Grandma Khadija died. Trip to my old village. September 23-October 6, 2019 (2 of 3)
My friend, the PCV in my old village, called to tell me that my host Grandmother, Khadija, had died. She told me that the family would be having the official reception of those paying respects on the third day, but people were already arriving. I said I would come on the third day, which was the soonest I was able.
She had not been well, in and out of the hospital, since shortly after my arrival to Morocco and the small village where I lived. But what was wrong with her? I never did really know. At the time of her first episode, I thought she had a stroke, but never had any confirmation of that. In the hospital, I could not see that she was receiving any care. Every Moroccan I have met will tell you, that despite the fact medical care is free to all, only those with private insurance or money to pay, actually receive care. True or not, I do not know.
When a person dies here, they are buried the same day, according to Islamic custom. Women are not allowed in the funeral procession, or at the burial, though they are allowed to visit the grave afterward. She died during the night, so the call from the mosque, announcing a death, was withheld until daybreak. My friend had been out of town that morning, and learned of the death, in the taxi. The mother-in-law of the sister from Tangier, recognized her and told her.
In a town as small as this one, everyone is affected. In a family as big as ours, people come from all over. It takes me 4 taxis to get to the town, but I made good time. So much so, that I stopped for coffee in Immouzier, between taxis. I met my PCV friend for tea at the little restaurant of another friend. The town is really looking great with all the new sidewalks and road improvements. I saw a couple of new businesses. The pool had been drained for the winter, but I did not go down to see it. We went to her host family’s hanoot, where they were saving me two of the cones of sugar, traditionally brought when paying respects.
Then, on the street I met my host Mom before getting to her house. She was actually at her son-in-law’s hanoot, trying on shoes. We went to the home of Grandma’s sister for tea. Lunch would be served around 2:30, but I excused myself to visit the sister with the new baby before lunch. I held the baby, and visited my two nephews. The radio operated monster trucks I had given them at the baby party were dead, for lack of a screwdriver to open the battery compartment, and likely money for batteries. I took them and bought a small screwdriver and batteries, and taught them how to install. They were confused as to why one would work, but not both at the same time. Interference. Hopefully they understand now.
I headed back to Grandma’s house, without my PCV friend, where an elaborate lunch was served to lots of people, in several rooms. There was lamb with prunes and Cous Cous. I sat with one uncle’s wife’s family, but saw lots of people. During Grandma’s illness, most of these people had been at her house a lot. The sister from Tangier was there, as was Army brother. Again, I did not see the youngest brother. My host Mother and Father were happy to see me, and holding up well enough. My pregnant sister seemed healthy, but tired. The core of the family was in or close to the kitchen. I joined them there for a while before heading out.
The atmosphere was actually more festive than the two weddings I had attended. Both of those had been somber due to a death, and later, Khadija’s illness. This gathering seemed lighter, because of her age perhaps or perhaps because she had declined substantially since I saw her last.
The ride, too and from, takes you through lots of apple orchards, where harvest was under way. Pickers in large open trucks and trucks of crates of apples busily going from one place to another. In the late afternoon, there was actually a spray rig, spraying apples, for what I do not know. It was odd, not because they don’t spray (as the tour guide books would have you believe) but because it is a good way to burn your apples. Also, what good could you do so close to harvest? Too late for worm sprays, and it was not a shade product. Inquiring minds want to know, but not bad enough to get out of a taxi far from town.
There are so many pictures in my head, never to be captured by the camera. Today’s was an elderly woman on a dirt/gravel road, colorful clothes, a sack of apples on her back. As she turned to see the taxi, her face was hit just right by the setting sun to make her glow, despite the deep lines, from years of working in the sun. Sometimes the public transportation is difficult, but today, I was home before dark without trouble.