Mom and Dad

"Huda Alghali"

Though they were cousins and neighbors, she didn't know him very well; he had studied in Tripoli, 120 km away from their homes in Zuwara, and so he wasn't often around. 

She was only 14 years old when she married him in what was a thoroughly traditional union. He was in Tripoli when he learned that he would be marrying his cousin, which didn’t necessarily shock him–though it did surprise my mother. They barely knew each other, until they lived together under one roof. 

Like many other couples, the beginning of their marriage was turbulent. But their respective patience and wisdom carried them to more stable waters. 

 

He wasn't a difficult husband. In fact, he was compassionate and considerate of the fact that she was illiterate and couldn't help him with their children's schooling. Still, he could rely on her to run many other aspects of their lives. She was not materialistic or greedy, and she never once blamed him for carrying the family burden on her own at such a young age. She refrained from requesting even the basic household needs, and was satisfied with whatever he was able to provide.

Their marriage lasted for more than 55 years, and I never once saw him abusing her verbally or snidely, and I never saw her pressuring him to live beyond their means. They shared jokes even in the toughest of times. She spent a lot of time around the house, which left little time for gossip and family visits; after all, raising eight children was no easy task. He was quiet, and worked a lot. In the little time he spent at home, he read the daily newspaper, and relished the cup of tea that followed. This was a sacred, mandatory part of their routine–this tea party was the day’s crown jewel, accompanied by conversation, and followed by a siesta. 

 

After he retired, my father had more of a chance to enjoy his time. As a manager, his professional responsibilities had always been significant. His retirement completely altered his daily routine; he traveled less, the stress eased, and he even managed to sidestep his social obligations. As one of the heads of his family, his relatives often leaned on him to solve tribal conflicts. His life at home grew much more peaceful, and he relished in stretches of free time. At the same time, my mother was relieved of many of her responsibilities after most of her children got married. 

In retirement, playing backgammon was a daily routine for my parents. When the kids got married, my father needed to find someone to play the game with. So he taught my mother the rules, but he would often beat her, since my mother was just a beginner. He initially let her win, and sometimes even helped her win, which thrilled her; she would scream in joy whenever she won. As time went by, and without endless house chores to worry about, she got the knack of it, and won without his help.

 

I took this candid photo of them in the fall of 2009. So immersed in the game, they didn't even realize I was taking it. 

Every time I look at the photograph now I miss my parents dearly, but it fills me with joy when I remember that they were happy in their final days together. May Allah have mercy on my mother and father, and grant them residence in paradise. 

Born in Tripoli, she is an interior designer and graphic designer. She holds a diploma in advanced studies and worked as an assistant lecturer at the College of Fine Arts in Tripoli. She has designed numerous visual identities for several local and foreign companies.

Huda Alghali
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