No one is left behind

Those of you who are long time readers of my little blog may recall my post about Carl Frederiksen.  He was one of the old gentlemen that I would often meet in the village.  He was a kind old fella who unfortunately could not speak but he was always smiling and always so generous.

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I hadn’t seen Carl for a little while, in fact I wondered if he had moved away.

This morning while yelling at Daughter to “hurry the hell up or you’ll be late for school” I saw an ambulance drive past.  Now I’m not proud but I rolled my eyes – another funeral.  Five minutes later the mosque made the announcement – it was Carl.

Tears filled my eyes.  He was near to 90 years old – so he had had a good wicket – but he was one of the most genuine people I had ever met.  I wondered what would happen to him as he had no family but when The Turk and I arrived at his home I was so happy to see that there were hundreds of people there to see him off.  His neighbours washed his body and shrouded him while the village men carried flowers and followed in procession to the mezarlık (cemetery) for him to be buried.  Early tomorrow I will make the trip with the ladies to the mezarlık for the prayer.

I was so proud to be a part of this village today.  Whether you are young or old, with a family or very much alone, no one is left behind.

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What would you do?

The rather morbid question was put to me yesterday which made me stop for a moment and think … just a little bit.  I love it in Mersin.  I really do.  I’ve got some great friends and am surrounded by some great family (*cough, cough*) but … BUT …

“what would I do if (if???) The Turk passed away?”

Interesting.  What would I do?

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I am not talking about legalities and all the rest of it.  Having worked in the legal field for 25+ years I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the law both in Australia and in Türkiye regarding the death of a spouse.  Yes we both have Wills.  Yes, both here and in Australia.  Do you have one?  If not you should.  Also all of our properties here in Türkiye are in both names as are our bank accounts.  Are yours?  If not, they should be.  It is not unusual for a Will to be challenged by family members so better to be safe than sorry.  Of course it won’t happen to you … but just in case.

Back in Oz I was extremely independent.  I looked after myself and didn’t need to rely on others for assistance but here everything is difficult.  How would I cope with the day to day crap that goes on here?  I may be a Türk citizen but Türkiye is not my original homeland and my Türk language skills are way below par.  But even my lost independence and language issue is not my real concern.  My real concern – my only concern – is Daughter and when it comes down to it, Daughter is happy here.

Would I uproot Daughter again unnecessarily?  Probably not.

Would I move to perhaps a more yabancı friendly area?  Tempting, but no.

Would I date?  Feck no (unless Brad Pitt tossed that skinny, lippy brunette).

Would I move back to Australia after Daughter has grown up (married Calum Hood) and moved on with her own life?  In a heartbeat!

So I guess that’s my answer.  For now.  But here’s hoping that I don’t really need to think about this for a while at least.

When discussed with The Turk last night his reply was akin to the great Mr Bennett (you know how I love to quote Pride and Prejudice):

My dear, do not give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves, that I might outlive you.”

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Weddings and Funerals

In my pre-village life I could count the number of weddings that I had been to on one hand (including my own).  I could also count the number of funerals that I had been to on my other hand (including both of my parents).  Now since our move to Türkiye our life is inundated with them both and honestly, enough is enough!

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Thankfully this year’s düğün (wedding) season has started to slow now that we have moved into autumn although I did come home to find yet another invitation on my door step yesterday afternoon.  This one is for The Turk’s second cousin’s daughter (for feck’s sake), yet another person that I have never met in my entire life.  That’s fine although as the yabancı I am usually dragged around the room like a trophy.  Between you and me I think having the yabancı at your wedding is a sign that you have really made it.  A yabancı is a real drawcard.  Regardless a Turkish wedding reception is great fun, whether you know the wedding party or not and usually the whole village turns out for the event.

Here in the village it is not uncommon for a wedding to go for two or three days not including the nikah.  There is the kina gecesi (bridal henna party) where all the bride’s female family members, friends and neighbours get together on the night before the wedding to paint the thick ochre paste on her hands and feet.  Then you have the traditional village reception usually held in the school grounds or on the bride’s street where jeans and t-shirts are acceptable attire and, finally if finances allow, the salon reception where you will find yourself dressed up like a starlet on Oscar night with more sparkle, makeup and hairspray than you thought you could wear in a lifetime.  The latter two nights are jammed packed with earth rattling Turkish müzik coupled with pounding drums, all night dancing, fireworks and tribal yelling  – after all the more noise you make, the happier you are.  The only downside to a Turkish wedding is they are generally alcohol free.  The Turk and I have taken to hiding the little baby bottles of Angora and an opener in my Fossil handbag so if you ever see me lugging around a huge handbag at a wedding don’t shake it too much.  Desperate measures people.

