It’s been almost a year.
A year since my parents started the process of their divorce. Divorce….the word still leaves a feeling of confusion and despair every time I say it. It’s hard to explain, and although I know it is for the best, it’s not easy to swallow. It’s like a bitter seed that has been planted in the pit of my stomach. Every time I hear of my father, that seed plants itself a bit deeper, creating waves of pain that reverberate through my body. Numbing my fingers, making it hard to type…these…words.
Because I remember.
It doesn’t happen every day. No, it is when I am least prepared for it that the memories overwhelm me. It can be a simple conversation that turns deadly with the resurrection of the memories I wish to forget. Like how good our life was as children. How I owe my proficiency in Arabic to a father who was adamant that we know our mother tongue fluently. How relentlessly he pursued our religious and Arab education, supplemented with trips overseas yearly. How every Eid, he bought us everything on our list, without every missing a gift (and sometimes including a few not on our list). How every school break he would take us to DC, California, Florida, and Chicago.
I remember the feeling of accomplishment when I would take first place in the annual Quran competition at our local masjid. How proud my dad would be of me, the look of happiness lighting up his eyes. I remember my first car that he bought me, and the way he pretended that he would never buy a 16 year old a new car. How he had me test drive it, and the salesman slipped and told me it was for me. I remember my high school graduation, and how my family came from all over, and my dad bought me a brand new laptop and threw me a party with 300 guests.
I can’t forget the countless family dinners, laughing with my siblings around the dinner table for our mandatory Sunday night family dinner. No matter how busy we were, my dad always wanted us to eat together one night out of the week. We all hated it at the time, but now I’d give anything for just one more dinner. I can’t forget the nights of summer where, after dinner, we would make hot mint tea and play old Arabic folk songs and smoke arghila, with nothing but the glow of the candles and coals to light up our night.
And most of all…oh, God…most of all, I will never forget the look of helplessness on my dad’s face the day after my second engagement ended. It was only the second time in my life I had ever seen my father cry, the first being when his father passed away 18 years earlier. He hurt so much for me that day, that my heart broke for him. As he apologized to me, while holding me tight, I could feel his heart breaking for me.
In the last year, he has hurt us all. Mostly my mother. But he hurt his children as well. And as bad as he has been, I mostly feel sorry for him. Because he also has those memories too. I wonder what he feels when he thinks of them. Does he look back with fondness, or regret? Or has he shut that part of the book, and started a new chapter of his life- one that doesn’t include us?
I know that part of my life is over. I know that I should forget. But it’s hard when these memories creep into my every day conversations. How easily it is for me to say “my dad used to…” or “my dad taught me…” I know that he will never be fully erased from my life. That as long as he is alive, there will still be a connection between us, even though we are not a part of each other’s lives.
The hardest part, I think, is the memories. Because no matter how hard I try to forget…I remember.