Let’s go back to 1953. It’s been a few years since the Palestinian war, and a decade since Lebanon achieved independence from French colonial powers. There is tension. There is unrest. And of course, there are refugees. In 1948, Lebanon became home to thousands of Palestinian refugees, and since then, political decisions made by those in power had been harder lines to walk than a tightrope. There were religious factions to balance, an economy to maintain. Peace to keep.
Now let’s narrow the scope.
My father was two, perhaps just under. We’re not really clear on the matter, his mother said one thing, his birth certificate said another. He’s not a fan of birthday celebrations so he used to shake his head when we made him cards in March, laughing saying it was next month in April. As a kid I never understood why he didn’t take advantage of the fact that it seemed he could have as many birthdays as he wanted. April would roll around, and a month after the first day of spring my mother would remind us it was his birthday.
“No, no,” he would say, scoffing, “it was last month. You missed it!”
It was 1953, my father was two and his family had just made their way to Canada. His mother and father, his gang of brothers and sisters. In total there were thirteen, and I know my father was one of the youngest, but I don’t know how many, if any, had died before the trip across the ocean. Or after. I know that some did. But like his ever changing birthday, he doesn’t talk about it. It happened last month. No it’s coming in the next. I don’t know how they died, but I know things were harder then. His family was more poor than dirt, in a foreign country, and like everyone else who had left, they were running towards a better life.
I don’t leave the house without food and water, my crumb-filled pockets are a trademark, and my dad always makes jokes about the snacks I pull from various places at various times.
“You’re just like your grandpa. You’re just like your dad. Always packing around food.”
He said his dad’s pockets were filled with little candies for the kids, and he started filling his pockets with food so he could play outside for longer.
It’s 2017 and I had to go back and change the year I entered because I’m still writing 16′ on everything. My dad has been the mayor of Lac La Biche for a few years now, this is where his family settled in the 50’s and like the rest of the Lebanese families that happened to find their way to northern- rural- Alberta, this is as home as home gets. I don’t know the specifics, but after a wild youth, he put his life experience into working at the local college on the residence side of affairs. He worked with families and people who were experiencing all sorts of hardships. Addiction. Low income. The residual infections of residential school and the still bleeding wounds of western influence. He was a full-blooded foreigner, and while I hope to avoid any nitpicking on either side, he was part of a culture that not being mainstream, was marginalized too. He knew what it meant to be on the outside, to struggle. He atleast had that to offer.
It was working at Portage College that he met my mother. Somewhere in all of this, they were married, both for the second time. Him and his brothers got together and ran a sporting goods store, ending his work at the college and beginning what would be a few decades of six day work week labor in the compound, organizing and receiving shipments of boats, sleds, and quads. His manual labor career ended when he felt maybe it was time for some fresh air in the municipal government. He became mayor-elect in 2014 with 969 votes out of 2413.
It’s 2017, and my little brother is on his way to becoming a medical doctor. You know, not the kind that are known for their gentle delivery or winning way with kids, more like the brilliant jackass who will narrow his eyes if you try to explain that your ear drums hurt and you still use Q-tips. The kind of doctor whose thoroughness will save your life at the expense of your bruised emotions; who will fight for necessary resources and equipment in a community so small the mainstreet is technically a highway to Fort McMurray (here’s to you Dr. Burkhill). He’s not going to be happy that I wrote this, but that’s okay. I’m trying to make a point. And I’m proud of him for everything he does.
It’s 2017, and my twin works with community access and rehabilitation. Long, fancy words. She works with people who fall under the category of disabled. An ambassador for ableism down to her bones, she gives a voice to those who cannot always speak or be heard, and her self-awareness of the complex issues in this area of work run so deep, she’ll probably have some issues herself with how I phrased this sentence. She’ll say something like, “it’s not that simple. I don’t and can’t just speak for someone else. But I have to say something at times or no one else will”. And I’m proud of her for everything she does.
It’s 2017, and thanks to the union of my parents and their previous marriages, I have an older (“half” is the “proper” term, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just an alternative fact) sister who does what she can to better the lives of those around her. An amazing massage therapist, a beautiful wife, and a soon-to-be minimalist mother, my “little” big sister is a ray of sunshine in my life. I have an older brother who has shown me what it means to work back from the ground up, and always love your family. My oldest and third sister taught me that my hatred of tomatoes is nothing more than a preference, and I’ll never forget the day she told me “if you got it, flaunt it” while on the way to the swimming pool. Every shy kid needs a sister like that. And for that, I’m proud of my older brother and sisters for everything they do.
Consider this essay an explanation for my disgust at what Trump is doing, and a call to action for the lives that I have touched, and the lives that touch me. Consider this an apology for the first generation that will never have the chance that me or my siblings did, and consider this my attempt to reach out with empathy and transparency rather than the venom and aggression that comes as a reflex. I am trying to be healthy. I am trying to break the cycle. These things are not as far away as they seem.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few more satires to write before the sun sets.
All the best,
The Dirt Mouth