Ode To My Dedig

As I was driving to work on Thursday 23rd November 2017, I received a call from my mother telling me my dedig had passed away. He was 94 years old, suffering from dementia and more. He had been bed ridden for a couple of years, so the news didn’t come as a shock to me, however, surprisingly, it still was extremely difficult to absorb. Although I was prepared for the news, it still managed to hit me a lot harder than I thought it would.

I already had been missing him the past couple of years. Exactly 3 years ago, I wrote a post in which I clearly missed him and I was regretting how I relied on my memory rather than recorded the stories he had told me.

The toughest thing has been that I have been feeling guilty for grieving since not only was he old but he lived a very beautiful and long life that many would envy. I also feel guilty for grieiving since this past year I have also lost people very dear to my heart, who were a lot younger. Society taught us that we should be celebrating the life he lived instead of grieving and that this is nature’s course. Rationally, I know that’s right.

However, how can’t I mourn the loss of the man who profoundly influenced my life? How can’t I mourn the loss of the man whom I respected and looked up to the most? People grieve and mourn in different ways. I found that for a week after he passed I wrote. I wrote all I could remember and cherish.

Ever since I received the news of his passing, I have been remembering many moments we’ve shared. At times I smile and laugh, and at times I cry. Naturally, some memories stand out more than others.

 

The below has been in my drafts since, and I didn’t know if I should or should not ever publish this. As his birthday is approaching in a couple of days, I just read it again today, and I think (and hope) that some family members might appreciate some of these memories.

The below begins with some intro to his early life and followed by a couple of memories I have.

(I do hope you all excuse me since I realize the style of writing in this piece is not my best and pretty weak but I did not edit it to maintain the original thoughts)

So here goes!

The Early Beginnings
Dedig was born in 1924 and was raised in a refugee camp for Armenians in Beirut. The stories he shared from his childhood were similar to any story you would hear from any child in terms of play time and school time. What possibly differs is that he was one of 5 siblings, grew up quite poor, had a strict father, and a step-mother whom he wasn’t fond of. He was a very active man since his early days. He enjoyed playing football, cycling, hunting, enjoyed the outdoors – basically, he couldn’t sit still.

 

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How He Met My GrandMother
When he was 21, he and my grandmother used to see each other around the neighborhood, but they never really spoke until my grandmother showed up at his place of work one day.

According to my dedig, there used to be Israeli ‘balloons’ that used to fly by over the camp some times. (I’ve tried to find images of the these ‘balloons’ that he described to me but I never could find anything). Those ‘balloons’ fabric were made of a type of leather. One day, one of those ‘balloons’ burst or was shot down and so the leather fabric fell to the ground. My grandmother came to him, a cobbler, asking if he could make her shoes from that fabric.

While telling me the story, he winked at me and told me she used it as an excuse to get to him since he wasn’t interested which naturally fired her up as he laughed. He enjoyed teasing her like that. 

That’s how their love story begun. They would throw love letters at each other’s balconies and discretely meet, if only for a moment, to see each other. They got married even though his step-mother was totally against it.

Teasing my grandmother once again, he said that the only reason he married her was to spite his step-mother. 

As I was growing up, I thought the love they had for each other was the norm between any couple however, I’ve learnt that it isn’t. The love they had for each other throughout their 72 years of marriage was extraordinarily remarkable. Today, I yearn for a love like theirs.

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Their First Home
When they got married, dedig built their first home in the camp with his own hands. I’ve seen bits and pieces of that house in old black and white photos, but I’ve heard so many stories about it from my grandparents, my mom, aunts, uncle, and their cousins.

I remember him once telling me  that instead of keeping the interior walls bare, he covered them in paper similar to sandwich paper and joked saying it was just like wall paper. My mother has told me the fabric of their couches’ cushions were actually sugar bags that were washed and boiled so they were shimmering white.

During the time they stayed in that house, they had all 5 of their children who always share happy stories from their childhood. They stayed in that house until the 60s when he felt that the camp was no longer safe for his family so he moved them out.

