I wish I had met Bahba. Bahba died in Iran in 1994 when I was eight years old. I hold in my hands all that’s left of him. Does this make me sad? I wouldn’t say so. I never met Bahba, or any of my other grandparents, so my feelings can be better expressed as regret. This word, regret, reminds me of a melancholy breeze; it chills me to think about all the missed opportunities in my life. Yet sometimes occasions arise when these missed opportunities reappear. In my case, I hope I will get to see Bahba one day. It might be a while, but time is not of the essence. He holds them in his hands. They are yellow; but not a solid yellow, more of an opaque, cloudy yellow. They slide between his index finger and his thumb, one after another.
“What are those, Dad?”
“They’re magic beads!”
I can still see my dad sitting on our old green velvet couch with some papers in his lap, and the television turned on. I doubted the beads were magical, I thought they were probably just “special.” It wasn’t until I was about twelve or thirteen that I asked my dad about these “magic” beads again. I now know they are called “worry beads.” He told me that when he is stressed out, he grabs his worry beads and begins counting them. Now that I think about it, I can’t tell whether it is my grandfather or my father that I am watching. I picture my grandfather seated in his house, counting those same yellow reassurances.
“Bahba” means father in Farsi. That’s what I used to call my absent grandfather, that’s all I knew of him until my dad told me the history of his worry beads. He told me that they used to belong to Bahba. When I hold them, I immediately recall all the stories my father has told me about his own father.
They used to call my uncle Bahman a big troublemaker. One time my uncle fashioned a bow and arrow out of branches he found in the woods and then decided to go hunting; of course my dad went with him. “We trudged through the woods,” he reminisced, “pushing the heavy branches aside while keeping an ever-watchful eye out for spider-webs that spanned from tree to tree.” Finally they found a target; it was none other than the neighbor’s house cat. My dad said that uncle Bahman didn’t really expect to hit the cat. “Well, it was a bull’s-eye! The cat was sent sailing out of the tree only to smack into the ground and run off out of the woods screaming and yowling.” My dad told me when Bahba found out what had happened, he hunted uncle Bahman down. However, uncle Bahman always seemed to escape by hiding in his tree house. Bahba would pace back and forth underneath the tree house with beads in hand, counting and waiting. If uncle Bahman did not come down, Bahba would pretend that he had forgotten about Bahman’s mischief…until nighttime. My father said that since Bahba couldn’t catch uncle Bahman during the day, he would wait until nighttime when Bahman was asleep, and then everyone would hear the screams as Bahba grabbed hold of Bahman to give him his licks.
He would count, “good, bad, good, bad…” until he ran out of beads. My father told me that Bahba would often try to predict his fortune by counting his worry beads. I remember my dad would laugh every time he told me this story. He would tell me how Bahba would envisage his fortune through his worry beads and if Bahba did not like his fortune he would declare “maybe there is something wrong here with the beads” and count again. Now every time I recount this story I too laugh at how alike my father and Bahba are.
Now I am seventeen, and in my hands I hold those yellow worry beads that Bahba counted, that my dad counted, and that some day I will count. I wish I could have met him, but I suppose these beads will suffice for now. Every time I touch them, I think of all the stories my dad has told me about Bahba. It’s as if each bead holds a different story. They are timeless but aged, endless yet finite. Cool to the touch, I hold them in my hand and I can’t help but think that once upon a time Bahba’s hand held them just the same way.