I spent my life saying goodbye to you. And looking forward to have you back. Because I knew… Oh how I knew… That from Africa you’d bring me back mango and coconut. From Germany the nicest Frankfurters. From Paris, make-up and books. From London, Topshop dresses. And from Sri Lanka funky bracelets I’d show off in school. I spent my life writing endless greedy lists of things I wanted you to bring back and you always did. Opening your suitcase was like going to Disneyland.
Everytime you were landing in beirut, mom would call us four to the balcony, we would run as fast as we could and wave our tiny hands to say hello. And you would give us a sign with the plane lights. A sign you saw us.
When later I moved to London, I always waited for your visits. To go to that pizza place in Christophers place. To have a bottle of wine. Or two. A pepperoni pizza. And to discuss life with you. To discuss your childhood, Téta Renée’s wisdom and Jeddo Ibrahim’s love of life. You’d tell me how naughty Ammo Simon was as a kid, how he rode his donkey backwards wearing a sombrero hat. You would tell me about how with Walid, your childhood friend, you designed paper planes that you would sell to the kids in kfarchima. You already dreamed of flying. You’d tell me how one time, the paper plane was so big that you could not get it outside the door. Just like that plane, your dreams were big papy, extra large, and doors were never an obstacle. Our dinner over, We would come back to your hotel, arms crossed, a little bit tipsy, a little bit silly, and that’s when you became, on top of being the most amazing dad possible, my best friend.
You tamed the stars, the clouds, the planets. The skies were your office and I hated that second parallel life you had chosen, above us all, in that Airbus 330, because I coudln’t always reach you when I was scared, when I had a good mark at school, when I cooked a nice fish, when I was lost or when I had a very good joke that I knew would make you laugh.
You were constantly worried about us. And now papy, you decided to leave when your worries had no more reason to be: Carl came back to Beirut, just like you always wanted. Ralph comes back from his adventures even more of a man. You walked both of us down the aisle. Carol got married to Chadi, the “Rayyis” as you call him. I found my husband Basil to look after me. A man you loved and approved instantly.
Where have you taken off to? I have no clue. You were in a rush this time. Because you didn’t wait for mamy to tell you, just like before every single flight, ”Allah maaak ya habibi”. Those magic words you couldn’t take off without. And papy, You didn’t wait for my shopping list !
So here it is: watch over us dad. Ralph said he is so happy to now have his very own angel in the sky. The four of us have one wish now. Please, please, give us a sign. Everyday. Show us the lights of your plane. The aircraft has always been under the command of Captain Joe. And will always be.
Thank you for giving us everything. A beautiful home, a generous spirit as yours was so contagious, the most beautiful siblings, all of your time and so much love. And so much more.
I told you everything on Monday papy, just before you left, and you kissed my hand, but once again I want you to know you are the best father anyone can wish for.
Everybody says hi papy. Everybody. Can you hear me ? Papa Alpha Papa Yankee.
We all love you endlessly,
Letter read to my father in Church on Thursday 25 October.