Saturday, April 18, 2009

A spring snowy day in Colorado

It is Sat. afternoon, April 18th. We have been having a lot of snow for the last two and a half days. It started Thursday night and it hasn’t stopped yet. Yesterday morning, I called my boss and asked him if I could work from home and he said “Yes”. I was so happy. I was spared of at least four hours of driving back and forth to work in my little car that slides easily on snow. Actually, I’m mostly scared of other drivers in snowy conditions. So, that made my day. My other co-workers were working from home also. The last snow storm we had, they let us leave work at noon. It took me two hours and fifteen minutes to get home. It usually takes about forty minutes. It was a terrible drive mostly because people were driving about one mile per hour in a lot of the areas much slower than necessary, but that’s Colorado. So many people who live here are from California or places without much snow. They make the most annoying drivers in Colorado snow storms.

I haven’t been feeling that great today, trying to rest and stay warm. Actually, I haven’t left my house since Thursday evening. We have had about eighteen inches of snow. Occasionally, I look outside at my driveway and sidewalk. It stresses me out. I know, I have to go out and shovel the snow at some point. It won’t be today. It has to be tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll be all better then. I’m hoping for a lot of sunshine tomorrow, so I won’t have as much snow to shovel. This morning all the neighborhood men were shoveling the snow in their driveways. Some people have shoveled a couple of times already. My driveway and sidewalk is the only one on the block that is totally covered in snow. I hate shoveling snow. It always makes my back hurt. I was in a bad car accident when I was nineteen years old, which totally messed up my neck and upper back. I have to see a chiropractor when my back or shoulder goes out. The last time I shoveled the snow, my back went out. I was in a really bad pain for two days before I was able to see my chiropractor and get an adjustment. So, if I’m lucky tomorrow will be sunny and some of the snow will melt.

My friend Shari called me today to check on me, since I live alone. Every time we have a snow storm she calls me to see if I made it home OK and if I have enough food at home. She and her husband are really good friends. Every time she calls to check on me, her sincere and caring voice and her words of concern make me want to cry. It makes me feel good to know someone cares about me enough to call to see if I’m OK.

I’ve been trying o figure out what I want to have for dinner. I need to go to the grocery store. I’m low on things, but I don‘t want to leave my house. As I was looking at my refrigerator, I thought I feel like pasta. I looked for the ingredients to make this dish that I like. The ingredients are whole wheat pasta, lots of garlic and onions, parsley, broccoli, olive oil, chicken, parmesan cheese and butter something that I use only once in a while, because it has so much saturated fat. I have everything that I need to make this dish, unbelievable! That makes me happy. I’ll fix dinner and then watch a movie, a great way to spend a snowy Sat. night at home.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I want money

My oldest sister, Zhaleh, who is twenty years older than me has been living in Australia for the last two years. She has a condo, here, in one of the suburbs of Denver that I check on every couple of months. If all goes well, she should be here living in Colorado in about six months. I do miss her. She has always been like a second mother to me. My sister has two daughters one is my age and lives in Australia. The other daughter who is five years younger than me and is the closest person to me in my family has been living in Kuwait with her family for the last year. Her name is Ziba. As she and her family still have connections in the US sometimes they ask me to help them with some things here. It makes me sad that they probably won’t ever live in the States again. I miss them all so much and feel a sense of loss since they left the US.

Ziba called me a few days ago and asked me to go to her mother’s apartment and look for either hers or her mother’s birth certificate. She said that they should be in the set of drawers in her mother’s bedroom. I knew it was important to her to find one of the birth certificates at least, otherwise, Soudi, one of my sisters who lives in Iran will have to go to our hometown which is a seven hour drive from where she lives and try to get a copy from the place where births and deaths are registered. Who knows if they still have those records and it would not be free to get copies of them.

