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November 18, 2005

My grandmother, Zinat "Mommy Joon" Javid, died Thursday afteroon. She was at least 99, we think >>> Read more

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I saw her last weekend at St. John's hospital in Santa Monica, southern California. She was barely conscious, breathing with difficulty through an oxygen mask tightly gripping her face.

Her hair looked dark brown, clean and soft. "They take great care here. The staff wash her every day and even brush her hair. And look... a flat-screen plasma TV," Uncle Bahman said, trying to put the best spin on grim reality. (We Javids are good at PR.) But grandma was still dying and no amount of love and care and medicine, or the most sophisticated technology known to man would be able to save her.

Uncle Bahram, Aunt Cheri, Uncle Bahman and I took turns holding and caressing her left hand, black and blue from IV injection marks. Sometimes grandma would slightly open her eyes, press our fingers and groan. We felt she was aware of our presence but had lost all ability to communicate... and she was in agony, suffering from pneumonia, chest infection, coughing... in front of a beautiful, large flat-screen Panasonic plasma TV hanging on the wall in front of her bed, far away from Shiraz, where she married grandpa Abdolreza Javid when she was no more than 12 or 13 in the early 1900s. They were both Lurs, apparently, with ties to Behbahan further south, closer to the Persian Gulf.

I spent some of my best childhood summers and Noruz holidays under her loving care in Shiraz in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, when I was a young, enthusiastic supporter of the revolution, she still welcomed me with open arms while feeling completely free to curse me for growing a beard, changing my name to Mohammad, and praying in her living room -- odd behavior in a largely secular family [See "Shiraz"]. Her french fries were the absolute best, fried in an ocean of oil. And her spicy Khoresh Gojeh -- a simple stew with whole tomatoes and chunks of meat, consumed mostly in southwestern Iran -- poured over glowing mounds of rice dripping with melted butter... heavenly.

She moved to California about 15 years ago, unwillingly. She felt she was a burden to her siblings; she hated being dependent on others. As in Iran, she spent a lot of time reading (magazines and newspapers, rather than books) or listening to the radio, often while playing solitaire. In recent years she lost much of her mobility, falling from steps, breaking her hip and damaging her weak, fragile leg bones, forcing her to live under professional care in a nursing home near family in Santa Monica. We were at awe that even in her 90s, her mind was sharper than most of us. She was especially generous in pouring scorn on the ayatollahs and religious fanatics with choice curse words.

About a year ago, she stopped playing solitaire. And backgammon became a puzzle.

Her sharp wit, clarity of mind, down to earth goodness, refreshing lack of taarof and abundant kindness I will remeber and cherish.

Jahanshah Javid

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