When Osama and Yusuf came for visits during their time at University it was a huge adjustment back to the old reality. This story is based on a visit one summer.
“Don’t make mama cry” I gulped down tears and scratched at my chin, holding it steady to prevent the quivering that seemed to grip my hands and face in recent months. Those words had become a common theme and echoed in my mind repeatedly. The green school table was modern and bright, a cheery reminder that life moved on and the world still turned as we sat behind four cement walls of isolation. I could hear my son on the marble stairs, a repeat in time continued to play, adding a new refrain with each changing episode. But now he was strong and confident, his voice could be heard echoing from the roof landing down to the basement room where I sat at the school table.”You have satellite in your room, the kids and mom should have it too“.
He was now a grown man, living out his dream of attending University in America. He stood on the landing of the villa that lead to the outside roof area where he had instructed the technician to make a new hook up. A nervous smile planted on his face, he calmly addressed his father, who stood on the stairs, raging and flailing, stepping up and then down, slamming his hands on the rail. Distance had brought about a new perspective and a resolve to not accept the edicts that randomly vacillated between unhinged and lunacy. He reasoned with his father in a firm and unrelenting tone that had grown from a two year old’s first words, “Don’t make mama cry” into a calculated and strategic counterclaim. He had been out in the “real” world and his eyes were open to the stark reality that he felt was akin to a silent prison. This quick trip to visit during break had been stressful and rules regarding placement of household furniture, specific words, foods and gestures, now seemed to be more unreasonable than he had remembered. A lifetime spent watching, following and protecting had now risen to this occasion where he would defy his father.
I looked around the basement room, no doors or exits and now no way out. I sat scratching my chin, biting my lip to prevent the dreaded tears that were seen as manipulation. The clicking of his ship ships (Arab sandals) now turned to missed steps as he bolted down into the basement room. Dirt mixed with sweat left traces of my smudged fingerprints on the glossy school table, signaling my mind into a state of patterned fear. He lunged towards the table, yelling and screaming, grabbing my preschool class papers, holding them as props in his tirade. He paced and then pounded the table, waving the documents in my face, ABC patterns and farm animals. I shuttered and stumbled to remember the words I was to speak, “I am sorry I will not do that again” but no words came. He repeated the phrase I had heard since that day when my little toddler dared to follow him up the stairs in the modest Seattle home, “Lynn, Lynn, Lynn, Do not turn my kids against me!” and with a swish he tossed the worksheets into the air.