Twenty five years ago today my father passed away. He was eighty seven years old and was healthy till three months before his demise.
My father was a very kind man, with a heart of gold and not an iota of guile or deviousness. He got his doctorate in chemical engineering from the UK and his greatest contribution was the founding of the medical cotton plant in the Mehalla spinning and weaving complex.
He was a man of his times. His father was a lawyer who was more interested in acquiring and running agricultural land. So coming from a landed family he was of the higher echelons of society, married well, and produced a large family of six daughters and three sons. My father was the eldest son after three daughters.
After graduating and attaining his doctorate, he came back to Egypt and as was expected of him eventually married.
My parents’ marriage was typical of its time, an arranged marriage, where an eligible scion of a good family is introduced to eligible daughters of families of equal social standing, and when there is a rapport, the wedding is arranged.
Despite it being an arranged marriage, my parents seemed to have made a real match of it. They seemed to have fallen in love, and it is with a mature view of their marriage that I can now assess the amount of love, with its accompanying tensions that were part of that marriage. They were married for forty six years and I cannot remember every witnessing or hearing them fight. I am sure now that they did, but they never let on to their children. I am sure they had their ups and downs, but basically the marriage was very solid.
The older they got, the closer they became. The last few years before my father passed away, he and my Mom were always going out for lunch – dinner was out as I would be back from work and he could not see well to drive in the dark.
They invariably went to the coast for a few weeks in summer, when I would usually catch up with them for a week or two. They were always chatting, no long silences between them. Their greatest joy was when they had their first grandson with them for a few days. It was like they had regained their youth. They took him on outings and I think they enjoyed these as much as he did.
A year before my father passed away he discovered some problem with one of his toes. He finally had it checked and the doctor recommended an immediate amputation. He suspected cancer. His toe was amputated and life went back to normal. Nine months later my father started coughing. A dry cough that would simply not go away. After three weeks of that we went to a chest specialist who asked for a chest x-ray. We had that done, and when the results came in we were devastated. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer.
All his youth and most of his adulthood my father was a heavy smoker, but stopped completely twenty years before he was diagnosed! This diagnosis hit us very hard. We knew it was hopeless, but until my brother put his foot down, my Mom and I were all for all kinds of treatment by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. He did go for a few sessions, but they were so debilitating, my Mom and I finally saw the wisdom of my brother’s stance in giving him only palliative treatment. The last couple of months of his life he was in and out of hospital a great deal, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.
Then on May 14, 1991 at 10 pm my father peacefully passed away. No matter how prepared one is for such an eventuality, one never is prepared enough. It was a shock but I still kept trying to convince myself that he was out of the horrendous pain of the past few weeks.
Family and friends rallied around us and helped us through the initial few days. But it was later on that I realised how much I had depended on my Papi to take care of everything, the finances, everyday life, and especially my mother. Automatically, all this reverted to me as I was the only one living with her at the time. My mother collapsed, she lost her rock, she was very vulnerable and frightened of everything. So I had to turn into her rock. With my father’s passing away I became a fully responsible adult in just a few weeks.
Twenty five years ago is a quarter of a century, yet sometimes it feels like yesterday when all the feelings of that time are re-lived. May his soul rest in peace and may he and my Mom be having another eternal loving lifetime together in heaven.
14 May 2016