In the early autumn mornings, the neighborhood seemed almost deserted, and the only recognizable shadow in the bare streets was that of Dalila. She was a woman of 80 years, or so I estimated. No one knew how old she was, not even her.
“Age doesn’t matter” She would say whenever someone brought the subject up. “Whether you live 20 years or 100 years, when you die you won’t find any difference”
Age for her was not a matter of years, as much as a matter of deeds. Years are countable, limited and out of control. Good deeds are better stay uncounted, innumerable, and it’s up to you to determine how much you want to have.
Those who live by deeds, live beyond their years.
Her insights on life make you hardly believe that she was illiterate.
People who didn’t know Dalila might have thought she was a weird cryptic old woman. But for me, knowing this much about what’ she’s gone through her life; I thought she was quite exceptional.
Dalila was immigrated form Palestine in 1967. She had four children by then, all of whom were killed when a missile hit their car in the way out. Her husband was arrested a year before for his acts that promoted resistance against occupation. She never heard anything about him since.
She was the only survivor, with two ever-lasting scars.
“We were forced to leave” She would say whenever she talked about home, whose key she still held around her neck.
“I left a memorial, an olive tree.”
“I was afraid that, if I ever come back, the land won’t recognize me”.
“Why wouldn’t it?” I wondered in a softened tone.
“Too many years” She said with a sigh. “Too many years”
I stared at her with a questioning eye. She knew what I wanted to ask.
“I always prayed that if I am to be buried anywhere else, the remains of my body would penetrate in the ground and be carried till they reach my olive tree”
Olive trees live for generations.
I always thought of Dalila as an unconventional woman. She was ancient, like an old relic. Her wrinkled cheeks spoke centuries, something you can’t find in History books.
“People who write History should pay more attention to the aged.” I thought to myself. Another time the memory of my grandfather triggered my mind. He always enjoyed telling stories, or History, I daresay.
He enjoyed narrating political events most of all. One day. He told me about the assassination of a prominent Lebanese politician back in the fifties. He revealed how the assassin really died. They wanted him alive., and when he died they thought it was because of the injuries he received during the chase. But the truth was that he died after a doctor, who happened to be of the same party, secretly pulled the stitch of his wound open, causing him to bleed to death.
He not only told the stories, but also criticized and gave his state of mind on the events. He told me that the assassination was such an absurd act. That day he went on and on telling the history of the region, till he noticed that I was fatigued by the flu and could barely listen to him. He paused for a moment, and then said something that would stick in my mind to this day.
“I tell you all these things because I cannot speak about them outside ”. Then he made a gesture with his hand, and looked pensively toward the window. That was almost 10 months before he passed away. On the day of his departure, I found myself thinking: Now he’s gone, with all these secrets.
P.S: Dalila is a fictional character, her story is based on those of millions of palestinians who fled their country, were forced out of their homes, lost their loved ones and even lost their lives in the last century, and who are still suffering.
Originally posted on Thursday, March 02, 2006 on http://oeliwat.jeeran.com/archive/2006/3/27086.html