Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye"

The song “Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye” by Leonard Cohen touched my heart. I hate saying goodbye when a relationship is over, even when it seems like the right thing to do. And goodbye doesn’t always mean that there is no love. In this song, the words “Walk me to the corner Our steps will always rhyme” speak to me of a constancy, a connection that will never go away despite all else that may change in two people’s lives. Walking to the corner signifies the very end of a relationship when the moment of saying goodbye is approaching. And the words “You know my love goes with you As your love stays with me” speak of the transcendency of true love and at the same time of inevitable separation.

Part of the Lyrics

...Yes, many loved before us
I know that we are not new,
In city and in forest
They smiled like me and you,
But now it's come to distances
And both of us must try,
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.

I'm not looking for another
As I wander in my time,
Walk me to the corner
Our steps will always rhyme,
You know my love goes with you
As your love stays with me,
It's just the way it changes
Like the shoreline and the sea,
But let's not talk of love or chains
And things we can't untie,
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye…

The Mouse

The poor little mouse was trapped in the mousetrap that I put in my basement. It made me sad to do it. It was sad to look at his lifeless body. I didn't know what else to do. I thought of capturing him and taking him to a park and releasing him there. But someone told me that was a bad idea, since he would just freeze to death at night.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Intruders

Last night as I was going down the stairs of my basement, I saw a little mouse on the landing. As soon as I saw the mouse, I screamed and ran upstairs and closed the basement door. The poor little mouse ran down the stairs to the basement. Once upstairs, I started to wonder how I was going to handle this situation. This was the second time in my life that I had encountered a mouse. The first time I was living in an apartment, so I didn’t have to do anything myself in order to get rid of it. But this time, it was my problem.

After I settled down from the shock of seeing a mouse in my house, I decided on a plan of action. I thought tomorrow after work, I’ll go to the hardware store and buy two mousetraps just in case there is more than one mouse living in my basement. Hopefully, someone at the hardware store can show me how to use a mousetrap, since I have never used one. I though I’ll buy some cheese and take it to the hardware store to make sure everything is setup correctly. Last night, as I was laying in bed I wondered about what I would have to do with a dead mouse. How do people dispose of a dead mouse? Would I have to take the dead mouse out of the trap and bury it in the garden, very creepy. Do I simply put the mouse and the mousetrap in the trash? Do I need to tell the guy who picks up the trash that in addition to all the usual garbage there is a decomposing dead mouse in my trash? I have no idea what to do. Maybe I should just google it. One thing is for sure; I’ll have to really clean my basement after all this is over. I saw mouse droppings on the stairs.

There was another intruder in my life over the weekend that caused me quite a bit of stress. Friday night as I was using my computer all of the sudden the screen was filled with a bunch of messages and popups saying that my computer was infected with viruses. I wasn’t able to do anything. The popups kept asking me to buy their antivirus software, which I didn’t. I knew those messages were probably from the virus itself. I already have antivirus software on my laptop. I spent about two hours checking all the security settings on my computer and making sure that I had the latest version of my antivirus software and resurrecting my computer. My computer came back to life, but I could not get rid of the popups that kept appearing every two minutes.

Sunday, I called Jason. He googled the virus and found out how to get rid of it. I read all the instructions for getting rid of the virus, but since it required modifying my computer's registry something that could be risky and I only had done once before, I was hesitant to do it myself. I downloaded a free software that allows remote access to a computer. Once the software was downloaded Jason, who lives in Texas, remotely accessed my computer and for the next hour and a half worked on removing all traces of the virus from my computer. That was the best part of my weekend, having my computer back. Thanks Jason. One intruder gone one left to go.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mom's Prediction

My mother announced a week ago, at the dinner table that this will be the year that she will die. She announced it very casually, as though she were announcing her upcoming vacation. I smiled and thought "just another one of her predictions".

My mother’s predictions of her own death have been going on for about twenty years. But this one is a little different. A palm reader several years ago told her that she will die in her 80th year of life. I had heard her mention it many times, but of course never believed that it would actually happen. But she really is expecting it.

She had a major heart attack when she was in her fifties and a couple of minor ones in the years that followed. She has had a lot of health problems throughout the years, so it is not entirely irrational that she would be obsessed with dying. But all her illnesses have been managed and it has been about eight years since she has had any problems with her heart. She is on so many medications for her circulation, such as blood pressure, blood thinning, and cholesterol medication, that it is practically impossible for her to have a heart attack.