Yesterday after work, I drove to my sister’s place. I opened the door to her very clean and beautifully decorated apartment all in pastel colors so indicative of her taste. It always makes me feel good to go there. It looks so relaxing. I went to the bedroom, located the set of drawers and began to search. I opened the first drawer. It was filled with bags and envelops. I thought, if I’m lucky the birth certificates would turn up pretty quick. I looked through everything in the first drawer, insurance papers, car papers, tax information, bank accounts, pictures, letters, cards, more pieces of paper and so on. I thought, note to self, clean out the drawers in your office. This is way too much paper for someone to go through when you die. I, especially, looked through everything that I found in Persian. I came across a packet filled with the letters that my sister’s husband had written. I, immediately, recognized the handwriting. Tears came to my eyes remembering how he was killed. I had not seen his handwriting since I was a teen-ager. He was a prominent Baha'i in my hometown who was imprisoned, tortured and executed, because he was a Baha'i by the Islamic Republic of Iran who has persecuted the Baha'is since they came to power. I saw letters from my mom and dad who had been written to my sister. Each letter started with “To the light of my eyes, Zhaleh”. That was how my parents addressed their children in the written form. It is a Persian expression. I, always, thought it was a powerful expression. There were letters and cards from my sister’s daughters. There were a lot of drawings from her grandchildren to their grandma. There were cards and letters from old friends. There were even stuff from me. I looked through them, but I didn’t find either one of the birth certificates or copies of them. I moved to the second drawer. This drawer had more documents and photo albums. I looked through the pages of the photo albums. There were a lot of old pictures. I saw pictures of me when I was little along with other family members. I saw a picture of my mother when she was eighteen years old holding my sister, Zhaleh, who was only a year old at the time. My father and uncles were in the picture. They all were so young. My dad and one of my uncles have passed on. It was a picture taken about sixty years ago. I thought I like to have a copy of this picture. I need to remember to borrow it from my sister when she comes back. I continued looking. There were more papers and documents that I had to sort through. When I was almost done with the second drawer, I came across pages of writings in my handwriting in Persian. They were all poems that I had copied from a book of poems by Hafez, one of the famous Persian poets, years ago. I sat on the bed and started to read the poems. The poems were so beautiful. I hadn’t read them in a long time. Before I knew it twenty minutes had passed. I thought to myself, go back to work. I looked through everything in the second drawer and I didn’t find the certificates. That was it. There were only two drawers. I thought, I probably missed them. I probably didn’t look through everything with enough care. So, with frustration, I started to look at everything all over again examining each piece of paper. At that point, I was tired and hungry and I was thinking, Ziba really owes me for this. What does she owe me? A dinner out? No, that won’t do it. A gift certificate for a massage? No, that won’t do either. A gift certificate to one of my favorite stores? No, that wasn’t good either. None of those options were good enough for the frustration that I was feeling. I thought she owes me money, that’s right, money. That’s what I want. I, then, remembered the song “Money, that’s what I want” by The Flying Lizards and started singing it to myself. “The best things in life are free. But you can give them to the birds and bees. I want money. That’s what I want. That’s what I want…” After a little diversion of singing, goofing off and laughing, I continued to look. Finally, I had gone through everything that was in that set of drawers twice. I had not been able to find the birth certificates. I started to look in different places in the bedroom like the bookcase, the nightstand and boxes in the closet, but didn’t find anything. So, finally after two hours of searching, I had to give up. I drove home humming “I want money. That‘s what I want…“.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mom goes to Iran

My mom decided to go to Iran for a visit a couple of months ago. My sister Azie and her family really wanted to see her. The last time my mom had gone home was five years ago and she was due for another visit. I made the travel arrangements for her, and she started packing about a month before her travel date. She likes to pack early and carefully decide what presents she is going to take for everybody. We went shopping a couple of times and she bought a few things, but most of the presents were what she had collected over the last few years. My sister Soudi who was visiting at the time and was staying with my mom for a while kept telling me, “Mom is taking a bunch of junk to Iran. No one is going to like those presents. A lot of them are old stuff, talk to her. She listens to you.” I said to her, “I have been through this before. She doesn’t listen to me and she will get upset.” I said, “Everyone knows that she is an old eccentric lady and they won’t be offended by her.” I have to say that no one travels like my mother. She takes so much stuff with her everywhere she goes. Every time she travels I ask her not to pack so much, because I’m the one who has to carry all the stuff back and forth to and from airport, but she just can’t help it. Last year, she went on a three-day cruise and she had two good size pieces of luggage and a big bag to carry on the plane.

