Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yeah, I know...

The Murad family today celebrated the 8th birthday of Bandar's great-granddaughter, Jackie. And the matriarch came to par-tay. Bandar hadn't been out of the house lately for much of anything other than an appointment with one of her many doctors or therapists or an unscheduled trip to one of the local emergency rooms.

Here, she's holding court in her son's spacious three-car garage, which Morris built and set up in his unique style for occasions such as this -- and more often for parties for his extensive network of friends. Today's affair had plenty of balloons, birthday banners, food, cake and ice cream.

Bandar soaked it all in, being lavished with attention and hugs and treated to a visual feast of activity and action. She did her best to keep up with the conversations, frequently responding to questions and statements with her familiar phrase, "Yeah, I know," or the alternate, "I know what you mean."

Because she refuses to wear her hearing aid when she's out for fear of anyone seeing it, she often misunderstands or doesn't even hear parts of conversations. And because she doesn't want to call attention to herself, she often fakes it with those throwaway phrases. I am amazed how often and how well her strategy works.

Example: "Sito [Arabic for grandmother], your hair looks really nice!" Bandar's response: "Yeah, I know." No one raises an eyebrow, because that's exactly what she would say had she understood the question.

***

On one occasion a few years ago, our friends Tim and Norma sat Bandar and Norma's Mexican-born mother together at a gathering at their house. We left the two 80ish women together as they smiled and attempted to exchange small talk about the most important things in life: family, food and grandchildren. When we checked on them 20 minutes later, they were talking more comfortably, occasionally laughing with and nodding knowingly at the other.

They had given up any pretense of speaking English, broken or otherwise. They had slipped into a foreign dialect, but I wasn't sure what it was until I recognized a few words Bandar said.

Me: "I didn't know your mom speaks Arabic, Norma."

Tim: "She doesn't speak Arabic... I thought Bandar was speaking Spanish!"

We all had a chuckle as we discovered what they were doing, each communicating in her native tongue and not knowing what the hell the other was talking about. But there they were, having the time of their lives speaking but not understanding. Or so I thought.

As we walked to our car to head home, Sophie and I asked Bandar why she and her new friend bothered talking if they couldn't decipher what the other was saying. She smiled almost like a shy schoolgirl and said, "I don't know." Did Bandar enjoy herself? "Oh, yes, very much. She a nice lady," she said.

I don't know how many words or facts either heard or learned from the other. But somehow, these two connected in a way I would have never predicted.

2 comments:

  1. Bandar is a Male name, never heard it as a name of a Female !

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  2. Sometimes just being there is translation enough.
    Jon
    [A Bandar Blog Follower who can't seem to post a comment other than as "anonymous."]

    ReplyDelete