Here’s a way to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, though I didn’t think of it in that way until I went on Twitter and remembered what day it was….
The 2003 invasion of Iraq brought with it a lot of devastation; as we all know. It also brought with it a lot of emigration, people who had not considered leaving their country before found themselves panicked and packing up for Jordan or Syria. Jordan, particularly, didn’t want them there. They were refugees, unable to work, constantly being hounded to present identification. Their savings were dwindling because it was the only way for them to live, and once that money was gone, it was gone.
European countries like Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands opened their doors. According to a Channel 4 news report a few years ago, Sweden was taking in thousands of Iraqi refugees whilst Britain and the US took in a little over 100 each.
It is of course, essential to note that those who were able to leave were the ones with savings to live on. The ones without are either still there or, I suppose, dead.
Amongst those who found it necessary to cross the border, were an elderly couple and one of their daughters. All pretty healthy at the time, the older two alert and active. Some time after reaching Aman Jordan, as their money fettered away and they awaited to hear whether or not they would find a European home, the older woman who was approaching her eighties had a stroke. Not unusual, I suppose. The healthcare in Jordan however, was not of a particularly high standard. She simply wasn’t seen to properly, whatever rehabilitation she was given was poor and seemingly fruitless. She could no longer speak, and could only make frustrated sounds from her mouth, making desperate gestures in an attempt to be understood. Sometimes all she wanted was some water, or some bread. Her mobility of course, was shot.
It might be that this woman’s fate actually aided the three of them, perhaps this is why they were able to come to the UK, where one of their sons, a doctor, had made a life for himself with his family. They eventually got notice that they were granted refugee status, and their British son did everything he could to get them here as quickly as possible. His mother needed treatment, they needed to feel safe and secure. He told the Red Cross that they needn’t do anything, he would sort everything out - the benefits, whatever they needed. He’d get them a flat, as close as possible to his home. Soon this would all be over.
The older woman, it turned out, would never speak again. She would never really walk again, she would gesture, she would struggle to speak the language she once spoke so freely, and her daughter would do her best to look after her.
The older man, began to suffer too. In Jordan he told extraordinary stories of the way he was targeted in the early years of the Ba’ath regime. His house was ransacked, he was held in prison, questioned and tortured. He had been a teacher, and he always told wonderful stories.
Shortly into his stay at the UK he started to struggle, he couldn’t remember certain words, he would become frustrated at his forgetfulness. He had once been active, always taking walks and being friendly with people in the streets. He did this as much as he could in Jordan. He didn’t do this in England. He was housebound, it seemed.
It all started to roll downhill, the son did what he could to be there for his father, but he was quickly deteriorating. Everything that made this man who he was seemed to be disappearing. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It became too difficult for his daughter, whose daily struggle was keeping her parents in one piece. Her mother would suffer from falls in the bathroom thanks to living in awkward flats were one step might cause a serious injury. With the help of the doctor son, and his wife, they would move house several times, searching desperately for a safe place.
Eventually things began to settle, but it was clear that the older man couldn’t be looked after properly by his daughter. They took him to a home, first just for day visits. He appeared to like it there, he seemed to enjoy the company of new and different people. It was eventually decided he would stay there.
He didn’t enjoy it, though. There was a language barrier not only because he struggled with his speech but because he was Iraqi in an English care home. His son would come to visit him, his son would feel helpless as the situation worsened. It was clear this home wasn’t a very good place. The elderly man’s room was dirty and when his son complained, the nurse would simply tell him that the man refused to let them clean it. The son didn’t buy it.
It got harder and harder for the son to visit his father, he had recently started working in a job which required him to travel around the county. He would have to be in the next town at 7am. He would be tired, and though the work was not too stressful, things weren’t easy for him. He would visit, every now and again, but working on weekends and the lack of regulated time off would make his visits very much irregular.
He visited him last weekend, whilst his daughter was in town. His daughter didn’t go because she knew she would have nothing to say. She knew her grandfather wouldn’t recognise her and she had never been close to any of her extended family, they had never been in the same country as her until recently and it seemed to already be too late. Her father told her that he didn’t recognise him either. His daughter told him that it was sad, her father agreed, it is sad, and seemed to understand. He struggled to go and see his father, too.
Today that same daughter received a phone call from her father. Her grandfather passed away.