Our Pledge To You

News

Rummana Hussain: Learning lessons from Dad, Mom — and the Cubs

Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain's father, Akhtar, on the North Side of Chicago in 1969. | Supplied photo.

Almas Hussain, younger sister of Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain, and their nephew, Elyan Jamal, at Wrigley Field in 2015. | Supplied photo.

Almas Hussain, younger sister of Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain, and their nephew, Elyan Jamal, at Wrigley Field in 2015. | Supplied photo.

What Cubs fan didn’t think of a late loved one during the last few weeks?

I certainly thought a lot about my dad.

But he never exactly held his breath, waiting for the North Siders to finally win a World Series.

He thought rooting for the Cubs was a waste of time.

When he saw any of us watching a game, he would roll his eyes and tell us we’d be better off spending three hours doing homework or reading a book.

“The Cubs are a lousy team,” my father would bellow.

“And they’ve been lousy ever since I came to this country.”

My father, who was a doctor, arrived in Chicago from India in 1969.

I figure he was too busy figuring out how to navigate life in this strange new land and clocking in late hours at Illinois Masonic Hospital to realize that it was a stellar year for the team before the bottom fell out.

Ayana Jamal, niece of Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain, at the infamous Game 6 between the Cubs and Marlins in the National League Championship Series in 2003.

Ayana Jamal, niece of Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain, at the infamous Game 6 between the Cubs and Marlins in the National League Championship Series in 2003. | Supplied photo

Years later, I’d joke with my dad that the Cubs had been lousy for a much longer time than he thought.

While many devotees — like my husband’s family — hail from generations of long-suffering Cubs fans, my brother, Kamran, and I mostly got the ball rolling for our clan.

My father, who was laser-focused on bettering his children’s lives and those of his relatives overseas, didn’t get it.

But he was the one who inadvertently planted the seeds of our love for the Cubs when he moved our family to Lake View, then Rogers Park and eventually the northern suburbs.

A top medical student, he was recruited by two American hospitals as part of the Asian “brain drain” of the late 1960s.

He didn’t know anything about Chicago, and only ended up here because the salary he was offered at Illinois Masonic was more lucrative than the surgical residency in Florida.

Had he chosen differently, maybe I would be cheering for the Marlins and unable to stomach deep-dish pizza or handle cold winters.

Everyone says being a Cubs fan is about more than baseball.

To me, it has embodied values my father — and my mother — taught me: faith, loyalty and hope in the face of

Kamran Hussain, brother of Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain, and their niece, Ayana Jamal, enjoying Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Marlins in 2003, before the Cubs' epic collapse. | Supplied photo

Kamran Hussain, brother of Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain, and their niece, Ayana Jamal, enjoying Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Marlins in 2003, before the Cubs’ epic collapse. | Supplied photo

adversity as well as the importance of never straying and fiercely embracing your identity and ideals.

I remember, not too long after my dad died, holding back the tears while watching a Cubs game at Wrigley, suddenly jolted into the harsh reality that I’d never see him again.

Just days ago, I cried reminiscing about him with a friend who lost an aunt during this turbulent, historic World Series run.

My father missed many things I know he’d enjoy: the first African-American U.S. president with the middle name “Hussein,” four additional grandchildren, my wedding.

As much as my dad couldn’t stand our fascination with the Cubs or any other Chicago sports team, he did pay attention even though he pretended not to care.

I’d like to think had he still been alive, he would have been watching this year’s exhilarating World Series with us just as he did the month he was diagnosed with cancer when the White Sox clinched the title.

Sure, he probably wouldn’t have been as excited as more than half this city has been.

But he’d finally have to concede that the Cubs aren’t that lousy anymore.