Thursday, October 25, 2012
Life, Death, Culture, Memory.
Sorry, no funny lighthearted entry today. I will attend to that tomorrow.
I have four days off from work for Eid. Only problem is that I don't quite know what to do with myself. I slept in late this morning when I really should have gotten out of bed hours earlier. I had dreams. Bad dreams. Dreams where dad had died and I was called home, and it was so real that the pain of grief was settled hard like a weight on my heart when I awoke. Grief like lead, poured molten into my heart and left to slowly harden sat on my chest heavy like an invisible elephant. I got out of bed walked around the apartment, put some biscuits in the little toaster oven and water to boil for coffee. I needed some normalcy to dispel the dream, only problem is that in this small apartment there is no normalcy for me yet. Everything is still fresh and new, like a recently skinned, bloody knee.
My normal is going to sleep at night to the steady rhythms of my husband's breathing. Normal is waking to the screech of Jim's parrot, Pirate. Normal is my little dog, Truman, barking every time he catches even a glimpse of someone walking by the house. Normal is Mom phoning to see if I want to go to the grocery store with her. Normal is going to the bookstore with Jim and it REALLY being a bookstore, and not an office supply store (which is what they call bookstores in the UAE). Normal is not being stared at in malls due to my blonde hair and blue eyes (I have even had people ask if they can have their photo taken with me like I am Disney's Mickey Mouse) . Normal is the smell of newly cut grass. Normal is tending to my African Violets on my kitchen window sill. Normal is living in a world where I only have to tune my ear to spoken English.
Every step under my bare feet on the cold marble tile of this apartment reminds me that I am a bit like A Stanger in a Strange Land. The only sound I hear is the soft hum of the air purifier in the living room. The smells are those that seep in from other apartments: someone else's cooking, cigarette smoke, air freshener. The smells of this country are the sharp tang of a spice I can't identify, the heavy smell of human sweat, and the almost overpowering assault of sandalwood perfumes- all these trapped under layers of heat and invisible sand particles, pushed down to simmer and mix with car exhaust, camel dung, rich coffees, and curry.
The varying, almost overpowering smells are what make me aware everyday, every waking minute that Georgia is over 70000 miles away. Amazing how the senses are part of the process of culture shock. Each new scent, sight, taste sound, and touch pulls the known rug out from under my feet and replaces it with one whose tapestry is woven by unfamiliar threads. It is more than processing the behaviors and actions of the humans who surround me. It is shifting my five senses to accept sensory input that is not even a part of my experience or memory.
And it is the sheer absence of smells that I have recently been able to process: the smell of vegetation, the green scent of chlorophyll, the smell of fresh oxygen that green plants generate. I miss the scent of dark black soil and the tang of pine trees. I miss the sudden aroma of the earth opening to receive the fat raindrops right before a thunderstorm. I miss the smells of autumn; the clean crisp smell of the world being tucked in and falling to sleep so that winter may have her season. Those olfactory memories are the ones seared deep into who I am.
Maybe the dream last night was a direct result of my having been so worried about Dad lately, but also because a new life arrived the day before yesterday that is carrying on a portion of my father's blood. My daughter, Lara, gave birth to a little boy, Cash. He will be a comfort to Mom, and maybe a reason to make her smile again.
Dad continues to lose ground. He is confined to a hospital Gheri chair when he is not in bed in his room at the V.A. He is developing a bedsore, he keeps his eyes closed most of the time, and his head is in a permanent bent over position that makes it difficult for him to even be fed. But he smiles when Mom enters the room, and every time my brother visits my dad asks him, "How did you find me?".
However, in the midst of all of this, one small, new, unaware person entered the world to have his turn at this precious, miraculous journey we call life. At the same time, one very much loved and cherished man, who has savored the fruits of life for almost seven decades, slowly extinguishes. That is how precious and gift- giving this brief expanse we call life is- it gives, we become greedy for more, but our allocated time cannot be bargained over or extended into eternity, or even one more day. We are born, we live, we die. It is the living part of the equation that we must pay particular attention to. That is the portion we often forget, the one that we are able to lose. We can't lose our birth, nor our death. They are timeless and more immovable than the massive boulders of Stonehenge. The one thing we can lose, our life, is what we squander and waste, as if we can take more time out of the a time saving box somewhere at the last moment, as if we can bargain. We cannot.
That is why my wish for new grandson, Cash Ellis, is this:
That his life be one of contentment in his heart; he experiences the true meaning of love and is surrounded by it in abundance all the days he is on this earth; that he has the courage to take chances and grabs for the brass ring every opportunity that presents itself; and that his failures in life not be so many to discourage him, nor too few to not test his strength of character.
Posted by Liti