As the appointed day was approaching I was getting a bit nervous. She had two large suitcases, which thankfully weighed right below fifty pounds each, which was the limit, but what made me nervous was her humongous carryon, which was almost the size of a regular suitcase. I was sure they would not let her take that with her on the plane. She also had a big handbag and a video camera, so there were three pieces that she wanted to take on the plane. The airlines usually let you take two.

On the day of her flight, I woke up in the morning thinking I wish this day was already over. It was going to be a difficult day. I had to go to work and then leave work at about three, go to my mom’s apartment, pick her up and take her to the airport. I had decided to get to the airport three hours before the time of her flight instead of two. I thought we might have difficulties, and I wanted to have enough time to deal with anything that might come up, so I had taken three vacation hours. Once at my mom’s apartment, I carried the suitcases to my car and put them in the trunk and the back seat. We got to the airport forty minutes later. I parked the car and proceeded to carry the suitcases to the terminal. My mom carried the carryon with her big handbag and the video camera on top of it. The other two suitcases which were really old and the wheels on them were worthless I carried. There were no carts in the parking lot. Half way to the terminal my mom saw two young men and asked them to help me. Gratefully, I gave one of them one of the suitcases, and he carried it to the elevator leading to the terminal. We thanked him, got on the elevator and went to the British Airways ticketing counter. When we were approaching the ticketing counter, my mom gave me her passport and said, “You go ahead and check me in. I’m going to sit here.” I said, “I think, you are going to have to be there, don’t sit down yet.” When I approached the ticketing agent my mom was standing about 15 feet away and I was wondering why she didn’t want to approach the counter. I gave her passport to the agent, and we weighed the suitcases. Fortunately, her suitcases weighed about 46 pounds each, so we didn’t have to take things out of them like the last time she traveled to Iran. The agent asked if she had anything else. I said, “She has a handbag and a carryon”. I didn’t mention the video camera. The agent said, “I have to see the handbag and the carryon.” I asked my mom to come forward. She approached the ticketing counter hesitatingly trying to hide her carryon behind her. I realized, at that point, why she didn’t want to come forward. As soon as the agent saw the carryon he said, “That is the size of a regular suitcase. I can’t let you take that in.” My mom said, “I was afraid of that.” The agent said, “If you want to take it you have to check it in and pay $165.00. You are only allowed to have two suitcases free of charge.” I looked at my mom and she said, “No way”. I was wondering what we were going to do. The agent said, “I can give you a bag to put the stuff that you want to take with you, but the carryon cannot go.” I said, “OK, we’ll take the bag.” He gave us a very sturdy plastic bag with a zipper. I was thinking the size of the bag is about a third of the size of her carryon. I wonder what she is going to leave behind. At that point, the agent said, “You can still put in a few more pounds into each suitcase.” We took the suitcases, the carryon, the video camera, her big handbag and the plastic bag to a corner out of the way and for the next hour my mom examined each item in the carryon trying to decide what to take and squishing as much as she possibly could into the bag we got from the agent. I was kind of stressed, but I thought we came to the airport a whole hour early for something like this. We have time. It’s OK.

