Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where is Syria?

Before yesterday, sitting in a hospital waiting room, I really never gave Syria a thought.  I heard of Syria, but that was about it.

We plopped ourselves down in two high-back chairs in the cardiac waiting area, where a 91-year-old lady sat behind the hospitality desk.  She weighed about as much as my left leg, but kept getting up to see that all of us were comfortable.  She passed the candy jar, brought pillows to those who had closed their eyes, and when we got ourselves coffee, she said, "Next time I'm bringing cookies.  You two should have cookies with your coffee."  We figured she had to be a veteran at what she was doing, and we were right.  She'd been volunteering at this hospital for 51 years.

Her parents immigrated to the United States from Syria, and she was born in the U.S.  She was born on Labor Day and married on Mother's Day.  She married in an Orthodox Church, where the priest spoke Arabic.  She didn't understand one word of her marriage ceremony.  She and her husband didn't say any vows to each other.  Three generations, including her own 7 babies, consisted of 5 boys and 2 girls. 

When I asked her how old she feels in her 'heart,' she giggled, raised her black eyebrows, and didn't need time to think about her answer.  It was a quick, "16."  I told her I'd never met anyone like her before, and she said, "Don't feel bad, neither have I."  She talked about Syrian food preparation, and she gave me her recipe for stuffed grape leaves.  After I wrote the recipe on a piece of paper to take home with me, she asked for my name, address and phone number so she could check up on me to see how the grape leaves turn out.  She shared a rice dressing recipe that is versatile and can be eaten with beef, pork, or chicken. And, a vegetable salad dressing of lemon juice and Mazola oil.  It felt like I was sitting next to a help-yourself buffet of life knowledge.

She was telling us about her childhood and how her parents' raised them when she told us,  "We weren't taught, mind you.  We just understood."

I think sometimes we all need a human flashlight to show us what the road up ahead looks like.  This kind and caring lady of Syrian background was such an enlightenment.  I learned so much from her in so short a time.  I learned that age is meaningless, it's okay to be silly and a sense of humor has no price tag.  After watching her bent little body inch her way around the waiting room taking care of us, it makes me sick to think of all the able-bodied people in this world who act like helpless fledglings and expect the world to take care of them.

Anyone who has waited in a hospital knows that an hour feels like a month. But, yesterday time flew like a hummingbird as this lady visited with us. I swear, I've never met anyone remotely close to her. In the morning when we left home, I thought I was 65 years old. When we left the hospital I thought I was 65 years young. It was a comforting lesson for me that age means jack nothing. 

After encountering this little Syrian angel, I'm ever so curious and anxious to learn more about the country of Syria, its people, their customs, traditions, and history.  It's a big world wide world we live in, but then again, sometimes it feels like a real small world.