Monday, 6 July 2015

Birthday Letter 2015

Hi Baba,

Another birthday, another letter, another year.
Again, I haven't written anything on this blog since last year's letter.. Perhaps this blog should just be for you now.. I don't know.

I feel like I repeat myself when I say a lot has happened since I last wrote...  But, that is how years are I suppose, full of days where things happen, and full of days empty of you.

I finished my MA from Kingston in September, passed with honours, with a project that inevitably brought me back to Beirut.
3 posters that encompassed the past, the present and a hope for the future. I think you would have liked them.

And now I'm in Beirut. I know I said I would go to the Gulf, but I'm not going to spend time explaining.. I think you know more than I that it wasn't meant to be. I'm back in Beirut, in all it's chaotic glory, but at least I'm near mama, and near Saadeh.
Saadeh, who joined us for Christmas at home this year. He was in Beirut alone, and I insisted he joined us, threatening him with silent treatment if he didn't (this, I heard, was one of your tactics with him...)
I know he finds it hard coming to the house since that year... and I understand, but I wouldn't let it ruin Christmas. We had a great time, masked at times by alcohol and exaggerated laughter, and even though his eyes never wandered through the house, for fear of seeing you in tucked away corners and memories I imagine, I was glad he came. I know you were glad too..

But I'm here now, I'm trying my hand at a job, leaving the full time freelancing for a while, trying to settle and find a place, and trying to see what the near years ahead hold for me. I go about it with as much thought as I can...

There's an unwelcome wisdom that comes with losing a father. I find myself looking at things differently, balancing the things that happen in life with a different scale, a different point of reference.. And as much as this has helped me along the way, I'd part with it in a heart beat if it meant things would be different.
Even through dying you'd succeeded as a father. I'm only stronger now, as much as I hate to have to be. And you are my Jiminy Cricket, my conscience, always allowing me headspace to think about things, and look for the best route through all the ups and downs..

I have to try harder and harder to see you, you know. Mum has an enlarged photo of the both of you in her room. It's relatively new, a photo a friend gave to her recently. Every once in a while I look at it, try and bring out the other images of you in my head. You're still there, fighting against the fading only a nuisance like time brings. I try and fight it with you, drawing you in my mind, and hearing you say "shoo Ghandoura?" over and over. I'm trying.

My friends are having babies now. And I see their fathers' faces light up at the sight of their new grandchildren, and automatically that window I look in from the outside forms, and I see the scene unfold in front of me, almost feeling invisible. And I am alone in my thoughts of you as a grandfather. And my heart pinches. And for now, I try really hard not to think of it because it could almost make me break. The things you could have taught them, read them.. I don't want to think...
I can barely keep it together at the thought of mum being a grandmother.
She's not being healthy, and it worries me... I want her around for that... I need her around for that. I can't not have you both, my children can't miss out on you both. I know life's unfair but surely there's a limit?  I don't want to think of it anymore..

It does remind me of something else that happened this past year though, probably one of the most incredible things, actually: Graham de Schmidt (now a grandfather himself...), and how we finally got to meet..

After you left, I had an urge to reach out to people who had been a part of your past, like Michel, and Graham had been one of those people who was on my mind.
I had tried finding him on Facebook a couple of times, but whether it was misspelling his name, or just too many options and not much certainty, I never found him.

Around my birthday last year, Louis and I went to a Pearl Jam concert in Milton Keynes. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that they were playing a gig in the UK, and both Louis and I being big fans, bought tickets straight away and planned our weekend getting from Surbiton to Milton Keynes and staying there the night and all that entails.

It was an incredible three hour concert, where not only did I fall more in love with Eddie Vedder, but acquired a new found respect for him and the stances he takes. The war in Gaza was raging that summer, and during a point in the concert he let loose on how American taxes pay for a war that kills children and innocents. I started screaming and cheering and I wished I had figured a way to get a Palestinian flag to the gig as I had intended to. You would have been proud if I had I'm sure.. And you would have loved Eddie Vedder too.

After the concert, as we walked along highways in Milton Keynes (not a really nice place to visit.. ) looking for a taxi, I checked my email and found one titled "Old friends..".
It was from Graham.
He too, over time was curious to see where life had taken us, and had googled your name looking for you. He didn't find you, instead he found my letters to you.
An emotional evening of Pearl Jam bled into an evening of nostalgia and memories. I couldn't help the tears that ran down my face as I stared at the light of the phone, reading Graham's words about you and mum, and how you met and lost touch. And how sad he was to read my letters, and to realise why he couldn't find you earlier.
And I remembered mum's words when she spoke of people who still were yet to know of you leaving... "Lucky them..."

 But lucky me, I got to meet Graham, and Leila, now with her own family. An automatic kinship, and a feeling of belonging that only old genuine friends could give, only your relationship and history with them could give.

With every person I connect to, I feel closer to you, adding more colour to the image I have in my mind. But with it comes a sour realisation that this is only because I have lost you..
You're not here, in full colour.

I think I will leave you this song by Pearl Jam, called Release. When I first heard the words, I choked on how similar I felt, on the emotions..
These words could easily be mine. Sometimes they are.

Happy birthday Baba.
Miss you so very very much, all the words couldn't describe.


P.S. In the photo I used this year, we were in Scotland, and I took the photo of you and Mama.
I'm not in the photo, but my shadow is.
So even though I'm not there, I am.
Did you learn that trick from me? xx

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