Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Brief Memorial--From Conag

No life should pass unnoticed—and the passing of Güler from Conag touches me very deeply somehow, though I barely knew her.  I want to introduce her briefly, here, to whatever small audience I’ve gathered so that you, too, can know what and who was in this world and what it now lacks.

Güler lived up the hill from Dede’s house in Conag. You passed her house when you went  to the Aga’s Fountain (Merga Axe). When I first met her, she was sitting with her elderly mother under the tree in their front garden, having tea.  Grinning, she literally leapt up, shook my hand and set about making me my own cup of tea. Her name means ‘Smile’ and was well chosen. She was small, with a long face and a huge toothy grin that beamed like a spotlight on everyone she met. At first glance, I thought she was quite young. There was something about her manner, about  her undisguised excitement, her undisguised anything that reminded me of a child. But then I saw the wrinkles in her face, the streaks of gray in her hair.

They called her Güler Abla—Big Sister Güler. Everyone said that she was a bit ‘touched’-an accident or illness when she was young? But there was nothing lacking in this woman. She took care of her mother, she was a fantastic cook, and she made a foreign zava feel welcome, warmed, and at home in a place where he was often just a sideshow curiosity.

I remember visiting once and she was sitting in the dark, apart from everyone, holding her arm. She didn’t reply to my greeting, nor to any of our greetings, and kept her eyes sullenly down. She was crying. She had hurt her arm, and no one would take her seriously. We asked what was wrong and dutifully, she showed us her arm—all thin and pale and bruised--then looked up at each of us hoping that one of us would have the solution. Put ice on it, Zelal said. Let’s get her to the doctor, Delal said. She looked so small there, so breakable.

Her death by heart attack makes me think of—and I hope this is not demeaning in any way, but there are those glass knicknacks that sit around the house—a glass angel say, some little gift from a relative or friend when you’re first setting up your home, something sentimental that gives it that classic domestic look. It is fawned over, set out, and then forgotten. Maybe it’s put up on a shelf facing the window. It’s wings glow and shine every morning as they catch the sunlight beaming through the window. It presides over everything that happens in the house—fights and makings up, babies born and first steps and teenage rebellions, old people visits and old people passing. And then one day, years and years later it falls and shatters on the ground. Someone sweeps it the shards, and it is quickly forgotten, but the empty space on the shelf is emptier than it should be, because whether anyone has noticed or not, some vital part of the house has been lost—the glass angel itself, the memory of the person who bought it, the memories of all it has presided over as witness, this fragile thing that could catch the light on its wings of a morning.
Strangely--no pictures of Güler Abla herself--this is the moon we saw on the way to the Aga's Fountain from her house--a decent symbol.

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