Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘auto-biography’ Category

Barbara made me walk on air

Note: Re-edit of “I Should Have Told Barbara (Jan. 2003)”

The day before my trip to Los Angeles in the summer of 1976, Sue, the girlfriend of a dear friend of mine studying at the same university, asked me to get in touch with her sister Barbara.

I were in the USA since June of 1975, my first trip ever outside my country.

The International Office at the University arranged a group trip for one week to California, for some of us new international students. We were to meet families in this exchange program.

I did not care meeting any American families for the time being, but I needed to get away in my first summer and wanted to see California.

The International student advisor knew about my origin. The program matched me with an old Jewish couple in Pasadena without warning me. I do consider Israel as our existential enemy and anyone who support Israel financially could never be a friend of mine. The family had a fourteen-year old boy, or maybe he was their grandchild.

I was Not that curious: They looked pretty old to me. The husband was very helpful and friendly, but his wife gave me the impression that she agreed reluctantly to join the program.

A student from Nigeria was assigned to the same family. The house was large with a garden.  The interior looked old, traditional, gloomy, dark and smelling like it was never aerated and reeking of old people.

The same evening they asked the Nigerian student a few questions, but I was spared this torture, may be because I didn’t look that forthcoming. Or that they figured out I’ll be very sensitive to whatever pertinent questions they might ask.

It is a crime to surprise youth among old people. Youth has to be forewarned, to be prepared on what to expect from elder people. Youth has to be reminded that elderly can be wonderful and much active, That older people are great people, still very much living humans And who could be funny, charming and could be very functional…

We had a general gathering the first day with all the host families and various students. Then we were given the daily program of places to see and I barely paid attention to the program.

We were to see Disneyland the next day for free. I declined the invitation: Disneyland is for kids.

I remember that I had another chance to visit Disney for free, two years later. And I again declined. Disney was still just for kids.

Many years later, I discovered that everybody liked to see Disney, including kids. I never saw Disney in California, but the smaller version in Orlando with my nephews. My little nephews and nieces, five in total then, loved Disney.

Not as much as I did enjoy it that day.

My host drove me for an hour to the meeting place with Barbara, living in West Hollywood. He drove two hours to pick me up, three hours later.

Youth: ruthless, mindless, uncompromising, and unappreciative.

I still can visualize Barbra after thirty years, coming toward me, in white shirt, long brown skirt reaching below her knees, almost touching her long brown cowboy boots.

Her boots must have added a couple inches to her stature. She is shorter than me in an afterthought. But the vision is always of a tall and grand lady.

She appeared taller than me but my pride increased correspondingly, by her side.

Her then long blonde-brown hair was raised over her beautiful head. She looked glamour incarnate.

She hugged me and made me feel I was a dear friend, of long time, whom she missed.

She spoke with effusion and earnestness.

She wanted to know all that is to know, instantly,

About how her sister is doing, what about her sister’s boyfriend who was my friend, About their relationship, about Oklahoma her home State…

About everything, but nothing about me, or how I feel or felt that moment.

I was glad that I was not the object of the conversation then, but not so glad now.

We walked together so close, and I was walking on air.

I felt that I must look the most envied guy, a most glamorous guy in the whole wide world.

I asked permission from my host family to move at Barbara’s, for the duration of the program, and they agreed.

Next morning was warm and sunny and I walked to Beverly Hills to see her in the fashion store she managed. I did walk on stars’ hands and the walk was Not that long.

She received me like a VIP and was happy at my surprised visit. I wanted to be with Barbara every second of my trip in California.

A couple of years later, I accepted to attend a conference in Los Angeles hoping to see Barbara again.

It was an important political conference but my heart was not in it.

My friends drove me through Beverly Hills, where the rich and glamorous live, but I was not impressed.

Finally, giving up, they gave me a lift from Anaheim to West Hollywood.

I called up Barbara and I invited myself to stay overnight at her apartment.

She had many friends. She was attached at the moment to a fashionable young man, working in fashion and with fashion, but they had problems.

She appeared depressed and disappointed and not in the mood for me. Her TV was on 24 hours.

I slept and woke up with the TV on.

