2008.06.11 Hot times in old Abu Dhabi

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Abu Dhabi.

Abu who?

That’s what we said when Ben called several months ago to say the landscape architecture firm he works for in Miami was offered a long-term contract to do business in Abu Dhabi.

Unlike Ben, who has eagerly traveled to four other continents besides the one he was born on, world geography has never been my strong suit. I had to consult Google Maps to find out that Abu Dhabi is part of the United Arab Emirates which is situated between Saudi Arabia and Oman. It’s located in that lovely hot zone, across the Persian Gulf from Iraq and Iran, about an hour southwest of Dubai.

What did we think about him going to live there for long stretches of time during the five to 10 years his firm would be involved in projects?

Oh, God, please don’t do it?

No, my first reaction was actually enthusiastic excitement for such an opportunity. When you give a kid wings, you have to accept that roots aren’t all that compatible with flying.

I can’t yet process my second reaction; I have Rozee’s July 5 wedding to think about. If I think about my only son living all the way across the globe in a decidedly volatile part of the world, I won’t be able to cope.

I am adopting the Scarlett O’Hara approach to stress: “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow,” tomorrow being July 6.

That approach has worked pretty well, especially since Ben’s date of departure keeps shuffling around. My only concern at this stage of the game is that he return in time for Rozee’s wedding.

I’m not thinking about the temperatures that reach 125 degrees accompanied by high humidity, the proximity to Iraq and Iran, the huge distance from Morenci, the high price of airline tickets, when we’ll ever see him again.

And then he called home last week, after I had been thinking about him and wishing he would call. I don’t call my kids all that often. They share a family phone plan which allows them to call each other for free anytime and us after 9 p.m. and on weekends. If I call before 9 p.m. it uses up their minutes, so I just send them telepathic messages to call me. 

Telepathy works pretty well (Call when I’m thinking of you, I tell my kids.) and when it doesn’t, I call them after 9 or on the weekends. Last Monday I was sending telepathic messages to Ben because we hadn’t heard from him in a few days.

He called a little while later.

“Mom,” he said.

“Ben! You got my message!”

“Yeah,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“My telepathic message?”

“Yeah,” he replied, in a voice that said, “Well, what do you expect, you sent a message.”

I felt I had arrived as a parent! My son  is on my wavelength! That, or Ben was just humoring me.

He started right in.

“We could go to prison for up to five years.…”

“What?! Where are you? What’s going on?”

I had nearly fallen off my chair and was rife with worry.

Just an hour before, David had read me something about crime in Miami...something about the number of shady characters who settle in sunny Miami. I imagined Ben calling from jail, that he had unwittingly gotten into some kind of trouble.

“Wait, listen,” he said.

I pulled myself together as he explained he would be going to Abu Dhabi for a couple of weeks before Rozee’s wedding and then going to live there in September. His wonderful long-time girlfriend, Sarah, would be going with him.

“We could face up to five years in prison if we were living together without being married,” he said, “so we’re thinking of getting married.”

“Oh, Ben, that’s wonderful! I exclaimed.

David was at work by then, so I e-mailed him.

“Guess who just called and is thinking strongly about getting married in August?”

“Maddie and one of those grad assistants? he replied.

Maddie is out in Wyoming taking a month-long University of Michigan geology course taught by a couple of professors and several graduate assistants. She’s having an excellent time  learning about glacial moraines and investigating lava holes, but she’s never mentioned the grad assistants.

I filled David in on the details of Ben’s exciting new development.

He quickly e-mailed back.

“Prison or marriage? Hmmm...have to think that one over.”

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