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Dedig On Life and Relationships
I once broke up with someone and flew to Beirut to escape things for a while. While in Beirut I was back to my old self, always out and about, and partying until the break of dawn. On one of the days, I was feeling down so I stayed in my room only briefly coming out from time to time.

In the evening, I heard Dedig and grandma talking in Turkish outside my room, and a few seconds later, Dedig came into my room, baffled by the fact that I hadn’t gone out, he asked me if I needed any money. I smiled and replied that I had money. He asked me if I was ill. I told him I was fine and that I just didn’t feel like going out.

He walked out of my room and I heard the apartment’s door open and close. I was surprised since both him and my grandmother never went out at night. Around 10 minutes later, I heard the door again and a few seconds later he was in my room holding up a bottle of red wine and a bag of chestnuts. He told me he felt like drinking and asked if I’d like to join him.

Dedig rarely ever drank and if he did it usually was during special occasions, so this was out of the ordinary. The wine and chestnuts were for me as an attempt to cheer me up. I joined him and my grandmother in the living room.

He placed the chestnuts on the gas heater, opened the bottle of wine, poured me a glass, poured himself a glass, and then muted the television – another rare occurrence!

That night my grandparents and I spent a couple of hours talking and laughing. He shared stories from his life and from lives of people he knew. The morale of every story he shared was the same: life has its way of making things work out for the best.

You plan your life a certain way or have a certain vision, and if things don’t go according to plan, you feel down and wonder why am I so unlucky in life? Give it time and you will see that it’s all for the best. My grandmother chimed in quoting a verse from the bible – as she always did.

As they were going in to sleep, he poured what was left in the bottle in my glass joking that since I was the alcoholic, I should have the last glass.

As they both were headed into the bedroom, dedig flirted with grandmother, teasing her, making her get all shy. She flustered and told him he was drunk. 

I remember sitting in the living room when they left, sipping on that last glass of wine, feeling so much better thanks to dedig.

That night was the only night I drank with him.  There have been countless moments in my life in which I catch myself remembering that talk and nodding. He was right.

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Dedig On Politics
When I used to visit my grandparents, dedig used to make us a bowl of popcorn each and serve really cold 7up in time for the news. I used to think it’s his way of spoiling his granddaughter. When I lived with them, I realized this was his daily ritual. A few weeks after I moved in, I told him that I thought it was amusing that he’d eat popcorn while watching the news rather than while watching a movie. He laughed and said that the local news was like an extremely long soap opera with storylines that kept getting repeated, and had the same names/characters – except that he used to watch the fathers, and now its their sons and grandsons in politics.

One day when I was 22,  we were returning from a drive from the South when he pointed to a nearby village and told me he once got arrested there. I was flabbergasted. “You? The man who follows the law to the dot and hate that I go out late at night until dawn? You’ve been arrested?!” He laughed and goes on to tell me that he actually had been arrested twice when he was slighter older than I was then for being a communist at the time… adding to my surprise.

I remember him telling me stories like the fact that he used to sneak out of the house when his wife and kids were asleep to distribute pamphlets. We spent the rest of the drive back discussing communism, Che Guevara, if the ends justifies the means, and political activism in general.

Dedig being dedig, used the opportunity to teach me a lesson. He told me that he understood why I felt the need to join protests and be political active at my young age but he hoped that I’d never become a member of a political party, or feel the need to fight. He told me he wouldn’t tell me not to, or try to stop me, but he’d strongly advise against it, and that in politics we’re just pawns.

That night, when we returned home, he brought out the 7up and made us our bowls of popcorn, and we sat and watched another episode of the soap opera, also known as the news.

Until this day, similar to Pavlov’s dogs, I crave popcorn and 7up whenever the news is on.

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Fishing With Dedig
Anyone who knew my Dedig, knew how much he loved fishing. The first time I ever fished with him, I was 10 years old. He came over to the chalet we were staying at and got me and my brother fishing rods to fish with him. Mine was a small one he made so I could be able to easily be able to hold it.

