“Mom, dad! I am planning to come spend at least a month in Lebanon this summer. I am so excited to see you.”
Mother : “Ya habibi! We miss you so much. I cannot wait to hug you and smell you”
Father: “Now this is good news. Finally something that brightness up our lives amidst all this pessimism we are engulfed with.”
Myself: “Yeah, now that I am back in school, I get to have longer summer vacations, so I get to spend more time with you and dad. I cannot wait to go to the beach, do some camping and hiking, and travel around the country with you!”
Mother: “Oh my dear! We were expecting you to visit this summer. Your dad and I were actually discussing this earlier, and I think your dad has something to tell you!”
Myself: “Oh oh! I can sense a serious tone! What is going on dad?”
Father: ” No need to worry my son. It is just, as you know, the situation in Lebanon is getting very scary and insecure. It is no longer political, it is terrorism and you never know when the next suicide attack will take place or where. Don’t get me wrong, you are our ONLY son and there is nothing in the world that we want than to have you among us, but we are worried about you. You are a very active and social individual, you always want to spend time outdoors, travel around the country, and most importantly you are always politically and civically active.”
Myself: “What are you trying to say dad?”
Father: “What I am trying to say is that we are worried. We were thinking that it might be worth sacrificing and maybe considering you not visiting this summer!”
Mother (jumping in to absorb the gravity of the statement): “Every single day since August 20, 2009 and I long for you by my side. I wake up and I open Skype and I cannot hug the pillow before I listen to your voice. There is nothing I want more than to hug you and have you next to me, filling my eyes with joy and my nose with your sweet smell. It is just that I am scared. I am worried about you abroad on your own, but I am more scared to have you roaming the streets here. I see the tears and the sorrow of those mothers on the TV screens after every bombing, and I do not want to experience their pain. I cannot stand the pain and worry to know that you are driving or walking on one of those booby-trapped streets. I know I will be living in fear every single moment of every single day when you will not be close to my side, safe inside the house.”
Myself: ” Mom, don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
Mother (crying): “We only have you and as much as it hurts to have you far, we at least know that you are safe. I know you think I am exaggerating, but this is the way I feel. I am afraid, worried, scared, whatever you want to call it. You are not a kid anymore for us to restrict your movement and social activity, and this is why we are worried. This country has stolen you from us and put you thousands of kilometers away. That is enough sorrow to live with. We are not ready for it to steal you again, maybe this time permanently.“
Father (interrupting my mother’s emotional eruption): “We are worried my son, just like every other parent in Lebanon. We go on with our daily lives not knowing that to expect. Future has become so short-sighted that it does not extend beyond getting back home safe at night. We would be glad to have you with us if you decide to come, but we needed to let you know how we feel!”
Myself: “I completely understand your fears. The last thing I want to do is to make your life more stressful. I would still like to visit and spend some time with you this summer. No need to worry. I will be careful.”
This is an actual conversation that took place between me and my parents last week. Of course it did not take place in English, but the core of the narrative, the emotions and fears were all expressed.
What makes caring and loving parents to get to the point to tell their only child that they do not want him to visit after a year of being away from them? The same two parents that call every day to check on their son, now a 27-year old man. The same parents who almost 5 years ago were opposed to the whole idea of their only son leaving the country for 2 years to pursue post-graduate education. The same parents who learned how to operate a desktop computer, a rapid uncontrollable mouse pointer, a smart phone, a tablet and all the social media to stay in touch with their son abroad. The same parents who jumped on an airplane for the first time ever, going through security checkpoints across two continents and interrogated in 2 different unfamiliar foreign languages, to attend their son’s graduation and spend time with him knowing that he could not visit that year due to starting a new job.
These two parents, like many other Lebanese parents, have conquered various civil wars, technology barriers, distances and physical separation only to be defeated by the fear of their children’s safety.
My parents may be over-emotional and exaggerating a little bit, but I know for sure they are not the only ones. Lebanese parents are now, more than ever, encouraging children to move abroad.
This sentiment that troubles Lebanese parents’ hearts and minds is not limited to a particular sect or geographical region. While politics may be dividing the people, the fear is uniting them across regions and religions.
It certainly was not easy for my parents to utter those words, asking me to reconsider my decision to visit. It is not easy for any parent to tell their children to stay away, at least temporarily. What is also not easy, is for those of us who are safe abroad, to know that we have parents, friends, brothers and sisters who are in danger’s way every single day. We also worry about the safety of our beloved, as we watch the news and follow the hashtags. If I am Lebanese, I might as well share and experience the fears that the Lebanese at home go through every day.
I will be visiting home this summer. I will be spending quality time with my parents, my friends and relatives. I will not allow the fundamentalists and the corrupt politicians to steal from me the opportunity to be united with my family.
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