My earliest memory of my grandmother must have been when I was a little older than Zane (my eldest), I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. It was just the two of us, my parents where elsewhere. She offered me a cheese ‘ashkawan’ sandwich, which I hesitated but accepted. What she produced was a mature cheddar cheese sandwich of such epic flavour, I can still taste it 34 years on. After demolishing the first one, she could see I wasn’t done and so she asked me if I wanted another. I remember how happy she looked at being able to offer such a simple thing that could elisit such a reaction — like she’d discovered my route to happiness and was going to use it. She was a master at giving genuine happiness from the simplest of things at her disposal. She would offer this happiness throughout her life and to everyone she came into contact with. And lemonade. Lots of lemonade.
The way I see it, my grandmother’s job was to spoil me (and to a lesser extent my brother). To that end she did an outstanding job. When she found out that I liked the peanut M&Ms, she made sure she had a complete box for me. I ate so many peanut M&Ms that summer, I still can’t bring myself to eat them any more.
She would hand us an endless stream of toys with alarming regularity, and would take great pains to get something different and special. Sometimes I think she worked on these present ‘projects’ all year, in anticipation of when we came to visit.
She was into shisha before it became fashionable — and did it the right way, in the comfort of her own home, after a meal to pass a few hours while looking out onto the sea and watching the world go by.
Fiercely independent (she learnt the very hard way and very early on that she had to fend for herself) and with twice as much energy in her as other ladies her age (as experienced by the fact that she walked everywhere). Her favourite holiday destination was Syria (back before it was completely ravaged by war).
Even though I’ve not had a two way conversation in over a decade with her, she was available to me during some tough times when I was in Lebanon. She helped me through them by being a willing ear.
Without a doubt, one of the highlights of my wedding (there were many that day), was seeing my grandmother attend — she was bedridden for several years by that stage, so her attendance never even crossed my mind as a possibility. It took a lot for her to be there, and thankfully her nurse made it a reality.
My grandmother at my wedding
A patient wife, a great neighbour, a dedicated aunt and a loyal sister — my grandmother was all these things and so much more.
After 9 hard years (being bedridden and paralysed), she finally laid her head to rest and left this world behind her. I loved my grandmother. She died today.
Nohad Abou Alfa, 1930–23rd December 2017