I just had an experience I have never had before- I had to say goodbye to someone knowing full well I will probably never see them again. I’ve never had that before.
My neighbor, Siham Miller, who moved here from Lebanon (she is Syrian and a Christian) with her husband George Miller in 1986, is now in her 80’s, and while still with it (she was always crazy, but she is no crazier now than before), her health has declined so much that her children are moving her to an apartment in Philadelphia. If you remember, it was her sister who I took to all the hospital visits for her tumor. At any rate, we have a long history with them as neighbors to my parents- 1986-2014 is a long time. A lifetime for many.
At any rate, I’m so sick so I couldn’t go down to talk to her because the last damned thing she needs is a cold, so we chatted for a while. I was always her favorite. I still remember her yelling at my dad for yelling at me when I was a teen, and she has never gotten over that and mentioned it tonight (even though she loves my father to death). I also remember when she and George moved next door, for years if someone slammed a door, she would fall to the ground or scurry for cover because she was so terrorized by the gunshots from her experiences in Beirut.
She’s a complicated and difficult woman- I never fully and viscerally understood the Greek mythology of Medea until I saw Siham spending an entire afternoon meticulously spraying who knows what on EVERY SINGLE SLUG on EVERY SINGLE TOMATO PLANT while cackling the whole time and cursing them. Her views on Middle Eastern politics were also complicated, and since she was not internet savvy I would look things up on Syria and talk to her about them. Right now, her heart is just broken with what is going on there.
At any rate, back to the point. I have been very fortunate in that I have never had to be on someone’s deathbed and say goodbye, so I had never contemplated this kind of conversation before. She’s not dying, but we both know we will never see each other again, so the whole conversation was blanketed by this feeling of permanence, and it was sad and happy at the same time.
She was still her cynical self, and I could hear all her kids and grandkids in the background, and she was telling me “I am being kidnapped. Help me! They have taken my car keys, cancelled my credit cards, and are moving me from my home!” In the background, you could hear her kids say “Call the police mom if you are being kidnapped.”
But the thing is, she sounded happier than I have heard her in years. She was just thrilled to be moving to a place where she could be around her kids and grandkids, and while she didn’t want to leave, I felt positive after talking to her.
Funny thing we have going here, us humans.