top of page

Happy Birthday

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

It's been awhile. I got a new job. My sister and I are moving at the end of this week. And I've just been in survival mode. But today it seems I have a lot of words floating through my head that I desperately need to get out.

Did you know that when you celebrate a birthday, the number is actually the year you've just completed? I'm sure that is common knowledge and I just never really thought about it. But for some reason, it's comforting knowing that my dad got to live 70 years of life. Today would have been the end of his 71st year. Had it gone the way we mapped it out, he would be swimming laps at the clubhouse, taking a walk, and then sitting on his patio having breakfast with my Mom. He'd be gleefully receiving countless "Happy Birthday" messages and phone calls and discussing whether he wanted to have Mexican food or steak for dinner.

Or .. he'd be here. In Seattle. Preparing to help me and my sister move into yet another new apartment. Maybe he'd be spackling the holes from the shelves he put up in the last one, or taking apart furniture. Or meticulously packing every box to make sure that no space had gone to waste. Then when I got home, he'd show it to me and we'd banter about who did a better Tetris. He'd say "who do you think taught you how to pack so well" and I'd laugh because of course, he taught me everything I know about efficient moving.

Instead, I spent my morning fighting back tears. Trying to focus on work and teetering between whether or not this evening will be beautiful or heartbreaking. And accepting that it's likely going to be a pretty even combination. Tonight, my sister and I will go see Dad's headstone for the first time. I'll cry on our way there like I always do. We will leave him his favorite flowers and one for my grandmother too. Then we will go to the same restaurant we went to last year where he unknowingly celebrated his birthday for the last time. I remember that day so clearly - he was so incredibly happy.

Today, I'd just like to write about him. To put on paper, pieces of him that I remember. That I'd like to share. My hope is that as it passes from my heart to actual words, the memories will become further embedded into my soul and I won't ever lose them.


I think the general understanding of who my Dad was is "kind", "quiet", "witty", and the giver of the world's best hugs. He was absolutely all of those things. But if you really knew him - if you were privileged enough to ever see the Nazir that was far more complex than he seemed, you know how truly wonderful he was. I won't pretend he never raised his voice or that he never showed disappointment. He was human. And he was actually pretty hot-tempered. He used to tell stories of the kind of guy he was before he got married. A teenager with a sharp tongue who wasn't afraid to throw the first punch. The trouble-maker of his fifteen siblings (yes, fifteen). A man in his early twenties just waiting for someone to underestimate him or say the wrong thing so he could justify putting them in their place. And also the guy who loved to tell the story of the moment he fell in love with our Mom. A quick-tempered hopeless romantic. He would tell us that the reason he wanted only daughters is because he thought he'd be too hard on a son. I'm not sure if he knew what three daughters really meant - so. many. emotions. - but I do believe he gave each of us the best parts of himself - all different, but all him.

I adore hearing (and telling) the story of how my parents met. How they fell in love. How they built their life together despite countless setbacks and obstacles. Watching their cuteness was always one of my favorite things. Dad cooking breakfast and Mom comes up the stairs and gives him a hug, a kiss, and they share a secret laugh. I had the privilege of witnessing these moments of love pretty consistently throughout the last 35 years. I remember it when I was 5 and I remember it when I was 32. Their endless love is what our lives were built on. They were dance partners. Entertainers. Members of a musical group. Parents. Travel buddies. Hand-holders. They were all of these things and so many others … together. For 40 years. These two humans had a friendship. In fact, they were best friends and soulmates - and they said it out loud a lot. Each of them made sacrifices for the other and for us. They most certainly had their ups and downs, but that's a marriage. They got tired of each other and then they missed each other. Neither of them were interested in a life where the other one did not exist. That was clear. So, in the hardest moments, they held tight to the things that bonded them and they grew a family where those things ended up being the foundation.

One of the things that has forever been a part of our family is music. My parents have always been musical. My mother was a singer and my dad played instruments for her. He was always singing though. Again, it's kind of a thing for us. We are all always singing. The music never stops. If it's not coming out of our mouths, it's undoubtedly playing in our heads. My sister and I often speak in song lyric (we're super cute, I know) - it's one of the few things we all have in our core. The music. Are we all singers and instrument players - no. Will we be starting a band called the Kassams … I can't say it didn't cross our minds when we were young and delusional … but again, no. We just find comfort there. We find love there. In the melodies, the lyrics, the way it all speaks to you. Mom and Dad taught us that - to feel the music and to not be afraid to let it out. Dad used to always be singing a song … always. He didn't play music on the radio - he sang it … while cooking, in the shower, mowing the lawn, driving, playing a game. You knew Dad was home, because he was singing as he came through the door. That sound in my head is something I pray never fades.

