Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chapter 6a: The day my father died

25 February 2007. I will never forget it.

That date is forever etched in my mind. That and 17 March 2007. This is the day we left our home in Iraq.

25 February 2007, though, was the day my first life ended and my second life began. It was the day I stopped being a normal Iraqi lad and became a refugee man.

It had snowed recently, and there were still patches of white in our garden and the mountaintops that we could see from our upstairs windows were still frosted in white.

I woke up with a bad feeling in my stomach. I distinctly remember waking up and sitting upright, as if I was just waking up from a nightmare or had just been awakened by a loud noise. But it wasn't either of those. I remember sitting there, looking around for what had crashed to the floor, shivering in the cold room. Then I remembered. The night before, as we'd been eating dinner we'd received a call on my dad's mobile. He'd looked at the number and walked into the other room before answering. We had heard him answer, "Aloh?" Then whisper something. And then after a few seconds of silence Baba had uttered a loud, painful, miserable groan. Then he'd walked back into the sitting room and rejoined us for dinner, acting as if nothing had happened.

Mama had looked at him suspiciously, and we all stopped eating. Baba had started eating voraciously as we all watched him. Then silly me, I had felt the need to break the silence. "It was them again, wasn't it?"

Baba had glanced up from his food, gazed at me for a moment, said "Huh??", then returned to his food.

I'd wanted more. We all wanted to know what was going on, but Baba knew better. Baba had always known better. In this case, he knew that talking about it wouldn't change what would happen, and he wanted to enjoy every minute we had as a family.

But I was an 18 year old boy, wanting to be a man. Wanting to share the responsibility. So I think I ruined that last night that we had together as a family. I kept asking Baba to admit to receiving the threats when I should have just let us eat and chat together in peace.

So on the 25th of February, a Sunday, guilt and anger and dread converged to pull me out of my sleep just a few moments after the sun had risen.

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