Six years later, during my second extended trip to the USA, I had another opportunity to visit with Baraba

Sue was leaving to Little Rock with her boyfriend had she told me that Barbara was married and living in Oklahoma City and she gave me her phone number.

I met Barbara on Thanksgiving and she did not look the Barbara of my vision.

Her skin looked darker, her face emaciated, down to earth, resigned and decked in simple blue jeans and an old black sweater.

She was married to a full-blooded American Indian, herself a half-blooded lady.

A soft spoken husband, a polite artist who toured the USA exhibiting his paintings.

She stayed at home designing jewellery and managing her man’s business.

I accepted her invitation for a Thanksgiving lunch.

I went down to Oklahoma City for an important and specific purpose of mine: I was determined to tell Barbara my secret.

I went down with my steady girlfriend at the time. I had to because I had no cars: actually, I spent most of my University education on a bicycle.

Barbara’s eyes had an ironic shine looking at my oriental (Filipina) short friend.

She asked my friend all kinds of questions about our relationship,

How we met and what are our plans.

Barbara said to me: “You know, someone needs news about your friend”.

She meant that her sister needed to know the whereabouts of her ex-husband.

I had lost track of the whereabouts of my friend too and could not be of much help.

Barbara was entitled to know the truth, that the first time she walked with me, she made me feel that I was the most glamorous guy in town.

But I did not tell Barbara the truth.

I don’t recall that I talked during my two hours stay at Thanksgiving.

Maybe it did not feel right at that moment, but I should have persevered on my initial decision:

This truth is hers no matter what.

She could be eighty, but age does not erase the feeling, that to my young eyes, she was the most glamorous woman I set my eyes on.

She could be a hundred, but age does not change the fact,

That Barbara made me once walk on air.

Maybe if I had told Barbara, I wouldn’t have written this story.

Mon cher Georges: How Einstein mathematically suggested his famous equation?

In my year of Matheleme (Terminal, last year of high-school), the physic teacher, an old Friar, tall and still robust, solved on the blackboard the double integration for the classical equation of movement. Instead of just integrating for Space as the only variable, Einstein integrated also Time as a second variable.

I covered two large pages on my notebook for the entire integration. The teacher was also very convincing on resolving the constant C to be the speed of light.

It was an eye-opening session of how mathematics can predict phenomenon Not yet subjected to experimentation. I had lost my notebook and feels angry. Anyone who can share with me these integrations, this person will make my day.

In university, the course that I loved most was Nuclear physics because we used the straightforward Einstein/Relativity equation for conservation of energy and momentum of the particles. Nothing to it and no graphs…

For years, we resolved the classical equations for energy and momentum that drove me to the wall and stabbed every fiber of my patience.

In class of 7eme (Certificat), I was relocated from the boarding school in Beit-Chabab to a French catholic school in Furn el Shebaak.

I had completely forgotten my French during the last 6 years and had to start all over. By the end of the year I was doing better than the French students in their language.

I remember that my late aunt Therese spent 2 hours to make me memorize 2 sentences of “Bayard, le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche…” Therese invested countless hours exercising me on dictation.

Therese lived with us for 3 years before she got married and she is the one who initiated me to read books. She bought for me the pink collection then the green collection and I ended up reading big volumes for Stendhal, Victor Hugo, Dumas (father and son)… As soon I came home, I started reading for hours: No one complained as long as quietness was maintained.

One teacher,  Anselm, was a sadistic person (et il louchait) and used to hit students on their hands with a ruler and make them kneel in a corner. Once my hands got blue and he got scared shit: he never again attempted to touch me. I used to wake up at 4 am, go to school and walk the yard for hours to revise my lessons.

In the 6 eme, the French teacher paid my parents a visit to ask them Not to help me in my French essays. He was flabbergasted when he realized that my parents could barely write in French. I remember that the essay I submitted was on our feeling for returning to school covered 5 pages, and I wrote it in one setting, and it was excellent. Also, this booklets was misplaced to my chagrin.

The Fright of my life: Intimate relationship

The horror for me, for a long time, was a “one on one time” with a “friend”. I cannot ask questions: A conversation is supposed to be reciprocal.

If I ask a question, the other person is entitled to ask the same question. And what am I supposed to answer?

