Burn Another One: Part Five
A story by Fathima Begum
Adeela skipped ahead of her father, as they made their way to Al-Shifa hospital on foot. He walked steadily and she hid her impatience as she knew that if she pestered him to go faster, he’d leave her at home tomorrow. Adeela couldn’t go a day without seeing her grandfather, who was being treated in hospital for a gunshot wound.
As they entered the hospital, Adeela noticed her father looking down at the ground as he walked to the ward her grandfather was being treated in. She knew why he was doing that. He disliked the standards of treatment the hospital provided, and found the place to be unhygienic, chaotic and corrupted. But he also knew that there was nothing to be done about it, at least not by the professionals working at the hospital. Medicine, supplies and aid work coming into Gaza was severely restricted.
Adeela’s grandfather was a tough old man and he was in good spirits when they got to him. He ate the food that Adeela’s mother had prepared for him heartily. Her father left to see to something, while Adeela happily kept her grandfather company while she waited for him to return.
Adeela asked her grandfather why he seemed so happy. He explained to her, gently, that it was because he had heard that the olive tree plantations that he had helped to harvest was going to be irrigated by the volunteer workers who had come to Gaza to aid them in their planting and harvesting of the olive trees. This would help the growth of the olive trees and the olives would be much healthier.
Adeela asked why her father was not happy. Her grandfather smiled at her.
“I will tell you why. Your father is not happy because your mother is not happy. She is not happy because her parents are not happy, and they are not happy because this is not the life that they ever imagined that they would have to live”
Adeela looked confused; her maternal grandparents always seemed happy whenever she saw them.
“They did not always live here, in Gaza. They owned a mansion, a beautiful home outside of the Old City, and they raised their daughter in as much luxury as they could, they had lots of money. But after 1948, they were forced out of their homes, their city and they came to Gaza to live”
“Are they going to go back, and take my mother with them?” Adeela asked, fearfully.
“No, they won’t ever go back. They never wanted your mother to marry your father, you see. He is the son of a farmer, and they were very wealthy and educated and thought they could get a better match for their daughter. But your father was adamant and he only wanted to marry your mother. So he persuaded them, and they dislike him for it, though they eventually agreed. Several years after the wedding, they had to move to Gaza. They disliked us farmers, but are now dependant on us for survival”
Adeela held her grandfather’s hands as he spoke. She enjoyed listening to him, and although sometimes she asked too many questions, he never got annoyed with her. As he was still recovering, she didn’t ask any him any questions and instead looked up at him in wonder. He saw the questions in her eyes, and stroked her hair.
“There were people who didn’t want your mother’s parents, and their neighbours, to live there anymore. It was such a beautiful place, and lots of people from all over the world want to come to see this special place. And although they didn’t want to ever leave, they had to, because they were forced to, by other people. Maybe they didn’t really want to hurt anyone and maybe they were not bad people, maybe they were doing as they were told. But, your grandparents all live nearer to each other now, and you and your mother can see more of them. So it was all for the best”
Adeela nodded agreeably, and then remembered the small package of white sugar and honey that her mother had given to her, to apply the wound. She had said that it would help it to heal. Adeela handed the package to her and her grandfather, and he hid it under his pillow. She saw that he was concerned deeply about her, but was trying to hide it. He had been worried about her, as she had witnessed him being shot and had been the one to get help for him.
Adeela couldn’t wait for her grandfather to get better so that they could go back to harvesting olives together, but her mother had told her that they wouldn’t be able to do that for a long time. She hadn’t been allowed to play out with the other children either, since the day her grandfather had been shot. She was bored, and had managed to sneak out to one of her neighbours. She’d had to get back quickly, before her mother noticed that she was gone. She had borrowed some books from her neighbour, and wanted her grandfather to read them to her. He struggled to sit up and read, so Adeela read aloud to him, making up the parts that she couldn’t read. As they laughed and read together, Adeela wished she could go and see where her mother had grown up, the beautiful mansion and the special city. But she knew that it was dangerous to try to leave Gaza as they may not be able to come back in. Yet, as she watched her grandfather wince in pain as he laughed, Adeela realized that it was just dangerous to stay.