My dad was a small petite man, with an enormous nose and sharp piercing small eyes; he wasn’t a heavy-handed, intimidating father figure. However, he believed that to survive raising a large family of 10 on $7 monthly salary, you needed to be vigilant in reconstructing our family values.
First, to put our house in order, he gave us character-based nicknames; our original Arabic names had been either those of a prophet or a servant of God, Muhammed, Ahmed, Abdelraffe, Aabdellnasser, Abdelaal, etc… didn’t reflect who we really are, so I became the Sursarah, the small cockroach; my mom was Walad, one of the boys; the skinny one was Feseekhah, dried fish; the enigmatic one was Brovdaah (I still have no idea what it means); the oldest was Abul-ossi, the father of sticks; then, the comfort-seeker was Oomdah, the mayor; the youngest was Hando’ah, the cutie; and my only sister was Al-arousah, the beautiful bride.
He wasn’t a religious, zealous man; he was what you could call a moral relativist. He would quietly pray the mandatory five daily prayers without lecturing us. He would tell us biblical stories to spread his moral ploys; each story would have a disguise message made to shape our outlook on life. The prophet said: to sleep hungry is to be merry, he would say when one asked for late meal. “The Hebrew people got lost in Sinai for 40 years, you know” he reminds us when we drifted to our ways, and if you don’t listen to his advise he would say “Well suite yourself but remember; Noah’s son didn’t make it ” .
He was a frugal man; to my dad, consumption was an evil state of depletion. Nothing terrified him more than one of us breaking into the kitchen to snack before mealtime. It was a violation of house golden rules. He even developed a home security sound-code alert system reflecting the level of threat to any domestic consumption around the house. Regardless of where he was, he managed to monitor and sense what was going on in our kitchen even in his sleep. Clearing his throat was a special warning alarm to alert us to his level of annoyance. He would clear his throat once if you broke into the kitchen, twice, for opening the refrigerator, and three “ahems” meant don’t touch that cold watermelon.
A conservationist before it became fashionable; He would walk around the house turning off radios, stoves, electricity and shut windows— as his daily mission to defeat ominous waste.
Reusing old stuff around the house for him was a divine resurrection ritual. Eating questionable leftover food was his small triumph over the tyrant of the decaying process. Sending the mail in used envelopes was his personal signature, reusing old batteries even for just a few minutes was magical, and for him, nothing was ever too precious for him to be wrapped in scraps of old newspaper.
My dad was an average man who never wanted to be a hero, he passed away a few years back and finally is resting in a divine place where there isn’t much to do or to say— the way he always wanted, god bless you dad.
Ahmed Tharwat/ Public Speaker
Producer/Host of the Arab American TV Show Belahdan
Blog at: ahmediatv.com