As you approach your teenage years, I am unable to stop thinking of the 6 o’clock hour in the morning of Saturday the 10th of April 2004. I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday. This was the time that the long labour of your mum ended. I was there for that moment. I recall that I had planned to cut the umbilical cord, but was never offered this privilege. The midwives unwrapped it from around your neck in a hurry as it was causing you some distress. Your grandmother was there too, but she couldn’t stay until the end of labour. I think she was bored, and not just worried as she said back then.
I remember clearly the junior midwife considering calling for help, as she was concerned about your breathing pattern. I think my presence as a physician in the labour room affected her judgment. Anyhow, the more experienced midwife confirmed that your breathing was normal, brushed the idea of calling an on-call doctor aside, and reassured us all. Needless to say, you never had a breathing problem in the thirteen years that followed.
I also remember clearly standing in the car park moments after your birth, and talking over the phone to my parents in Syria. I was then proud as proud can be. I was oozing energy and joy. I had a great sense of achievement that was never repeated until your sister was born 6 years later.
I see you now approaching an age where you will not need my support, or you will not be asking for it. Still, you will be having many questions, as you grow older. You may not feel like asking me. Mind you, I never felt like asking my parents when I was your age. Also, I am not sure when the talking between us will stop, or if it is ever going to stop. Many of my friends keep repeating that talking, as a form of communication, will eventually stop between a dad and his son. I hope that never happens but if it does, I pray it will be temporary.
Anyway, I didn’t know what gift you would appreciate on your thirteenth birthday so I decided to write you few letters. Well, I know I don’t speak often. I have your mum to remind me of this fact every day. I might have missed many opportunities to discuss with you Syria, religion, love, friendship and many other things. I must have missed many opportunities to communicate with you, but I hope these letters will help to do just that. I believe they will help you to understand who I am, and will possibly shed light on the person you want to be. They may also give you some suggestions on how to face the life that is ahead of you.
To be honest, I am not certain if I am writing these letters only to you or also to myself. I truly think both. Maybe these letters will help you shape your personality, and will help me heal my soul. I don’t know but I will try regardless, because I believe I am going to enjoy this exercise.
These letters will be from a Syrian expat father that is going through a midlife crisis with all its contradictions, to a son that is starting to form his identity and personality. I am not sure how often I will be able to write, but I will try to find a rhythm. By the way, you may always choose the subject you want me to write about, and I sincerely hope that you too enjoy this project.
These letters will carry my established views on the subject that I am discussing at the moment of writing about it. Let me explain, and please consider my explanation as the first letter; I used to read to you ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ story on most nights as I was putting you to sleep. I was never good in recalling other stories, so I read you this single story as written in the book. However, I recently discovered that it would be very easy to change its end or to view it from a different point of view. I list for you the different endings that I came up with;
First version, the wolf and his gang enjoyed the delicious meal to the last bite. She and her grandmother shouted but nobody cared. The wolves grew happier with every scream.
Second version, she was smarter and quicker. She ran to her grandmother’s house. She anticipated the wolf and his gang. She killed them all and laughed loudly while doing so.
Third version. She saw the wolf. She was speechless. They must have met in a previous life. She forgot her grandmother altogether. She and the wolf lived happily ever after.
I chose this story as part of the introduction to set things correctly from the beginning. I hope thinking of the many possible versions of the same story, helps you to understand that there are many versions to every story in life. There is no such thing as the single or the correct view or opinion. Things depend on one’s accumulated views, principles and experiences. So if you were feeling optimistic you would possibly prefer the third version of the story. On the contrary, if you were angry or were feeling down you would probably prefer the first or the second version.
As you grow older, you need to develop your own opinions or views on matters in life, love them, stick to them and defend them. With time you may come to appreciate that no one can understand all aspects of a single incident at one time, and that your opinion and others on certain matters may evolve as you accumulate years and hopefully wisdom. So you first challenge is to appreciate that although my views in these letters have matured through many experiences, they are only valid at the moment of writing them, and possibly only through my eyes. Could you accept that?