Sometime in the early 80s, I and my sister were watching cartoons on TV when my mother answered the phone. She didn’t say anything while on the phone. Soon she hung up and started crying. I and my sister kept quite. We didn’t ask her why she was crying. We knew why she cried. We were expecting the bad news. My father had to travel to Jordan after he was informed his father was rushed to the ICU. My relatives said it was bad that my uncle, who lives in Germany at that time, arrived too late to say goodbye to his father before he passed away. I was in Kuwait when my grandfather passed away. I still remember this moment vividly.
I don’t know the exact year, but it was during my university years, early 90s, my mother went to Damascus to see her father one last time. He died shortly after she went there. I was in Jordan when he died in Syria. I loved him the most. He was one of those grandparents whom the younger generation likes to chat with. He taught me how to play a difficult card game. He used to love playing cards and Backgammon.
In Malaysia in the late 90s, while I was in our research lab another Jordanian graduate student who was browsing the internet on his computer, asked “do you know [mentioned a name]?” My friend used to read the obituary on online Jordanian newspapers, daily. I never did and still don’t. “She is my grandmother,” I answered. Again, I was far away. She died in Jordan while I was in Malaysia.
Last year, when I went back to Jordan I couldn’t go to Syria to see my relatives because of the ongoing war. I spoke on the phone to my only surviving grandparent. She is my mother’s mother. My grandmother mistaken me with my brother. I corrected her couple of times that it’s me, not my brother who she is speaking with but her memory couldn’t recall a person with the name Malik. When she was unable to remember me, I continued the conversation with her as my brother. My mother told me she started forgetting lately. And because my grandmother hadn’t seen me for a long time she forgot me. I was no one for her, just a stranger. I never knew about her situation before this call and my mother never mentioned it to me also. Maybe she didn’t expect this to happen. I couldn’t show my mother any emotions of sadness. She already had enough to worry about especially that she can’t see her mother who lives only 70 miles away.
Many of the expat people I know here in the USA lost a parent back home. It is the inevitable news no one wants to hear. Not being around someone you love the most while on their deathbed or even while they are getting older is something you can’t undo.
Friends are fun, but family is irreplaceable. As much as I love living in the USA it is too far from what I love and value the most in this world, my family. And for this reason I decided that I should live in the Middle East very soon.
Happy Mother’s Day*!
* Mother’s Day in the USA is on the second Sunday in May (this year it is on May 11th). In the Arab world, it is on March 21st.