I’m not verbally intelligent and not the sensitive person to show explicit compassion.

What am I to answer a personal question?

It would be much easier if the other person is the talkative individual and hoard the “conversation”. I wouldn’t mind to oblige listening and prod him with more details, just to keep him going.

I am realizing that I was a depressive person all my life, and I had no idea that I am scared of intimate relationship.

All I could answer were general statements, talks that don’t add any pieces of intelligence.

Like: “Enjoy the moment

A girlfriend retained this uttering of mine and ran with it when we split up by being far away from one another. I had forgotten that I said this statement, which is exactly what I have been practicing without knowing it.

I am scared of planning my life: it entails commitment in actions and for a long duration.

I don’t remember having asked any questions when hired for jobs.

I am a guy who sticks to his word when I commit to any job, and giving my word was never beneficial to me by any long shot. Thus, I am reluctant of committing to anything.

I turned to the alternative extreme: saying what I feel is needed to say and antagonizing almost everyone who converse with me.

They always will antagonize you to the point of no return everytime their underdeveloped ego is baffled.

How can any piece be of value and credible if not written in the first personal tense?

Note: Today, I feel a King: I’m the only person in this entire building of relatives and cousins. This Tuesday April 7, 2015 must be a trademark date for me to feel totally autonomous and independent.

How ironic that I cannot linger in bed: I always wished of such a day where I may stay in bed as long as my soul wish it.

But no, I have to get up early and tend to multitasks, spending some time on a task and starting another one before returning and finishing the previous one.

And doing what I never felt like doing

Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez is dead:

Nobel Prize of Literature, the author of 100 years of solitude where he reconstituted how his ancestors lived these harsh periods.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez  died in Mexico at age of 87.  His wife and himself are from Columbia but he lived with all his sons and daughters in Mexico.

Both countries are reclaiming his ashes to bury: Probably, the ashes will be split between the two countries.

The works of Marquez described the colonial system that spread indignities on the indigenous people and committed all kinds of apartheid and discrimination in Latin America.

Gabo was already considered a genius by his colleagues at the age of 25 and wrote the column Al Jirafa and spent 2 years at the Bogota daily El Espectator  before being given tasks in reporting events and catastrophes.

Note 1: Gabo died a couple years ago. I read many translated books of Gabo. The latest are his memoires “Vivre pour la raconter” (Live to recount it) and another one about this child girl who was persecuted as being inhabited by Satan after being bitten by a rabid dog, though she didn’t catch the disease.

Note 2: Gabo lived in many cities in Columbia and in Barranquilla, the home city of Shakira where she inaugurated her own center.