When I was a teenager, he used to ask me if I wanted to go fishing with him, but I used to decline since I never wanted to wake up at dawn to fish. Fast forward to my university years, he and my grandmother came over for lunch at my place on a Sunday and we went fishing afterwards nearby.

My grandmother was the type of lady who would also leave the house very dressed up, and had a funny attachment to her handbag, always clinging it close, so when we got to the pier to fish, Dedig got a blanket from the car, placed it on a rock so she can sit on it, without having to dirty her outfit, and she just sat there, handbag on her lap, watching us. It was quite a show for her.

You see, it was one of them days, where Dedig was extremely lucky, catching one fish after the next, and there I was next to him, using the same bait and all, not getting any fish anywhere close to my bait. He kept teasing me, cracking jokes, and laughing. At some point, I got so frustrated, I got up and went to sit real far from him, which made him laugh further, and even more when I still didn’t catch any fish!

Shortly after that trip, my grandmother traveled for the summer to visit family, so him and I had a couple more of those afternoons – where I had better luck and enjoyed many more conversations.

The last time I went fishing with him, I must have been in my early to mid 20s. I woke up at dawn and together we walked to his regular fishing spot. As we were sitting there, a cop showed up telling us its illegal to fish without a permit. At first we thought he was joking with us, but the guy was dead serious to both Dedig’s and my surprise. We packed up, walked back home, got into the car, and went to get fishing permits. We were sent from one official building to the next, where everyone was surprised with our request, until we found the right spot, and got ourselves fishing permits – an ancient law apparently with a 1000LL fishing permit. I kid you not.

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Memory On Loop
Ever since his passing, there’s this one particular memory that’s been on loop in my head. One day, he was driving me to the airport, shifting gears in his 1977 green Golf, he gets to 100km/h, wind blowing through his hair, he turns to me the and says, “look at me, I’m Schumacher” and chuckles in his usual cheeky self.

I really pray he’s finally free and back to being his active and cheeky self again.

Happy Birthday Dedig.

 

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Trust The Universe

Last time, I shared that as life gets better, my fragility increases and my fear intensifies. I was concerned about the rogue wave crashing down and wiping away all that has been done.

Thinking strategically about our lives tends to reduce anxiety, yet, our carefully laid plans can also often bring us stress, anxiety, and sometimes even depression.

When the unexpected happens in our lives, unforeseen circumstances feel like tremors beneath our carefully built scaffolding, causing it to tremble as the ground starts to shift.

We forget so easily… Oh, how we forget!

I had forgotten that I had given up control before.  I trusted the universe and let go. It was when I let go, that the universe opened up to me, and gave me more than I ever would have planned for myself.

We move through our lives with accuracy and diligence, as we were trained to do. We tend to forget that more often than not, all we can control is ourselves.

Today, I remind myself, that the next time it feels like the world beneath my feet is swept away, to trust the universe and just let go.

 

 

 

 

Riding the Rogue Wave

I no longer am floating in a peaceful sea. I got caught by a rogue wave and have been riding it since. This monstrous and powerful wave that was caused by several reinforced smaller waves, has been taking me to heights I never thought possible, making me feel invincible.

The universe has been working for me. All the pieces are finally falling in place to my benefit, overwhelming me with the glorious feeling of grandiose. When did life get so good?

As life gets better, my fragility increases and my fear intensifies. What if this rogue wave crashes down wiping away all that has been done? I weather through storms hanging on to life. I’m not done yet. I’m not ready to let go yet. I’ve come so far. I’ve got so much more left to do…

 

 

A Lebanese Soldier Goes to War

He carries his country in his heart,
Leaving loved ones behind,
Bidding them goodbye,
Will he see them again?

Off he goes to fight for country,
Into battle he goes,
He risks his life,
Wiping away terrorists.

Landmines buried on dusty roads,
Rockets blasting nearby,
His friend falls,
The excruciating sound of pain.

