Killing Harriet

“…, it was the worst of times, …it was the season of Darkness,”. It was the last summer of Iran-Iraq war. I had returned to my family in Iran after being away for more than twelve years. I had given up all hopes of live in the U.S., and had decided to pack my meager belongings and go back home where I belonged, despite the fact that war was still raging on and there was a lot of hardship in the lives of Iranians.

Shortly after my arrival, Iraq began to fire Scud and Al-Hussain missiles to Iranian cities including Tehran. My parents, being fearful of a chemical attack, begged me to return. On the darkest summer of my life I left my family behind and returned to U.S., penniless, jobless, and in total emotional misery.

Fortunately, I had a brother in the U.S. who helped me get back on my feet again. He was living in the second floor of a house belonging to a lonely old lady by the name of Harriet Hass. She was in her eighties who had already begun to lose her mental faculty. Her house was in an affluent neighborhood and she was one of the oldest residences there. The house was on a half an acre lot that she had not maintained for many years due to her age. To keep my mind occupied; I get up very early every morning and worked all day cleaning up her property, repairing and maintaining whatever I could. Soon the garbage was all gone, trees were trimmed, and the grass began to grow again.

Eventually I began to work in a restaurant, washing dishes, to make a little money to pay my expenses and not rely so much on my brother. Soon I rented a room with a bathroom and a shower on the first floor of the house. Since Harriet was old, we kept an eye on her, helped her out with her needs, and tried to prevent dubious people from taking advantage of her, which was often.

One day when I was working in the front yard a lady approached the house and wanted to see Harriet. She told me she was from a church and wanted to take Harriet with her. Having talked to Harriet before, she had not mentioned that she was planning to go to any church that day, and I told the lady so. she insisting on talking to her, and I insisted on not letting her. I stood my ground and did not let her enter the house. It was a stand off. It was awkward, so I walked to my room, which had an entrance door to the yard. To my surprised the lady followed me and wanted to get in the house from my room, which she did not know that it was not connected to the rest of the house. Things got heated up, I told her this was my room and she had to leave. She was demanding to know who I was and where Harriet was.

She finally left, but soon we started getting visitors from the Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Elder Abuse and Crime and Violence Prevention. After a few weeks of investigation they obtain a court order declaring Harriet incapable of conducting her own affairs, and soon they put her in an elderly care facility.

Within two months she was dead.

I often think about that dark summer day, when I had my confrontation with that lady. I was sure I was doing the right thing, I am certain that lady was sure she was doing the right thing, but what she didn’t know was that Harriet was happy where she was. She had chickens in her backyard that she tended to every day. She had goldfish in a pond in the backward that she had built many years ago. But, they came and took Harriet away and killed her, all alone in a facility, away from her chickens and goldfish.

After all these years I can’t stop thinking about her, and my own parents who I saw for the last time on that dark summer of 1988.

At least my parents were surrounded by people who loved them.

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