The first parental unit visit since I moved
My parents came to Lebanon to visit me. Mom for 5 weeks and dad for 8 weeks.
They had not traveled here, together, in 26 years. Barely traveling anywhere together for more than a week’s time, I was unsure how this trip would go.
The furthest they had been from Michigan in the last twenty years was to Orlando, Florida.
Traveling across international waters, on a 14-hour flight, was enough to make you stir crazy.
Neither knows how to drive in Lebanon and my apartment is 110 sq. meters, which does not leave much space for quiet time away from one another.
I knew they were going to be in close quarters and prayed both would stay patient.
Jokingly, I stated to my siblings that I hoped they would not drive each other nuts.
I hate you, I love you, I hate that I love you…
Momma Lila was in Beirut with me in May 2017 on a ten-day trip. During that two week time away from Michigan, we traveled to Muscat, Oman and Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
We abruptly ended our trip because dad was not well and we needed to return.
The day after our arrival, he had a heart attack and was in the hospital for two weeks.
Alhamdulillah, we came home. As much as they bicker, they cannot live without each other.
Reminds me of the song by Gnash…
Made for some laughs
Coming home one afternoon, I noticed dad on one balcony and mom on another.
Asking them why they were in two different locations, they said they needed a minute away from each other. I just giggled and wandered into my room.
In the U.S., when your spouse or partner irritates you, it is easy to walk outside, go for a drive, or find quiet time in another part of the house.
That was not happening here.
Toss in a heavily medicated dad with a myriad of health issues and the fact it ranged between 92-100 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity anywhere between 60-80%, cantankerousness was easy to achieve.
Man, was it achieved often.
20 years fly by
Prior to that quick, ten-day trip last year, she had not been in the land of her ancestors for 20 years.
Her last visit was the summer of 1997 when I came as a gift for my high school graduation.
Dad comes to Lebanon as often as he can, which is usually once every year or two.
He stays in the south of Lebanon in his village of Aaita Al Jabal, drinking tea with his village buddies as they talk politics and religion.
When they are in the mood for some excitement, they play cards. You can only imagine how crazy a card game can be among senior citizens in the village. *fun! Fun!*
This trip, as dad stated, was for mom. It was for her to enjoy and see her homeland.
My mother’s family is from a village called Rafid in the Bekaa Valley.
Born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, she knows nothing about Lebanon other than what she recalls during her several trips to the country; 1972, 1992, 1997 and 2017.
In 1972, after her high school graduation, she witnessed war and devastation as Israel bombed a school filled with Palestinian families in her village.
Bodies of children and women strewn on the ground, screams of innocence lost filling smoke and fire congested skies, she fled the Bekaa and returned to America. She had no desire to return any time soon.
Israel would begin its assault on Lebanon that year and it would continue to devastate the nation for years to come.
A family excursion to remember
Twenty years later, she accepted to return, this time with her children. Taking the four of us, ages 9 – 14, was not an easy or cheap experience.
Taking a home equity loan for $25,000 USD, she and dad promised to show us the “homeland” and told us we would fall in love with it.
One out of four is a decent percentage, right?
I was the only one who fell in love with Lebanon. Bilal was on the fence, Shadia was traumatized from experiences that made her never want to return, and Samira was too young to embrace the history and culture.
Begging to extend our 30-day trip to 45, I knew that I would return to my ancestral homeland.
Five weeks in Lebanon
This 2018 trip would be five weeks and filled with excursions for her to see Lebanon and enjoy it. I am hoping that the experience was one that she will remember a lifetime.
We did as much as we possibly could in such a short period of time. With day and weekend trips filling out the calendar, we traveled from North to South and East to West.
Mom and dad went to Istanbul, Turkey with my aunt and uncle and some family friends for four days. They enjoyed the experience and were able to see another part of the region.
Whether we were visiting family members or long-time family friends, we enjoyed the moments we shared with people we love and each other.
Tensions mount with the heat index
As time progressed, nerves were being fraught and tension was mounting.
Being confined to close quarters with no access to the outside world, patience wore thin.
