Saturday, 6 July 2019

Birthday Letter 2019

Hi Baba,

Happy 69th birthday. 

If you were here, we’d probably go up to Baakleen on your birthday. Laith is walking now, he’s 13 months old, and he’d probably be wreaking havoc while you chase after him amid the oak trees, making sure he doesn’t trip and fall flat on his face. 
We’d probably pass by Saadi’s farm, check it out, and there would be a debate where we would have a BBQ, our place, or there.
Truth is, that could all be wrong. How would I know? I don’t remember the last time we celebrated your birthday. How did we? I really don’t remember.

This year has been an interesting one. Laith’s first year with us has been so full of lessons and experiences, and it has been non stop. By his first birthday, Louis and I looked at each other and were wondering how the time flew by. And to be honest, when it’s about something wonderful, we ask that question like we expect time to take, well, it’s time. We want to savour every second. We wonder so naively, so nonchalantly. 

And then when I think of the 12 years since you left. They feel enormous. You seem so far, far behind, at the back of the theatre, while we continue to do our thing on the stage, under the spot lights, while you are in the dark, far from sight.
I can no longer see your face, unless I squint into the aisles, and when I do, it is unchanging, it has been the same face for 12 years. 

I can’t decide what is harder. That I miss you, that you are not here, or that you have not moved forward. You are the same, you are not in all the new vignettes, none of the new scenes. You are static, glitched somewhere in the time line, while our life gathers sunshine with the birth of children, is seasoned with new people, and is punctuated with all sorts of memories.

I think this is the hardest thing of all. 
I now feel like most of my letters are so similar, they all express the same frustration. The same obvious frustration nonetheless…

My life is so different now, from what it was when you were here, that I can no longer fill in the blanks with past conversations or interactions… What I could imagine as your advice for a bad day at work, or a decision that needs to be taken about a friend no longer applies to my life as a parent.. We never had conversations about that part of my future.. How can I summon your wisdom for something so different?

I try and imagine you as a grandfather, I find it hard at times. Had I ever really seen you around babies? I don't think I ever did… The youngest children I ever saw you around were probably Samih and Rami, and by then Samih was 5?
What would you think of me as a mother?

Hold on. I need to ask that again.

What would you think of me, as a mother?

I dreamt of you a couple of times at the end of my pregnancy, and during the first few months of Laith’s life.
In both of them you appeared after having to hide out for a while, having to fake your death for some reason or another… Having had to keep it secret.
In one, I distinctly remember you walking into the door of our house, with big bags of shopping, Vape mosquito repellent mats in bulk. It was around the time Laith was being bitten by mosquitoes, and obviously it translated into my dreams. You were trying to protect him from all the bloodsucking mosquitoes. Of course you were.

You were thinner, and had a longer neck, and were wearing a velvet or corduroy jacket. 
I remember reaching up to you for a hug, with some desperation, a “where have you been??” sort of hug…
But since then, no dreams. 

Sometimes I have to pause, and tell myself to think of you very, very hard. Having a child, your day gets eaten up with everything having a child entails, and you realise at the end of the day, you having had much time to think of much else.
I remember the little panic I had the first time I noticed that I hadn’t consciously thought of you for quite a few days. I felt terrible, like I was forgetting you, like now that I had a child he was replacing you in my life. I felt guilty, and twisted, and promised myself that I would drag you out of the past by the sleeve, and bring you here, with me, and Louis, and Laith and Mama and Saadi, so you can see me as a mother, see your grandson, be a grandparent. 
At least, as much as I realistically could. 

So I opened up the photo album I hadn’t opened in a while, with Laith in my lap, on the quest to see if he resembles me in any way (the forever ongoing debate…) and to show him Jiddo Mohammad. To point at Jiddo, so he knows Jiddo. See here? That’s Jiddo and mummy when she was only a bit bigger than you. See there? That’s mummy on Jiddo’s back, Jiddo being very silly

See that? That’s Jiddo’s face. It’s loving, and warm, and he’s looking at a baby mummy, with so so so much love. Thats the love Jiddo has for you, Laith. Maybe even more. Probably even more. 

So I may have bigger breaks between thinking of you consciously. I may be busier. I may have to think harder to conjure your face and presence sometimes. 
But the love is the same, the longing is the same. 
No, the longing is greater. And more concentrated. 

I promise to do what I can, to make sure, Laith knows you. At least as well as I do. 
It is the greatest loss he’ll have, but he’ll never know it, and as horrible as that can sound, there’s a bit of solace that he doesn't feel the loss like we do. 

So happy birthday Jiddo Mohamad. 

We all love you so much. 

There’s now one more person who will be sure to remember you somehow, we will make sure of it. 

Bintak, Im Laith.


Abu Laith said...


May Hamady said...

7abibteh Im Laith I share many of your words, thoughts and emotions while talking with Baba on his 69th birthday.There are so many details, stories and thoughts on Im Laith I will surely share them with Jiddo by writing bil 3arabi in due time (inshallah), as well as with you Im Laith (you will translate them to Abu Laith) and surely with Laith so he will know Jiddo "7maydi and Abu Karma" in addition to the stories of his Mama's life with Jiddo.

Despite that here is our bintna's space and she has been my "spoken soul" through all her 12 letters on your birthday, I just want to tell you 7abib 3omri that Bintna is right in her letter to you this birthday 2019: Yes it was so hard to come back to you as Jiddo and sometimes even as 7hmaydi since Laith's birth. it is not a matter of forgetting or remembering, it is just Laith's magnetic presence and his continuous activity.

Yes it is so hard to be in a state of happiness with Laith, I thought I would never feel it after you left, when often your absence resonates and with it resonate "Ya rayt you were with us Jiddo". I know what kind of a Jiddo you would have been as I knew how you were Abu Karma. But it gets intensively painful when I realise that I cannot clearly hear your voice nor see your face's expressions as Jiddo.
Yes it can be so unbearable to face those contradictory states of mind. Only Laith's laughter or a scream to invite me back to his world would take me out of my "twilight zone". Probably would come back to it in our home. B7ibbak dayman.

Mona Nasrallah said...

Dear Karma,

Your dear father's birthday coincides with our beloved mother's birthday... it seems, special souls get catapulted onto our revolving world that day, and stay on the Merry-Go-Round sparkling their love everywhere, until they discreetly exit.
But the love absolutely stays...
My mother is very much alive in my every day, and I cannot imagine a day when she will not be...I cannot imagine 12 years of absence... so many strong mixed emotions, so honestly nd beautifully said.
May God keep you, your Mama and your husband in the best of health, and bless your beautiful Laith.

Wassim Hamadeh said...

May his soul rest in peace, we all miss him.