Da (Mother) 104

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni
Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

2024-6-30


Da (Mother) 104

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

Persian Version (2008)

Sooreh Mehr Publishing House

English Version (2014)

Mazda Publishers

 

***

 

Chapter Twenty Nine: Almost Executed

I don’t know how long I had been sleeping when I was awakened by loud noises and realized we had reached Mahshahr Hospital. The van stopped before an old brick building. People brought a stretcher and placed me on it. Then two well-built men lifted the stretcher and whisked me off to the operating room. They made Zeynab and Leila wait outside the door. I could hear Zeynab saying, “You’re in God’s hands now, love. Let them remove the shrapnel so you’ll get better.”

Everyone wore green in the operating room. Large lamps lit the room from above. A nurse threw a gown on me and said, “They’re going to examine you here and decide about operating.”

She introduced the neurosurgeon, the orthopedist, and the general surgeon. While they cleaned the wound, the doctors conferred about the x-rays taken at the birthing center and the Oil Company Hospital in Khorramshahr.

Afterwards they examined my legs by inserting needles in my knees, my calves, and the bottom of my feet. There was no pain, but I did feel a tingling where they inserted the needles. I felt nothing in other places. The toes on my right foot had no feeling, and it felt like the rest of the foot was asleep. They bandaged the wound. The leader of the surgical team said, “The shrapnel wound is tiny but in a very critical place. It would be better to send you to one of the big cities—somewhere like Tehran or Shiraz.”

He asked me to describe my condition at the time the shrapnel hit and the days leading up to it. I told him about my problem urinating and my legs. The team spoke among themselves, using a lot of technical terms so I couldn’t understand much. The only thing I did get was that the operation would be very tricky. After they had finished, I asked the doctor “Am I going to get better?”

Sensing my fear, he said, “God willing, you’ll be fine soon. But you’ll have to go to another doctor for examination. We can’t operate on you here because the shrapnel is lodged very close to the spine. Whether to operate or not has to be decided elsewhere.”

It was 2:00 p.m. when they brought me from the operating room. The people waiting for me outside escorted the stretcher to the ward. Entering, I saw it was wall-to-wall beds with a wounded person on each. There was no room for my stretcher, so they placed it on the floor. My friends stood around it. Not seeing Zeynab among them, I figured she had gone back to Khorramshahr. After about a quarter of an hour, I heard the voice of Uncle Nad Ali’s wife say, “Nadi, she’s over here.”

As they came toward me, I don’t know what made me get so choked up. I kissed them. Uncle’s wife, visibly upset, said, “Girl, what made you do this? Why didn’t you come here with your mother? Do you think this horrible thing that happened to you is good? For God’s sake, hasn’t your mother suffered enough? Her heart is already shattered.

How’s she going to feel when she sees you like this?”

Uncle also seemed very depressed and couldn’t speak. His wife asked about conditions in Khorramshahr. “The radio says nothing,” she explained. “How far have the Iraqis gotten and…?”

We were busy talking when mother suddenly came through the door, spotting me immediately. My heart sank. A strange fear gripped me. I thought she’d ask about Ali.

What would I tell her? I prayed and prayed she wouldn’t ask. I wondered: Who told her I was here? I didn’t want her to know I had been wounded.

Seeing me like this, I worried she wouldn’t let me return to Khorramshahr. I also missed her and wished no one else had been around so I could throw myself in her arms and let the tears flow. I wanted to tell her about what I had endured and about every moment I was with Ali—from the time I picked him up from the hospital to his burial. It would have been good to get if off my chest, to lighten the agony I felt in my soul, but I didn’t say a thing. I said nothing even to Uncle Nad Ali, who kept asking about Ali.

Mother held and kissed me as if I were a little girl again. I had grown up quickly, but mother, who always had young children to care for, didn’t have time to pay much attention to me. But that time I was sick, she paid more attention to me and hugged me. I enjoyed being in her arms so much I never wanted to get better. But it was different now. The fear she would stop me from returning to the city tore at my insides. “Who said I was here? How did you know?” I asked sharply.

No one spoke. I asked her directly, “How did you find out? Who told you to come?”

Suddenly I heard Zeynab’s voice. “The very idea! This is your mother! She’s got to know what’s happened to her own child!”

“What’s happened?!” I asked. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m doing better than all of you.”

Zeynab laughed and said, “Yeah right, you who can’t walk without us holding you up. You’re okay, all right.”

Mother said irately, “You little brat! You’re an orphan all of a sudden? When did you get so independent? Did you think I was totally in the dark? I grilled anybody coming from Khorramshahr about you. I asked: Have you seen my child? But you never asked about me. You’ve all made me sick to my heart: your father, Ali, and now you! How much grief can a person stand?”

When she mentioned Ali, I tried to lighten the mood and began to laugh. This only made her angrier. She said, “Look! Look at her. She’s giggling like it’s her wedding day!”

Then she broke into tears. I felt sorry for her and said, “Mother, why are you crying? There’s nothing the matter with me. I was hit by a little piece of shrapnel. I’ll be better in a day or two, and I’ll go back to Khorramshahr.”