He’s sent off to keep the peace,
Crowded streets of protestors,
Filled with hatred and anger,
When will this end?

Fortunately, he will go home,
He’ll never be the same again,
Never forgetting the horrors he saw,
As he deeply mourns those killed.

 

 

I’m bipolar. So What?

 

Around 5 months ago, I was on the phone with mom and she told me that my brother and her were having a conversation about me and think I should check to see if I was bipolar.  This caught me by surprise.  They had met someone who was recently diagnosed and their symptoms were similar to mine she said. I shut the phone and got online to start reading about bipolarity.  I did seem to have the symptoms but some seemed too excessive.  The thought of being bipolar freaked me out because it made me reevaluate my entire life, every decision I made, every relationship I had, and every work experience I had. It even made me reevaluate every piece I wrote and the thought process behind it. Did I do everything I did because I am bipolar?! These thoughts freaked me out.

I did not rush to a psychiatrist. I ignored the discussion and decided to move on but I could not get it out of my mind. After a couple of more discussions, my brother convinced me to see a doctor. I booked an appointment and went in. During my session with the psychiatrist, I did most of the talking giving him a quick glimpse of my life. In his opinion, I had already been ‘shrinking’ myself for a few years which was good and I did seem to have some symptoms but I should see a psychologist regularly to get diagnosed.  He referred me to a psychologist who I did start seeing a couple times a week.

When I started seeing my psychologist, I went in feeling defeated and accepting of whatever the diagnosis would be however, when it was pretty clear that I am bipolar I started fighting off the idea and not accepting of it.  It was a stigma I could not accept.

There are several levels of bipolarity and I am in the soft level so my symptoms/ mood swings are not extreme. I also had a discussion with my doctors during the early stages that I would rather avoid going on medication.  We spent 3 months of intensive therapy during which I learnt more about bipolarity and through experiences I learnt what would trigger my mood swings.  I also learnt that I am also both ADD and OCD which is an interesting and unusual mix.  Together, we made some lifestyle modifications to ensure better mood stability.

Since I was questioning every move I made in my life wondering if it was due to bipolarity, we dissected every relationship I had, every job I held, every big decision I made and came to the conclusion that they weren’t due to bipolarity.  I was relieved. This often is not the case with people who have bipolar, but since I was self-aware of my mood swings, I always had made a point that they do not affect my relationships or major life decisions.

In reality, being both bipolar and OCD helped me achieve so much in my life. During my mania stages, which I seem to have a lot more than depressive states, I tend to be creative and ideas just pop out all over the place. My OCD forces me to complete those ideas with perfection.  I don’t look at my bipolarity as a disorder but more as a secret super power especially now that I am aware of it and have it controlled.  With my lifestyle modifications and a structured life, I now know when to throw on my bipolarity cape when I am at work and have the creative juices come out.

The reason I am writing this post, is that during the past few months I have had several discussions on the topic and the reactions I have been getting have been shocking.  There obviously isn’t much understanding of bipolarity in our society and I can’t blame anyone since 6 months ago, I did not know much about it either.  I even was hesitant to write about it because of the stigma around it and was worried about how I would be perceived.

Being bipolar does not change who I am.  My bipolarity does not even affect most people, it’s major effect is on myself.  I am the person who has the brain that is on constant over drive with emotions constantly pouring out.  I can go on and link to a list of some of the world’s most successful and most creative people who are bipolar but really though, what would the point of that be?

If you are bipolar, I want you to know that you are not alone and I am around if you would like to discuss it.

 

The protests, our civic duty, and I.

 

As some of you are aware, I used to blog about Lebanese politics many years ago. It was around 2007 when I not only stopped blogging on Lebanese politics but turned a blind eye to it in general.  It was feelings of despair, anguish and pain that lead me to stop. As I witnessed the country not moving in a positive direction and history repeating itself, I lost all hope of a better future.  For years, I constantly wondered what kind of tipping point does the population need before they come out and say enough is enough.

