Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Machghara Memories

I finally learned the name of the little town from which Bandar Arraj hails. Machghara is about 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Beirut. It has a hilly, rocky terrain and sits at an elevation of about 3,500 feet. Its chief industries are agriculture and tanning. From some pictures I was able to find online, it doesn't look as if it's changed much since 1955, when Bandar had her arranged whirlwind-romance with Lebanese-American David Murad, married in the town church and emigrated to the United States, all in about a three-week span.

Visiting Bandar at Jennings yesterday, I brought along my laptop and tapped into the Center's wireless signal. Within minutes I had dozens of pictures on my screen to show Bandar. I started with the town church I had found, hopeful that this might have been the place she married David. No, she said. It was another church. I skipped along to other shots of trees and orchards, houses and streets and a large man-made lake, which didn't exist until four years after Bandar left Lebanon.

Bandar looked appreciatively at my impromptu show, but I didn't know if anything was registering. (At one point, she looked at a field and said, "Is that a roof?") I was hoping she might recognize some familiar places or at least familiar topography and architecture. I may as well have been showing her pictures of my last vacation, I thought.

Occasionally Bandar asked, "How you get those pictures in your computer?" I did my best to explain. As we went on Bandar's look transformed. She was smiling now. And nodding her head slightly. In recognition of something familiar? Did something click? I went on. I read the names of some of the places in the captions, doing my best to guess at the Arabic pronunciation (which means adopting a feigned accent and speaking loudly). "Nabi? Harf? Bayader?" I'd ask. Once in awhile Bandar would say, "Oh, Nabi. I remember that place." We were getting somewhere.

We looked at pictures of a rocky mountainside, old buildings and even older trees, cyprus, oak and olive being among those I recognized. "Al-Sahl? Markaba? Ain-Aldaiaa?" I went on.

"Ain-Aldaiaa?" Bandar replied. "Oh, my. Let me see it again. Oh, my. Show me again." She was genuinely excited now.

The words Ain-Aldaiaa appeared over pictures of the same church I had showed her early on. The one she didn't recognize. But now, with the aid of the name, it came back to her. This was the church in which she married Dave, 54 years ago.

She just marveled. "Oh, my. How you do that, Steve? Oh, my. That's the church. Oh, my."
Bandar continues to progress, slowly. I took her to the dentist Monday and noticed great improvement in her ability to get in and out of the car and endure the bumps both in the car and in her transport chair, since two weeks ago when she had her last visit there. Her feet are still numb, almost as if they are "asleep." But her walking with a walker is getting better. Her endurance standing and sitting is improving. She continues to gain strength. She certified for another four weeks of physical therapy about a week ago. So we take it a day at a time, in stride.


  1. Mr. Cadwell,
    You are a swell person. A memory for Bandar which may bring a chuckle if it clicks with her. Does she remember watching you attempt to assemble a gas grill in the garage at Mill Creek. She had a hoot as did others. What you do is trying, not easy. I hope she makes a wonderful recovery.

  2. I certainly do remember that incident, and many others. I wish I could blame my ineptitude that day on Bandar... she made me attach the handle on the inside of the grill hood (!) with all her nervous questions and telling me how I was doing everything wrong... GRR. Thanks for bringing that up, Mr. Anonymous.