Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Tailor

Asalamu Alaykom,

There have been so many shocking deaths this summer.  It began in Orlando with only one and then the next one became so horribly monumental.  Later, the news came from Louisiana and from Minnesota.  Yes, black lives matter, but they don't seem to matter to police.  I have been reeling from the news from Lake Wobegon.

Yet, yesterday, in my quiet life here in Egypt, there was one very quiet death.  The tailor passed away.  Allah yerhamo.  

We called him "Geddu" for Grandpa, even though he wasn't really a family member.  He was a dignified man in his sixties.  He held court at the end of our street.  His shop had one of those garage doors which opened his work space up to the world.

From our windows, every time I looked out into this country where I've immigrated, I would see Geddu hard at work.  He was a constant in my life.  Often, especially in our first years of marriage, I would see my husband escaping to this neighbor of ours for some male bonding.

My husband's father passed away when my Ahmed was only 16.  This left a void in his life that I've seen him fill with those male elders who are father figures for him.  Geddu was certainly one.  It's not that Geddu did or said anything in particular that was wise or even remarkable.  He simply was a person who welcomed you in.

I felt that from him too.  For three years, I worked close enough to home to walk or take a short taxi ride back.  El Kid and I would have just done our stint at school before arriving home.  Do you know how that feels to arrive?  It feels good if someone greets you and bad if they don't.  Geddu always greeted us.  He'd call out to my son and shake his hand.  It was a ritual; a ritual of acceptance and love.

It wasn't only hand shakes that Geddu shared with El Kid.  He has been the one to tailor all of his school uniforms for the last six years.  It takes some trust to spend hundreds of pounds on new clothes and then give them over to someone to alter.  Geddu always did his best for my son.  He saw El Kid grow from age four to eleven.  

He tailored my clothes too.  He saw my waist measurements go back and forth and my hems go up and down.  He did what he could to make me look presentable.  He never was anything but respectful.  

In the end, it was the loudspeaker from the tuk tuk that signaled his passing.  Geddu hadn't been at his shop since the spring.  The garage door had remained down for months.  My husband last called him towards the end of  Ramadan.  Geddu wasn't well and it didn't look good.  Still, you hope.  The announcement of his death came yesterday after asr.

I cried.  I cried for a good man leaving this earth.  I didn't cry for him dying because that was Allah's plan.  Alhumdulillah.  I cried selfishly for wanting to still have him in our lives.  Egypt has been a good place for us, but it was better with Geddu in it.  

After magrib, my husband said the jannazah prayer with his family.  I had wanted El Kid to participate too, but they were heading to the cemetery at night.  My husband didn't want El Kid to experience something so difficult.

As I wrote all of this, I started to cry again.  Yes, I feel a lot and cry a lot.  I took off my glasses and then something caught the corner my eye.  Something moved on the carpet.  I turned my head and saw a feather.  In all my years here, I don't think this has ever happened.  A feather has never come in through the window. 

I hadn't had a photo of Geddu and I had lamented that.  Funny how we take photos of too many stupid things and not enough of the people we love.  I didn't want a generic picture of a tailor.  I remembered something called a tailor bird from the story "Rikki Tikki Tavi".  That's the bird at the top of this post.  

Funny that I chose a bird to symbolize Geddu and that a feather floated in just when I had started to cry.

Whether or not anyone else feels the connection, I do.  I feel how everything is connected if you want it to be.  Alhumdulillah.     

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Inna Lillaahi Wa Innaa Ilaihi Raajiwoon.