, Maana, your mother is a widow now.”
People standing nearby look at us with compassion. “Sorry for your loss,” they whisper as they pass. The other passengers laugh with joy as they reunite with their loved ones. Their families, dressed mostly in bright colors, shower them with flowers and kisses. I pass Maman a clean napkin I’ve saved for my own crying and hold her until her sobbing subsides.