July 7th, 2020
Hussein greeted me at the front door. His hair was longer than I remembered, and he hadn’t shaved for a while. I hadn’t seen him or his younger siblings since the start of the pandemic. Hussein is college age. He should be a freshman this fall, if in fact the schools are open in the fall.
I asked him about his college classes, as he invited me into the family’s home. He told me that he was currently taking a couple online courses from Marquette University. I asked him what he was studying.
Hussein smiled, and said, “Theology.”
“What kind of theology?”
Hussein replied, “Christian and Catholic theology.”
Knowing that the members of Hussein’s family are devout Muslims, I asked him,
“How do you like it?”
He smiled again and said, “It’s okay. I have to go back now to my class. I talk to you again a little later.” Then he yelled upstairs for his brothers and sisters to come down and meet with me.
Not all the kids came downstairs. Nizar, being Nizar, refused to stop whatever he was doing to greet me. However, Nisrin, Yasmin, Haneen, Ibrahim, Yusif, and Nadaa came to the living room to hang out with me. I am not sure where the stragglers were hiding. The family has a total of eleven children. It’s a bit difficult to get them all in the same place at the same time.
Nadaa smiled and said, “Frank! We have missed you!”
I nodded, “I missed you too.” I really did.
They wanted to know about my family. I told them that my wife and I were expecting to become grandparents again. My son’s wife in Texas is pregnant again. I also mentioned to the kids that a young woman, who is important to me, is expecting a baby.
I asked the kids about school. Ibrahim is supposed to start eighth grade. Nadaa is ready for tenth grade. They are all studying something online. They miss being in class, hard as that may be to believe. I couldn’t find out from them if they are physically going back to their classrooms. They probably don’t know yet. I bet that their teachers don’t know yet either.
I was going to leave when Nadaa got up and said, “Wait! You have to drink tea! Don’t you miss having tea with us?”
I smiled and said, “Yes.” The Syrian family always offered me hot, sweet tea whenever I came to visit. Nadaa had already started boiling the water for the tea as soon as I walked into the house. So, I stayed to talk some more. Nadaa poured me a glass of tea.
Hussein came over to us. He was trying to listen to his Bluetooth while he was talking to me. His class was still going on.
I asked him,
“Are the mosques open?”
Hussein replied, “The mosque is open, but only for prayer on Friday. You have to register before you go.”
I told him, “My wife and I are going to church again, but we don’t need to register.”
Hussein said, “In the mosque they take your temperature and you have to wear a mask. If you register to come to Friday prayer, and you don’t come, they don’t let come back again.”
Hussein looked at me sheepishly. “If somebody registers, but doesn’t go to pray, then there is an empty space in the mosque that somebody else could have used. That is no good.”
He paused and said, “Yeah, I registered, but I didn’t go.” He shrugged. “Now they say I can’t come any more.” He gave me an embarrassed grin.
Then he said, “I have to go back to my computer.” He hurried away.
Ibrahim asked me, “This young woman you know, the pregnant one, is she married?”
Ibrahim looked puzzled. He asked me, “How can you have a baby if you are not married?”
I said, “Well, uh, yeah, a person can have a baby even if they are not married.”
Ibrahim was still confused. “How?”
“Okay, yeah, well, this young woman should be married before the baby comes. It will be okay.”
Ibrahim silently looked at me. My answer seemed unsatisfactory to him, and it was unsatisfactory to me too.
Nadaa asked, “The girl, she knows that her boyfriend is the father?”
That I could answer clearly. “Yes.”
She smiled, and said, “Then it is good.”
Yeah, it is good. I know that both the young woman and her fiance want the baby. It will be fine.
I finished drinking my glass of tea. I yelled up the steps and told Nizar that I was leaving. He yelled back to me. I told Hussein that I would try to come back more often.
He smiled and said, “Good.”