Sunday, June 17, 2007

my father

fayez salim nourallah
was born in jebleh syria
1936
12th child of 13
birthdate unknown
seriously
no birth certificate
no record anywhere of his birth
no one knows the exact date for sure
my mother
assigned him a birthday in september
because she decided he had to be a virgo
based on the characteristics
of his personality:
erratically charming
hypocritical
aware of the slightest of personal imperfections
a compulsive worker
a perfectionist
a worrier

his mother had once told him
snow was on the ground when he was born
so my mom figured it must have been winter or fall
when he was born
maybe that's why i've always forgotten
my dad's birthday
it always seemed like kind of a sham
or sadly
at least a good excuse to forget
"the man with no birthday"
sounds like a song title
doesn't it?

my father was a super scholar
as a young man
determined to escape poverty
any way he could
he once memorized most of an english dictionary
to pass a test
his closest brother ahbid
who was two years older than he
was a pilot in the syrian airforce
my father idolized him

in 1957
while dad was away
attending cairo university
on a scholarship
ahbid was killed
when his airplane mysteriously crashed
during a routine test flight
my father's family didn't contact him
because they knew it would have shattered him
to the extent that he might have failed out of college
he didn't find out the horrible news
until after he'd finished school
when we were kids
he still spoke of his brother often
like he was speaking about some kind of a superhero
i don't think he ever got over the loss
he never seemed to be close to any of his other siblings

in 1962 my dad received an offer
to attend the university of illinois
he wanted to be a medical doctor
but settled for accounting because
his family didn't have enough money for him to attend medical school
his father
my grandfather
salim
drove a school bus back in jebleh
they were very poor

dad later met my mother at U of I
they moved to el paso in 1970
faris and i were the only 2 kids at that time
my dad had gotten a job offer
teaching accounting at UTEP
he also had one in boston
i always wondered what our lives would have been like
if he'd taken us there instead
but el paso reminded him of syria
with the rough mountains
and open vistas
that's why he chose it

fayez nourallah was the first and only member of his family
to leave syria
pretty remarkable
considering the odds against it
but he ended up a man lost somewhere between two worlds
his whole life spent grappling with some sort of deep seeded mistrust
of western culture
i never understood this when i was a child
or even as a young adult
many years of resentment harboured toward him
by all of his children
now i just feel a bit sorry for him
he tried his best
he worked his ass off
he's still working at 71
and would've gone to the ends of the earth
for any one of his children
a difficult and complex man
there was probably never a chance for him to be understood
by any of us
some of the good things he taught me:

to never be a follower
to always be honest
to be fair
to be committed to your family's well being above all else
to attack your occupation with rabid diligence

these are all really important things to me
i think i finally see it now
what a positive influence he had on me

i hope my dad had a wonderful father's day

3 Comments:

Anonymous t-money said...

what a great tribute, thank you for sharing that, i can see all those positive traits within you, it's sweet that you can trace it back :)

7:34 AM  
Blogger Steve-O said...

Thanks for sharing. My father would have been 74 if he were still alive and he too came from the generation of men who would not be understood. All I could do was appreciate him for the good he did and accept the fact that he did the best he could.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Abby said...

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3:19 PM  

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