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About a week ago, my father went missing after Isha prayers. How that went down is a story almost like the ‘Don’t breath’ movie…
My sisters and I were all seated in our room together with mum. Each of us was in a different corner studying for their own exams that were approaching while mum busily texted our other sister abroad. Just out of nowhere mum started, “Your father is really late from the masjid today.” None of us replied because mum always got anxious easily and she had such a talent at making me panic too. I, for one, didn’t want to hear of anything to excite my heart with anxiety at that moment, so I just sat calmly and read on. Some minutes later, mum walked to the window where she could directly see the masjid, “Your father isn’t back yet!”
“Relax mum, relax. He will be back any minute,” I told her as I went on studying. Soon enough, my elder sister’s husband came back home from work and they left, leaving two paranoid creatures alone with one younger but stronger one to keep us sane enough.
As mum kept worrying about dad being late, I kept checking the watch in my phone.
“Ma, it’s just 9 p.m. Say ‘audhubillah mina shaytan rajim’ (I seek refuge to Allah from the Satan). There is probably a meeting at the masjid, or he is talking to one of his friends, or someone needed his help urgently…all that is possible,” I said as I patted her shoulder.
“Audhubillah mina shaytan rajim,” she repeated after me.
Mum thereafter convinced my sister to go check if he is still in the masjid. It isn’t far so it is safe enough especially since we could see her movement. She came back and stood right beside our car, looked up at the window where we were waiting and said, “the masjid is closed.”
Now one thing about my father, which I really admire is that, he was never the kind to roam around places or talk to friends for hours. He was either out for a purpose or inside his home with his family. He is never late home unless it is beyond him. If he wants to go somewhere a bit far from home he wouldn’t go without informing my mother or at least one of us to inform mum. So this was kind of odd. Our masjid is just 3 minutes away. What could have kept him out for more than one hour?
So nowadays, i’ve been reading several self-help books to conquer anxiety and such, and since I know mum’s anxiety is enough to knock me off, I tried really hard not to worry. Time to time, I kept telling her that he will be back soon. My 17 year old sister was in control. Not showing her worry nor saying much, she was just by the window waiting for him to appear. His phone was at home that meant that he had no plan to go anywhere after the prayers and it also meant, we couldn’t call him.
It was already getting past 10 and now I was the one chanting, ‘audhubillah mina shaytan rajim’. I was really struggling not to allow the anxiety get to my head. My sister and I went to the next door neighbour who is also his friend to inquire if he was there or if they had seen him; but they hadn’t. My mum called my brother to inquire from my dad’s friends whether he was with them. His two closest friends said they hadn’t seen him that day let alone that hour. LOL now you know what that means. It means me allowing my super-active anxiety hormones start doing what they have to. My mother? Don’t even ask; she was already having stomach upsets.
We were all reciting duas now; seriously praying, each one of us at a different window. I kept pacing from the window in the bedroom to the one in the sitting room, just hoping to see him appear. Thoughts were now flowing like a waterfall. What could have happened between the masjid and home? An accident? No, it is so close home we would have known by now. Kidnapping? Raid by the police? Perhaps took him as Al-shabaab suspect? Lol but then why would my dad be a suspect anyway?! I started thinking of the families in news crying for their missing persons, of the facebook posts of people missing their dead dads, of what if my dad had gotten into a fight which ended at the police station??
My sister’s baby started crying in the room, barely thinking clearly I walked to him and fed him, “I have to remain sane,” I said to myself. “Things could get worse here…and I am the eldest available. If anything is wrong with dad, mum would need a sane person.” Now my anchor during my panic attacks has always been my best friend. She was the only one who could make me think rationally at such situations. So I was texting her while still checking one window to the other. Making me stay positive, to calm down bla bla bla…lol those are the perks of having a doctor as your best friend 😀
My mum insisted that I should call my elder sister and her husband to come join us in the search. But I told her, “What help can they really offer now? We can’t do anything ourselves except wait. We would just be making two more people anxious like ourselves.” And trust me, waiting helplessly without doing anything is the biggest test of patience.
