Special way to communicate with a special friend
May 12, 2005
I don't remember when Abbas and I met. He was born
in a small village right outside of Tehran, where my father was
born. My grandfather
migrated from Malayer, northwest of Iran, to this little village,
Boomehen. It is only a couple of miles from the ski resort, if
you can call it that, Abali. Also where that wonderful yogurt drink
Abali Doogh comes from. Ever since I remember, we used to go to Boomehen.
It had wonderful climate, clean air, and a good place to relax
and get away from
the hustle of the big city.
My grandfather married a local woman
and opened up a coffee house in the village. Abbas is related to
through my grandmother,
whom I never met. Abbas was one of four children from
his father's first wife. She died after giving birth to Abbas.
Abbas was born completely
hearing and speaking impaired. The very little he could annunciate,
only the people who knew him understood. I remember, as a child,
I would ask him if he could hear anything, and he would answer, "no",
by raising his eyebrows sharply! To test him, I would scream
things in his ear and the results were most often negative. I guess
always wanted him to hear a little.
As kids we hung around a lot. I followed him everywhere. Those
days Boomehen was very rural. No running water, no electricity
and the nearest shop was a few miles away. Abbas loved bubble
gum and whenever I went to visit, I had boxes of all types of gum
for him and any neat candy I could think of. His face would light
up and thank me by giving me an army like salute and with the same
motion putting the same hand on his heart as sign of appreciation.
When in Boomehen, we were inseparable. We went to the fields to
cut wheat, feed the cattle and sheep, bring water, and mostly play.
They had a big orchard by the river, where they grew plums, walnuts,
cherries, and all sorts of fruits. Not a day went by, where I didn't
have a belly ache from eating so much fresh fruit.
Abbas was a bit older than me.
He was and is extremely strong. He could see perfectly well in
total darkness and his sense of smell and sight were amazing.
made me realize about our special relationship came up when I saw
him after 20 years in 2000 when I went home to Iran. He was the
first one in the village -- a big town now -- to come and
me. For the first time I saw him cry. He wiped his tears after
hugging me and the huge smile on his face told me that he was very
happy to see me. For a few seconds I didn't know what to say. I
almost started speaking English to him. I had forgotten how he
and I used to communicate. He had his own version of sign language
he used to communicate with his family. With me, however, it was
a totally different way. We had established a special way to communicate,
which most people didn't know. I don't' know how it started, but
my mother says that I had problems learning his sign language,
so we developed our own.
But what is amazing is that after 20 years,
and a few seconds, I began to talk to him, like we used to.
touched my hairless head and made fun of the fact that he is older
and still has a full head of hair. He also told me that he
is married, which I told him that I knew, since I had received
his wedding picture. He also told me he has three sons and he named
the oldest one Hamid. He stopped signing and teary eyed without
saying anything, told me that he missed me and that's why he named
his first born after me. I touched his shoulder and thanked him.
I had no idea how to tell him in sign language, our sign language,
what a huge honor it was for me.
He asked about what I do in America. I told him. He understood. "Yes,
I know. You take pictures of people's bodies." We talked more
about my life, my wife and his life. He told me that he works in
a big factory assembling electrical equipment. I asked him how
about cutting hay and feeding the animals. He said that was a long
time ago. We re menaced about the old days, about the clear water
running in the streams, clean air, the skies that were filled with
stars, we used to watch when we slept outside in the summer. About
how much snow used to cover the ground in the Winters. "All
are gone", he said with a loud sigh.
I asked him about the
orchard, he said that it is all gone to the new housing.
about the river, where we used to catch small fish? Do
you remember we used to make a dam with rocks and swim?" He
shook his head, "yes". He showed
me a sign for "dry" and told me that the river is pretty
much gone now.
Four years later I visited Iran and upon my arrival to Boomehen,
Abbas was the first one running to see me. We continued our "conversation" and
talked about many things, we didn't have a chance the last time.
I gave him a 100 Dollar bill. He wasn't sure how much that was.
Reluctantly, he accepted and then asked how much in Iranian money
is it worth. I didn't want to tell him, but he insisted and my
dad told him 80,000 Toomans. His eyes doubled in size and he
immediately returned the money to me and shook his head vigorously "no".
My Dad and I insisted and told him that it would upset me if he
didn't. I finally managed to convince him that it is for the other
Hamid, your son. He accepted with a big smile on his face.