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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.