As my mom was unzipping her large carryon to see what she should take with her, I thought this is going to be a difficult process trying to decide what to take and what not to take. She opened the carryon, and I was shocked at what I saw in it. I saw a dress that I had worn about 20 years ago when I was still in college. I saw a bunch of pens from the First Bank, the auto repair shop and the insurance agency. I saw a handful of band-aids. I saw a long white zipper. I saw old sweaters and shoes. I saw a couple of old towels. I was bewildered. I could not stop laughing, and I could not hold my tongue. As far as I was concerned this was all junk. She didn’t need to take any of it. I took vacation time to deal with this? All of these items would not be worth $20.00 at a garage sale. I said to my mom, “This is all junk mom. They wouldn’t like any of it. You are not going to a refugee camp in Sudan!” But of course, every piece of item to her was valuable. She said, “The clothes are in good shape, the sweater is made of wool. The pens are new and so on. And I thought not only they won’t like any of it, they may even be insulted. They are not in need of charity. Then I thought they all know mom. She is an unusual old lady. They’ll probably get a good laugh out of it like I am. I started helping her put more stuff in the suitcases. When I thought we had reached the limit of fifty pounds, I went and weighed the suitcases to make sure they didn’t exceed the limit. They didn‘t. Then my mom started to fill the plastic bag. She was pushing and shoving as I watched anxiously. I was thinking the bag is going to bust, but it didn’t. A couple of minutes later the bag was full and my mom was trying to zip it up when she exclaimed, “The zipper broke“. At that point, I thought I’m just going to leave this to my mom and the universe. I’m done. I’m through. I’m going to stand back and watch. This is beyond me. Then, I heard my mom say, “Go ask the guy for another bag.” I was embarrassed to go and ask him, but I did. I gave the new bag to her and as I looked at the remaining stuff in the carryon I thought, I’m not going to dissuade her from taking what she wants to take, this is her experience, her vacation, and I‘ll keep my opinions to myself. I sat on one of the suitcases and watched my mom do her work from afar. The ticketing agent would occasionally look at my mom and I and would examine the progress. My mom sat in that corner for the next thirty minutes without looking up oblivious of her surroundings and sorted through all the items left. She tried to put as much as she could in her handbag and the plastic bag with the working zipper. At one point, she realized that the plastic bag holds more than her handbag and she would rather take another plastic bag with her instead of her handbag. She told me “Ask the agent for another plastic bag”. I replied, “Just use the one with the broken zipper”. I was way too embarrassed to ask for another bag. So she emptied her handbag into the plastic bag with the broken zipper and put more stuff in. At that point, I realized that she may actually be late for her flight and I told her to hurry up. As I watched my mom stuff the bags, I thought how beautiful she looked. Her fine features, delicate face and beautiful white alabaster skin are very noticeable. Her mostly white shoulder length hair was pushed back with a headband. Her light red lipstick complimented her skin. She looks at least ten years younger than her age. People always tell me that she is beautiful. I thought, I wish I would look as good as her when I’m her age.

My mom was finally done. She approached the ticketing agent with her two bursting plastic bags. The ticketing agent looked at me and said, “What kind of miracles did you have to perform?” I replied, “You’ll have to ask her”. My mom told the agent that one of the zippers broke. Of course, he didn’t understand her broken English, and I had no choice but to translate. Without looking up he said, “So what do you want me to do?” My mom chuckled and said nothing. The agent checked her in. I told him that she is insulin dependent and needs to carry her bottles of insulin with her on the plane, since they need to be refrigerated. He looked at the bottles to make sure her name was on them and said OK. I had asked for a wheel-chair for her, since walking is a bit difficult for her and she had the two bags. I explained to her the last minute details before she sat on the wheel-chair. I walked with her to the security area while an airline employee pushed her wheel-chair. When she reached the security, I told the man who was pushing the wheel-chair to make sure and tell the security people that she needs to have her insulin bottles with her. I reminded my mom of her stop in London and how another person with a wheel-chair would take her to the right gate once she got there. She asked me if I would stay and make sure she got through security without any problems. I said, “Yes, I’ll be here until you have gone through security”. She said, “Thank you my dear, May God give you that which will make you happy. You are my rock. You are the delight of my heart.” It was nice to hear those words. Those words coming from my mother had an incredible power. This woman whose love and approval I have always sought. This most powerful person in my life who can build me up or bring me down with just one word, the person who I have tried to please for as long as I remember. This woman who has hurt me deeply and has also loved me like no one else ever has… I gave her a hug and said, “You’re welcome mom. I love you. Have a great time.” I stood there and watched her go through security. At one point, she looked back to see me. I smiled and waved at her.

I watched the sunset as I drove home. The colorful sky and the cloud formations against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains looked breath taking. I felt a calm come over me. I smiled. I felt at peace with my life.