Andrew Bossone commented on FB:
100 Years of Solitude, the first book I wanted to read a second time.
The opening line:
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” RIP Gabriel García Márquez
Le grand Gabriel Garcia Marquez est mort … Sa lettre d’adieu…..
«Si pour un instant Dieu oubliait que je suis une marionnette de chiffon et m’offrait un bout de vie, je profiterais de ce temps le plus que je pourrais.
Il est fort probable que je ne dirais pas tout ce que je pense, mais je penserais en définitive tout ce que je dis.
J’accorderais de la valeur aux choses, non pour ce qu’elles valent, mais pour ce qu’elles signifient.
Je dormirais peu, je rêverais plus….. Je marcherais quand les autres se détendent, je me réveillerais quand les autres dorment. J’écouterais lorsque les autres parlent et… combien je savourerais une bonne glace au chocolat.
Je m’étalerais à plat ventre au soleil, en laissant non seulement mon corps à découvert, mais aussi mon âme.
J’écrirais ma haine sur la glace et attendrais que le soleil se lève. J’arroserais de mes larmes les roses, afin de sentir la douleur de leurs épines et le baiser de leurs pétales.
Bon Dieu, si j’avais un bout de vie… Je ne laisserais pas un seul jour se terminer sans dire aux gens que j’ aime, que je les aime. Aux hommes, je prouverais combien ils sont dans l’erreur de penser qu’ils ne tombent plus amoureux en vieillissant, sans savoir qu’ils vieillissent en ne tombant plus amoureux.
Aux anciens, j’apprendrais que la mort ne vient pas avec la vieillesse, mais avec l’oubli.
J’ai appris que tout le monde voulait vivre dans le sommet de la montagne, sans savoir que le vrai bonheur est dans la façon d’escalader.
J’ai appris que lorsqu’un nouveau-né serre avec son petit poing, pour la première fois le doigt de son père, il l’a attrapé pour toujours.
J’ai appris qu’un homme a le droit de regarder un autre d’en haut seulement lorsqu’il va l’aider à se mettre debout.
Dis toujours ce que tu ressens et fais ce que tu penses.
Si je savais qu’aujourd’hui c’est la dernière fois où je te vois dormir, je t’embrasserais si fort et prierais le Seigneur pour pouvoir être le gardien de ton âme.
Si je savais que ce sont les derniers moments où je te vois, je dirais « je t’aime » et je ne présumerais pas, bêtement, que tu le sais déjà.
Il y a toujours un lendemain et la vie nous donne une deuxième chance pour bien faire les choses, mais si jamais je me trompe et aujourd’hui c’est tout ce qui nous reste, je voudrais te dire combien je t’aime, et que je ne t’oublierai jamais.
Le demain n’est garanti pour personne, vieux ou jeune. Aujourd’hui est peut être la dernière fois que tu vois ceux que tu aimes. Alors n’attends plus, fais-le aujourd’hui, car si demain n’arrive guère, sûrement tu regretteras le jour où tu n’as pas pris le temps d’un sourire, une étreinte, un baiser et que tu étais très occupé pour leur accorder un dernier vœu.
Maintiens ceux que tu aimes près de toi, dis leur à l’oreille combien tu as besoin d’eux, aimes-les et traite les bien, prends le temps de leur dire « je suis désolé », « pardonnez-moi », « s’il vous plait », « merci » et tous les mots d’amour que tu connais.
Personne ne se souviendra de toi de par tes idées secrètes. Demande au Seigneur la force et le savoir pour les exprimer.
Prouves à tes amis et êtres chers combien ils comptent et sont importants pour toi.
Il y a tellement de choses que j’ai pu apprendre de vous autres…Mais en fait, elles ne serviront pas à grande chose, car lorsque l’on devra me ranger dans cette petite valise, malheureusement, je serai mort….