When I moved here over a year ago, I wasn’t oblivious about the situation and I was fully aware of how I had to adapt in order to survive in the country.  The electricity cuts? No biggie, subscribe to the neighborhood generator. No water? No biggie, call for water delivery.  No drinking water? Buy bottled water. The list goes on and on.   I am aware how fortunate I am to be able to pay for these extra services compared to a large part of the population who don’t have the similar advantage.

Another advantage I have, is that I live here by choice. My own family don’t even live here. I also have another passport so I always have the option to pack up and move to a country that provides me with such basic necessities.  I choose to be here because I romanticize about this country.

However, during the past year, I witnessed the situation immensely deteriorate. The electricity cuts increased to the extent that at one point last month, I only got 10 minutes of electricity during 3 days.  The neighborhood generator couldn’t handle the increased pressure and was no longer providing me with the ampere I had subscribed for. In order to switch on my washing machine, I had to switch off my fridge and air conditioning during a heat wave. To add to that, garbage was being burnt in my neighborhood.  This is when my frustration hit.  This is not a life I want to adapt to and no one should adapt to such an intolerable situation.

Who knew the tipping point would be garbage? It makes a lot of sense though.  The stinking garbage is in your face and we don’t have adaptive solutions for it like we do with electricity and water.
This is why when the YouStink people took to the streets I joined them. During the past couple of weeks I have been criticized and gotten into debates on whether it is right for me to take to the streets with this movement.  In all honesty, the tens of thousands of people who have been taking to the streets have been doing so because they too are fed up of the situation, because they too want things to change. They want their basic rights. Yes, basic rights. It is your basic rights to have electricity, water, and a non-corrupt government. Most importantly, everyone at the protest was alive again and feeling hopeful, a sense we had long forgotten.

I do want to build on this topic a lot further, but I have a feeling that in the coming weeks I’ll have several opportunities to do so, in addition to my opinion on the protests, and how the media have been handling the situation.

What I do want to discuss now is our individual responsibilities. I don’t want to generalize but please do allow me to say, that us Lebanese have no understanding of individual responsibility or our individual civic duty.  When the smoking ban was implemented, officials enforced it for a while, once they stopped or once they got bribed, most of us went back to smoking indoors.  Everyone else is, so why should we not? We take pride in drinking and driving or multitasking while driving, so since no one seems to be enforcing the new driving laws, let’s just go ahead and do as we wish, because hey! we can!! Unfortunately, this is our behavior towards everything.

For people who were not aware of the amount of recycling plants Lebanon has, I believe the past few weeks allowed the whole country to know that that option does exist. We can all start by recycling in our homes and offices. We can make a difference collectively.

For all of you who have been going to the protests, for crying out loud, stop throwing trash, especially plastic bottles all over the ground. You can’t protest the garbage crisis and then leave the protest grounds in such a mess.  Several volunteers have taken it upon themselves to clean up after you but it’s time you lead by example.

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Farewell Baklava?

As I take a bite of a piece of baklava, I try to remember the last time I had one. This isn’t a story about Baklava or about the origins of Baklava. No, it’s not remotely close to that.

Have you ever bought or made baklava for your own pleasure, to enjoy on your own? I know I haven’t. Baklava is made to be shared with family, with friends, with our neighbors. Baklava is made to be enjoyed in the company of other people.

If you compare that to chocolate, which are individually wrapped with a colorful appeal, they were meant to be eaten alone. As you take a bite of chocolate, you’re in pursuit to find that perfect oomf which you usually don’t get.

The different chocolate wrappers have different tastes to achieve the different emotions you want to get as you savor that bite. Baklavas are consistent in taste that fail to surprise you. Baklava being the predictable option.

As our society  is gradually evolving towards an individualistic culture, the less we start seeing Baklavas on tables being shared. People tend to live in their box, pursuing happiness on an individual level, with a twist, rather than share comfort and joy with others.

Will baklava completely disappear from our tables one day? Will it make a comeback? Or will we continue saving baklava for special occassions?

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