Thursday, December 3, 2009

Remembering Lebanon

I just got off the phone with my ex-husband's wife. We talked for more than an hour. My daughter fell asleep on the way to school this morning, so I turned around and went home after we dropped my son off. Turns out that was a good choice. She obviously does not feel well. We are spending a quiet day together.

My ex-husband and his wife just came back from a long trip to Lebanon, where they are both originally from. Her parents had come to my office yesterday and told me they were back, so I decided to check on them.

It sounds like they had a wonderful trip. I wish I had been able to go with them. Yesterday, her parents offered to take me, and today she offered me to come with her this summer.

How I miss Lebanon.

Americans seem to wonder why the Lebanese and the Palestinians fight so hard for their land. If they had been there, they would know.

It is beautiful in Lebanon. And the people are the best of the best. There is no place more hospitable, filled with love and laughter. I have never seen children so happy and well-behaved. They are free to run around the village without care, because everyone watches out for everyone else. The high school kids are smarter than most college graduates I know. Most people speak Arabic, French and English, and the children study psychology, literature, mathematics in all three languages, which is different than just taking a French or English class.

The people of Lebanon are very present. Perhaps because they have lost so much. When I went in '95-'96, Israel was still bombing nearby. My ex-husband is from a small village in the South of Lebanon. I remember being scared many times, but after a while, you get used to it. There is no place I have enjoyed traveling to more than Lebanon. It touched my soul.

I have noted to myself many times lately that since I met my current husband, I have essentially stopped traveling - at least abroad. I really want to change that. There is always so much drama involved in alcoholic families. I feel like I have missed many things. My ex-husband's 40th birthday party. A retirement party for my greatest mentor. Party after party that I was too emotionally exhausted to attend. Looking back, I wish I would have done all of it anyway. What was accomplished by me staying home, besides another defeat?

I enjoyed hearing all the stories of the people I love back in Lebanon. My sister-in-law just lost her husband. I remember them well from when I was there. He had a brain tumor then. It is amazing, really, that he made it this long. They have 7 or 8 children. Most people in Lebanon have big families. Family is everything.

We talked about the traditions of death in Lebanon. I remember going to a funeral while I was there. A young boy was killed by Israel during my stay. Nearly everyone from all surrounding villages stopped what they were doing and drove to his village for the funeral. There must have been thousands of people there. I will never forget the sound of the women wailing, screaming really, at the top of their lungs, with all of their hearts and souls.

I think I understand those screams even more now that I have my own children. The grief is unimaginable.

But I think that wailing is good for the soul. In America, death is often skipped over. In Lebanon, the family is in mourning for 40 days. The widow is never left alone. There are usually about 10 people with her at all time, to care for her needs and give her company. Every day, the entire family visits the graveside for 40 days.

I think that is beautiful. His wife told me, "one of the things I like most about our culture is that we make everyone feel so special." I think she really nailed it on the head.

Yesterday, her parents visited me at my office and brought donuts and special Lebanese pastries. My entire office was thrilled.

My daughter's namesake lives in the South of Lebanon. She is one of my ex-husband's many aunts. I remember being instantly taken with her. She is everything I would want my daughter to be - smart, always laughing, and has a very strong sense of self. Her spirit was beautiful and amazing.

I decided when I met her that I would name my daughter after her - even though I was no where close to having a daughter then. I married my first husband very young. I was still in college and wanted to finish my Masters degree first. The Masters degree was one of several things that killed our marriage - but primarily, it was my youth.

My ex-husband handled our divorce with so much grace. One of the best gifts that he ever gave to me, when I was feeling guilty about many things, was to tell me, "Despite everything, you are still the best person I have ever known." I will never forget those words, and he will never know how much they meant to me coming from him. When I am feeling low, I still can hear him telling me that, and it still helps tremendously.

I sent pictures of my daughter to show the family and especially her namesake. She was very pleased with them and sent my daughter back a dress. On Saturday we will go visit them and get it. It sounds like they brought back many gifts, which is traditional. I am looking forward to seeing their entire family. I miss all of them. They will always be my family.

The wife asked about my marriage and I told her. She said, I will never get over the time we came to your house in the middle of the night after your son was born. Right then I knew it was bad, and I wondered what was wrong with him.

I remember that night well. My son and I had just came home from the hospital. He started crying, sometimes screaming, non stop for hours. I was exhausted and did not know what to do. My husband was no where to be found. He would not return calls. Finally I called my ex-husband and his wife, who just lived down the street at the time. By then it was close to mid-night, but they came over immediately anyway. They stayed with me for hours until my son was settled and back to sleep. I will always be grateful to both of them for that. It was one of the worst and loneliest nights of my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment