A new country, a new love


September 06, 1998|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,special to the sun

Three years ago when Nadeem AbuRustum was trying to choose between returning to his native Lebanon or continuing to practice medicine in the United States, he spent many hours grappling with the decision. It was, Nadeem says, "one of the most difficult times of my life."

He had many ties to Lebanon, including his parents, Dr. Riyad AbuRustum and Nina AbuRustum, who still live in Tripoli, as well as a deep love for his country despite growing up during much of the civil war and terrorist acts that gripped Lebanon for more than two decades.

But Nadeem also had strong bonds in the United States, including friends he made during his residency at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and his fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

And then there was the woman he loved, Amie Smith. The couple met on a blind date in late 1993 when they were both working at GMBC. Though neither was looking for a serious attachment at the time, within six months they were inseparable.

As Nadeem agonized over the decision that would determine the course of his life, Amie was beside him - not to influence him to stay, though that was her deepest wish. Instead, she counseled Nadeem to do what was best for him.

"I never pushed him," Amie says. "I always told him to do what would make him happy. I didn't want him to have any regrets."

It was a typical reaction for Amie, who easily puts others' interests before her own, Nadeem says. And it was her selflessness that made him realize he had to stay and see where this love would lead.

"She's a very kind person," Nadeem says quietly. "Although we were raised in two countries far apart, she has a lot of the family values I was raised with."

Nadeem left Lebanon in 1990, but he could not leave behind the memories of the hardships his family endured, including a bombing that left his father unable to walk. Amie, who had a decidedly different childhood, allows him to visit these memories, but not to dwell on them, he says.

"I think of her as the normal part of me. She believes in the goodness in everybody and she gives everybody the benefit of the doubt."

Amie is quick to say that Nadeem has not let the bad experiences of his youth color his life. He is fun and romantic.

After their first date - dinner at Sabatino's restaurant - he sent Amie a dozen roses. He continued the practice following their next five dates. Early on in their relationship, he presented her with a gold charm bearing the inscription "All my love."

And when it came time to choose an engagement ring, Nadeem enlisted the help of Amie's mom. He didn't propose until he had received the blessing of Amie's father.

On Aug. 29, Amie, 29, and Nadeem, 32, were married at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Baltimore. Amie's parents, Bob and Gail Smith of Baltimore, were there, along with Nadeem's brother, Elias AbuRustum of Dubai, Saudi Arabia, who served as best man; his sister, Samar Khouzami of Johnstown, Pa., who was a bridesmaid; and Amie's brother, Neal Smith, who was a groomsman.

Nadeem's parents could not make the trip, but he and Amie expect to visit them for two weeks in December.

After a trip to New York and Washington to sightsee, Amie and Nadeem will reside in Oak Park, Ill. Nadeem is a gynecological oncologist at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Amie will look for a job as a speech therapist.

Nadeem expects his life in the United States to be marked by frequent trips to Lebanon with Amie and eventually their children. Doubts that anyone might have had about Amie's support for this plan were quickly put to rest at the couple's wedding reception. Shortly after they arrived at the Belvedere, Amie surprised Nadeem with a groom's cake decorated with the red and white stripes and cedar tree of the Lebanese flag.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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