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  • Nazifa Islam

Five Years

Updated: Jul 28

I watched my dad die from complications from lung cancer five years ago today. A lot of random memories and thoughts about him have popped up this past year. Here are some of them.


My dad was overprotective to the point that it was funny. Though I will say I found it more annoying than anything else as a teenager. For example: Every time my sisters and I would be heading out the door to see a movie, he asked us if the parking lot was well lit. I feel like there was at least one instance when we were going to an afternoon movie and he still asked that question.

Family Photo

His favorite (dad) joke:

Question—What did the fireman name his kids?

Answer—Hose A and Hose B.


I’m glad my older sister saved what used to be our home phone answering machine message, which he’d recorded however many years ago, as an mp3 file. I don’t have even a single voicemail from him. After he died, I started making it a point to save at least one voicemail from each of the people I love.


I was at a Thai restaurant with my younger sister once and didn’t think about how levels of spiciness are very different in Michigan than in Oregon—nothing in Oregon ever tastes spicy to me. So when I made my order, I asked for the highest level of spice. The food was essentially inedible though I soldiered through a few mouthfuls. I then brought the leftovers home and warned the rest of my family that it was insanely spicy. Maybe my dad took this as a challenge? He got the food out of the fridge and started eating it. He laughed, said “This is disgusting!,” and kept eating.

Nishat and Abbu

He was really good at friendship, which I can see now though it didn’t really occur to me all that much when he was alive. He met his lifelong best friend (my Malek Uncle) during college in Bangladesh. My dad ended up in Michigan for grad school while Malek Uncle put down roots in North Carolina. I’m one of three girls while Malek Uncle has three boys. Every year—and in some cases twice a year—one family would do the ten-hour road trip to visit the other one for a few days. My dad’s lifelong friendship led to me and my sisters forming lifelong friendships with the “North Carolina boys.”

Abbu and Malek Uncle

Every so often, on a Saturday morning, he’d go to Panera and bring back a dozen bagels. Not for any specific reason ever, but just because he felt like it.


I was in a wedding party twelve days after he died. Not because my friend was a bridezilla in any sense of the word—she made it very clear that I could do whatever I wanted/needed to do at the time—but because it was a much-needed distraction. Grief is really heavy, and I was glad to take a break from its weight for one day.


I went to see Jojo Rabbit with a friend (I highly recommend the movie by the way—it was excellent) months ago and when it was over my first thought was that my dad would’ve liked it. It would’ve been fun to talk it over with him.

There are moments when I don’t think about him at all and moments when he’s almost all I can think about. I honestly haven’t figured out yet which of those options I prefer.


#deaddad #grief

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