Father’s Day from far away

Meriem Abou-Ghazaleh, Staff Writer

I remember being in my sixth grade art class, my eyes glued on the word “father” that rested on the paper in front of me titled “Father’s Day Gift Ideas.” While the rest of my classmates raced to the front of the room to gather materials for their gifts, I crumpled up the piece of paper in front of me and threw it in the trash. I saw no point in putting all of my effort into making another gift that would end up in the same place as all of my other Father’s Day gifts: the trash.

My father was never around while I was growing up; his job as a doctor kept him busy as he accepted several job opportunities in other countries while my mother took care of me and my two brothers here in America.

As the youngest in my family, my father’s absence took a huge toll on me. He was never there for any of my performances, graduations, award ceremonies, art shows or soccer games.

I always envied the kids around me who had a father to give their Father’s Day gifts to. I used to place mine in a box for the one month out of the whole year my dad would visit my family; he was always too busy when he came back to notice the countless gifts that lay in that box titled “An Ocean Away, Happy Father’s Day.”

It wasn’t until the sixth grade that growing up without a father really hit me. In 2012, my mother’s family from overseas moved to America, and they stayed with us until they could find a place of their own. My house was no longer as lonely as it used to be, because now I had my two cousins, uncle, aunt and grandma living alongside my siblings and I.

For months, I woke up to the sound of my uncle laughing with his children, and fell asleep to the sound of them saying “I love you” to him. It wasn’t something I was used to witnessing, since I never had that experience with my own father. I watched their relationship grow throughout the months that passed, and envied not only how happy my cousins made my uncle not only on Father’s Day but every day as they spent time together.

Unlike my friends and cousins who would kiss their father goodnight, I would wish my father sweet dreams from my bedroom window. I had his photo framed right next to my bed and kept an extra copy in my school backpack so it could feel like he was always with me. For each soccer game, I carried his picture in my soccer bag, pretending that he was there and could see me run like the wind.

Despite the emotional void I had within me for growing up without my father around, I always had my mother, who in a sense was my father at the same time.

My mother played double roles raising three children without constant support from a partner, and for that I’m grateful and will never forget the sacrifices she made for my siblings and I. She cooked and cleaned, worked and managed to finish her medical degree while taking care of us. Not a day passed by when she didn’t make sure my brothers and I were happy and supported.

During my freshman year, my father finally moved in with my family full time after 14 years of living apart.

I’ve always looked up to my father. He’s a revolutionary activist as well as a doctor, and to balance both is beyond inspiring to me. I wasn’t able to appreciate his presence for quite some time. When he first moved back, I held sadness and resentment in my heart toward him for not being there while I grew up, until I realized he wasn’t around because he was working day and night to provide a healthy life for my family. I’ve finally learned to appreciate his hard work and love.

Overall, my advice to those who have their father around, a father-like figure or even just a mother who fulfills both roles: make sure to spend time and energy on building memories together. Don’t take people you care about for granted, even if they aren’t always around.

Make every day a Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and hold tight to the happy times, even if they don’t last forever.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad and Mom, and thank you for the many sacrifices you both have made for our family.