“لو شاء الله أن ينسى أنني دمْية، وأن يهبني شيئًا من حياة أخرى، فإنني سوف أستثمرها بكل قواي. ربما لن أقول كلّ ما أفكّر فيه، لكنني حتمًا سأفكّر في كلّ ما سأقوله. سأمنح الأشياء قيمتها، لا لما تمثّله، بل لما تعنيه. سأنام قليلاً، وأحلم كثيرًا، مدركًا أنّ كل لحظة نُغْلق فيها أعينَنا تعني خسارةَ ستّين ثانيةً من النور. سوف أسير فيما يتوقف الآخرون، وسأصحو فيما الكلّ نيام.
لو شاء ربي أن يهبني حياةً أخرى، فسأرتدي ملابسَ بسيطةً وأستلقي على الأرض، ليس فقط عاريَ الجسد وإنما عاريَ الروح أيضاً.
سأبرهن للناس كم يخطئون عندما يعتقدون أنهم لن يكونوا عشّاقًا متى شاخوا، دون أن يدروا أنهم يشيخون إذا توقفوا عن العشق.
للطفـل سـوف أعطي أجنحة، لكنني سأدعه يتعلّم التحليقَ وحده.
وللكهول سأعلّمهم أنّ الموت لا يأتي مع الشيخوخة بل بفعل النسيان.
لقد تعلمتُ منكم الكثير أيها البشر… تعلمتُ أن الجميع يريد العيش في قمة الجبل، غير مدركين أنّ سرّ السعادة تكمن في تسلقه.
تعلّمت أنّ المولود الجديد حين يشدّ على إصبع أبيه للمرّة الأولى فذلك يعني أنه أمسك بها إلى الأبد.
تعلّمت أنّ الإنسان يحقّ له أن ينظر من فوق إلى الآخر فقط حين يجب أن يساعده على الوقوف.
تعلمت منكم أشياء كثيرة! لكنّ قلة منها ستفيدني، لأنها عندما ستوضَّب في حقيبتي أكون قد ودّعتُ الحياة.
قل دائمًا ما تشعر به، وافعلْ ما تفكّر فيه.
لو كنت أعرف أنها المرة الأخيرة التي أراكِ فيها نائمةً لضممتكِ بشدةٍ بين ذراعيّ ولتضرّعتُ إلى الله أن يجعلني حارسًا لروحك.
لو كنت أعرف أنها الدقائق الأخيرة التي أراك فيها، لقلتُ “أحبكِ” ولتجاهلتُ، بخجلٍ، أنك تعرفين ذلك.
هناك دومًا يوم الغد، والحياة تمنحنا الفرصة لنفعل الأفضل، لكن لو أنني مخطئ وهذا هو يومي الأخير، لأحببتُ أن أقول كم أحبّكِ، وأنني لن أنساك أبدًا؛ ذلك لأنّ الغد ليس مضمونًا لا للشابّ ولا للمسنّ.
ربما تكون في هذا اليوم المرة الأخيرة التي ترى فيها أولئك الذين تحبّهم . فلا تنتظرْ أكثر، تصرّف اليوم لأنّ الغد قد لا يأتي ولا بدّ أن تندم على اليوم الذي لم تجد فيه الوقتَ من أجل ابتسامة، أو عناق، أو قبلة، أو أنك كنت مشغولاً كي ترسل لهم أمنية أخيرة.
حافظ بقربك على مَنْ تحب. إهمسْ في أذنهم أنك في حاجةٍ إليهم. أحببهم واعتنِ بهم، وخذ ما يكفي من الوقت لتقول لهم عبارات مثل: “أفهمك، سامحني، من فضلك، شكرًا”، وكلّ كلمات الحب التي تعرفها.
لن يتذكرك أحد من أجل ما تضمر من أفكار، فاطلبْ من الربّ القوة والحكمة للتعبير عنها. وبرهن لأصدقائك ولأحبائك كم هم مهمّون لديك.
― غابرييل غارسيا ماركيز

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How am I to survive my next 24 years? If I have to live as long as dad and mom?

I have no job, have no money, receives no stipend from anyone, no government, no syndicate ( I failed to pay the yearly dues for lack of money), no health insurance, no car (could no longer afford the maintenance, the gas and endless taxes on a rickety car), no public transportation…

I receives no monthly or weekly little financial aid from anyone.

Actually, the community, relatives and close parents who can afford it, are expressly punishing me from Not Working for Pay after I reached 62.

It is not that I don’t care to work for pay on a job that I like… I am not employable for doing anything.

I have worked on most minimum pay jobs, Not long enough to discover any passion for any of those businesses. For many years, I worked on 4 jobs within the university to pay for the minimum required course hours while doing my PhD in engineering.

With a PhD in a Not traditional discipline (Industrial Engineering and Human Factors in Engineering), and Not understood by most scholarly professors, I taught at a university for a few years on semester contracts.

My CV has so many gaps to fill the time schedule that my imagination would run out of ideas.

And I am more knowledgeable (higher education and continuing education) than any employer, and was exposed to far more trades and small jobs than any fat employer.

And I have no talent for any hobby to kill the time and express any kinds of passions, or be paid for any talent.

Tell me: “How can I survive my next 24 years, as I become as old as my dad?”

I keep myself fit, do exercise, walk a lot, garden, eat moderately, drink a little on “free” occasions…

I have not a pound of fat and I cut down to half a pack of cigarette a day, with filter added to reduce the level of tar in my lungs…

Am I talking abstract?

I don’t care to live much longer, what for?

I wrote what I had to say, published my autobiography, and I am helping for “free” when I can in my household (doing dishes, washing, mopping, cleaning…

I wish an institution will accept me to die of thirst: Hunger takes much longer to do the job.

This relentless activities to lengthen the lives of rich people is bad for our species.

Most third world populations and poor classes are being denied proper health care and preventive health on account of Not having enough money in the budgets

Many elderly are left to suffer indignities for continuous aches and pains, because covered by a health insurance.

The sons and daughters (already retired) are forced to care for their hapless parents and ruining whatever useful life they still have.

No, retired people should be saved from surviving their elderly parents. They too have rights to their life.

