Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chillin' by the fire

At a recent dinner, holding court.
"I don't have much to say tonight, not like last night," Bandar warns. 

She's right. There will be no repeating last night's performance.

At 8:30, I light a fire, the second of this young autumn, and begin some work on my laptop, Bandar sitting to my right, in her Bandar chair, a Bandar blanket on her lap. True to her word, she's not talking. At least not much. I'm not complaining. The fire is pleasant. I hear a distant train. 

Last night was different. Same fireplace and seating arrangement. But my Lebanese houseguest faced the fire and reminisced nonstop, apparently for the benefit of our dogs and me. For two hours, she chattered about her life, her country of origin -- the "blad" as she calls it -- about her father, mother, sister and brother. About her late husband and their kids including my wife / Bandar's daughter Sophie. About St. Elias and the annual church carnival. And about her house. Whatever got into her last night was something I hadn't seen in months. She lit up. I enjoyed seeing her enjoying herself.

David Murad, who would have been 100 this year had he lived this long, married Bandar in 1955 less than three weeks after they were introduced in Bandar's hometown of Machghara, a Beirut suburb. Following the arranged marriage in Lebanon, the first-generation, Lebanese-American, Youngstown native and his bride moved to Cleveland to start a family. 

"No house like my house," she boasted. "It's brick!" she shouted, rolling her Rs. This past summer with the aid of her children, she sold her house, another rite of passage.

"I know, br-r-r-r-r-ick!" I yelled out of habit, attempting to out-do her R-roll and her volume but failing at both. I've heard this love of house and brick several dozen times before. She says br-r-r-r-r-ick! I say b-r-r-r-r-ick back!

The stories continued as I sat and surfed, read email, scanned the news and reviewed my calendar. They went on as I opened the door to let the dogs out, escaped to the kitchen to make some tea, went upstairs to chat with Sophie. It mattered not if I was in the room, within earshot or out of range. Bandar's regaling didn't stop. Like the Rs of her beloved brick, she was on a roll.

She's back to quiet tonight. I'd say she's content looking at the fire. I know better. Bandar's tired. And she's in pain. 

Bandar moved in with Sophie and me just more than two years ago. Her back healed as well as it's going to. She's a little more mobile and a bit stronger. But she lives with pain every moment of every day. For a couple hours yesterday, she escaped.