Hearing I intended to go back was infuriating to her. In tears, she said, “I swear to God. If you set one foot out of here, I’ll break both your legs!”

Uncle tried to calm her, but Zeynab piped up, “Have no fears about the ones in this ward—heroes every one of them. They’ve done it all. This one you see on the stretcher can move mountains if she wants. Good God Almighty! She’s so fine, so noble, it’s a wonder we can stand it. Don’t worry on her account.”

Mother’s mood changed after hearing that. Now she apparently realized that I was hurt badly and she should stop arguing. She sat down on the bed and, cradling my head in her arms, kissed me. “You said she was wounded in the arm,” she said to the people around me. “Why is she on her back like that?”

“There’s a piece of shrapnel near her spine,” they said.

Fighting back the tears, she asked me, “What have you done to yourself?! God, let me die now! What if you’re paralyzed and have to spend the rest of your life cooped up in some corner. What am I supposed to do, then?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “You know me. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“Yeah,” she said sarcastically. “You lead such a charmed life; nothing bad’s ever happened to you.”

Then mother got up and hugged Leila, showering her with affection. As she kissed Leila, who hadn’t stopped crying since her arrival, she kept saying, “God strike me dead! Look how skinny you are. Didn’t they give you anything to eat? You’ve slimmed down to nothing!”

Mother herself had also become quite thin, having lost ten or fifteen kilos. She was no longer the spirited and merry mother of old. Although she had quarreled with me, she now was very hushed and calm, and a great sadness rippled across her features. She put up a show of behaving normally, but the pain and weariness in her eyes betrayed her true feelings. I sensed she was much more emotional and quick to anger than before, otherwise she wouldn’t have lost control like that in front of others. Ashamed to look at her, I kept my eyes on Leila. Although I had instructed Leila several times not to say anything about Ali’s martyrdom until the whole family had gathered, I was afraid she’d let it slip out.

With the arrival of Mr. Bahramzadeh and his wife, the situation improved. Mother stopped crying. Mr. Bahramzadeh was an amazing man. The respect he showed me for what I had done was embarrassing. After asking how I felt, he went with uncle to consult with the doctors. They said I had to be evacuated to another hospital, but there were no flights until, perhaps, that night.

The pandemonium at my bedside did not keep me from getting very drowsy. The sedatives they gave me were having an effect, but I couldn’t sleep with mother and the others there. I asked her, “What’s happening with the children’s education?”

She said, “Nothing. The schools are closed. They’re bombing here also.”

Then she asked, “Zahra, why didn’t Ali come with you? Doesn’t he know you’re wounded?”

Not sure what to say, I hesitated until Zeynab came to my rescue, “Don’t worry, Ali’s in a place better and more comfortable than the one we’re in.” I thanked her with a look, but the idea mother might catch on made me panic. I quickly asked uncle something and spoke with his wife, all in the hope of distracting mother. Soon a nurse came and requested all visitors leave the ward. Everybody but mother left. She wanted to stay, but Zeynab was able to get her to leave. “Why stay?” she asked. “There’s nothing for you to do. If it’s necessary for someone to stay, I’m ready to look after her. But you see they’re not permitting anyone to remain.”

Mother went, leaving me alone with Zeynab. About to go, she started kidding me, “You picked up so many wounded and delivered them to the hospitals, the poor things started to yowl, demanding you do something for them at the clinic. But you didn’t and look where it’s gotten you—stuck in a hospital yourself.”

“I made a stupid mistake,” I said, “and I’ll never do it again. I told them they had to go to the hospital.”

“How come you can’t fall asleep?” she asked. “Don’t you know any lullabies? With everybody telling you to stay in the hospital, you still won’t listen!”

“Lay off, woman, will you!” I said. “Now what are you going to do? Stay or go?”

“They won’t let me stay, otherwise I would. I’ll go back to Khorramshahr.”

Then she asked, “Zahra, how long are you going to keep your mother in the dark about Ali?”

I said, “For now I am not saying anything. Later on, God knows.

I’ve got to get back on my feet.”

“I feel so sorry for your mother. It’s like she had a premonition. On the way here, she constantly asked about Ali and made me swear to tell her if anything had happened. If I wasn’t going to tell her, she asked me to take her to Khorramshahr so she could find out for herself.”

“What did you tell her?” I asked.

“Thank God, I told her nothing bad happened, and whatever it was it wasn’t serious. But, Zahra, believe me it was impossible to be with her for that hour or two, she asked so many questions. God help you. What are you going to do?”

I shook my head and said, “I don’t know.”

“Fine. If there’s nothing else you need, I’ll go now because I won’t find a ride later. Any messages I can relay to your friends?”

I fought back the tears again, and Zeynab started kissing me. I began to cry and Zeynab said, “I’m off. Who knows when we’ll see each other again.”

Then she laughed and said, “Maybe I’ll go and get martyred, but, imagine, me a martyr! Maybe all those martyrs we buried will intercede for me, and God will forgive all my sins and admit me to His court.”

 

To be continued …

 



 
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