The coolest uncle in the whole world!

One of the things that marked my childhood was total confusion. My dad is one of fifteen brothers (It took me long years to memorise my cousins’ names) and my mother is the third of nine children. Mom always called her younger siblings: “my children” as the difference between them varied between ten to twenty years.
Though the gesture was a sentimental one, it caused a great confusion to a simple mind like mine. I grew up believing that her two youngest siblings were actually my brother and sister (although I called them uncle and aunt. Simple mind indeed!).
When I was six or seven, I learned the hard truth from my cousin Amani. She was boasting that she shared the same family name like everyone else there, while mine was totally different. I still remember how heartbroken I felt. Yet the new fact never changed the love and affection I felt for them, especially for my uncle Tariq.
The difference between us was only ten years which made him the perfect playmate for my brother and I. When it came to us, Uncle T had the patience of saints and was always on for whatever game we had in mind: hide and seek, video games (his Atari and later Family Game), swimming in the pool or simply watching TV.
Uncle T had a great sense of humour that made us giggle and when he got his first car — a beige Lada 4×4 — he became The King of Cool. We had numerous adventures in the Lada that always took us to our favourite places: the beach, the arcade games place in Ruwi and of course all the junk food restaurants that made my mom frown (Viva Al-Rosha’s Shawarma and phosphoric blue Slush Puppie!).
The Lada even took us to many trips outside of Muscat and was the rescue vehicle when all the other 4x4s got stuck in the running wadi! On Eid time, Uncle T took us to the Ayod (The place where kids spent their Eid money on cheap toys). At school when kids bragged about their dads and big brothers, I bragged back that they wouldn’t stand a chance to Uncle T: not only he was cool, but an intellect too.
Uncle T was a voracious reader and owned a huge number of books.
He was always keen to answer our questions and discuss books that we were reading (and he’d obviously finished!). Summer vacations was the immigration time to my grandpa’s house (we never went back home till the last day of the holiday).
Whether travelling or staying in Muscat, it was the best of times as we got to hang out with our aunts and cousins. We’d spent long hours hanging in Uncle T’s office where he’d be working on his PC. While slouching on the couch, we received our basic music education. We were introduced to Pink Floyd, Sting, New Age music and Jazz too.
As we grew older, our bond with Uncle T grew stronger. Despite his busy life and work schedule, Uncle T was always updated with what was happening with us academically — and later on — professionally. Our weekly lunches were a series of complains — from my side — followed by encouraging words from him: “It’s all part of the work experience. It will all become easier with time”.
Uncle T’s love and support for us continues despite the distances that modern life creates. This week, Uncle T celebrates his 50th birthday and I have a simple wish for him: “Happy birthday to the coolest uncle in the whole planet from your loving niece!”
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. rashabooks@yahoo.com