It all started after my dad died. All of a sudden, she felt old. When she was in her sixties, before she moved to Colorado, she would come and stay with me for a few months every year. When it was time for her to go back to the East Coast where she used to live, she would say goodbye to friends by saying, “See you next year if I’m alive.” With a worried look, our friends would ask, “Is she OK? Is she terminally ill?” Because of her constant preoccupation with death, I always worried that she might die any day. I would sometimes go and check on her in the middle of the night to make sure she was breathing. So, for the last twenty years she has lived as though death is just around the corner. Her commonly used phrase for all these years has been, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years.” She has used this phrase to make me feel guilty about not doing exactly what she wants and not getting her way. With me, guilt is a very strong motivation factor. If I wasn’t in a position to do something she wanted, I would do anything to figure out how to get it done, so that if she suddenly died I would not feel bad. It took me about fifteen years to realize that she has been using the same phrase throughout all these years to manipulate me and I always fall for it. When I would say “Mom you need to get a new coat,” she would say, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years. My old coat will do.” When I would say “Mom you need a new couch, this one is falling apart,” she would say, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years, this one will last until then.” She has been complaining about her dentures for the last five years. She has been saying that they are too loose and don’t fit anymore. When I say, “Let’s get new dentures,” she always says, “Dentures are too expensive, insurance doesn’t cover them and, I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years, so why waste money.” After all these years, I still haven’t convinced her to buy a new couch, lamp, coffee table or dentures. She won’t let me buy them for her either. She simply says, “Don’t waste your money on me. I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years.”

About three and a half years ago, one day when I was at her apartment, we had an argument about something. In the midst of the argument in order to make me feel bad, as usual, she said, “I’ll only be alive for 2 or 3 more years and then you won’t have to deal with me at all.” All of the sudden, I heard myself say, “Mom, you have been saying that for the last seventeen or eighteen years, and it hasn’t happened yet.” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew I was in trouble. What I really wanted to say was, “Please stop saying that in order to manipulate me.” When my mom heard what I had just said, she got upset and said, “Oh, you want me to die, don’t you? You are waiting for me to die. Aren’t you?” I said, “No mom, I don’t want you to die. I just don’t want you to say that anymore. It makes me feel bad to hear it. I worry about you and feel bad when you talk about dying. That is what I meant to say.” For the next thirty minutes, I kept apologizing and explaining that she had misunderstood me and that I don’t want her to die. I love her and it’s just that I worry about her. But the damage was done. She would not believe me. I saw my sister, Sudi, later that day. When I told her what had happened, she burst into laughter and said, “Now, you have to stand in the corner for the next 30 days. It’s going to take her that long to forgive you”. And of course, she was right. My mom was mad at me for a long time after that and told everyone in the family what I had said.

I remember about six years ago, one Saturday morning, we were having breakfast. My sister Zhaleh had just moved to Australia. She was going to live there for about a year or two. As we were having our tea, my mom with a stressed look on her face said, “Oh, too bad Zhaleh won’t be here for my funeral.” I chuckled and said, “Why? Are you planning to die soon?” She said, “She is going to be gone for a year or two. For sure, I’ll be dead by the time she gets back.” Laughingly, I said, “Don’t worry mom. I’ll take care of everything.”

She has also written her will a number of times and has explained to me who should get what. She changes her mind so many times that she no longer updates her will. She just tells me and wants me to remember. The Persian rug in her apartment, for the longest time, was supposed to go to Zhaleh upon her death. Then about five years ago, she went to Iran and brought a Persian rug for Zhaleh, at which point the Persian rug was supposed to be given to Sudi when she died. Then tonight, when I was visiting her at her apartment, my mom again said, “I will die soon. The year 2010 is the year of my death.” As she was saying this she almost tripped and fell. I held her arm to help her maintain her balance and jokingly said, “It’s not 2010 yet, we still have a couple of months to go, so be careful.” She smiled. As she sat on the couch she said, “I want you to have the Persian rug.” I said, “But you had already said that Sudi could have it.” She said, “No, I’m giving Sudi my money. She needs that more.”

Throughout the years, she has also planned her funeral and memorial service in great detail. She has given me a list of people to invite. She wants to have a dinner, as that is the Persian custom, and if cooking for fifty people is too difficult for me, I should hire Holly, our friend, who is also a caterer. She has picked the menu too. She has also selected all of the readings for the memorial service. The last time we went to a memorial service was about six years ago. At the end of the service, she went to the lady who had just lost her father and said, “I really liked the last prayer that was read, could you please give a copy of it to Soheila for my memorial service.” The grieving lady burst into laughter.

So tonight again, my mom talked about dying. I kept telling her as I always do that she will be around for a long time and that she is not going to die soon. I told her that she is on all the proper medication and that she has no reason to think that she is going to die. But for the first time ever, I did not believe myself. She looks weak. She holds on to me when we walk. She trips and falls often. There is a frailty in her that I have not seen before. I looked at her when we were sitting on the couch, examined the wrinkles on her face. Looked at her old hands. Looked at her fragile body. And, all I could think was how much I wanted to hug her. For a second, I felt that her departure was near. Tears rolled down my face. I held her tight in my arms. I kissed her face and told her that I loved her. I will miss her so much when she is gone.

PS I just read half of what I have written here to my mom. She wanted to know what I was writing about. She stopped me in the middle and said, “What is this nonsense you are writing? People will make fun of me.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Me and the Rooster

The house where I was born and lived until the age of 17 will always have a special place in my heart. Although, I have not seen it in so many years yet in my mind’s eye, I can see every part and corner of it clearly. I have dreamed about it so many times throughout the years. Often in my dreams, I wonder how I came back to my home country. I just see that I’m back and living in that old house in Iran.

