Ihab Saad never returns from HomeGoods empty handed. He also never returns with a typical good for the home, like a chair. He’s returned with strawberry meringues, licorice twirls, dutch waffle cookies, (the list goes on) and I’ve come to realize that he doesn’t raid the snack aisle for what’s best, but for the promise of a shared tasting experience. He’s a man of few words, but endless edible purchases, and he’s the reason I haven’t yet outgrown my sweet tooth.
Ihab Saad is my dad. He turns 60 today, meaning we’ve overlapped on this earth for nearly 24 years. I’d be more than lucky to get another 24, though not shocked, given the manner in which he frequents the elliptical at our local YMCA. He lives a life of balance; three different flavors of chocolate for us to try in exchange for an hour a day spent speeding through metaphorical hills.
My dad commutes from North Carolina to northern Kentucky each Monday, returning Thursdays, to teach college-level construction management. He’s done this without complaint since 2011. Years back, when my mom proposed a family move to Kentucky to be with him, he refused, insisting that they couldn’t uproot me in the middle of high school, then that I deserved a nearby home base when I started college, like the rest of my siblings had.
My dad leaves copies of the Economist strewn around the house, marking his brainy presence. He walks around, iPad in hand, devouring content about history, science, pop culture, you name it. If I had to guess, I’d say he spends 60% of his waking hours reading. He’s the Saad family’s uncontested trivia king.
Every Sunday, one of my dad’s friends comes over to record him as he gives an insightful video lecture on the life of the Prophet Mohammad, which can also be found in podcast form. He believes in the democratization of knowledge; anyone who consumes enough of the right content can be a trivia king, too.
My dad is a leader of the household, of the classroom, and of the community. He’s conducted the Islamic marriage ceremonies of two of my friends just this year, delivered the Friday sermon at masjids across the country (and recently, one in Spain!) and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Islamic Relief Worldwide. Most importantly, he’s the CEO of cringe Whatsapp humor, which he loves to deliver at the family dinner table to a consistent chorus of pained laughs.
I can count on one hand how many times my dad has yelled at me ever, leaving a few fingers to spare. He’s careful with his words, and his silence is lethal. I never yell when I’m upset, and he’s the reason why. There’s a lot more I hope to pick up from my dad: his humility, his capacity for sacrifice, his unwavering devotion to God (another list that goes on, it seems).
There isn’t a man in this world I admire more. Happy birthday, baba.