Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Friday Memories

     I awoke to sun shining through the blinds on my window. Slowly sitting up, my eight-year old mind struggled to recall what day it was. “Oh yes, it’s Friday!” Eagerly, I jumped out of bed, exchanging pajamas with day clothes in record time. Friday was the highlight of the week. Dad would come home early and we’d all go out to eat at a nice restaurant. I hurried through the rest of the day, trying to be as obedient as possible in hopes that my mom would allow me to have juice or, even better, a soft drink with my dinner instead of water.  At last, we heard the welcome sound of the garage door opening. My siblings and I rushed to the door to greet our dad before pulling on shoes and coats. After an enjoyable dinner (alas, only water to drink, but dessert was happily received and devoured) we drove a short distance to my great-grandfather’s apartment. This was where my outlook on the evening dramatically changed. My great-grandfather (or great Giddo as we called him) was an immigrant to America from Lebanon. He had a custom that I particularly disliked. When we would come to greet him, he would pull us close and give us a loud, wet kiss on the cheek. As we entered great Giddo’s apartment, I desperately tried to think of some way to escape my pending fate. I tried protesting that I was sick and didn’t want him to catch my illness. But, being that he didn’t understand English very well, there was no avoiding his affectionate kiss. After the same occurred to my siblings, we rushed to the sink and rigorously scrubbed our cheeks with soap and water (much to our parents’ amusement). Then we sat down to watch Animal Planet under the close supervision of our mother who was quick to switch off the television whenever the ads appeared. After presenting us with a bowl of pistachios he had hand cracked in anticipation of our visit, great Giddo hobbled over to his small kitchen table and thumped down a deck of cards. My father sat down, and the two commenced to play a traditional Middle-Eastern game of Hand. After several rounds (which Giddo nearly always won), we said goodbye and left for home.

     Every Friday, that scene would re-enact itself with reliable consistency until February of 2011 when great Giddo had to be moved to a nursing home. A month later, he died. Fridays no longer find us at his humble apartment. The deck of cards sit unused and my siblings and I haven’t watched an episode of Animal Planet in quite some time. Whenever I eat a pistachio I find myself remembering my great grandfather and wishing that I had been more grateful for the time spent with that dear patriarch of our family. There were a great many things I now wished I’d asked him. Questions about his home country, how he survived the Armenian Genocide, and what it was like being an immigrant to America. Parents, grandparents, and especially great-grandparents are fountains of information.  So let me encourage you to grab a laptop or a notepad and pencil, sit down with or call the oldest member of your family, and ask them about their past. Don’t let that abundant knowledge, and most important, superb bonding time, slip past you.