I spent the most part of my childhood in my grandmother’s arms. My mother was striving to get her bachelor’s degree and my father had to make a living. Whenever I look at my teta,my grandmother, a feeling of shame creeps over my senses; but I compensate for that when I bow before her, kiss her right hand twice, and place it on my forehead; a tradition that has always compelled teta to cite the most embarrassing prayers I could ever get.
“May Allah grant you a blessed life with a loving husband; a husband that will take care of you and keep you in his eyes,” she says, as I walk out soaked in embarrassment.
When I was a child, she crafted a huge swing between two enormous tree trunks that have stood in her garden for many years. It is either that I was so little or that the swing was so huge that I could fit into swing with my body comfortably stretched on it. In cold nights, she wrapped me with a blanket and fixed it around my tiny body with some thick string she tore up from an old, no longer useful shirt. Teta used to, and still believes, that nothing should be placed in garbage; in modern jargon, I’m confident enough to say that she is the most environmentally-friendly person I’ve ever met.
I used to be fat until my mother successfully finished her degree. Teta has a remarkable theory: food is the best way to manifest your love towards someone; so the more she feeds you, the more you are sure of the amount of love she assigns to you. She had knitted blouses and scarves for me. Handmade products, another theory, “are better than those of fraudulent vendors who mix oil with water and use inferior threads to make outfits.”
I almost lost her
I almost lost my grandmother last Sunday. I almost lost a piece of my heart.
The assassination that claimed the lives of two resistance leaders in Gaza four days ago took place in a densely populated area. It happened right in front of my grandmother’s house.
I live quite far from my grandmother and I did not even hear the explosion when it happened. I was alone in the house, leafing through the pages of some book I found in a drawer I do not usually open. My parents and sisters decided to enjoy the holiday (Fridays are holy days in Gaza) and went out for a drive.
I was enjoying the silence when the phone rang. Teta shrieked on the other end.
“I was praying. They bombed. Blood. Glass was going to kill me. Fire.” Her voice was drenched in horror — the peace and tranquility of her voice faded away.
I hardly held the phone. My hands shook and I slammed the phone down.
I don’t know how, but I suddenly found myself standing in a crowd — a circle inside where blood, some piece from a car, and human carnage were piled. Fire engines, police and ambulances suddenly flooded into the scene quickly. People were wild, and the road was covered with very small pieces of glass. I stood still — I was the only girl in the crowd, and in no time somebody dragged me out of the crowd and told me I should go home. He was right; I saw what nobody should see.
I suddenly remembered why I went there. I was there to see my grandmother. Her door was wide open, her house small pieces of glass became carpets and not single window survived the attack. Her curtains caught fire but they extinguished themselves by themselves.
My heart sank.
When my eyes fell on my teta, she seemed too calm for me to believe that she is the same woman who was screaming on the phone. She even made her usual irritating comments about me, saying I seem to lose more weight every time she sees me and suggesting that I should go eat. Minutes later young men started to flow into the house offering to help and replacing the window-less frames with large plastic bags. I asked my teta if there was anything she needed, but she told me she was fine and started to list the kinds of food and fruits available in her fridge.
Through the plastic bags, I peeked at the road and saw the car had disappeared and the blood had been hosed down with water.
My mom called me many times on her way to teta but I assured her that she was completely fine and asked her not to worry. Late at night, I along with my family drove back home.
The other day, Saturday, relatives told us she was a little strange during their visit. Rather than pinning her headscarf she pinned her lips, and didn’t even feel it. She spoke to them a lot about the assassination and repeated herself time and time again. But they assured us it was because of the shock and everything was just fine when they left.
On Sunday, teta slipped in the bath, and in the afternoon my mother went to check on her. She called her name but there was nobody to answer. She looked for her in each room only to find her lying on the floor mumbling and drenched in sweat. Mama called the ambulance and my teta only got worse. Her muscles cramped, wild noise flowed out. Moments later she threw up foam and fluids and raised her forefinger to spell out the Muslim testimony to the oneness of God, a ritual Muslims are encouraged to do, when possible, in their last breaths.
My mom, hopeless, in utter anguish and pain, seeing all this happening before her eyes, clung to teta, whined, knelt, and asked teta not to go.
Air from heaven suddenly seeped into teta’s hospital room. A doctor rushed in and inserted a cannula intravenously.
Teta began to regain her consciousness slowly. She blinked, her eyes flickered back to life and in almost ten minutes she began to speak. Today, teta is alive because she is the strongest woman I have ever seen. From death she came back to life.
I saw her die. Israel shocked her to death. I almost lost both my mother and grandmother. I almost lost my sanity.
Everything my teta went through is Israel’s fault. Israel kills indiscriminately. And I can’t but think of those who lost their twelve-year old son. The other boy who went to school and never returned. The sixty five-old man who was murdered. Are they all terrorists? I’m tired; I have asked this question hundreds of times but never received anything but condolences. Action is required.
Also published on the Electronic Intifada