12.08.2004

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?


Northern Cardinal
Flickr photo credit: lucycat
My grandfather used to threaten to come back as a Cardinal and shit on the heads of all those who transgressed against him.

I never knew the man, but I have a portfolio of his architectual renderings, a handful of medals and photographs he sent my grandmother while stationed in Casablanca.

Like me, you may know (of) your parents and (of) their parents, and yet never truly understand their motives and just how it is that you came to be an American.

There may also come a day when you can not ask your parents or their parents these questions. You will be orphaned and feel alone in the world, without ties to your genetic past.

This is why I am looking at a Christmas card written in Arabic, most likely from 1942. There is a man on a camel, another camel at rest nearby. It reads: CHRISTMAS GREETINGS AND ALL GOOD WISHES FOR YOUR HAPPINESS IN THE NEW YEAR.

FROM: Ahmad Ghaissari

I am Googling this man's name because my mother feels he holds some information that will help her understand her dead father better and why he didn't want to come home, to America, after the war.

I'm intensely curious myself. I never knew the man but I think I inherited most of his genetic code and a few of his traits (his drafting skills, his perfect pitch & musical aptitude, his adventerous spirit).

He was a pilot, a bombadeer in WWII. He took photographs everywhere he went and wrote on the reverse about the cathedrals he couldn't bring himself to drop bombs on "because it seemed such a shame."

I wonder if my grandfather, like so many other soldiers and crusaders before him, had started a family where he was stationed. I wonder if in some remote part of the world he sought those simple ideas of connection and family because he couldn't see an end to the war, couldn't ever imagine his home-coming.

I know that my mother thinks about it, this idea of a secret life, and considers what other brothers or sisters she may have, being an orphan herself. My mom's got a big heart. She is famous in our circle of family & friends for "bringing in strays" — people without family that need one and equally famous in her ability to make friends everywhere.

Just one example; when my little sister was applying to colleges, mom took her to RIT's School of Art and took a tour with the Chair of Foundation, Joyce. At the end of the day, mom and Joyce felt such a kinship that they exchanged cards and promised to keep in touch.

Mom called Joyce that night and they discovered that they're actually cousins (we've spent holidays together ever since) — so y'never know.

It's in this spirit that I keep searching and sifting through the 'net for this guy Ghaissari because you never know, there may be more family out there. There could be a secret half-brother or sister for my mom to connect with, someone else with ties to her father.

But when the Cardinal returns each spring, I believe that there is no other family and no place he'd rather be than beside us.