If being a "brash savior" is the definition of being a real man, then Baba would be a real man while Amir would be wishing he could be. Baba stood up to a gun-toting soldier to save an unfamiliar young woman from rape, while Amir watched and then ran away from a bully who was raping his loyal servant, playmate, and friend.
“There are only three real men in this world, Amir,” he’d say. He’d count them off on his fingers: America the brash savior, Britain, and Israel.
He missed people milling in and out of his house, missed walking down the bustling aisles of Shor Bazaar and greeting people who knew him and his father, knew his grandfather, people who shared ancestors with him, whose pasts intertwined with his.
having calluses; having skin made tough and thick through wear
Although the comparison here is between Amir and his father's hands, it could also be made between Amir and Hassan's hands. Amir and Hassan both got calluses from flying kites during the winter, but when school was in session, Amir had soft, clean hands, while Hassan continued to have the grubby calloused hands of a servant. Both Baba and Hassan calloused their hands to make life easier for Amir, but Baba was a rich businessman once, so his calluses came with more pain.
My student hand, clean and soft, on his laborer’s hand, grubby and calloused. I thought of all the trucks, train sets, and bikes he’d bought me in Kabul. Now America. One last gift for Amir.
I ran the stand sometimes as Baba sauntered down the aisle, hands respectfully pressed to his chest, greeting people he knew from Kabul: mechanics and tailors selling hand-me-down wool coats and scraped bicycle helmets, alongside former ambassadors, out-of-work surgeons, and university professors.
moderating pain or sorrow by making it easier to bear
“As you can see, the cancer’s metastasized,” he said. “He’ll have to take steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain and antiseizure medications. And I’d recommend palliative radiation. Do you know what that means?”
I learned that he had kept his family on welfare and had never held a job in the U.S., preferring to cash government-issued checks than degrading himself with work unsuitable for a man of his stature—he saw the flea market only as a hobby, a way to socialize with his fellow Afghans.
The last time Amir used the words "exhilarating" and "frightening" in the same sentence was when he was a twelve-year-old thinking about the possibility of his father clobbering a thief. In the example sentence, Amir is twenty-six and married, and he adds the adjectives "invigorating" and "daunting" to describe his own possible fatherhood, which shows how much he has chronologically and emotionally grown.
The idea of fatherhood unleashed a swirl of emotions in me. I found it frightening, invigorating, daunting, and exhilarating all at the same time.
"Conceivable" is being used as a pun that refers to all the possible hormones that might affect the chances of conceiving a child.
The next few months were a blur of tests on Soraya: Basal body temperatures, blood tests for every conceivable hormone, urine tests, something called a “Cervical Mucus Test,” ultrasounds, more blood tests, and more urine tests.
The general’s shattered hip—and all of the ensuing complications, the pneumonia, blood poisoning, the protracted stay at the nursing home—ended Khala Jamila’s long-running soliloquies about her own health.
uselessness as a consequence of having no practical result
Our lovemaking was still good, at times better than good, but some nights all I’d feel was a relief to be done with it, to be free to drift away and forget, at least for a while, about the futility of what we’d just done.