Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Maronite priest

Beyond the Platitude of Dad’s Eulogy by this Christian Maronite priest

My dad passed away this Dec. 24, 2014. He was to be 90 next month.

We focused on the details of what customs and tradition demand in a funeral ceremony. We missed the one most important detail: writing a speech, a tribute to George Antoun Bouhatab.

The highest ranked among the priests delivers the funeral speech and it was one of the typical general speech that ignored 90 years of toil, anxiety, distress, sadness, hardship and doubts. A century unlike any other centuries in violence, perpetual wars, massive immigration, and technological discoveries.

The priest mentioned only one name, the first name of my dad Geroge, as if this priest ever met or saw my father. To this priest, my dad was one of the typical character who provided and educated his children, was loyal to his wife Julia, and a steadfast father who made sure that his children turned out to be devoted Christians.

As if I care about religion or have any respect for this caste of clergy whose only purpose in life is to amass wealth and plunder the little people as a seesaw from birth to death.

Can you imagine that a clergy attending the funeral is expected to pocket $200 for a lousy 15 minutes religious ceremony? A minimum funeral cost about $4,000 and they have to come out from the pocket of the family. Even the monetary contributions (the wreath bucket) do not go to the bereaved family: 20% goes to the bishop and the rest to the church waqf.

Dad was practically the father of 3 extended families, covering the monthly financial shortcoming, providing living accommodations, extending loans for car purchase, aiding in the wedding ceremonies and funeral expenses, getting busy when someone was kidnapped or was in trouble, driving to universities to check on the posted grades of every one of my relatives…

And in his later years, dad became a de facto father of his grandchildren: driving them to school and events and picking them back like a clock.

In the Autobiography category, I have described in length the hardship that dad and mother went through in Africa in order to provide for their children. This post is of a different nature: Maybe an occasion to vent a few of my pent up resentments.

Three years ago, dad suffered acute pneumonia and the hospital discovered totally ruined lungs from a lifetime of smoking that started at the age of 16. He smoked indoors and the family room stank like hell, but he didn’t care.

After coming home from a week of intensive care, dad resumed smoking. After each smoke he would feel dizzy and fall down, and I had to pick him up.

Mother and I endured his idiosyncrasies for another 3 years since he dreaded death like the plaque. He got totally hooked to the oxygen machine and the frequency of public electricity being out added to our trauma: We had to frequently wake up in order to turn on the interrupter to the private provider.

Dad was his own physician: He insisted to have two pills of Panadole at night, and then increased the dose to three. If we were reluctant, he would keep shouting until we satisfy his wishes, like a baby.

In the last 2 years, dad was practically bed-ridden: He would gather some energy in the morning and use his walker and very slowly reach his preferred lavatory to shave.  His shaving was totally uneven, but he had this habit of shaving every morning. The days he refused to shave meant that he was not feeling well.

And then he would get in bed and barely get up. He had a “small bladder” as we say and needed to visit the WC very frequently, tasks that exhausted him. So after lunch, dad would insist on being “wrapped up” so that he won’t have to get up for the day.

Unfortunately, dad needed to get up and walk a few yards at night, as far as the oxygen tube permitted, and to take a close look at his watch (a totally useless mania) and a situation that kept mother mostly awake at night.

Dad dreaded hospitals. Actually his heart and his blood tests showed that he was younger than adolescent kids. He never took any medicines for anything, except aspirin or something generic of mild pain killer.

Every time we had the Red Cross visit with us, the members had to convince dad that it is urgent for him to pay this visit to the hospital, just a general check up. Invariably, dad had to stay in the hospital for extended periods and even be wheeled to the intensive care unit.

A week ago, dad was unable to even sit down and we took him to the hospital on account that he won’t stay more than the morning. Dad had to be hospitalized after the physician suspected a mild brain stroke that affected his speech.

Dad was furious and he made so much trouble and raucous activities in his bed that the nurses had to tie him up in bed. We had to bring dad home prematurely: He wanted to die at home and in his bed. He had asked me to remove his wedding ring in the hospital as if he had a premonition that his days are counted.

The first day at home went on pretty smoothly and mother mouth fed him and he ate well enough, though he was completely bed ridden. He didn’t feel well at night. In the morning, dad was pretty quiet and barely responded to his grandchildren who came to visit him and try to coax him to stand up and walk a few steps.

Around 2 pm, dad was sleeping as usual with his mouth open. It took me and my nephew Cedric a while to realize that dad had passed away silently and in his sleep (or in coma). We were so uncertain that I brought in a glass to check on his breathing.

Dad had his habits and addictions. He kept smoking until he could no longer. He kept having his big glass of whisky every day before lunch until he started falling down and I had to pick him up. He kept driving way after he was 85 until he had no energy to drive with failing eyesight and hard of hearing conditions: The car had fallen completely apart and was beyond any repair.

I wish I had dad’s memory: He was still able to the last second to remember everyone who lived and died in Beit-Chabab, and enumerate the tree branches of each family. He could have been an excellent Moukhtar, but he refused my suggestion to present himself for election since he was entitled to represent his larger family by inheritance and by age.

Dad was consistent, stubborn and predictable. He never asked for our opinions since only his decision was valid and of any currency. Actually, I never recall we ever sat down to discuss anything or asked to proffer any opinion in all my life. I can voucher that neither my younger brother or sister ever had any discussion with dad.

