It was the day of the talk.
I was about 15 or 16 riding on a train in Europe, far away from the middle east. On a vacation. Since we were going to be in this train for few hours with nothing to do. My father decided that it would be a good time to have the talk. He decided that I was old enough to know the secret.
No, I am not adopted. And no my dad didn’t have another wife back in Iraq with older brothers and sisters that I never met. It was nothing like that. But, what he did tell me, had equivalent amount of identity confusion associated with it. I might as well had been adopted, I might as well had discovered siblings I never met before.
It was the day of stunned silences. Gasps. One heck of a story.
“I am a communist”, said my dad.
I am the daughter of a communist. Surprise!
“Communism is a sinister ideology invented by Jews in order to corrupt Islam”, I was taught at school in Kuwait. Just one tidbit of nonsense out of many I was taught and believed while young.
“Communists are infidels”
“Communists are dangerous”
“Communists are evil”
“Communists will go to hell”
Given the valued education that I have received in Kuwait, it should be no surprise that I had a tough time adjusting to the idea of being the daughter of a communist. I was a good Muslim right wing girl, brought up with proper Arab nationalistic values. That is what I thought I wanted to be at the time.
I guess the signs were on the wall. I should have figured it out on my own. Why else would my dad be studying in the Czech republic? Why else did my dad leave Iraq in sixties never to return again? There were also other sighs. Like the fact that servants in our house always ate with us on the same table despite the strong objections of all family friends, who thought this to be odd. There was all the lecturing about how all people were equal. The way my dad would be deeply disturbed if my brother or I treated somebody from a minority group in a derogatory way as was common in Kuwait.
At that point I had a choice, either continue to believe that all communists are evil and will go to hell and by default my dad would be with them. Or adjust my believes and learn a little bit more about it. It was very hard for me to continue believing that the man who raised me and taught me that I was equal to any man despite the society around me indicating otherwise, could possibly be evil.
I found out many things about my dad during that train trip that I never knew before. He couldn’t talk about it earlier because it was dangerous to tell a child information that could get you killed. You thought my life story is amazing? Wait till you hear my dad’s life story. But that will be in another post.
Ten years later, I am living in Vancouver and I get a phone call from my dad. He asks me to go shopping with him on Saturday. I agreed to meet him at the time and date he specified. When I hang up the phone I had the following discussion with my husband.
ihath: I just had the strangest conversation with my dad.
ihath: My dad asked me to go shopping with him.
Za’atarah: What is wrong with that?
ihath: My dad hates shopping, plus my mom always buys all his clothes for him. The man hates the shopping mall and he is asking me to spend the whole afternoon with him in the shopping mall. You don’t think that is strange?
Za’atarah: Maybe he just wants to talk with you about something.
ihath: So why wouldn’t he just come over and talk to me?
Za’atarah: Maybe he wants to talk to you in private.
ihath: Must be something serious then, do you think that maybe one of my parents is ill? do you think that maybe my parents are getting a divorce? It must be something big. He sounded really odd on the phone.
Za’atarah: Don’t think about it like that. Just wait till the weekend and you will find out. No point is speculating.
The dark thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone. I kept thinking about all the dark things that my dad might want to tell me. Perhaps I was adopted? Perhaps, I do have siblings I never knew about?
Saturday finally came and I met my dad in the shopping mall. “Ok dad, so what do you need to buy?” I asked him eagerly, pretending that I bought the bit about me helping him do shopping . We walked around looking at trousers, jackets, sweaters, and shirts. My dad would look at different things and never show much interest. He didn’t try on anything and didn’t buy anything either. When we finished looking at all the men’s clothing my dad said. Lets go find a coffee shop, I will buy you a cup of coffee.
“Ok, this is it, he will tell me now, It must be something that is really tough to say”, I thought to myself.
In the coffee shop we had a generic discussion about world affairs.
“Come on dad, spite it out, you are driving me crazy, just tell me already, I am dieing here”. I kept thinking but I thought that I should just let him tell me when he is comfortable. I thought I should not push him.
Then my dad got up and said: “lets go to the makeup counter”.
“Oh my God! my dad is losing it, I never heard my dad say he wants to go to the makeup counter” I thought to myself.
So we go to the makeup counter and my dad keeps asking me which lip stick I like, which perfume I like. “Do you like this one? Would you like me to buy you this one?”, my dad kept picking different articles of makeup and showed them to me.
“Ok, something is definitely wrong, I have never seen my dad even notice makeup in my whole life and now he is recommending the Christian Dior Sumptuous Fuschia lipstick, something is definitely up.”
Suddenly my dad looked at his watch and said: “ok it is time to go home, I will give you a ride”.
“Maybe my dad didn’t feel comfortable telling in the mall, maybe he wants to tell me at home where there is more privacy”.
So he drives me home and he parks the car telling me that he wants to come in with to say hello to my husband.
“Ok, maybe he want to tell me and my husband at the same time”, I thought to myself.
So we walk together to my place and I walk into my apartment.
Hey! what are all these people doing here.
My friends, my mom, what is going on?
“Surprise!” they all shouted
It was my 25th birthday and my husband and my dad devised this whole plan together in order to give me a surprise party. I started to laugh hysterically, I was so relieved that my dad’s odd behavior was nothing more that a stalling tactic to keep me out of the house while my husband prepared food for the party. On one hand I wanted to hug them both for making such a huge effort, on the other hand they nearly gave me a heart attack in the process.
Hey! Families, full of surprises. You think you know somebody because you have known them all your life and then you realize that there is a surprise in store.
Yeah he is a commie, but he is still the best dad in the world.