I can write about his absence more than his existence. I can barely remember what it was like to be in his embrace, how he touched my hand, walked with me, praised and kissed me. So, I concoct stories about the two of us—not remembered but imagined.
The whole family gathered to celebrate his 40th birthday. I was only 7 years old, standing impatiently in line with my family to kiss his hand and straining to see the gifts he got from the others. I felt happy to be giving him a gift for the first time—a brush with a mirror on the back. We wished him a happy life and for all his dreams to come true.
It was unusual for my dad to celebrate his birthday, but that year he had asked for a party. I’d thought, like any kid would, that he just wanted to have fun. But my elder sister recently told me that my father revealed the true reason at the party: He wanted to teach us something. He said his life was not easy, that life had treated him badly, and that when people turned 40, it was important to think about their goals in life. He said he wanted us to learn from his experiences and mistakes. Was he aware that this would be his last birthday? I wasn’t.
A few months later, he was killed. This I remember! Zionist warplanes bombed my dad, killing him, just like that. At seven, I could barely grasp the idea that the planes had bombed “Gaza.” I only understood that they had bombed my dad. I started to hate birthday parties, even my own. Six months after his death, I cried on my birthday, screaming, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die!”
I don’t remember much about my years with my father and have never been satisfied with having only seven with him. When my close friend Amna recently characterized those years as “beautiful,” her words triggered a twist in my life. I began to search for the beauty. She pushed me to write about my father. I dug deep into my memories, thinking I could easily do it. Yet how can I write when I had so few memories? How can I know if a story was a true memory or one of my concocted ones? I was his youngest child, and so young. I know he used to play with me often and brought me candy, chocolate, ice cream and other treats. He had a big heart.
For me, seven years weren’t enough. I know him, and I don’t know him. What I mostly know is his absence.Seven years was not enough