This silent stubborn attitude might be the cause of a lingering sense of inferiority complex. I guess his eldest son didn’t show signs of high intelligence and entrepreneurship to sustain any illusion that George will be recognized as an illustrious personality.

And dad didn’t say anything bad about anybody: He kept his silence.

I think George had a sense of humor from the laughing crowd sitting with him, but he never demonstrated this talent among us.

My sense is that dad gave up raising his children and relegated this job to mother: all he had to do is provide.

Maybe the decision of having children was my mother’s wish and she spaced them to suit her workload and lengthy breast feeding period, extending beyond two years: since Africa was not a healthy place to try other kinds of milk taking. My brother used to go play soccer and then come to get his ration of breast milk till the age of 3.

I never  married and never felt mentally strong and ready to offer quality responsibility for my children: I plainly was not exposed and trained to care for offspring.

Dad was more literate than mother and more interested in world political conditions, but he lacked artistic talents. Mother was the artistic person in sewing and selecting the best garments from fashion catalogues. No one in the family was expose to artistic talent such as singing, dancing, painting, playing musical instrument… And the schools we attended were not geared toward any artistic classes. My sister found out her talent in interior decoration and became the main artistic decorator for her house, even though her husband retired Gen. Victor graduated as interior decorator.

It was our loss that dad failed to shoulder his responsibilities in communicating with us and teaching us a few of his experiences. At least would have been exposed to some verbal intelligence.

The children were whisked to their rooms when we had company and had no exposure to people interactions. We never attended any funeral ceremony or any saddening events. The totally sheltered kids from outside upheavals.

Dad never gave us any allowance, at least not to me. I saved whatever I was given on Christmas time and Palm Sunday to suffice my misery spending all year long. I was too proud and angry to demand from dad any allowances. I survived not building any sense for luxury. Though I suspect that dad gave allowances to other kids in the larger family who had lost their father or the father was away in Africa.

At the age of 20, and when we lived in Beirut, I started going out in the morning and frequently returning after 9 pm. I don’t recall my father or mother asking me how I spent my day. Probably they figured out that with my scarce money in the pocket I couldn’t go far or act mischievously or get into physical trouble.

Until the civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975, dad was considered a well-off person and had constructed a 3-floor building with natural stones. As usual, when he decide on something he become too impatient to liquidate: Like the ridiculous price for his house and shop in Sikasso (Rep. of Mali) or when he sold his shop in Ain Rumani.

Even when he was completely broke, he managed to give large tips to people who did some repairs, especially those people from the public water crew who were to clean the public pipe, and took the habit to come in three so enjoy the lavish tips for no work done. The only income was the monthly rent of the ground floor.

And dad sold mother’s jewellery in order to pay off the various militia for security, just to give the illusion that he was not that broke. Though everyone in the town knew the facts.

He paid quickly what he owed and in cash and never asked for what the others owed him. Sort of all our money is his and he can spend it the way he likes, as long as what property he owned is made in mother’s name.

A decade before he was practically bed-ridden, dad barely received visitors: People knew that we were broke. A few paid dad a visit once a year by the force of tradition. The immigrants who arrived for short visits made sure to come the day before they are to go back and stayed just a couple minutes on account that they are too busy and have to tend to tight schedule. All these visitors were at walking distances and there were no reasons to ignore dad in such a harsh fashion.

Only Edward used to come on Mondays when the weather was fine: Dad would use his walker to the sunny balcony and they would shoot the breeze for half an hour.

My nephew Cedric made it a habit to check on dad on Saturday and Sunday morning and we would sit down in the balcony, drinking coffee and eating sweets and chocolates. Being hard of hearing was a handicap for visiting relatives and many kind of gave up even on formality.

In the last couple of months, dad waited every morning on Cedric’s fiancé for her morning visit. If the weather was warm and sunny, we would sit on the southern large balcony, and Marie would patiently learn a few Lebanese words.

I am a person of irrational and sudden decisions: I leave everything behind and move on as light as can be. No planning, no job waiting, not amassing addresses or reserving  rooms and accommodation… I just go.

I don’t think age affected this behaviour of mine. That is why I burned all my bridges and ships in order Not to be tempted to leave on a whim, or at least to be forced to give plenty of advance notice.

I sold my car and saved money from running a car, I didn’t try to renew my passport or my driving licence, I stopped sending stupid CV… Just the life of a recluse, observing and slowly taking in what’s going around me. And writing about what I observed.

Many close relatives should have ample reasons to weep dad’s death: I don’t.

Many close relatives are endowed with enough imagination and memory to weep dad’s death: I lack imagination and I am a lousy actor. Fuck it.

I never wept so far, not for dad or anyone else.

In the last 2 decades, dad had plenty of time to brood over his life and reflect on his experiences, though he never shared any. I had time to brood too, and a few nights I tried to weep on myself to sleep.

Dad was born naked and he quit this world naked. Not a dollar to split

In that matter, I’m following dad’s footsteps.

All George’s grandchildren and children were present for the vacation and mother had all the emotional and practical support she wanted. A very lucky Georges, finally.

As we say “Do the good deeds and wash them in the ocean“. E3mol al kheir wa keb bil ba7r

A tribute? Good or bad, it is still a tribute.

This is a tribute to George Antoun Bouhatab.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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