Thursday, 24 April 2008

An Overdue Stroll With My Grandfather

I've never really noticed these dates, as they passed year after year, but today a thought went through me like it never did before, as I watched a program about the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, I suddenly remembered both my paternal grandparents, who passed away in the early 1990s, I've never really been interested in knowing their stories, how they lived before 1948, weird enough though, I knew their story after '48, and how my grandfather, walked with his small family away from Haifa on one summer day in 1948, and never went back. I know that my father was born on the beach and had his first bath in the Mediterranean, and I know that he carried his infant brother as they left their home.

I've never really sat and thought about the man who was my grandfather, but now it's only appropriate to remember the man, who despite all the troubles he lived, maintained a mysterious kind of patience, he never complained. I was in my teens when he passed away, and I wasn't really interested in asking him the questions I wanted to be answered now, How was it..having an ancestral homeland? what was it like to lose the house you were born in?

I remember my grandmother, that green-eyed woman, who despite her reaching her mid 80s, looked like a little girl, with her innocent smile, she used to comb her hair into two pigtails, and although the long dark nights made it grey, she remained the beautiful girl who lived on Mount Carmel, over looking the wide open sea, despite the time and space between them.

One of the most enduring things I remember about my grandfather was his gaze; he had that amazing gaze, one of determination..I was always amazed how this old man managed to walk for hours every day, even days before he passed away, he liked his strolls, and I was stupid enough to never walk with him even once, but he always brought me sandwiches on his way back, falafel tasted different when my grandfather brought it, it might have been blessed by God through the fingertips of that dark old man, with a white beard, and a white head-dress, I always wondered why he was dark, but later I knew that he loved to be in the sun, he was a man of open space, never liked the indoors.

I never got to say goodbye to my grandfather..I wish I did, and today, as I haphazardly mark an occasion of displacement, I remember the beautiful green eyes of Thuraya, that little girl who happened to be old enough to be my grandmother, and her Rock; Mahmoud, the kind old man, to whom both I recite a prayer, and ask for their forgiveness.


  1. It's never too late to remember..
    I bet he was a strong and a courageous man to make a decision to take his family and leave his home behind..I can't imagine how hard it must have been for them..He would have been sad to see how things are now..

    I remember that my grandmother use to make me a "Labneh" sandwich with olive oil.. it's very simple yet from her it tasted so good and different..nobody can make it like her !!
    For both Mahmoud and Thuraya a prayer w Allah yer7amhom..

  2. T3eeshi ya Noura, I agree, sometimes we revisit people in our lives and discover that we could've learnt more from them if we just asked!

    As for Lebanese labaneh, don't remind me, one of my favourite food related memories was having labaneh at badee3a masabni in shtoura, it was a very long time ago but it was probably the finest labaneh I've ever tasted, although I'm a bit biased to the labanet ghanam of my mother's family in Irbed in northern Jordan, we used to ask for labaneh as soon as we got there, even if we weren't hungry!

  3. Well,we were kids and we were busy to ask or listen..My grandfather told stories all the time,we sat and listened because mom forced us to,we would wait for him to take a break to run away..Now that we are older those memories and stories are precious..

    I know that place in Shtoura,am not sure if it's still there after the war of 06..Am sure their labneh doesn't compare to the real thing in Irbid, but close..Am yet to try Labneh ghanam too..(The list is growing) ..

  4. Yeah it's got a subtle sour taste, it's quite nice with olive oil and a pinch of thyme on top with freshly baked bread..very earthy.

    your list is growing indeed, not sure what else is on it though lol

  5. lool
    my list has mansaf,labneh, kidneys and brains..and other soul food ;)

  6. Aha, well I've had chicken kidneys lebanese style, they're called Sawda, quite yummy with lemon and oil. no brains though..i'm quite happy without them!

  7. then I'll eat sawda on your behalf when am in Beirut..hopefully soon :)

  8. yeah do that..I'm not sure if there's sawda ghanam, but ask for sawda djaj..its very yummy with the lemon and oil sause thingy

  9. Just beautiful, brother.
    All of this unknown past they had is what troubles me; this is why I am trying to record my mother-in-law's memories of life before '48--to preserve what even her own children do not know about her. We have to record these histories before it is too late.

    Thank you.

  10. I agree ummfarouq, oral history is probably the only way we can preserve, and document events, good luck with your efforts and thank you!

  11. This post was bittersweet; A rollercoaster of emotions. That mysterious patience throughout all the hardship impresses me beyond imagination because I dont quite have it.

    Allah yr7amon. All your regrets are best put into a prayer sent as a gift to their soul.

  12. Ya hala b Batoul! yeah I know, isn't it funny how time catches up with us instead of us catching up sometimes?