BY PATTYL APOSHIAN KASPARIAN
It has become a ritual. Every meeting, event or gathering, my grandmother, Rosa Bikarian, will instantly pop into my head. I see her clear as a bell.
It’s understandable, right? I spent most of my life under her supervision. She raised me, my brother and sister while my parents were establishing their careers. She was extremely strict, but that’s the way she was raised herself. She was tough. She was ambitious. She knew how to cut corners and economize. Above all, she would constantly remind me that I am the only chance she has to pay solace to her father, a Genocide survivor.
If I’m strong-willed and strong-minded, it’s because of her. She taught me to be proud of who I am and to never take a back seat to anyone.
She would sit with me for hours until I completed my Armenian homework. She would chauffer me around from AYF meetings to dance to Homenetmen activities. I was a typical kid– more interested in finishing my Nancy Drew book or watching re-runs of Full House. I would fight with her day and night. Thankfully, she encouraged me, bribed me, forced me until she rooted the importance of the Armenian Cause into my heart and mind.
Last April, after countless treatments and medication, we lost her to cancer.
We nicknamed my grandmother Rosa Parks. We all know that she didn’t begin the modern day civil movement by refusing to give up her seat on the bus. That’s not the exact moment that merits the name. It’s the imprint she left. It’s her voice—the eloquence it carried. It’s her courage– the courage derived from standing up for your rights. It’s the courage of survival.
We saw it in her eyes, but never questioned it. The sadness. The disappointment. She had a look—some thought it was mysterious or just plain tiredness. If you ask me it was a glimmer of disdain and vague amusement. Her smiles were always shy and held back. I never heard her sing or watched her dance. I never heard her laugh wholeheartedly. She never wore colorful make up or excessive jewelry. She always felt more comfortable in the shadows.
In retrospect, the glimmer in her eyes was the last morsel of fight left in her—which she passed on to me.
I owe my dedication and commitment to Hai Tad to my grandmother. She erased words like second best and settling in life from my vocabulary and added words like perfection, achievement and passion. She compromised her life to add more meaning and significance to mine.
Even in her final years, as she would numb her body with medicine and pump her brain with information, she continued to reinforce her beliefs and addictions.
The faith of our nation rests in your hands.
Your generation bears the responsibility of defending our rights and advancing the truth.
Your voice represents me and others like me.
As emotions run high around Mother’s Day, I want to humbly bow down and tell her how much I appreciate her discipline and strength. Since I don’t have the chance to thank my grandmother, I want to use this opportunity to remind every mother, including myself, that we are blessed and burdened with the same obligations– to advance ourselves and our Cause.
I often complain about my mom. I’m all grown up with a family of my own. I have serious responsibilities and for the most part, I’ve done things right. Yet, she constantly pushes me to do better, to do more. From what I wear to what I say to what I do and how I do it, she’s the first to comment, criticize and compliment.
And, that’s the way it should be.
No matter how many businesses we own or how many degrees we earn, we must remember the wisdom, strength and passion instilled by our mothers and grandmothers.
This year, for mother’s day, I will cancel the expensive floral arrangement. I will skip the over-priced mother’s day brunch. Instead, I will donate to the 2012 ANCA Telethon and dedicate my donation to the woman who entrusted me with her voice and strength, my grandmother.