Friday, April 17, 2009

Surprising Lazaros

Monday, April 13, 2009

It’s been a week – hard to believe! – and we’ve done very little, which suits us just fine right now. The house is now very clean; that’s one good thing. Another is that the weather so far has been pretty, albeit chilly in the evenings (and probably in the mornings, for all we know). We do not yet leave our doors and windows open all day. We are still tired.

Nothing under the bed.

I walked by the synagogue today, and there’s no sign of any digging going on there, either.

Saturday being Lazarus Saturday, we were resolved to pay a surprise visit to Demetros’ old and dear friend, Lazaros, on his feast day. Lazaros was a very, very poor lad when they were all growing up; so poor he had to depend upon people like Demetrios’ and Christos’ mother to help him, and she was so poor she never knew where the next day’s meal(s) would come from. Demetrios’ mother felt very bad for him and helped him as much as she could.

He used to come by the house and tutor Christos. They were in the same class together, but Lazaros had had his education interrupted by the Communist insurrection and was therefore a couple of years older than Christos. “Just like a teacher!” my mother-in-law used to say of Lazaros. She always wanted to adopt him.

We were having our afternoon rest in preparation for going to surprise Lazaros when our doorbell rang. I opened it to a man I didn’t recognize.

“Kyrios Theodoridis?” he inquired.

“Yes, he’s here,” I said in Greek. “Come in.”

So he did, and Demetrios, lying on the sofa, sat up and rubbed his eyes and exclaimed, “Lazaros! Lazaros, my old friend!” And there were hugs all around.

Christos had called Lazaros to wish him a happy nameday, and had mentioned that we were in town. Lazaros decided to celebrate his name day by coming to see Demetrios – reversing the planned surprise.

We had a little tea and a little treat; then he proposed to take us to his house. It was in easy walking distance, he said. We eagerly agreed.

It is in easy walking distance, too, and when we got there, we found his wife, Voula, her sister, a niece, and a friend, all waiting for him, the celebratory (but Lenten!) food all prepared.

Voula is a wonderful person, just like her husband. She looks 20 years younger than she is, with strawberry blonde (!) hair, twinkling blue eyes and a ready smile. She is very kind, very sweet; we loved one another instantly.

Demetrios says when they were all still children, and Voula was a little girl going to school, Lazaros’ mother told him, “This is who you will marry.” So Lazaros replied, “Yes, Mamma; if that is your choice, I will marry her.” So he did. And both of them now seem enormously pleased with that choice.

Voula speaks three languages (at least). She is from Pontos, in present-day Turkey, so she speaks Turkish as well as Greek. And they both speak German, having lived in Germany for many years. (Work is hard to find in Greece.) That means I can converse with them; hooray!

Voula is very grateful, as is Lazaros, for the care Demetrios’ mother used to give him. Voula still prays for my mother-in-law every day and celebrates her nameday every January 1. That’s more than I do, a lot more. I do not have any good memories of my mother-in-law. My memories are the kind we mean when we pray for deliverance from evil memories. They are the sort best put away and not dragged out into the daylight. But Voula makes me think perhaps I am ready now to do better than just avoiding evil thoughts. The woman has been dead these nine years now, and perhaps the pain of those memories is by now sufficiently blunted that I can at least commemorate her on her nameday, and perhaps begin to pray for her daily. At least that is my feeling, although it is perhaps prideful to suppose I can do that now. (This is the kind of situation in which a spiritual father is indispensible, for giving wise, objective, loving advice.)

Lazaros is still the wonderful person he always was. He is a physical therapist, and now that he is retired, he works for free. He has about 20 patients he helps, and he goes around seeking out others on the street. As many as he can find who need his help and will accept it, receive it.

Voula tells us, though, that he has some “anoia,” dementia, and has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. We certainly couldn’t see any signs of it; his conversation was clear and well-thought-out.

Glory to God for people like these!

We had to leave them when time came to go to Leonidas and Ianna; Kostas and Mena came, too. In the beginning, the conversation was all about Ianna’s breast cancer. The prognosis is good, at least. She asked about my sister, who died from breast cancer. I told here there was a big difference: Barbara, from fear, had postponed having her lump seen by a doctor until it was the size of a tangerine, whereas Ianna’s lump was quite small.

Then, as always happens at our age, the conversation turned to all our other medical problems. I rather felt left out, having nothing current to report for myself! Well, I have a spider bite that has turned my thumb lovely shades of purple and black, but that’s comparatively nothing. And of course the report of my *former problem with arrhythmia, especially the part about having received not one, but FOUR electric shocks for it, that was good for, well, some shock value, but of course that’s all over and done. I’m going to have to develop some new medical condition before I’ll make a good conversationalist.

Leonidas brought out two old photograph albums from the late ‘Fifties and early ‘Sixties. He looks glamorous in all of the pictures, then as now, with his natural good looks, augmented by a carefully manicured goatee and perfect hairdo. Everybody else looks dorky. But the men, especially, had a great time looking at the photographs and remembering and laughing.

The women’s conversation, as usual, then turned to domestic concerns: our children and grandchildren. Now there’s where I have ‘em all beat! Here I reign supreme, having four grandchildren. Ianna has no grandchildren so far, and Mena has only one grandson, although both her daughter and her daughter-in-law are pregnant.

Her daughter, Elpida (which, in English, is Hope) became pregnant just after she and her new husband had bought their new apartment and moved in. Whereupon Elpida’s nose developed a peculiar sensibility; she discovered that the new apartment had a terrible, nauseating smell. In fact, so had her husband. She couldn’t tolerate either one of them. The upshot of it is, they are both living with Mena and Kostas now, and sleeping in separate bedrooms. Mena says every room, including the living room, becomes a bedroom at night. Elpida is depressed and Mena works hard to make her get out of bed and to cheer her up. She is praying this situation will improve once the baby is born. But that won’t be until September, God willing.

We arrived home early – early in the morning, that is, at half past midnight, and were soon asleep. We had big plans for the next day.


Elizabeth said...

I enjoyed reading this so very much !
Thank you for posting it :-)