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Although most of the weddings are out of the way for the season a cenaze (funeral) can happen at any time of year; actually here in the Village they seem to happen all the time.  The first funeral I attended here was for my mother in law.  It was heartbreaking.  Since then, however, I seem to find myself constantly attending funerals from people in the village, again usually people that I have never met.  Of course I have to attend.  It is respectful to be seen by the side of The Turk at these events however personally I find funerals highly emotional and, even though I may not have known the person, I hide behind huge sunglasses teary eyed.  A funeral will also go on for days (7 days to be exact) and it is necessary to attend every single day, drink copious amounts of çay and, in my case anyway, burst into tears at every prayer.  Sadly I now know there is a funeral even before The Turk can open his mouth because I spot the dark blue jacket neatly hung over a chair ready to be slipped on.  At that point I usually blurt out, “Oh no!  Who’s died now!” because the dark blue jacket is his funeral jacket.

I’ve got to tell you, you run the whole gauntlet of emotions living here in the Village from the excitement of an over the top wedding, the comedy of a ridiculous family feud or the emotions of a neighbour’s death.  Even with all the drama that goes on around me I am incredibly happy with my life as it is right now – and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Remembering Dad

I was not going to do this today.  I was going to keep today just for me.  Hold it in.  Put it in my box where all my feelings live.  But he would not want me to that.  He would have told me a (rather blue) joke.  He would have told me to get over myself; to pull my head in.  But I woke up this morning and I knew straight away.  I knew the date.  I thought about ignoring it but then my sister in law posted something on her FB page.  I miss him too.

I am not going to cry tears of sadness today.  Today will be a beautiful day.  Today will be a day of happiness and good memories not traces of sadness from years before.  There will be no talk of grief or of death.  No talk of cancer or pain.  Just happiness.

Today I will dream.  Today I will wish.  Wish for just one more day with my Dad.  One more smile.  One more joke.  One more chance to say I miss you.  What would we do?  Anything.  Nothing.  We could sit on his old patio overlooking the creek and laugh about something ridiculous.  Or we could have a steak at the pub … and laugh about something ridiculous.  As long as we are laughing then everything will be fine.  And we would be laughing because my Dad was fecking hilarious!

Let me introduce you to my Dad – with a happy story.  Maybe two happy stories.  Maybe more.

He was a great guy.  He was a smart ass.  He used to make me laugh.  He still makes me laugh.  When I told him I was pregnant his reply was, “Well that’s what happens when you have sex.”  When he walked me down the aisle on my wedding day he whispered, “Good job staying a virgin.”  I laughed out loud at that one as Daughter was carried down the aisle two minutes earlier.

He was not my biological Dad but blood does not make you a father.  Love makes you a father and he was the best one that a girl could ever hope for.  Sure he would get angry too, really angry.  He would yell.  He would punish my brother and I.  He had a belt and it didn’t just hold up his pants, it kept us kids in line too.  Once he threw the cheese knife at me – boy I would bring that incident up whenever I could.  “You tried to kill me,” I would cry.  “Next time I will try harder!”  Excellent smart ass reply.

In 2003 Daughter and I spent a week with Dad in Rome.  We visited all the usual tourist spots, did museums, galleries, went to Capri for a few days.  We ate delicious food and built wonderful memories together – father, daughter and granddaughter.  This is one of my favourite photos of Dad.  We had sat down for an early dinner as my flight back to Turkey was later that night and he ordered a beer.  When this pool sized beer arrived he laughed.  “A challenge!” he said.

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He blitzed that challenge.

Today will be a beautiful day.  A day of happiness.

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Two Years Ago

Two years ago today I sat in a doctor’s office with my father, his wife and my brother.  I sat there listening to a doctor tell my father that he had no time left, that the cancer was winning and to make arrangements for palliative care.

I had no idea.  I had no idea that he was sick.  I knew he had had surgery in January but he and his wife still travelled overseas in February.  They were even making plans to go away in July.  He was not sick.  He was fine. 

I had been in Mersin in April when I received an email from my brother telling me to come home, telling me that our Dad was ill.  No one told me.  Dad didn’t tell me.  His wife didn’t tell me.  I then got an email from my boss telling me to come home.  I was scared.  I tried to telephone my Dad and my brother but I could not get onto any of them as there had been a big storm in Mersin and it had knocked out all telephone and internet.  I finally got onto my Dad and he said he was fine.  His voice was cheerful, he was telling jokes.  My Dad always told jokes, legendary jokes.  He said that my brother was being overly concerned. 