Note: After a year of going through a process, I managed to get retirement check every month, about $900. And I still have to pay for my health insurance, a pay-off a few debts that accumulated to pay for the retirement process.

I have to pay for mother’s medicines and many other monthly payments such as phone bill, cables, electricity, gas…

Enough to barely survive and keep mother feeling safer financial wise.

Enough money since I don’t intend on purchasing any car, or an iPhone or any modern gadget: I have nothing to sell and Not much to buy.

Enough since I don’t intend to travel and pay exorbitant money for any kinds of visas.

Elderly people to die in indignity: the slowest of death invented by health care systems

A friend confided in me. He talked for an hour and his story almost matched mine.

The story of parents dying the slow death, in daily and constant pains, bed-ridden and no outside aid coming to the rescue of hapless family members

“My father is 89 and my mother is 86.

My father health has been deteriorating fast in the last couple of years. What started as a pneumonia, Not taken care of immediately, degenerated in a bed-ridden body living on external oxygen machine 24/24, in a country with no steady electricity. Actually, it was my dad refusing to go to the hospital until he felt totally helpless.

In this winter season, he barely uses the walker for his morning shit. By noon, he rather not get up from bed, on the ground that he feels too weak and too cold to step out of his cozy bed. (We lacked central heat because we couldn’t afford the cost of mazout)

Mother is in a worse case in matter of aches and pains, but she is functional and make sure that she washes father in the morning and bring him food in bed. Not to mention changing the bed sheets every morning and all dad’s wet cloths.

The problem for mother is that father insists on not leaving his bed after lunch on account that he feels too cold and out of power to walk to the close-by toilet for his frequent pissing sessions. And we wrap him with pampers till morning.

Mother has this daunting task of changing father every morning and doing at least 2 washes for the wet bed and father’s cloths, every morning, and she suffers from back pain, arthritis, and you name it. And dad plays the child game for constant attention and waking up mother at night for no valid reasons.

Mother considers that putting in 8 straight hours of work in the morning, without any break to rest, her daily job. And everyone in the household must share with her non-stop chores. Even when she feels sick and unable to work, until she faints and drops.

Occasionally, mother sleeps in the sitting room because father makes it a point to wake her up frequently, just out of boredom and restlessness.  Eventually, she returns to sleep in the bedroom, out of compassion and duty.

Father has had no jobs for the last 40 years. What he did when he could drive was give ride to his 6 grandchildren to school and bring them back home, and doing a few gardening…

And he was a heavy smoker since he was 14 of age, mainly smoking in the sitting room, and polluting this room, while enjoying a few glasses of whisky.

Until he started to fall down after finishing drinking. He had to quit drinking, but resumed smoking, out of total boredom and dense worries from the fast dwindling of pecuniary resources.

No government facilities to rescue the elderly people, not even in health insurance, or a small remittance every month... The elderly people are in the care of the children, relatives… supposedly in the care of the community that no longer exists.

Dad has plenty of time now to dream of the time he was still able, but I guess he can focus on how to stay alive: He keeps touching the Saint icons.  For a soft departure or for exhausting mother to death?

Do you think his deep wish is to see mother passing away before he does? A senile revenge of people who revert to childhood?

Funny, every now and then father creates a tantrum to remind mother that he is the head of the family and that what he wishes must be obeyed, and bangs his walker to confirm his statement: “I want you to wrap me up now (7afdineh) for the remainder of the day and night” and this tragic bout of energy surges at the time mother is taking a short nap from a back ache.

And when mother tells him: “I am tired. wait till I rest…” father responds: “You do it now or I’ll piss in bed...”  These kinds of reactions…

He goes: “Ya wallao? are you sleeping? Get up now…”

He does not exhibit all his pent up anger and desperation when I am around: He knows that my reactions can be worse than his, and we do have the same bad genes

I aided mother in cleaning and wrapping up dad when I was around, and dad abstained from harassing mother when he knew I was there. It was a 24/24 job for me and mother to keep dad contended, and he wanted to eat at his routine schedule, Not a minute later, and he ate well and voraciously.

