I continue to think about saying goodbye. This year both my grandparents died. They lived in Beirut, so I hadn't seen them much lately. Two years ago, maybe longer, I took my family to meet them. They had the most wonderful time. We saw relatives and went to the beach, but the happiest time was the time spent with my grandmother. The first morning we woke up there, we were greeted with a joyful "Good Morning!" Followed by a "Are you hungry? Would you like cake?" That's the memory my kids still talk about: "Tatti, (as we called her) was so much fun, and she let us eat cake for breakfast."
When I was growing up, I'd visit them for the whole Summer. We'd spend our mornings at the beach, and my grandmother would arrange a play date for the afternoons while she played cards. On weekends, we'd go up to the mountains and stay with my aunt and cousins. Usually once during the Summer, my grandmother would take me to see "The Sound of Music," and she would tear up while the Von Trapps sang Edelweiss. As I got older, and the war made it too difficult to travel there, they would come to the US to visit for a couple of months each year.
My grandmother was a very spiritual person. She reported having conversations with her mother in her dreams. When I called her to tell her I was pregnant with my first child, she said she had already been informed, but "thanks for telling me." One such conversation she told me about still haunts me today. During the war in the middle of the night, my grandmother woke up and told my grandfather that they had to get up and leave the house immediately. Apparently, my great grandmother had come for a visit that night, and told my grandmother that she couldn't keep her safe, and that my grandmother had to protect herself now. They left their apartment that night with a few belongings and drove up to the mountains to stay. The next day, when they came to check on their apartment, they found it partially destroyed. A bomb or bombs had destroyed most of their home, and they got out just in time.
One Summer I was visiting and the fighting had gotten really bad. I was spending the weekend with my other grandmother, and started feeling unsafe. We had to stay away from windows, and could hear the constant sound of machine guns, t t t t t, from outside. I called my grandmother, and told her I wanted to come home. Not being able to refuse her scared little granddaughter, my grandmother sent my grandfather out into the fighting to come and get me. On the way home, we carefully walked, hiding in shadows, staying close to buildings, and ducking into doorways, when the machine guns sounded too close. It was a scary time. I think now that this was an incredible act of love. I wasn't in any more danger at my other grandmother's, but they wanted me to feel safe at home.
Tatti loved chocolate, and not the cheap stuff. She always had it around, hiding in various drawers and decorative containers. I would love to snoop when I was there, to see what I could find. I always found something delicious, and she was happy to share. When she would visit the States, she would always bring goodies from the old country, which invariably included some chocolate for me. My grandfather died last Fall, and my grandmother followed in February on the Monday after Valentines Day. She had been in the hospital for a long time, and her body was failing. On Valentines Day, I brought a bag of chocolate hearts to work to put in the waiting room. On the day she died, I got into my car, and found a chocolate heart on the seat next to me. It must have slipped out of my bag the Friday before, but it felt like a gift. It was as if she was sending me love, with a wink, a reminder that even if she was gone, she would always be with me.
My grandmother had a great sense of humor. She was a card player, actually more of a card shark. She would play in the afternoons, with or without my grandfather, and would often win. If others were playing poorly, she would compare them to her cousin, Marco Paparelli. Poor old Marco became legendary in the card community. No-one wanted to be compared to him. I asked her one time who this Marco was, and why we haven't ever met him. She stated that she'd made him up to keep people on their toes.
She was loud, assertive, and very passionate, which was a huge contrast to my quiet, measured, and introverted grandfather. She loved arguments, and she loved to win. What she loved most was to read. When she would come to the US, she would spend hours at Barnes and Noble, sorting through books to bring home with her. At least one suitcase was dedicated to books. She would always ask me to save any fiction I read during the year for her to read when she came. She would devour it all. There's no real way to summarize her life, but if I could, I'd say she loved living, embracing it each day fully.