It took days but I finally got onto my brother who told me to come home – now.

My next problem was getting a flight.  This is not always easy.  We had flights arranged for the next week.  I tried to change it.  It was difficult.

I finally got home.  I spoke to my brother.  I still remember it.  I arrived home at 11 pm and I rang my brother first thing the next morning.

“Jane, there is nothing they can do.”  I was at the shopping centre buying milk and bread for breakfast.  I collapsed on the floor and wept.  People walked around me, embarrassed by my outburst.  I did not care.

Two years ago today I sat in a doctor’s office with my dad, his wife and my brother.  Two years ago today I was told that my first love, my dad, was being taken from me forever.  Little did I know that it would be a mere 3 weeks before he left me.

Two years ago.

Absent Without Leave

I have been AWOL the last week or so.  There is no particular reason, I have just been busy with life and better to be busy than bored I think.

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There has been a lot going on both in Mersin itself and with my life.

In Mersin local elections took place on 30 March and they were hotly contested.  CHP won in the Village but Mersin itself was won by MHP.  It seems, however, that there was one box of votes that were not counted and the shit royally hit the fan yesterday with CHP believing that they in fact should have won.  There were protests and some localised rioting (The Turk wouldn’t let me out of the house) and a recount of the votes was to take place today.  My sister in law is in the Council and a member of CHP so she is hopeful that the count will reinstate her and her and her party CHP to power.  Incidentally Erdogan’s AK Party pretty much cleaned up in most other areas and in fact increased its share throughout the country.  I am surprised at the increase in popularity taking into consideration the corruption scandals that were dogging him over the past few months along with the recent passing of Berkin Elvan in Istanbul.  No official results have yet been announced, but the tally published by Turkish media put the AK Party on around 44% of the nationwide vote to 26-28% for CHP.

Personally The Turk’s aunt passed away last Saturday.  She was my mother-in-law’s older sister and another example of just how wonderful and kind Turkish women can be.  I have also been to a wedding (which had a yikes factor of 7), took Daughter to the dentist (which had a yikes factor of 10 and a never again) and took myself off to the hairdresser which took 4 hours and two attempts before I finally walked out of the salon.  No I am not satisfied – I am blonde.  Well blonde-ish anyway.   The trip to the hairdresser had a yikes factor of 6 but I’m upping it to an 8 because I am still not happy.  Funnily enough, my sisters in law all love it and asked me why I didnt go blonder!!??

All in all a very busy week and leaving me little time to sit down and reflect on my thoughts.

 

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40 days

Yesterday marked 40 days since the death of my mother in law.  Another tough couple of days with tears flowing freely for Refika.  She was truly a remarkable woman and loved by so many people.

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Having never attended a Turkish funeral I really had no idea what was going to happen and due to the speed in which a funeral happens here (same day) I did not even have time to gather my thoughts or ask what to expect.

Refika had been feeling under the weather for some time.  She had had heart surgery 2 years earlier however the surgery was not a success and she had never really recovered.  She was still her welcoming and wonderful self to us when we arrived although it was obvious that she was not doing as well as she could have been.  Her death, however, was a complete shock.  I certainly did not anticipate it and when The Turk received a call from the hospital at 5 am requesting that the family attend I knew, as did he, that it was not going to be good news.

By 7 am two trucks arrived with chairs, apparently this funeral was going to be attended by hundreds of aile (family) and also her many friends that she had made over the years.  I am not exaggerating when I say there was over 400 chairs delivered and set up on the street.  A portable morgue, of sorts, was then delivered and set up in the driveway.  I was told that this was where Refika would be washed by a hodja (female washer) and prepared for her journey to paradise.

At this point I started to freak out a little as people were arriving in their droves and clearly I had no idea what was going on or what was expected of me.  Those who know me know that I am not really one to show emotion but the crying, nay wailing, that had already begun was the most awful thing I think I had ever heard in my life.  Of course I had been to funerals before.  My beloved parents, extended family members and also to support my friends in their time of grief.  I have not, however, been to anything like this.

When Refika was brought home absolute bedlam broke out.  There was a lot of screaming and wailing, a lot of tears.  The grief was almost too much for me to bear and I tried to keep out of everyone’s way but before I knew it Daughter and I were brought into the portable morgue to say goodbye.  Daughter was distraught – although I let her come to my father’s funeral two years ago that was a western funeral and quite sedate in comparison – in my mind I kept wishing she had gone to school that morning as her cousins had done to protect her from the emotion and grief.