Another thing about my Dad ... he was honestly one of the smartest people I've ever known. Not like quantum physics smart, but almost accidental intelligence. He just knew things and had an oddly good understanding on a broad spectrum of processes. It was like his brain just locked in knowledge, often pretty random facts, but he remembered everything. Not only would he always be able to reference what someone said and why, he'd be able to tell you what they were wearing, what their spouse's name was, and what they had eaten for breakfast. He loved to get into discussions about world politics and absolutely any sport being played across the globe. And although it almost never happened, he hated being wrong about any kind of news. He was stubborn enough to argue his side until you had hard evidence in your favor, too. Quite possibly one of my most favorite things about my dad (and one of my favorite things about my sister) was that people underestimated his intellect. It sounds like a weird thing to admire, but hear me out. Have you ever been to trivia with both someone who thinks they know everything and someone who actually knows everything? It's pretty entertaining. Everyone looks to the guy who thinks they know and somewhere at the end of the table is your dad or your sister sitting with the answer, patiently waiting for someone to give them a chance to speak. This is kind of how they walk through life too. Consistently being underestimated and then just dropping bombs on people and watching faces turn from skeptical to impressed. And they just sit there, unfazed and probably thinking "duh, idiots". Admittedly less fun when you're the idiot, but overall pretty badass.

He was also secretly pretty creative. Not just creative … artistic. He would doodle on just about anything (my mom does this too) and then a doodle would turn into this beautiful drawing of a bouquet of flowers or the Seattle skyline. He'd produce these intricate designs on a score sheet during family game night just waiting for someone to take their turn. He also had really beautiful handwriting which he would say came from boarding school in London, but I think he just had an artistic nature. And speaking of game night - he was the best kind of competitive. He loved to win, but was never a sore loser. If he won a game, he would just smile really big, notably excited, and you could see him cheering himself on - on the inside, of course.

My Dad was a great cook. Mostly breakfast foods - mornings were a battle between crepes and french toast 🤤. On rainy days, he'd always make boiled eggs and potatoes and every now and then he would whip up some random Indian dish that he was craving (which nobody knew he knew how to make). I'm not sure he liked the act of cooking as much as he did the feeling of providing for his family - and seeing the excitement on his grown daughters' faces when he'd make our childhood staples. He'd always say his mother's cooking was his favorite. And he would talk about it like he could still taste every spice. He was seemingly on an endless mission to find a plate of fish and chips that was even remotely comparable to England - none of them ever were. His palette was predictable in the best way. I could typically look at a menu and guess immediately what he would order (and I think he kind of loved that). It came in really handy when I started asking him to try new restaurants. As I write this, I think my sister might say the same about me.

At the root of it all, there was nothing he wouldn't do to help someone who needed it. He was a caretaker at heart. He taught us to love each other unconditionally and to support each other, even when we didn't see eye to eye. He was the guy who spent his vacation days constructing back decks for people, putting up drywall, or fixing whatever appliance was broken. The kind of Dad who (without hesitation) showed up every time you needed to move, no matter what city you were living in. He was the guy his family called when they couldn't do it alone. And not only did he always say yes - most of the time he was genuinely excited to be doing it. I think he loved being that guy. He believed in helping when he had the ability and he was curious enough to figure it out if he didn't. I think that in his heart, he felt that if he gave of himself, life would give back to him. He was humble about it though - he never did the good things for the attention. I honestly believe he was a good person just because he could be.

I think he unknowingly grew the same heart into me. I've said this to a few people before but my last year with my Dad was the first time I think he actually saw pieces of himself in me. As we worked together to clear out the house, there'd be moments where I'd catch him with a smirk on his face as he watched me fix, paint, or pack. He'd be proudly laughing at how particular I was about something or how unafraid I was to crawl through our dark attic. He had a love/hate relationship with my spreadsheets for sure, but appreciated that even my thoughts were organized.

At the end of the day, he was genuinely grateful (and maybe even proud) that I was his. That I was quietly carrying bits of his personality in the same way I was outwardly carrying bits of my Mom. I've spent a lifetime hearing people say "You are just like your Mom". He'd say it too. All the time. And I love that - I love being like her, because she is an absolute force. I also love that this version of me gets to hear "you get that from your Dad" almost just as often. I am grateful that he got a chance to know this Aisha and to see just how much of my soul was built in his admiration. So much of all of us really. Through it all, I just hope he stays as proud to be ours as we are to be his.


I guess I didn't think about the fact that I have a lifetime of little quirks that I could write about my Dad. I could go on and on and talk in circles until the cows come home.

I could tell you how funny he was (and how he laughed at his own jokes) and about his favorite Dad joke (responding when someone said "OMG" as though he was God).

I could tell you how much he loved babies and sleeping. Go on about his sweet tooth and how he could eat vanilla ice cream and cheesecake every day. Or tell you how seriously good he was at mowing the lawn - and how much he loved his riding mower.

I could sob uncontrollably while I write about how much he loved being Kamran's "Bapa".

The list is endless.

If I'm being honest, I want to. I want nothing more than to sit here for the rest of the year and just write about every single thing that comes to mind. Because he was a lot of really special and beautiful pieces of humanity.

Today, we will celebrate all of them. We will celebrate that we were lucky enough to have the kind of Dad who made the effort to be so present in our lives that each one of us got to keep a different part of him. We will toast to those parts of us being passed on to our children and hopefully living on forever. We will remember him, in his many versions, every time we hear his favorite songs, every time we Tetris-pack a moving box, and every time we get a craving for French toast.

And we will also remember the first time we didn't get to call him to wish him a Happy Birthday.


Shaheed Rabia
Shaheed Rabia
Mar 23, 2023



Mar 23, 2023

This is beautiful… 🖤 love you boo

bottom of page