These days I hear a lot of sad news about my friends’ grandparents passing away, in most cases due to Covid-19. It got me thinking about my grandmother, the only grandparent I ever knew, and how she suddenly died when I was 11.
I decided to rewrite a short story I composed about her in 2011.
The goal was twofold: keep it short, and keep it honest.
I never knew three of my grandparents. My father’s parents, and my mother’s father had all died long before I was born.
I was raised in a house with my maternal grandmother, whom we affectionately called Teta, which is the Arabic slang for grandma.
Teta was a gentle, quiet old lady.
She had a raspy voice from too much smoking, and spent most of her time in her room, knitting and watching soap operas.
She constantly drank rosewater and whiskey, and smoked her cigarettes in a long black cigarette holder, which was considered the height of fashion when she was younger.
She was a devout Christian, and could often be found walking around the house, burning incense in the style of the Greek Orthodox, praying solemnly as she blessed the corners of every room.
I would often run behind her to help, which would make her laugh as she prayed.
As one of the few grandchildren that lived with her, I had a special relationship with my Teta, which meant she spoiled me rotten. Every day after school, I would run to her room, and sit with her. We would play cards, watch Arabic soap operas, and chat. Until the age of 11, she was my favorite adult.
She even withheld from smoking around me, because she knew I had asthma and hated the smell.
She loved to knit.
She would constantly knit me thick woollen socks to wear around the house. Whenever I’d outgrow a pair, she would add another few inches of wool to the end, to lengthen them. But she’d never have the same color of wool, and my socks all looked like they were knitted by a colorblind tailor.
Yet I cherished those socks, and wore them all the time.
Perhaps most fun of all, she used to hide her money under the couch cushion she always sat on, sure that no one would find it. Every time it was a birthday, or a special holiday, she would tell me to close my eyes, reach under the cushion, and give me some money.
I always knew where it was, but played along because I loved her so much.
And then she was gone.
Just like that. No goodbye, no final words. She had a stroke, and shortly afterwards she died, peacefully, when I was 11 years old.
I didn’t miss her right away.
I just changed my habits, spent more time hanging out with friends, and everything seemed ok. It was only during the moments when I forgot she was gone that I missed her the most.
Sometimes I’d come home from school, and run to see her, excited to play some cards and hang out. I would walk into her empty room, calling her name, and realize there was no one there.
I cried then, a lot.
And yet life carried on. These days, I don’t think of her much. I guess it comes with growing up, and making my peace with her death. Time heals all wounds, and this particular one healed well.
But every now and then, when I’m at the supermarket and see a bottle of rosewater…
I remember the smell of incense, and a beautiful old lady that laughed in a raspy voice as she prayed.
If you enjoyed this story, you would be doing me an immense kindness if you:
See you tomorrow!