Being unable to drive or have access to easy means of transportation and personal space had created some frustration.
Given that I had responsibilities at work, I could only do so much during the daytime and had only limited time in the afternoon to take them out.
We had to make do with the time we had and the weekends I had free.
Never treat your parents poorly
I can honestly say that I was not the best daughter during their trip.
Exhaustion consumed me from the long distance driving each week.
They bickered over where to go, who to see and how much time to spend at a location. I chimed in, concerned for my own welfare and sleep schedule since I had work to worry about.
Like a fool, I was often impatient and curt with them.
Taking my frustrations out on my parents was wrong.
“Do not use the sharpness of your speech on the mother who taught you to speak,” Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb (as)
I knew that there were going to be plenty of activities taking place.
Somehow I had forgotten to take into account their age, slower movements, and need for rest.
Always used to being on the go, I had forgotten that my parents were aging and needed moments to gather their bearings before the next excursion.
Author Tia Walker wrote, “To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.”
We can never do enough for our parents
While speaking to a friend one evening, after a long and tiring day, he reminded me of my need for patience and that I owed them more than I could imagine.
“Suehaila, you can never, in all your life, do enough for your parents. Nothing you are doing will ever be sufficient in the eyes of God. Do you realize all they have done for you? All the pain and love they have carried and given? I know it is frustrating at times. We get comfortable in our personal lives and forget they are getting older and need attention. Can’t you recall numerous times you have frustrated them and left them hurt or facing hardship because of your behavior or actions? They still supported you and loved you. You need to ask God for patience and seek your parent’s forgiveness for your shortcomings and bad attitude towards them.”
Hearing these words shook me.
They have put up with so much over the years and did not deserve my crappy attitude and impatience.
That night I cried and asked God to forgive me for my deficiencies.
I woke the next morning and apologized to my mom for being so short with her.
Guilt consumed me
The hug she gave me left me remorseful. I felt horrible thinking of my behavior towards them.
How could I be such a jerk? I was ashamed of my actions and had no idea how to apologize.
“Thank you for your apology, mama. You have been really brash and impatient with us and we have been upset by it. I know this has no
t been an easy trip, but we came to enjoy spending time with you,” she said to me.
“And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.” – Holy Qur’an, Chapter 17, Verse 24
Role of children towards parents in Islam
It is not easy to care for elderly parents. Too often we are consumed in our own lives, careers, and families, that we neglect our parents and their needs.
When in prayer and making supplication, I always ask for the protection and good health of my parents. In all honesty, I never thought to ask for sabr (patience) and tawfiq (ability to achieve success) when it came to the care of my parents.
I always saw them as self-sufficient and strong. Over the last several years, with all my travels and activities, I have not noticed they are aging and slowing down.
Why are we so impatient with those who give us their all?
Mom said to me, “I wonder if you treat your friends with the same impatience.”
It made me stop and think. Am I ruder with mom and dad than with friends when I am stressed out?
We find it easy to mistreat those closest to us. Taking for granted their love for us, we assume they will easily forgive us.
That forgiveness may not come so easily. God wants us to be committed to our parents and their well-being. After God, they come before anything else in this world.
Your parents, along with your worship and steadfastness are your door and key to jannah (paradise).
“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.” Holy Qur’an, Chapter 17, Verse 23.
Don’t wait until the last minute
Acknowledge your errors before it is too late. Apologize for your ignorance and inappropriate behavior.
Show them you love and respect them. You may never get another chance to rectify your transgressions towards them and seek their forgiveness.
As mom was departing from Beirut to return to Dearborn, things were crazy and moving too quickly. I did not have the chance to give her a proper send-off or hug her long enough.
I wanted to apologize again and ask her forgiveness. Before I could say anything, she was being taken through security and all I wanted to do was shout out to her, “Forgive me, mama.”
Still remorseful, I sent a text telling her how much I loved her and how I was sorry for my behavior. That I sincerely enjoyed her time here and hoped she could forgive me for being a jerk.
“My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into the ranks of Your righteous servants.” Holy Qur’an, Chapter 27, Verse 19.