A letter to my grandfather

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Jiddo,

How I love saying that word, and how I miss it in my life.

The other day, I attended a poetry workshop. They asked us to write about something that makes us happy.

Jiddo, I have 27 years of experiences etched in the palms of my hands, of memories that tower and branch out like the cedars of our homeland; of places visited; of people met; of love lost and found; of emotions that have formed deep wells of understanding that flow through my body and deep into my heart.

Yet no matter where my feet take me on God’s green earth, your garden is the lifeblood of my happiness.

It is my prayer answered. It is my steadiness grounded. It is my wings and my roots. My spiritual home. In it, I am awakened, connected to the realisation of life’s greater plans.

It hurts me that foreign lands have robbed me  from the company of your cheeky laughter and stopped the silent flow of forbidden meals and sweets under dinner tables, far away from my mother’s disapproving gaze.

Jiddo, it hurts me that I have only seen your gentle, mischievous eyes three times in the last 16 years. Of which only one winter was spent in your olive groves, pointing out each olive tree you named after your ever expanding brood of grandchildren and great grandchildren, most proudly the one that bears my name. Of which only one summer was spent picking grapes, figs and apples from the fertile banks of your garden, walking through endless rows of eggplants, okras, zucchini and herbs that grew so far and wide, leaping like a sea of goodness waiting to be consumed on our dinner plates.

Jiddo, it hurts me to be so far away from the man who taught me his life lessons through actions, not words. Whose broken leg climbed ladders to paint ceilings so his family could be fed. Whose broken back did not stop him leaping to try to save his baby grand daughter – me – who had turned blue in front of his eyes. Whose doors were forever open, whose words were forever kind. Who dared to have friends from other religions, at a time when faith dictated death. And most importantly, who dreamed big, despite falling so many times.

You never did accept the word no, did you, Jiddo?

We laugh at it now, but you spent so many years dreaming of moving your family to Australia, yet that dream was destined for only one of your daughters; my mother. When she finally fulfilled your dream by bringing you and my grandmother over, you could barely wait for those precious weeks to be over. And who could blame you? How can the loneliness of foreign lands and a lifetime chasing plastic ever compare to your love and your Eden?

Jiddo, every time I see you, I force the hands of time to wind back and wipe away 20 years. I wake up and chase the smell of your firewood or the sun rays glimmering through your beloved grapevines.

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And always, I sit next to you or under your long robe that suddenly feels so much smaller, and sing with you the song you repeat to every one of your grandchildren…

يا أهل الدار

طلوا طلوا الحبايب

شعلانة النار

والسكر قلبه دايب

… and enjoy and rejoice in every remaining moment I am graced by your laughter and your kindness.

May your fields long call you master; may your earth ripen to the sweet melody of your heartbeat.

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