Most of the time  I had to wake up several times at night in order to go down and switch the electrical interrupter from public to private provider (and vice versa) because we could not afford an automatic interrupter that required a higher amperage. And the oxygen machine was run on electricity and dad would shout when he sensed that the machine had stopped.

A year before he passed away, he opted to be totally bed-ridden, kind of despaired for any recovery.

At least father managed to construct a building of 3 floors, one for each one of his children who all graduated from universities and are married with children. Except one child: I never married and have no children that I know of. And I now live with my elderly parents for the last 14 years.

I don’t recall ever having a chat with dad, and now he is almost deaf and he refuses to babble. And mother’s chatting are of the most boring and regurgitates the same worries that I cannot help with and suggestions that are too late to reverse and act upon.

Mother never cared to handle money in her life and never wrote a check.

Currently, she has to handle the few cash that she receives every now and then from her children and relative and make sure that she can buy her medicine, father’s couches, the gas canisters for cooking, bread and biscuits for dad… Nothing fancy at all.

And she declines invitations because she will have to bring a gift as custom demands, and she has to cook a few sweet dishes for the occasions… and keeps cleaning the house in the event anyone remembers suddenly to pay her visit…

I wish the visits are not set in advance by “appointment”: Mother will start cleaning and cooking a week in advance of the visit, and ends up working overtime. And I was the only one to help her with all the cleaning tasks.

I aid mother in most of her chores: assistant cook, washing dishes, vacuuming, lifting “heavy” stuff that she can no longer perform, changing bed sheets, gardening, gathering vegetables and fruits, tending to the few chickens that I don’t want in the house, going on errands…

I find time to read, write, post articles on my blog, watch documentaries and non-violent good movies on cables after every one in the household is supposed to be sleeping…

Tell me. Am I talking abstract so far?

My dad suffered a mild stroke at night: he must have knew it but we didn’t. We forced him to go to the hospital, but he kept saying: I want to die at home.

In the hospital, 2 days before Christmas, dad did such a tantrum for 2 days and a night and harassed all the nurses and mother that they had to send him home.

After lunch on Christmas Eve he passed away while mother was taking her nap. My nephew checked on him and he told me that dad must have died. I approached a looking glass to check on his breathing because he was in a serene state with eyes opened.

Apparently, he wanted to ruin our celebration, or maybe send the message that he is no longer willing to ruin our lives.

Mother is Not in any good shape because of all kinds of pains and aches to the stomach, back, neck, hands, and you name it.

I took her to the hospital for a check up on a pain to her side that lingered for 2 days and kept her awake. Two days later, mother was home with no major relief: a small cyst in her abdomen and maybe a mild thyroid deficiency.

There was nothing that can be done to elderly people, much less performing any kinds of surgeries that are Not urgent.

Two years now and mother is still suffering, especially during the cold season and lack of hot water.

She insists on waking up and working in the kitchen for a couple of hours until she barely reach the sofa and don’t move for the day and watch TV.

Frequently she keeps working and trying to keep boredom at bay until all kinds of acute pains force her to the sofa.

She barely can hear, and all she wants is someone to visit her to listen to her. But practically nobody visits her or has the patience to talk to her or listen to her.

Mother is a rock and still functional. Her worst nightmare is to feel dependent on her daily chores.

Such a big difference between mother’s resilience and dad’s attitude to pain.

My worst nightmare is, if I have to survive as long as my parents, “How am I to spend the next 24 years, if no haphazard calamity suddenly ends my life?”



My first retirement check: the story of this interminable process.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017. A good day for me.

My first monthly retirement check is barely $900, but worth years of frustration and determination Not to be intimidated by rumors and be bilked from this entitlement.

It is raining cats and dogs and I wore my Macintosh (overcoat) and carried an umbrella. Half an hour later, it is sunny and I look ridiculous.

I got a ride with my niece working in Hamra and stepped down in Dawra to take a bus to Jisr Al Cola, at a walking distance to the headquarter of the Lebanese Order of Engineers.

For almost 10 months after I applied for retirement, and after doggedly proceeded with the process that was basically meant to dissuade me and delay the date of the first payment, Nabil Batal gave me a new matriculation number for retired engineer. I will have to check with the Order twice a year, just for them to verify that I am still alive and kicking.

