I was eight years old.
It was late spring.
I sat perched on my favorite limb in the apple tree that was the centerpiece of my childhood home.
Mosquitoes buzzed by my ears. As one hand subconsciously swatted them away, the other scratched at the welts they’d left on my skin.
The air was cooling, and my stomach rumbling.
But there was no way I was letting any of these things get the best of me until I solved the puzzle riddling my mind. The one that my father had set in motion when he planted me on that perch.
Just a few hours earlier, the sun was bright overhead.
The tiny pink apple blossoms breathed out the sweetest aroma on the afternoon wind.
The air was full of life, new beginnings, and unlimited potential.
It was the time of year that makes you believe the entire world is at your fingertips.
My father, sensing the atmosphere, took the opportunity to open my mind.
He climbed up to the most comfortable limb of our apple tree and bade me to follow.
Once settled on that branch, he presented me with a riddle. A brain teaser. Not the first, and certainly not the last, but one that I will always remember.
He asked me to stay on that branch until I solved it.
If you know me… you know I hate to back down from a challenge.
My father had checked up on me often. He watched me from the window as I wracked my brain but left me alone with my thoughts.
Finally, when the night had fallen, he came out and called up to me.
“Did you figure it out, Mehr?”
I shook my head, feeling defeated.
I was hesitant.
I’m not one to accept failure. But failure to obey my parents was far more disrespectful than failing a personal challenge.
When I came down, my father didn’t offer an immediate answer. Instead he guided me through solving the riddle. Which eventually I did.
You see, my father has always been the most amazing teacher.
His teaching style is wholly unconventional.
He doesn’t take it from the pages of a book.
He takes it from the pages of life… albeit the odd existence of life that Piracha kids have always been exposed to. Knowing nothing else, I believed the way he taught was totally normal. It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned how exceptional his lessons were.
When he wanted us to learn about perseverance, he tied a thirty-foot tightrope between two of our trees. I walked barefoot across that rope all summer long. Gaining confidence every day, each step, until I made it across.
When he wanted us to learn about focus, he placed a bow and arrow in our hands. I stood for hours, arms aching, eyes blurring, until I gained the strength of mind to meet my target.
When he wanted us to learn about luxury, he made us walk barefoot across the snow-swept landscape of our backyard. We stood shivering at the edge of our yard, looking back at our warm house, understanding full well that we were the blessed ones who had a shelter to return to.
He placed a worm on a line and asked me to catch dinner.
He placed kindling in my hands and asked me to build a fire.
He placed a harmonica in my palm and asked to create music.
He placed the world in my hands, and asked me to make it my own. By whatever ability I had, he wanted me to mold life before it had a chance to mold me.
He graduated high school at 14. College at 18. Then went on the attend MIT.
This man is a genius.
He’s the most intellectual man I’ve ever met… but somehow his teachings never felt intellectual.
He’s never taught by the way of the book.
He’s always taught by the way of the world.
And I learned, still learn, through experience.
We may be an unconventional bunch. We get weird looks because of our odd behavior, our bare feet, our wild nature. But I’d never trade in the way I was raised for the sake of conformity.
My father raised me to let my ambitions run wild, and I’ll never allow them to be tamed.
I’m so thankful for you, Abu.
Because of you, I’ve learned to Live my lessons, and in turn teach my children to learn in the same way.
Thank you for raising me wild.
Happy Father’s Day