I don’t know my grandfather much. I have vague memories of thirty seven years ago when I was one.
I remember walking the ancient, stone laden back streets of Al-Mina in Lebanon, the Miami of Tripoli with spectacular historic views of ruins against ocean waves where fishermen only go out to pull a catch or two to feed their families for a day.
There is no comparable ocean spray in the world as it’s mist bares witness to the ancients that fought over its right, that drown in its love, that desired and coveted it.
A stubborn people, on it remains in the hands of the Lebanese who only match their stubbornness with a love and generosity unseen in the world.
Parsley spread on kitchen benches being carved into aromatic salads.
Olives so embalmed in their brine, the pickles next to them are jealous. And the oregano to make Italians think they have never planted a seed in their life. Their recipes have made it into plates the world over, but what remains to be experienced are their writers and poets.
Sadly, hipsters prattle off Khalil Gibran without knowing his history, origin or biography. Khalil is an inkling in the ocean of writers and poets we have. Poetry and writing is not reserved only to recluses, it’s everyday talk, it’s on the store clerks tongue, it’s in the field workers hymn, it’s in the labourers chant and in the wife’s scold as she abuses her husband for ogling at the young girl that just past them. It’s our culture. We’re passionately absorbed in words and our nomenclature is bound to it.
I remember my grandfather only by the slow gentle walk he led me by so that my feet could keep up.
Tall, straight dignified posture and a fisherman’s beret, he’d stop me at a vending machine and buy me a Nestle chocolate bar, back when Nestle could be smelt as you peeled a wrapper.
Or he’d stop me at a corner vendor selling Choco-prince biscuits from his cart.
Yes, I was only one, that’s unfortunately all I can remember of him or at least the first image that comes to mind when he’s mentioned, that and his greeny blue eyes that changed with his clothes as if to reflect the ocean temperament that he spent so many mornings on fishing his keep.
He’s my mothers father and she just returned from a visit and began to tell me how he spends his days as an eighty five year old man.
If my introversion comes from somewhere, I know it is most likely rooted in my mothers side of the family as we share a love of words and books so it seems.
He’s a secret writer, poet and vicious reader, acquainting himself mostly with works of history, poetry and religion.
Perhaps that hummingbird is immortal and travels from heart to heart or maybe its seed lies dormant in genes waiting to be fertilised in a member of the ancestral chain. Either way, I never had any desire to travel to Lebanon despite my vivid memories of when I was last there in 1988. I did see him then, but too absorbed in my childhood, I only remember his care taking of his 102 year old father.
It seems that has somewhat been awoken as I wouldn’t mind sitting with that old man, perhaps now taking him by the hand and walking him slowly to a broken Roman stone on an otherwise forgotten part of the landscape, armed with pens, books and silence, we could converse and share quiet.
Maybe we could calm that hummingbird inside us both.