The new number suggests that half the engineers entitled for retirement didn’t apply. Either they died prematurely, or withdrew from this Order, or they figured out that the retirement check is Not worth all that trouble and having to pay in cash what the order will demand them to pay before proceeding with the process.

I was to deal only with Bank Med (Mediterranean), otherwise, I will have to wait 6 months for each payment. Actually, this bank does Not open a checking account for the retirees. They give you a debit card to retrieve whatever cash you need at the end of each month. You can also use this card for purchases up to $1,000 each month.

Interesting question: Why do I have to open a checking account with another bank and withdraw money to deposit it in that account?

Finally, I saw the glimmer of a light at the end of this tunnel. I used to say after each phase in the process: Don’t raise your hope prematurely “ma t2oul foul abel ma yesour bil makyoul“. Here are the stages I went through:

Stage One:  I officially submitted my application for retirement with the necessary documents. Many engineers tried to dissuade me to the contrary on assumptions based on rumors. I submitted a fresh family register (wathicat 3aa2elat)  and a CV for the last 15 years.

Basically, the CV is to mentions the companies and jobs I had during that period for the Order to estimate my total income. In the final analysis, what interest the Order is an official document from your last job that you are no longer working.

Actually, the Order assumes that every engineer is a liar and never claims his exact income. Thus, the Order adds LL 500,000 for every year in the last 15 years to be paid before reviewing the retirement application (bara2et zemmeh).

Consequently, whether you are one of the rare law abiding engineer or you have not worked for the last 15 years, you have got to pay this minimum sum, in addition to whatever investigation proved you owe them. (That’s what the lead accountant told me)

Since I arrived in Lebanon in 2000, the only job I got was a part-time instructor at a university. It was the only institution that had a department of Industrial Engineer and they had to offer courses in Human Factors in Engineering.

I wrote extensively on this teaching experience and had the opportunity to post about 50 articles in the category of Human Factors.

Every year, at due time to pay my contribution and for my health insurance, employees at the Order would never believe that what I declared was my yearly income, far below average, but I had to pay the minimum expected from an engineer.

After a younger engineer (friend with the staff professors) was hired as a full-time teacher, I had to borrow money for 2 consecutive years to pay my yearly dues. And then I stopped paying for 6 years, and lived without any health coverage.

Yet, when I resumed paying my dues, the Order insisted to pay the usual amount, in addition to penalties. And in cash.

Stage 2: Mr. Batal is the appointment person to handle retirement applications at headquarter. He told me that I should Not expect a phone call before at least 6 months. Why? They don’t investigate: they don’t have the resources to have an investigative department (that’s what they told me). So why this delay? Most probably to break any determination to proceed with the application and to delay payments, the longer the better.

Stage 3: After a long wait, finally a secretary called me up and said that I will have to come up with $2,250 in cash before the process resumes.

The accountant Khoury estimated that amount must be coughed up and that I have no other recourse. I met with him and he was plain: the longer you delay this payment, the longer the first payment will be delayed and you will be losing many months in retirement checks.

The Order executive council meet twice a month and decides on the retirement date. Kind of if you missed their meeting, you miss more retirement checks.

Stage 4. My job was now how to borrow that enormous sum before the executive meet in order Not to lose more checks. I knocked at many doors of well-to-do relatives at no avail. One relative agreed to lend me $1,500. Luckily, mother had managed to save the remaining amount.

Stage 5. I paid my highway robbery “dept” in cash and had to go through a dozen employees for them to appose their signatures for reviewing the requirements and do copies. I had to wait for a few of them to arrive to work or come back from appointments.

Stage 6. The executive council failed to meet for over 2 months to add my name to the roster (jadwal) of retired engineers.

Stage 7. I had to wait another month for Batal to ask me to come to his office to give me instructions on how to receive my first retirement check

Stage 8. I walked to BankMed, half a mile away, and had to ask directions a couple of times and backtrack. It started raining. After I finished with the paperwork at the bank, and got my debit card, I withdrew all the money. I had to stop a taxi to take me to Jisr al Coka, a mile away.

That’s my story for the moment.

Now I will have to tell it to engineers who are entitled for retirement and are plagued with untenable rumors.




March 2020

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