Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘psychiatric ward Deir al Saleeb

Something about the origins of my grand parents

Antoun (my father’s dad)

Antoun (Antony) is the name of dad’s father.  I have the impression that I saw him once and very briefly. He is sitting on a tiny balcony; he looked rotund with a jovial face. I never saw a photograph or a picture of Antoun.

By the way, my Christian name or patron saint name is Antoine since my first name is derived from an Antique “pagan” God Adonis. Mother told me that she was the one who insisted on calling me Adonis because she liked a girl at school named Adonis! And I was under the impression that this name was plainly a male name referring to the Phoenician male God of beauty Adonis.

I lately discovered that my name in my birth certificate is typed Adouis, most probably because the typist in the Capital Bamako (Mali, west Africa) confused the hand written n with u and nobody deigned to double-check for correction.

Antoun died in 1958 while on a brief visit to Lebanon. He succumbed from infection after the surgical removal of his gall bladder.

This minor surgery has harvested many victims, even in the best hospitals at the time.

Abou George, as Antoun should have been nicknamed, was born in Beit-Chabab and immigrated with a bunch of other young people to Africa as it was the custom in our locality.

George Tannous, husband of aunt Marie, recalls grand dad sitting most of the day outside his small shop in Segou and fingering his worry beads.

There is a custom to nickname the father after his eldest son by affixing Bou or Abou to the first name of the eldest son.

Thus, Antoun or Abou George started work in Guinee and then moved to Segou (Mali) where he ended up working in commerce and barely visited Lebanon.

I never heard anyone calling my father Bou Adonis; I figure you cannot have a father for God!

Fact is my father barely saw his dad: He lived in Beit Chabab with his grandparents (his mother side). The first time he met Antoun was when he joined him in Segou around 1947, a year before he got married with my mother Julie.

Dad’s mother: Saesta or Sabat (Elizabeth) on the birth certificate

Saesta is the name of dad’s mother.  She was short with a jovial face that dad inherited.

She is acerbic.  A story goes around during Lebanon’s civil war that the representative of the Phalanges “kataeb” militia in town came over to collect the monthly kickback on ground that this militia is a State within the State in the Metn district.

Saesta told the representative that she has no money, which was the case from her rundown home that dad had restored 10 years ago after vacating the long-standing tenants at the expense of a protracted legal battle that stretched for years.

The representative of the “kataeb” asked Saesta not to mention that she would be absolved from any kickback and  she replied that she would not be silenced “moush rah eskout“; he then begged her not to propagate the story and she again refused saying that she will talk “baddi ehki“.

In 1939, Saesta traveled to Segou to stay with her husband and took her eldest daughter Millia with he.

Saesta had the Lebanese passport, although Lebanon was under French protectorate.  Dad was left to live at his grand parents’, from his mother’s side, and the house was rented out to the Je3ara family.

It was a period when Maronite families married close cousins.

For example, my mother’s grand father and his brother married two sisters.

Families conceived almost yearly, and many children died still-born or shortly after, and still ended up with over six living offspring.

For example, Saesta got pregnant a dozen times and seven lived. My mother’s mother also conceived a dozen times and seven survived.

Toufic (Father of Saesta)

The father of Saesta, Toufic Bouhatab, lived in the USA in his youth and was considered “zeer nissa2” for chasing after girls. He was rich at one time and had several shops on the main street of Beit-Chabab (7aret ta7ta) and was a member of the municipal council for ever.

He ploughed and worked the vast garden till an old age (over 90). He suffered from an acute pneumonia and I said farewell to him while in bed before I left for the USA for graduate studies in 1975.  Toufic died within a month of my departure.

Dad used to aid in his grand father’s Toufic shop when a youth; the shop sold almost all kinds of items.

I recall when in boarding school I used to pass by on Sundays and Toufic would give me a handful of sweets.

Toufic hand-wrote in Arabic a voluminous manuscript, his diary in the USA, and I have to get hold of it to translate a few of his opinions.

Once, father gave Toufic money to purchase a piece of land adjacent to our house and Toufic went around and registered the deed in his son’s name Tanios (Tony).

Dad was never “lucky” in his dealing with his relatives and compatriots, but he was loved by the blacks of Mali in the town of Sikasso for his decency and largess.

Tanios (mother’s father)

The father of my mother, Tanios Gebrael, died in Lebanon at the age of 48 of a heart stoke, as his unique son Michel did later at the same age.

Tanios died one year before I was born.

Tanios also worked in Segou and he did well after many years of toil, but was robbed by his brother when he died in his brother’s Beirut home in Gemaizeh, Beirut, Lebanon: Tanios had a fortune in cash and had plans.

His wife Eugenia, six daughters and son never saw a nickel of cash inheritance.

Mother used to say that her father was irascible, strict, and conservative.

In his youth, Tanios used to chase away with stones any male contender to Eugenia, his potential sweet heart and later his wife. No boy or adult would dare talk or approach Eugenia.

The four sisters Josephine, Julie, Marie, and Montaha lived in Lebanon, alone and across their aunt’s who kept a watchful eyes on any male approaching them. The girls didn’t see their father until they also immigrated to Segou.

Mother told me that her father was pretty angry when the eldest Josephine eloped married (khatifeh) and in punishment forced the other 3 girls to study in a nun’s boarding school.

Tanios knew that mother and dad were in love, and when dad joined his father in Segou, Tanios refused that his girls in Lebanon (particularly mother) join him in Africa, as it was planned.

His only surviving son Michel was bright in school but the psychiatric system in Lebanon diagnosed him as emotionally “not normal” and ended up taking high dozes of tranquilizers and anti-depressant that reduced Michael to a dependent person and spent his short life on medications.

Michael was living with his married sister Therese, and filled many hand-written notebooks that disapeared. Why?

Michel used to hand write abundantly and somehow the extended family has decided to make his scattered booklets disappear; I never can forgive them for that act of insensitivity that prove their ignorance and small mindedness.

I am not sure if Therese (one of my aunts with whom Michael lived) read any of his writing because he lived with her. I once asked Therese of what happened to Michel’s writing and she refused to answer me.

Eugenia (mother’s mother)

Eugenia suffered many stillbirth and ended up with five living daughters (Josephine, Julia, Marie, Montaha, Therese) and a unique son (Michael).

She joined her husband in Africa in 1938 and left her four girls in Lebanon at the guard of Adel, one of her many sisters, living across the street. Actually, Adel was married with Tanios’ brother (okhte selfteh)

She lost her husband Tanios at the age of 48.

Eugenia lived mostly with her married daughter Marie and could never forget the mental state of her unique son Michael who lived close by with his married sister Therese, when not confined in the psychiatric ward Deir al Saleeb.

Eugenia lent her wealth to one of her nephew lawyer who was supposed to invest the money by lending it.  This lawyer made plenty of money working other people’s money, including my dad and many of our relatives.

For example, when my dad and one of my relatives were shown deals to purchase lands, this lawyer would fake to have re-invested the money and then ask one of his brothers to purchase the lands.

Eugenia died the day mother was getting ready to fly to Paris to attend to William’s (first grandson) heart surgery.  William is my eldest nephew and he was barely 16 months when he had the surgery.

Why about this wave of immigration to Africa?

There are evidences that most of the immigrants at the turn of the century paid dear money to go to “America” (read the USA).

Many scoundrels of ship Captains tried to increase their turnover rates of customers; thus, they dropped many travelers in Africa and told them “Here is America“.

These Captains did the same things and many Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians ended in Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere.

Then those established immigrants sent for their relatives.




June 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,522,103 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 769 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: