I was very little when we left Afghanistan for Pakistan. In Pakistan I lived in a very large house with my entire family and my grandfather’s family, my uncle’s family, my auntie’s family, my uncle’s daughter’s family, and my grandfather’s brother’s family.
I had many cousins to play with. The shouts of “Grandma!” and “Grandpa!” could be heard throughout the house as young cousins played. But I was the fortunate one because I was my Grandmother’s favorite. Grandmother loved me more than all of them because even though I was so young I was very intelligent. Because of this I cared more about my grandparents than any of the other children.
When I came home from school, I would always visit my Grandmother first then go to our room. My mom always told me, “Please don’t make this a habit with your Grandparents.” I didn’t know why she said this.
Grandmother loved to sit in the open air and tell stories. She called me “Surraya.” She would say: “Surraya come sit with me; I am going to tell you a story. You have to massage my head because I love your little hands, they are softer than the other children’s.”
When she told me that I knew I was better than the others; it made me proud of myself. I would massage her head as carefully as I could so that she would value me more than the other children.
Grandmother gave us nuts and Grandfather gave us rupees. Grandmother always kept nuts in pockets for the children. Because she preferred me, she gave me more nuts than she gave the others. I saw how they managed all the children, which wasn’t easy because there were twenty children who would come to see them. I liked that she valued me more than she valued the others.
Grandmother would sew clothes for my dolls. She would let me play with her things. She didn’t do this for the other children.
One day that I will never forget was when I was 5 years old. With the help of my uncle’s little son one of my older cousins stole a machine from a neighbor’s house. The neighbors came to my grandfather and told him that their machine was stolen and that they thought maybe his grandsons did it.
My grandfather called all the grandsons into the yard; including my brother who was just four years old. Grandfather asked them where the machine was. All the boys could see each other’s faces. My brother asked if a machine had disappeared. Grandfather became very angry and called to my uncle and told him to bring him a stick.
My uncle brought him two sticks and he started to hit his grandsons, saying, “When you tell me who did this, I will stop beating you. If you don’t, I will beat all of you.” After several strikes, my brother cried, “Please who did this? Tell Grandfather otherwise he will kill us. It’s very painful and we won’t be able to bear it.” Suddenly my uncle’s son said, “Grandfather, please don’t beat us because we and the neighbor’s son stole the machine and sold it to a shop.”
I had watched the whole thing. I remember thinking why didn’t Grandpa just ask each boy what had happened? Now I know that the answer from each of my cousins would have been “No, we didn’t steal the machine.”
I was just eight years old when I went to visit my Grandfather in the hospital. When I saw him in bed I cried because I had never seen my Grandpa this defenseless. He hugged me and told me, “No my child, don’t cry. I am just sick and I will be good in a few days and then will be with you.” When my parents saw me crying, they started crying too.
The day before Grandpa died he was brought home. I visited him in his room. He hugged me and told me, “My child, every one will leave this mortal world and these days are near to the day that I will leave this world too. Please forgive me if I did anything wrong.”
I didn’t know anything about death as I was just eight years old. My auntie told me to kiss his hand and tell him that I forgave him. I did this but I didn’t know what I was doing. Grandfather kissed my forehead and prayed for a bright future for me.
Very early the next morning my father came to our room crying. He told my mother that Grandpa had died. I remember thinking, “What is death?”
I went to Grandpa’s room. He was lying in bed and his brother was crying near his head. I called, “Grandpa, Grandpa, please wake up! They told me that you couldn’t wake up. Please, Grandpa you always listen to me, please wake up!”
My mother tried to explain that Grandpa had left this world and he couldn’t wake up. I didn’t accept their words and went out to play in the yard. Suddenly I heard everyone shouting. I saw that my Grandpa was wearing white clothes. I had heard that whoever wears white clothes will never be with us anymore. In that moment I knew that he would never be with us again.
I ran to my Father. “Please don’t take him, let him stay with us! Don’t do it! It’s not good. I will miss him too much.”
But I was little and didn’t know that it’s the rule of the world that everyone dies. He left all his memories with me and I will never forget the last time I saw my Grandpa in his white dress. Allah blesses him.
I don’t remember my Grandma’s death because I was just four years old when she died. Everyone told me that she had gone to visit her family in another city and would come back when I was eight or ten years old. I prayed to God to please let me grow and turn eight as soon as possible. After my Grandpa died, I asked my parents “Did Grandma die?” They hugged me and told me that all of us one day will leave this mortal world. I started crying for Grandma.
Now I know about death. I learned about it when I was eight years old. Nowadays little children of four or three know about death because of wars in the world and the way the news publishes everything so openly.
I miss my grandparents. I know that if they were with me now they would listen to me and advise me about my life. Whenever I think of them I cry and pray that Allah will bless them.
Written with tears in her eyes.
By Maryam A