I live in Tehran with my grandmother. Here are some words about her, though words can't do justice.
Since moving back in with my grandmother my life has been structured around hers. From months of solitude I’ve once again returned to the orbit of another – she, whose advancement in years is only matched by her continuing certainty of who she is and why she is. Her God has always given her the faith to be herself and the strength to bear worldly rejections. But of course, now she tires more easily than in her earlier years so she sleeps much. All the better to preserve her strength – still ample – for the tasks she still sees ahead of her.
Married at 14. Her first child – my mother – at 16. Even then she was powering forward to be what she is now – the spiritual leader, matriarch of our family and the eventual sink for its dysfunctions. Seeing there was money to be made in buying, selling and developing land, she would encourage those around her to put their savings into smaller or larger plots here and there. Sometimes, even as a forthright 17 year old, being on hand at the construction site, cane in hand, ready to dole out justice to workshy labourers.
Her mother was not so easily won over. “What kind of a girl would exchange her wedding jewels for dirt?” she asked, refusing on occasions to allow her daughter to make investments that, in bitter hindsight, would have made them millionaires. Still though, her successes were not few and her successes helped her to pay school and university fees for her brothers, sisters and her own children and eventually bring the entire extended family – along with her parents to Tehran. On those foundations much was built – now, the children and grandchildren of my grandmother’s father – a Kermanshah blacksmith – have all either become successful in their trades, or at least seen their hard won Tehran properties rocket in value. Security in a volatile economic world.
There remains just her one son, my uncle, who never really learned to stand on his own two feet. My grandmother sent him to Germany as a youth – he was to study and return with a trade but succeeded only in falling into bad habits with the wrong kind of people. He returned and, at the behest of his mother, married. Then the signs of his latent mental illness began to show and his family life suffered accordingly. Unable to provide his wife and children with the living they expected, a rift developed and he is hardly even wanted in his own home. Other family members have been kind enough to find work for him but now, at 60, and still with nothing to his name, it is my grandmother’s one last wish to see her son independent.
My grandmother lives exceedingly simply. All her gains have been for others. The apartment she owns, and in which I now live, has nothing in it which you might call valuable except for the numerous carpets (which she already refers to as belonging to the children and grandchildren to whom she wishes them bequeathed) and possibly the gold jewellery which she keeps somewhere-I-don’t-know-where.
In between her regular and time-consuming prayers and her ample sleep, she plans and advises for the future of the family still.