The humble gardner
Grandfather was sure that God was keeping
score, and everything would work out in the end
December 22, 2004
Long before chick flicks showed women drowning their sorrows
in a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, I was the original
Ice Cream Girl. Ice cream has been there to cool my nerves ever
since I can remember, and I remember pretty far back into my
childhood. I inherited my father's sweet tooth, but I think
it was Baba, my grandfather, who really connected me to ice cream.
Baba was a
simple, humble man who said little, and what he said usually
got him in trouble. But he liked walking to the baghaali, holding
my little hand in his calloused, hard hand and buying me an
ice cream cone... And so, I grew to love ice cream. I loved it
it was warm out, I loved it when it was cold and snowy, I loved
it on top of my pies and cakes, or just out of the box. I loved
what it was, and what it reminded me of.
On December 10, my uncle called and said my Baba was in the
hospital. He didn't need to tell me that this was probably
his last visit to the hospital. I knew. I knew that this time
would be different. Different from the time he fell off his bike
and broke his hip; or the time he rode his bike into a truck,
and was in full body cast years and years ago. While he was in
his cast, my grandmother forbade him ever owning a bicycle again.
Different from his stroke that brought to light his fight with
Alzheimer's disease; and different from his fall two years
ago, that broke his hip-- again.
All those times, he hung in
there. But this would be different.
When I came home, crying
and telling M stories about my Baba's (mis)adventures,
M handed me a bowl of silky cold ice cream. For the first
time, it did not taste right; bitter from the big tears that
roll down my face and splash into the soft surface. Each
spoonful melting away on my tongue--before they could numb the
in me. I just sat there, blindly eating my bitter strawberry
My brother called me tonight; harsh,
abrupt and factual, "I
know you have company, and mom doesn't want you to know,
but Baba passed." And he hung up, just like that. I stood
with the phone in my hand, the sound of Hafez being read in the
background-- mixed with laughter and jokes, a table full of food
and desserts staring at me-- and I had turned to stone. I knew
that my brother was shattered. He was just alone in his home,
with his grief as I was in my full house.
I walked to my room and cried. Not as much for Baba's
death, as for his life. For the life of a man who was too simple
to know that people were taking advantage of him, and too humble
to complain about being taken advantage of. "God sees everything.
It is as He wants it to be". He was sure that God was keeping
score, and everything would work out in the end.
his memory loss was a strange gift. He no longer had to look
at those who had betrayed and humiliated him, remembering their
words and deeds. They all became strangers that he had no obligation
to. He didn't recognize me 6 years ago; but he remembered
me. He remembered my eyes when I cried; he remembered our walks
to the baghali; he remembered my love for him. If he looks
down on me now, perhaps he will recognize me and my tearful eyes.
And so, I am up again tonight; writing as I do on many other
nights. Only this time I cry as I try to write. I cry for my
loss, and for his peace. I cry that only a few people truly appreciated
him when he lived; only to pretend to mourn his loss now. I cry
because he was always there; quiet, faded in the background --
just out of sight, but never out of mind. I cry for all that
he suffered; and when he could suffer no more, his reward was
forgetting the pain. I cry because the last time I saw him, I
held his hand and said, "I love you, Baba." He looked
at me closely for a moment and nodded; he accepted that as a
He was a gardener to some of the most affluent people in Shemiran.
When I spoke to my mom, she said so many people had sent flowers
to the house, that they
had to fill the stairwell, and eventually the street they lived on.
It seems every flower he ever planted had come to bid him farewell,
one last time.
goodbye to spam!