As “Griefland’s”official pub date hit a few months ago, Nancy and I sat quietly in my living room, eating moistened lahvosh bread and string cheese, one of our favorite pastimes during this past year as we approached the completion of our book-writing journey.
“What was your grandmother like,” she queried me one night after her three younger siblings had fallen fast asleep. Priding herself as the night owl of the foursome, I acknowledged her prowess as we took turns reading passages from Dr. Seuss, Fancy Nancy, and Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree, the latest favorite in her collection.
Forty Easters ago, I woke up on foreign soil with a blurred vision that scared the daylights out of me. I was twenty years old at the time, a young woman studying abroad, searching for self amid the seductive Athenian ruins of Greece. I had flown from Paris to Athens on a whim that April – it was the closest place imaginable to experience the sights, sounds and aromas of home. Distanced from California and family, I yearned for a taste of my former life – shish kebab, paklava, all the delicious foods and ethnic rhythms encompassing my Armenian culture and symbolic of home.
The news came out of nowhere. Fantasizing he was the kind of man who might defy the odds, I had imagined him living forever, personifying Saroyan’s famed words, “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.” I wanted him to be the exception. The unexpected sight of his name in a Fresno Bee headline – cradled between the front page and A7 caused a sip of early morning coffee to spill uncontrollably from my mouth, nearly drowning the story announcing his death. The headline read: Setrakian, friend of Saroyan, dies. Reeling, my mind created a run-on sentence, one much too long by any journalistic standard. I whispered in silence that he was my friend, too.