“Cards was my childhood, how could I hate it?” Raoul said recently. “And I was the best.”
One night, while Raoul was sleeping – the dining table was nailed to his bedroom window to protect against snipers – bombing began. His mother screamed for him and looked frantically until they found Raoul, then 5, crying as she hugged a framed picture of the Virgin Mary that had fallen from the wall, praying for his life. He then developed a stutter.
“When I left Lebanon, I left. I only took my stutter with me,” says Raoul, who has lived in the United Arab Emirates and Poland since he left Lebanon. “That’s it. That’s the luggage I took.”
I was lucky. I didn’t grow up in Lebanon, at least not full time, because my father worked abroad, waiting for the war to end and the chance to go back.
But every summer, no matter what happened – an Israeli invasion, the suicide bombing that killed hundreds of US Marines – we would go back to be with our families, to hold their hands and say, we didn’t let you down. . It was a survivor’s most twisted guilt, a role I played every summer until we went back to Lebanon in the early 1990s, when I was 10.
We had our close calls during those summer visits. In 1985, my mom took my siblings and me to run an errand, and she pulled off the highway to take a different route. Seconds later, a massive explosion ripped through where our car had been stationary, killing at least 50 people. We saw the wounded flee, the blood streaming down their faces.
Many wonder how their adult life would be better if their childhood had been different.
For Abed Bibi, a 58-year-old married to a friend of mine, he can’t stand the dark.