I wrote this April 11, 2017.
“I remember. I always remember.
Abi used to teach us about how we had to listen to and respect Ummi. But he didn’t like her. He didn’t respect her.
She would ask him to take the garbage out and he would yell at her for disturbing him. That’s how it all started. Or maybe I was just noticing it as an 11 year old. Maybe I hadn’t paid it enough attention before.
Eventually the yelling turned into hitting. Ummi tried to hide it from us, from her two children. Aamal and I had noticed a little bit though. We saw the bruises. We heard her crying when Abi was at work.
She stopped cooking for us. The last meal I remember was off brand boxed mac and cheese. It was salty from her tears. When Aamal complained, Ummi ran to her room and locked the door. We ate nothing but ramen noodles, McDonald’s, cereal, and granola bars from then.
She stopped making us clean up too. She only did the bare minimum so that Abi wouldn’t say anything. He still did though. He said a lot with his fists.
She even stopped teaching us Quran and Islamic studies. Sometimes we went to school. More often than not we stayed home.
Even though Aamal and I noticed things like the blueish gray bruise on Ummi’s arm, we didn’t know. We didn’t know that Ummi had her 4th miscarriage since our birth. We didn’t know that Abi blamed her for it. We didn’t know that sometimes he raped her. We didn’t know that he was abusive. We didnt know that she was depressed because of her abuse. We didn’t know that she reached out for help and people were telling her to “be patient”.
We just knew that she was different but she was still Ummi. And he was different but he was still Abi.
So when she murdered him one night, in front of us, with the most crazed but free look in her eyes, we didn’t understand. When Child care services came to take us away, we didn’t understand. When Ummi was sentenced to 40 years in prison, we didn’t understand. When our foster parents wouldn’t let us visit Ummi, when they deliberately took us to churches instead of masjids, when they stopped us from wearing khimars or reciting Quran, we didn’t understand.
But now at age 30, while I watch my children play and I think about how I would do anything in the world for them. While I contemplate murdering my abusive husband. While I think about how many times I’ve called the police on him or how I never wanted to end up like my mother. While I think about how vicious life is in this cycle. Now I do, now I understand. And I just pray that Aamal or my children never have to understand.”