After Refika had been washed and prepared for burial the imam (leader of Islamic community) arrived and gave a prayer.  The men then took her body and placed it in a casket where it was then settled onto the back of a truck and taken to the mezarlik (cemetery) for burial.  Interestingly women are not invited to attend at the burial.  They will attend the next morning to pay their respect.

There was a constant stream of family members attending over the next seven days.  From early morning through late in the evening there was visitors coming to pay their respects.  The mourning areas were separated – one for the men and one for the ladies.  This annoyed me as the men got to sit in the sunshine while us ladies were segregated to the rear of the property in the shade (and you wonder why people kept getting sick).  Cay was constantly being served and meals were delivered by neighbours for next seven days which is the first part of the mourning period.  By this stage I began to hide as between the tears and the stress of attending on a daily basis was beginning to take its toll on me.

On the seventh day the iman re-attended at our home and gave another prayer for Refika.  This was also the day that a sheep was sacrificed and meals were prepared for all of our neighbours and fellow mourners.  This now marked the end of the official seven days of mourning.

The next date of commemoration will be the 52nd day although again I am unsure exactly what this will entail.

I am glad that we were in Turkey before Refika passed away.  I am glad that Daughter spent at least some time every day with her.  I am glad that The Turk was able to be with her in the end and I am glad that I had met and loved this wonderful women.  She will be missed by me and missed by anyone who ever met her.

Başiniz sağ olsun (Let health be on your head)

Realisation

I came to the realisation yesterday that I have been excessively blogging as a means of ignoring my feelings.  The time that I have spent sitting at the computer (mid-morning after breakfast and prior to Daughter returning home from school) is the time that I would usually sit with my mother in law in the sunshine enjoying a cup of cay.  So here I am trying to fill this void with typing (as I am doing right now at 10.29 am).

So today I am going to walk away from the computer and perhaps have a little time to examine my feelings.  I understand the finalisation of death although I still wait for Refika to call me downstairs.  I think it is more that I loved my mother in law as an akadas (friend) as well as a motherly figure (and the fact that I had watched her smack The Turk with a stick when he pissed her off).  Her and her little gaggle of friends welcomed me into their lives and she accepted me as her daughter not her daughter in law.  Sure I was a yabanci (foreigner) but Refika always included me in her day whether it was teaching me to cook the Turkish way, visiting her sisters for a good gossip session or merely watching her favourite shows on television.

Looking out my window I can see it is yet another beautiful, sunny day in Karaduvar.  Time to close the laptop and get out there.  Enjoy the sunshine and enjoy my life.

Until next time.

Sadness

I was extremely lucky as a child.  I grew up in a home with a mum and a dad who loved me and with a brother that, well, let me just say that he loved me (or maybe liked me) sometimes.  Then when I was 19 I got lucky again when I met my natural mum and dad.  I have forged a good relationship with my natural mother and my natural brothers and sister not the same as with my adopted family but a good relationship nevertheless.  Unfortunately I lost my adopted mother in 1995 and my dad a little while back.  I still see my natural family as often as we can arrange it (well I did when I lived in Australia anyway) but my little family had become very tiny indeed.

One of our decisions to move to Turkey was to enable Daughter to have a relationship with her Turkish family and learn about her Turkish heritage.  Not every child can grow up to have the best of both worlds but we intend to give Daughter everything that we can.  So moving to Turkey it would be.

My luck continues in Turkey with family as well as I had a mother-in-law who I adored and a father-in-law who is a little batty but still a sweet old man.

My cup overflows so to speak.

Over the past couple of weeks my mother in law had had a cough.  Nothing drastic but a niggling cough that over time slowly got worse.  She had made numerous trips to the doctor and to the hospital but the cough was always there.  She still cooked her delicious meals and she still called me down “J-j-j-a-a-a-n-n-n-e-e-e” every morning for cay.  She still washed her husband’s clothes, made him dinner every evening and went to visit her friends in the village.  But you could see she was not strong.  Her smile was not as bright as it once was and her steps a little slower than they once were.  Her eyes showed more sadness but her heart was still full of the love that she gave to her family and friends.

On New Years Day my sister-in-law again took Refika to the hospital one last time where she fell into a coma and soon after passed away.  The sadness I feel right now is overwhelming me.  The tears that flow are real and pained.

I will delve further into this on another occasion but right now the feelings are too raw to process clearly.

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