Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘family

Introspection (continue 6)

My parent’s love affair

Dad fell in love with my mother in his tender youth and mother eventually followed him to Mali when she was about 19 with her younger sisters Montaha and Marie to join their family in Segou. An older friend of dad, Jeryes Chebabi, once joked that when they were passing by mother’s house he told dad that her aunt, across the street, is keeping a tight watch on him and suggested that he removes his shoes; dad obeyed and walked bare feet on the main street.

Mother left with her younger sisters by boat to Marseille and then to Senegal and then by land. My mother Julie told us that the captain of the boat said that she won’t make it to Marseille because she was sea-sick all the time and barely could eat anything.  Montaha and mother had to wait in Marseille, France, for several months to locate a boat heading to Africa because the war had disturbed all travels and communications.  They finally and  reluctantly had to fly to Senegal on a horrific loud small plane and then take ancient trains to Bamako. In all, the trip to Segou lasted more than two months.

My parents got married against all odds because their parents were competitors in business in the city of Segou.  The first village my folks opened shop in was Koutiala.  There was a river to cross when going to Segou and my parents had to load their car on a makeshift ferry. By the time I was to be born the shop in Koutiala was completely robbed along with the saved money.

My parents worked together for over 15 years in the poorest villages of Mali and settled in Sikasso, a village on the border with Ivory Coast.  They moved to three other shops in Sikasso before they bought a house, in cash as usual, from a French family.  There were about four Lebanese families in Sikasso and few others joined them later on; Khalil Nakhleh came from Bamako and opened a shop next to dad for better competition but my parents were the best in the business because of their honesty and readiness to trust selling on loans.

Mother says that she had to leave dad alone for periods of a month to have her teeth done in Bamako.  My parents were the first family to generate private electricity in that poor and desolate region.  My folks were robbed several times of everything; the first time when I was about to be born.

Business was brisk in Sikasso and mother ordered clothing from Paris through fashion catalogues and fashioned some dresses too.  Mother used to give a “trousseau” as gift for every mother who had a new-born. They were honest and hard-working people and not fit for business in Lebanon.

Financial troubles

Dad is free with his money and does not refuse any financial requests; he is now penniless.  My parents had a successful commercial business in Sikasso until Mali obtained its independence in 1961 and dad was frightened that he might be jailed if discovered exporting his saved money; thus, they decided to leave Africa for good.  Mother purchased her merchandize out of catalogues from France and sewed fancy clothes and offered free “trousseaux” for the newly born.  Dad gets scared easily and instead of taking a summer vacation to rethink his decision to staying permanently in Lebanon he sold everything hastily and for cheap. He could not do any business in Lebanon because people would not pay back their accounts.

My folks lost every penny during the civil war that started in 1975 and lasted 15 years.   In 1980, I warned dad from Nigeria to change his Lebanese pounds into Sterling pounds but he never listened to my suggestions, out of laziness most probably; or maybe, he had nothing much left to exchange.  The Lebanese pound devalued to nothing and mother had to pawn her jewelry in order to survive and pay the militias.

My parents had to sell the apartment in Furn el Chebak when they realized that I didn’t save much at my return from the USA. Dad got around $45,000; this sum lasted 6 years.  Dad gave a flat for Raymonde when she got married in 1979, and another flat for my married brother Ghassan.   Instead of renting to them to keep a flow of money coming to him monthly, he just gave them the above flats in the building that he used to rent.

I remember that dad gave me $5,000 in 1975 when I first left for the USA and when the Lebanese pound was strong; the exchange rate was two LL for one dollar instead of 1,500 LL right now.  Basically, that’s the sum I got so far from my folks; I recall that I asked for $1,000 in 1991 for graduation expenses and for my PhD ceremony;  dad had to ask my cousin Patrick to lend him the money since he was completely broke and I was not aware of my parents’ financial predicaments.

My parents have spent a lot on the education of their three offspring; they spent lavishly on the weddings of Raymonde and Ghassan and furnishing their apartments and contributing to the purchase of their cars; they gave a flat to Raymonde and Ghassan and they should have asked for rent because my parents are flat broke right now and have no sources for financial help.  We cannot count on a government in Lebanon for the old citizens.

I guess that, besides the expenses of my education prior to entering universities, I cost my parents just $6,000; all my expenses were from my sweat and hard work to survive and continue my education in the USA.   My actions with money demonstrate that I don’t consider money as my own and could easily dispense with as long as I secure the bread of the day regardless of how I am perceived as cheap or tight or whatever.  Anyway, I never earned enough to save more than $5,000 at any period in my life so that I have no idea how I would react if I come into big bucks.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2020
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