Mima was born in Malatia, in 1923, maybe 1925. She doesn’t remember when exactly. She was just a little girl when her mother ran away with her to Lebanon, escaping post-genocide trauma, persecution and fear.
Mima lived all her life in Beirut; she went to school there, grew up, got married to my grandfather and had three children. I used to spend a lot of time in her house where I ate delicious food, did whatever pleased me, listened to her songs and with my little bother teased her and made her run after us refusing to get cleaned up and go to bed early.
Mima’s house was our palace filled with secret treasures; she had all kind of stuff; African statues sent by her older son, French books and paintings, Arabic pots and pans, thousands of old photos from another world and many more foreign artifacts gathered in every corner of her spacious house in Rabieh, Lebanon.
Mima did never have time to play with us, she was always busy cleaning drastically every corner of the house daily, as if she was expecting guests all the time, and cooking of course when she was not cleaning. Us, her grandchildren loved her very much but also feared her as well. Cleanliness was her obsession; she used to check our teeth, our underwear every night to be sure that everything was clean and spotless. I never understood her obsession, but she was our Mima and we accepted her as she was.
|Mima at the residence|
Mima was also a stubborn person, she used to dictate to everyone around her what to do and giving her opinion without any tact; it was either her way or no way. She was the queen of her palace and would entertain all our relatives there who would stay from time to time for visits.
Her palace was also where we used to hide during the war when the bombardments were really scary. She had a small basement where she used to stock things she never used. In the 90s, end of 80s when Lebanon was going through a civil war and schools were interrupted almost every day, we used to run away to her house and sleep all night in that tiny basement. Under the scary sounds of the bombs and the nostalgic singing of Mima, I spent most of my early teens playing cards with my brother, and some other friends, listening to the news on the radio and waiting for someone to deliver us from the hell, which at that time seemed so normal and usual.
|Yeprad meeting Mima|
Mima was an interesting woman, with so many stories. When she finally moved to Canada with my grandfather to join us, she never really liked the place. She exchanged her spacious palace with a tiny apartment in Laval, close to us and spent her days watching French soap operas and smoking endlessly. I used to visit her all the time; drinking coffee, smoking and playing poker – these were here only passions after her move. As many middle-eastern women, she missed her house back home, her neighbors and the sbhiyas (breakfast oriental style with neighbors), her friends, her fruit store and her garden. Montreal was a city she was never able to understand. When my grandfather died, she fell into more loneliness because she used to do everything with him.
Now Mima is in a residence for old people in Montee Masson, somewhere in Laval. Sometime 2 years ago, she fell in her home and started being confused. After a long stay at the hospital, the doctors diagnosed her as “confused” person and asked her to be placed somewhere under supervision. She is now in this residence.
I went to visit her on Sunday, she recognized me immediately, she hugged my baby and asked so many questions, she repeated the same thing: “you are getting fat, hokis, what’s happening, it’s not good for your health”, she used to tell me that all the time, regardless of what weight I was. She rarely expressed her emotions; her love was given only through her food to her children and grandchildren or showed through the cleanliness in which she kept every one. It was difficult for her to say how much she loved us. I think life taught her to keep her emotions in her chores and daily work, to make sure that everyone is fed and cleaned.
Now she is in this residence, someone else is cooking for her and washing her laundry. She looks well.
Around her everyone speaks French, she knows the language (thanks to 10 years of soap-operas), but she doesn’t really interact with anyone. They are strangers, they don’t drink Armenian coffee or read the cup and they never made the long journey from Anatolia to Lebanon then to Canada.
So many stories lie in theses residences, so many secrets.
We sat for a while outside in the beautiful garden near the lake, the weather was amazing. The nurses were smiling and being helpful. I felt the serenity, the human approach; all these old people continuing living in dignity. Then my mind traveled to another place, back to that other home in Armenia for old people with the smell of urine everywhere, with the sound of pain and desolation. And I wondered where I wanted to grow old…
I still pass in front of her old apartment and I miss those days when I used to hang out there, feeling myself like a true queen, lying in her comfy couch, not being bothered by anyone. Mima used to wait for me every Wednesday and cook my favorite food and give me all her space to do whatever I wanted. I miss her coffee and her balcony where we used to talk for hours. I miss the Mona Lisa painting, her favorite that she used to carry everywhere.
I think all grandmothers are important safe havens for all of us grandchildren and sometimes we take all of it for granted then suddenly we realize how much they meant for us once we are on the verge of loosing them.
I am happy that she is in good hands; I wish I could be with her for longer times but life happens and we go on through different paths.
I kissed her and she hugged me so strongly, I told her I will be back soon. I felt sad, a serene sadness but i left carrying in me all her love.