We were barely exchanging words now; my sister,mum and I that is. Each one was either deep in thoughts, deep duas or deep in conversation with the people who could have information about dad. Mum didn’t want to create a fuss so she tried to only ask the closest friends and the neighbours who pray with him. My brother had already arrived by then. He went back to the masjid. checked again, went to ask the neighbours…no sign of him…
Several minutes past 11 I saw my brother, his friend and dad’s friend walking past home. I knew what that meant. They were going to the police station. It also meant, no good news will come out of this.
Only one thing was in mind now. If something has happened to dad, if he is dead…what would be the situation here?! How would mum be? Does he have any debts we don’t know about?…Drowning in the thoughts and after several hours of stopping myself, I broke down, silently…
I could hear my mother move some utensils in the kitchen of which she explained to me later. “I knew I couldn’t be sure what news was coming then; maybe a dead body so I started clearing the place…”
As I stood by the window, stomach upset and tears in my eyes, I saw my dad appear from the direction of the mosque. I just shouted, “Mum! dad is here!” before running downstairs to open the door. I wasn’t planning to cry in front of my dad but when our eyes met, I just started crying and hugged him.
“Where were you?!! We were worried?!” I said, still in his arms. He remained silent and patted my shoulder, which made me fear that maybe something had been done to him . But by then my mum was already downstairs too, her voice shaky. He looked at us with surprise, like he was confused why we were crying.
“I was in the car. I dozzed off unintentionally…”
Mum said this after she heard that statement, “Upon seeing him, I was already about to cry but when he said he was in the car, I forced back my tears” like ‘what??!!’ So she kept complaining and complaining how worried she was and how she had thought of worst of the worst.
“It isn’t my fault. I came here and rang the bell for almost an hour (which apparently had a problem). No one opened the door for me. It was getting pretty cold out here. I didn’t have a phone to call any of you. So I just got into the car knowing Saeed (my brother) would be here any minute now and we can come in together. But then I just suddenly dozzed off and right now the only thing that woke me up was a noisy car that passed by.”
By the time he woke up he didn’t know that it was already getting to midnight. My mum quickly called my brother to stop them from going to the police station. My elder sister and husband had already been informed that dad was missing just a few minutes earlier by my brother and coincidentally, while mum was dialing my bro’s number, my sister’s call came in and thus both of them were in the call when mum said, “He is back home. You don’t have to go to the police.”
For a few minutes after dad was home, we were still contemplating what was going on.
“Imagine if they had already reported to the police…in fact the police would have wondered who reports a missing healthy, normal, grown-up man after just four hours? Then afterwards going back to inform them that he had just dozzed off in the car.” We were now laughing about it but after every statement, each one would say, ‘alhamdulilah’ (Thank God). That was a mighty scare. But for people like me and mum, we believe there are lessons to be learnt in everything that happens.
“Imagine I stood right beside the car when I was telling you the masjid was closed, I didn’t even notice he was in there. And when Saeed went to ask the neighbours he passed by the car more than three times and still…We just weren’t meant to see him,” my younger sister said.
“Oh my, Imagine the power of Allah. How He can shift just something really small in your life and how it can mess you up. Imagine just how all this happened because of the bell that we didn’t hear…God was testing our patience and the value of dad amongst us,” I told them.
“He wanted us to just have a taste of what it would feel like if He took him away from us,” Mum said.
We remained silent for a moment, contemplating that statement. It was heavy…and it made me dread the day I will lose my dad…or any of my family members.
We could barely sleep after that, we were just narrating how we felt during the trial, laughing at how silly the end is, at the wild thoughts we had, at how we made other people anxious too, telling the story to our sister abroad and keeping her in suspense just like I did to you right now 😀 …We slept late that night and in the morning, we had so much to tell to our elder sister and her husband.
If I have learnt anything from this experience is that, perhaps if it were not for this, my dad wouldn’t have known how much exactly I love him or how we all do. And that the worst words are those left unsaid.
P.S I love you dad!