#FarrisStory: 'He was there for me when my parents weren't'

"Hi! My name is Assad Saif and I've been privileged to know and interact with many different people in my life. As a young boy I worked with my father in his convenience store learning how to stock the refrigerators with soft drinks, milk and food. As I got older I began to work the cash register and learned first hand how to handle conflict, celebrate with people by remembering their birthdays and mourn with people as they suffered loss. My parents divorced when I was eight years old so I spent time bouncing between the homes of my mom and dad. There are many things in my life I'm sad to say were difficult. Not having a stable family life was hard, living on limited food, going to school full time and working until midnight was hard. In this life full of hard things I found my refuge in the stories and journeys of the people I was surrounded with. With my dad at his store we had so many people we were connected to, sometimes it was like a party that never ended. With my mom in the low income housing I had found and built a community of young guys that grew up to be achieving family men. Through it all one of the guys that stood out above the rest was and still is a great friend of mine named Gabriel. Gabriel and I had grown together from first grade through college. For many years we'd lost track of each other but in high school we reconnected. In my chaotic teen years Gabriel was a voice of calm and reason. He was there for me when my parents weren't. He picked me up drove me around, prayed for me while I cried through the darkest nights and encouraged me to continue to grow as a man and mature. It was with him I enjoyed my first cigar on my 18th birthday. I remember it like it was yesterday. We traveled to the local cigar shop, not just some random liquor store cigar shop but a man's tobacco shop. The name of the shop is Palm Desert Tobacco. We went there and from down the street you could smell the sweet aroma of the cigars. As we went in I felt like a kid in a candy store. All of the different cigars surrounded us and we looked with bright eyes at each cigar, looked at each other then asked the attendant what their strongest cigar was. He recommended we didn't smoke that but start soft. We let him know we were men, we were of course 18 years old. He then warned us but referred us to the Padron's and Camachos. We bought some Camacho cigars and just absolutely loved them. As we puffed hard on the cigar and exhaled plumes of smoke we felt all of our cares fade into the background. It was that moment I fell in love with cigars. Of course after about an hour, on an empty stomach, that Camacho began to feel like someone had punched me in the stomach. Little did we know but we began to get queasy and then proceeded to feel... well lets just say... not so well. That didn't stop us. Gabriel and I had many wonderful t times celebrating monumental life accomplishments with a cigar. We celebrated our career advancements, spiritual accomplishments and growth, first serious girlfriends, fiances, marriages, children, homes and now we have opportunities to mentor younger men in the same way. Gabe has and will always be a brother to me and to this day we enjoy a cigar together." - Assad from Escondido, CA