The house was a three story house that my parents had built. In its time, it was a nice big house. The first floor was at garden level, which basically was a large green house with lots of windows. My dad spent a lot of time there taking care of his plants and flowers. The next floor had three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom and a long hallway that led to the stairs to the 3rd floor. This floor was rented most of the time. The 3rd floor was where we lived. It had 5 rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.

The most beautiful part of the house to me was the landing between the 2nd and the 3rd floor. Its area was about 6 feet by 4 feet. The walls on three sides of it were about 3 feet high, and then there was glass all the way to the ceiling. I remember standing on that landing looking at the backyard, neighbors’ homes, alleyways and best of all amazing sunsets. I remember, my mom at times would open one of the window panes and call one of her friends who was one of our neighbors. And I remember her friend responding, although I could never see her. She would always appear at our front door shortly after that exchange. I was always fascinated by this method of communication, the simplicity and the intimacy of it.

There was another part of the house that I loved. It was the long balcony off of our living room facing the front yard, which was full of trees that my dad had planted, along with flower gardens, the grape vine and the big apple tree with its branches reaching the 3rd floor windows. We spent a lot of time on that balcony during the summer. The balcony was about 20 feet long and 10 feet wide covered with Persian rugs. We ate breakfast there a lot of the summer mornings and, in the late afternoon, we would all gather on the balcony and have tea and fruit. A lot of the summer nights, we slept on that balcony. The air was cool and fresh. Early in the mornings it would get cold and we would all pull the blankets over our heads. Later in the morning, it would get really warm and the sun light would be on our faces. Those summer nights on that balcony are some of the best memories of my childhood. I would lay there at night looking at the stars and imagine all sorts of things and dream of a beautiful future.

Unlike most Persian houses, we also had a large backyard full of tall trees. In Iran it is the front yard that is big and is used for playing and family activities. All the homes have walls around them, so the front yards are very private. The backyard was where my dad raised chickens, one of his hobbies. We lived in a city, and most people didn’t raise chickens in their houses. But we always had chickens and fresh eggs. In spring when the chickens would hatch, there would be these tiny, yellow chicks coming out of the eggs. They looked so precious and loveable. I would hold them in the palms of my hands and caress them and grieve the fate that was waiting them, ending up on our dinner table someday. The backyard belonged to the chickens. It was entirely their domain.

When I was very young, I used to like to go to the backyard with my dad when he was feeding the chickens. When I was about three or four years old, my dad bought a fighting rooster, which would walk about in the backyard as though he was the king. He was a beautiful creature. The colors of his feathers were variations of deep red. I remember, every time I would go to feed the chickens with my dad, my dad would tell me “Stay close to me and don’t get close to the rooster”. I, also, remember him saying don’t ever go to the backyard by yourself. The entrance to the backyard was usually locked.

My niece, Mahta, who is my age, would often come to our house, and we would play together. One summer day, when Mahta was visiting, we walked by the door to the backyard, and I noticed that it was open. I asked Mahta if she wanted to go and see the chickens. Mahta said that she was afraid of the rooster, and she didn’t want to go. I told her that I feed the chickens with my dad every day and the rooster has never hurt me, but she still didn’t want to go. To further prove my point, I proceeded to go down the stairs from the second floor to the back yard. All the chickens were moving about, and the rooster was about 5 feet away from the last step to the backyard. I looked at the rooster happily as I was going down the stairs thinking that I was visiting an old friend. I got to the bottom of the stairs and started to walk about. I had only taken one step when the wild rooster took a leap into the air and jumped on me and pushed me to the ground. Fortunately, I landed on my tummy and my face was on the ground. The rooster jumped on my back and started to poke at my head, neck, back and arms. I was shouting and crying and didn’t know how to save myself. I remember thinking that the rooster was going to kill me. Mahta saw what was happening. She ran to get my dad who came to the backyard and rescued me from the rooster. My hands, neck and head were bloody and hurting.

Afterwards, I remember my parents telling me never go to the backyard again. Of course, I wasn’t ever going to go there. There was a monster living there. From then on, I lived in fear of the rooster in the backyard and never went to feed the chickens with my dad. Shortly after that incident, I heard my parents talking to each other saying that I was lucky my face was on the ground when the rooster attacked me. The rooster could have poked my eyes out. I remember them talking about killing the rooster. They thought he was too dangerous to have around. After that, I knew it was going to be a short time before the rooster was going to be put to death.

A few days later, one sunny morning, my dad announced that he was about to kill the rooster in the front yard by the apple tree. I was curious to see how he was going to do it. I went walking in the front yard. Soon I saw my dad coming to the front yard carrying the rooster in his arms. The rooster was struggling to get away and was making a lot of noise. He took the rooster to the apple tree and proceeded to cut his throat. I was standing far away and couldn’t see how he was doing it. I could only hear a lot of noise coming from the rooster. A few minutes later the noise stopped and the lifeless body of the rooster was lying by the apple tree. Blood was flowing out of his neck. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. I was relieved that the rooster could never hurt me again, and I could freely go to every part of the house. At the same time, I felt sad that the rooster had to die because of me. Looking at his lifeless body by the tree made me want to cry. Needless to say, my dad never bought another fighting rooster again. Two days later, the rooster made its final appearance on our dinner table.