Things I Wish I’d Told My Father

You lost your mother when you were a toddler. I cannot imagine what it felt like to grow up without a mother and survive without her love and support. 

Father, your elegance had no bounds. After my mother’s death you stood there, well-groomed, and formally dress, pretending that your heart was not breaking.

There is an old shop in Durham that sells neckties. I often search its window for new colours and patterns.

You were amazing. You created a filing system for your nine children and wrote their names on the files then neatly clipped their homework, birth, school, and university certificates etc.

I knew your determination to educate us was a personal vendetta because although you had an offer from a university in the USA in 1955 your family did not send you could not go. This remained with you to the end of your life.

Whenever you stood up for me you bolstered my backbone.

I am grateful for having a room of my own in a house you and my mother had had built brick by brick. You saved for years to pay for the land and the house.  That space helped me study, reflect, write and grow.

Thank you for teaching me how to read between the lines. A great gift.

The gold and turquoise pendant you gave me when I achieved first rank at school means so much. I wear it when I feel low to lift myself up.

Whenever I said to you ‘ya asmar ya hilu: dark-skinned and beautiful,’ you would laugh. I adored that boyish laugh.

You are open-minded and enlightened. You spoke too many languages not to be that: Arabic, Circassian, English, German.

Your handwriting is so beautiful.

You were a great father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. With your kind and thoughtful gestures you planted yourself in our hearts and minds.

Your love and respect for my mother made me believe that great relationships were possible.

Your compassion for near and far was exemplary. You had a telephone book that had hundreds of numbers, and you contacted each one on ‘her mother’s death anniversary’ ‘first day of the Eid festival’ etc.

You never held a grudge or treated people the way they treated you. An eye for an eye was not how you saw the world. You forgave and rang, visited, gave gifts. What an amazing example to follow!

You considered me a writer early on and took me to the Jordanian Writer’s League to meet fellow authors.

You arranged for us to join a language school in Oxford so we can improve our English, right before I started my university degree in English literature. I said to the teacher then that I shall be a writer and she raised her eyebrows.

The sight of a carrel at Oxford university overlooking a meadow and a lake inspired me. Students had such a magical place to read, write, reflect. I vowed to go back to the UK to continue my higher education. Due to your generosity that dream was born.

Thank you for supporting me during the student representatives’ elections at the University of Jordan. You were ecstatic when I won.

We have the same smile.

I hear your voice in any recital of the Quran especially that of Al-Afasi. It was mellifluous even when it got weaker, hoarser towards the end of your life.

You were a special man, democratic to the very core. Despite our fundamental difference you tolerated my views, my choices.

From a potential foe (teenager’s exaggerated fear) you become a dear friend. I looked forward to our conversations, which covered a wide range of subjects from flowers to food to foreign affairs.

How delighted I was when you enjoyed eating the baked chicken and potatoes, I had made for you. You really liked my recipe.

I looked forward to having breakfast with you and I learnt how you preferred the napkins, spoons, teapot, sugar canister to be arranged.

How much I enjoyed sending you Father Day cards and how delighted I was when I heard that you asked your granddaughters to read them aloud again and again. 

Dad, a homing pigeon began visiting me every day after my mother’s death and stood on the fence by the fatsia she had planted.

Speaking to my sister a few days before you died you asked, ‘when is she coming?’ Your trembling voice, which I could barely hear on the videocall, and your longing to say goodbye to me face to face will be with me for the rest of my life.

Your death shook me to the core. I experienced the loss as a sharp backpain probably caused by the heavy weight of all the unexpressed love I have for you and my mother .

I am sorry I did not say goodbye to you face to face. It was meant that I remember you healthy, strong, independent.

Your funeral was legendary. I wish you were able to see the amount of love that flooded the streets of Amman. You left a formidable balance in people’s hearts.

When I arrived in Amman I slept in your bed and woke up with an unfamiliar Farid al-Atrash song, ‘Ya shams albi w thiluh:  you are the sun and shade of my heart; my whole life’s story’, repeating in my head. I never heard it before that morning. Perhaps my mother sang it to me when I was a child. It summed up your and my mother’s great love story, which lasted for more than seventy years.

I keep checking your Facebook Messenger account, hoping to see a green dot and ‘active now’ next to your name,  longing for another videocall.

After your death white butterflies filled my garden.

Ahmad you always smelt of musk.

I love you, yaba.

©fadiafaqir 20/8/2022

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