Hamid El-Darwich | 27-09-2015
My grandmother’s name was Ghazala (like the deer) El-Darwich. She was born in 1927. She did not remember the exact date because in Palestine, they did not care about a single day; all their days were special.
As I grew up, she used to come to our home, opening the door with her skinny hands without knocking, to bring me some desserts and other food. She loved me a lot. I still remember the tales she told, especially the ones about growing up near Akka (Palestine). Her family raised cattle and sold the milk. Life seemed to be so simple then, filled with Palestinian and Turkish songs she recalled long after. (When I came back from school, I would hear her singing Turkish hymns.)
She used to recount to me repeatedly with a huge smile how she and some girls washed their family clothes in the nearby river. They walked a few minutes through the beautiful green land of Akka to reach the river. After they finished the washing, they would take off all their clothes and take a long bath under the golden sun. My grandma always smiled when she told me about the guys who chased them there once. Although the society was very conservative, my family is Bedouin and going naked in the river was considered kind of natural.
And then there were the stories about my father when he was young. I particularly remember the one about the day she caught him playing billiards in the neighborhood instead of studying. She slapped him, right there in front of his friends. My father recalls it not with bitterness, but with a grin. “She was tough, but this was necessary. Thank you, Mother.”
I also remember the funny jokes she told me; I probably heard the same joke 10 times, but still I laughed when I saw her wide smile.
Unfortunately, life does not always stay good, although we learn to adapt to new situations. My grandma became old and sick; I remember when she used to call me after midnight to help her switch her position in bed. She was not able to walk anymore, although she kept a smile on her face. She dreamt of returning to her land in Palestine, and she was sure it would happen one day. She still had the key to her family’s house, hoping to return soon.
She wanted to see my children so much, although of course she did not want that before my graduation as an engineer. Unfortunately, I am indeed now an engineering student, but she cannot see that. My grandma died in January 2012, just an hour before a make-up economics exam. I had to take that exam, but I wrote quickly, trying to hold back my tears. When I arrived home, I saw my father cry for the first time in my life; he was kissing her forehead and saying loudly in front of all the people, “Ghazala, how I can live without you?” I was not able to watch this anymore and I barricaded myself in my room, trying to convince myself it was better for her to die instead of suffer from illness.
I was not sad just because she died, but also because she was not able to return to her land after her death, as she wished. Maybe her soul is wandering there; God is generous, people are not. Israel can control our bodies, but they cannot control our souls.
Today, I draw hope from her memory as if she is helping me from her grave. In 2013, I was ranked first in UNRWA’s schools across Lebanon. And now I am in a top university majoring in civil engineering with a minor in mathematics.
My grandma, I have accomplished a lot. I have dreamt a lot. I wish you could see me; I have hope, and I have your key. It will never rust.
Mentor: Pam Bailey
Posted September 27, 2015