10/19/2012 03:53 pm ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

I'm Sorry, Dad

A few months ago, I was excited beyond measure at the idea of leaving everything behind and starting a new life on my own. Every time I got an email from Duke or learned something new from the Class of 2016 Facebook page, a smile spread from ear to ear as I would proclaim with excessive passion, "I can't wait to go to college!" My father would slightly smile in shallow agreement. Now that I look back, I loathe myself for never really thinking about the person behind that sheepish smile. In all honesty, I constantly look back at myself in disgust and wonder why I tried so hard to make it known that I would be leaving home for the first time.

Just a few days ago, I realized that I had entirely overlooked the past 18 years of hard-learned lessons, support and invaluable attention that my father provided me. After the vibration of my phone shattered the tranquil silence in Perkins Library, I annoyingly sighed, set aside my laptop and reached for the realization that would dampen me for days to come. I had just received a text message from my younger brother.

"Hey Mousa, why don't you call us? You made baba cry for the first time."

After reading the message, I insensitively rolled my eyes, set my phone back down and returned to reading my objectives for international relations. Sadly enough, it didn't dawn on me that I had done anything wrong until I trundled into my bed later that night. Looking back at my life, I couldn't remember one instance in which my father ignored me for his own personal reasons. Never did he roll his eyes at my requests or disregard what I had to say, no matter how senseless my appeals happened to be.

I got out of bed that night, turned on the lights and picked up my phone to confess to my father exactly how I felt --- to apologize for my egocentrism and ungratefulness. After impatiently waiting for the call to connect, my eyes began to fill with tears. As I waited for my father to pick up, I immediately remembered why I had decided to call in the first place. If there's anything I had wanted to say to my father that night, it would probably best be summarized in three simple words: "I'm sorry, Dad."

I'm sorry for all of the times you stood in the pool to catch me after I had foolishly jumped off the diving board. I'm sorry for all of the meetings you missed so that you could attend my soccer games, and I'm sorry for keeping you awake every night while I noisily prepared for my exams. I'm sorry for ignoring your calls when you wanted to know if I needed anything. I'm sorry for not responding to your text messages when you wanted to know how I was doing, and most importantly, I'm sorry for having forgotten everything you've done for me over the past 18 years of my life.

I've learned as much as I possibly can from you -- how to be mindful, how to reflect and reason about certain situations, how to make thoughtful decisions and how to live not only for my own well-being but also for that of my community as well. Because of you, my vulnerability has been strengthened. If certain fears have been dissipated, if conflicts have been avoided, it's all thanks to you, Dad.

You have always been there for me no matter what. To me, you are the precise definition of ingenuity, determination and perseverance -- a leader who guides with sympathy and practicality. You exemplify selflessness and have shaped your life around your family and the people whom you love the most. You are the very essence of dedication and have instilled in me the values that guide me to this very day. You picked me up when I was down, brushed off my shoulders, and pushed me to pursue the goals that only led me in the right direction. Though you rarely disagreed with me, you were never afraid to let me know what I was getting myself into. You are the busiest man on God's green earth, but you always took time out of your day to sit down and talk to me. Now that I realize everything you have done for me, I apologize for having put you on the back burner.

Going back to that night, I remember my heart almost stopping as I heard someone pick up the phone. Despite all of the calls I ignored and text messages I left unread, my father answered the phone the second he saw my name. And after breaking down into tears and trying to piece together everything I had planned to say, I went to sleep that night with the gratitude of knowing that my apology had been accepted.

I'm really sorry, Dad, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

This was originally published in the Duke Chronicle.