Among the wondrous variety of characters that make up my family (and I’ve been writing about my family for ages), there is one character who at once amuses me and enlightens me more than any other — and that is the character known as ‘Jiddo’ or ‘grandpa’ in Lebanese Language. (Arabic, y’all.)
Jiddo has been around since as far back as I can remember, because my mother moved me into his house here in L.A. when I was very young — war was raging in Beirut at the time.
I was born here in Los Angeles, and the universe I suppose thought it best that I be raised here as well. Growing up in Jiddo’s and Teta’s house (Teta is Lebanese Language for ‘grandmother’) was quite the adventure.
At that time, their house was the family hub. This may have had something to do with the fact that 6-7 people shared a three-bedroom/two-bathroom house in the Valley with additonal family living in the houses on either side of ours.
My aunt (mom’s sister) and her family including three kids, lived on one side of us — and my other aunt, (Jiddo’s youngest sister) and her family including three kids, lived on the other. No joke. I was told that at one point, my Godmother, another sibling of Jiddo’s, considered buying the house across the street…
So, literally everyone and their mothers came by to visit. At any given time, there were about 25-30 people in that fucking house — TV blaring in the living room; more than likely the Lakers were either in the playoffs or the finals at the time — four people playing canasta around the table — loudly arguing over allegations of cheating (which more than likely actually occurred), a few of us milling about in some corner or another, laughing uproariously about something.
It was a loud, fun, somewhat comforting way to grow up. As an only child, I appreciated the company, even though at the time no one paid much attention to me. And so, as a result, I overheard more than my fair share of some crazy shit.
Anyway, Jiddo was always funny as fuck. I’ve heard his stories countless times, and they alter slightly with each telling, but he’s truly had some remarkably funny moments.
This one time, he was one of four participants in canasta, seated around the table; cigarette smoke swirling amok like a death cloud over us all. Me and my cousins Carla and Lou were sitting on the bar (which was miraculously not full of clutter at the time), watching and chatting.
The house was relatively quiet, and Jiddo thought it an opportune time I suppose, to let one rip. Loudly. Cue the laughter from my cousins and I, and I remember the whole time the folks at the table were chuckling to one another in shared amusement — all but Jiddo, of course.
No, he kept his poker face going the whole time, then, just as things started to die down, he looked at the three of us and with his thick, Lebanese accent deadpanned, “Next time it will be in your face.”
Only then did he allow himself an amused chuckle.
This other time, when my family used to get together more regularly for good food and laughter (such good times if we could avoid the drama), and we’d put together these videos of us acting out crazy shit that my uncles 1 and 2 came up with to send to my aunt in Geneva, Jiddo stole the show again.
In one scene, where, for whatever reason, (who wrote this skit?!) a bunch of us were asked to portray these crazy, hat-wearing individuals, struggling/failing to reach a glass of water on a table, all pleading thirst in a multitude of languages (Arabic, German, Swedish, French, Spanish – I could go on; my family is quite diverse…) Jiddo was the one who came in at the end, laughing maniacally until he reached the glass of water, pulled out his comb from his pocket, dipped it in the glass and began attending to his legendary comb-over in earnest.
He is known, among many other things, not the least of which is his generous spirit — for that maniacal laugh. He can keep that shit going — and make it sound genuine (though on some level it probably is) as long as necessary to make the rest of us crack up.
And he’d get us every time. I need to ask him to do that in front of my kiddos — but seriously they’re still young enough he might freak them out…
But he’s taught me a lot about how to live life as fully as possible. And of course, how laughter helps you get through the rough patches.
There is no one in the world like my Jiddo. And I’m grateful he’s a part of our lives.
Here’s to many more years of shits farts and giggles.