My fondest memory of you is when we used to swing in the hammock in your backyard. I used to love coming over to your house and running to the backyard to snuggle up near you and hear you sing. You sang about all of your grandchildren. They were your most prized possession. You would always sing the same melody, but always different lyrics and always in Arabic. “Here are my little ones, the cute little ones. There’s G & L & J & K. K is the youngest and she’s such a cute little one. I love when they are around.” And each time you had a new grandkid you would add their name to the list, always saying that they were the youngest and the cutest, and I’d get jealous because I wanted to be the cutest. If you saw that I was getting jealous you’d pull me in closer and tell me that you loved me. You’d fall asleep quickly and I’d pretend to sleep. I wanted to be like you. If you were sleeping, I wanted to sleep.
I remember you coming in from gardening always bringing me the tastiest Lebanese cucumbers to eat. They were always so good and one of the only vegetables I would eat. You were such a great gardener, so active and full of life. Your garden wasn’t huge, but you took great care of it. You would make your own devices to keep away the birds or the squirrels. You taught me the basics of gardening and when I was old enough you let me help you. I loved spending time outside in the garden with you.
I remember you used to drive me home from school whenever my dad or uncle couldn’t make it. You would tell me stories all the way home. I remember you told me a story about how natives taught you how to fish and how they brought you one of the largest fish you had ever seen. Your stories were always so amazing and unreachable, about a place I’ve never known. They were so descriptive, and yet there was so much that I also couldn’t understand since there was such a language barrier at points. You would do your best to explain to me, but sometimes it wasn’t even the descriptions that made excited to listen, it was the way you spoke about them.
I remember the funniest thing you used to do in the car was yell “Shit!” It wouldn’t be about anything in particular. If you didn’t like the way someone was driving you’d yell it. If a light would go red, you’d yell it. If there was anything that wasn’t good enough for you in the car, you’d yell it. It was just so funny to me because it was your equivalent to “fuck”. It was the one English swear word you knew and you’d use it always, even if my mom told you to stop. You didn’t care, that was your word and you wouldn’t let anyone take it away from you.
I remember you used to go swimming with us each summer. You would jump in the pool with all of your grandchildren and take them for a dip. You were always so active even as you grew older and I looked up to you for that. You loved spending time with us and we loved spending time with you. I remember you used to go swimming at the Y, always trying to stay as healthy as you could, but man did you like to eat… so it always counter balanced.
The funniest memory I have of you is you telling me to try something grandma had cooked. “It’s good, it’s good!” You’d told me. And when I tried but it left such an awful taste in my mouth. “I hate it!” I said to you, and you responded, “I don’t like it either, but at least you tried.” We both laughed. I miss your laugh.
I remember things changing very quickly. I remember you taking down your hammock first. I told you how much I would miss it, and you told me you would get a new one. You never did. Soon you got rid of your garden. “It’s too much to keep up with.” Then you lost your licence. You stopped swimming. You stopped walking. You stopped… You… You were a different person.
How are you? I’m good, I love you. How are you? I’m good, I love you. How are you? Some days are better than others. How are you? Some days are good some bad. How are you? Some days are… I’m sad, can you visit me more? How are you? Bad, some days are good. How are you? You’re in tears. How are you? It’s good to see you, I miss you. How are you? I’m alive. How are you? Do you recognize me? It’s Johnny. How are you?
Dying is inevitable, but watching you get worse over the years has been hard. It’s been harder knowing that you wanted more but the care that was given to you wasn’t the best. And you tried, but we both know that there came a time where you had to give up, or you chose to give up. Walking was hard, and sometimes you didn’t get out of bed at all. And then you didn’t recognize me, and you still don’t. I introduced you to K. You pretended you knew who he was. You talked about how great his mother was and how good it was to see him. You didn’t know him. I was just happy you could meet him though, but I was told not to tell you who he was to me in efforts to make sure not to put you in some shock. I’m still happy you got to meet him, and that you liked him, even though we’re not sure if you understood who he was by the end of meeting him.
Talking to you today brought me to a place I didn’t think I’d ever visit. It made me remember that hammock. Made me remember all those memories of the time we spent with you when we were younger. Made me remember that the person I’m seeing now hasn’t always been you. I hope you’re happy. I hope that even though you’ve been through all of this pain you’re happy. And whether today is your last day with us or not, please know I love you. Please know you’ve left a handprint on me that I will never forget.