Farouk died almost two weeks ago. The proximate cause was cardiac arrest, brought on by pancreatitis; the underlying, of course, his long-term alcoholism which, just because he could "quit" for weeks or months at a time to produce one of his many and acclaimed translations of Arabic novels into the English (he worked longhand; drinking made his hand shake too much to hold a pen), didn't mean he didn't suffer from. We knew it wasn't good for his health, and yet didn't see this coming. 70 is always too young.

Mom's dining table in Chicago -- in the 4br, 3ba condo overlooking Lake Michagan, now just hers -- was piled with flowers and cards. Students sent quiches; Fred invited himself over and made lentil soup; phone lines and email saturated. Mom & I ran errands around the city on awful errands, to a probate attorney about the will; to the cemetery where the Muslim Community Center had reserved plots and which did Sunday burials; out to an early dinner (respite, despite the too-hipster, loud atmosphere), where I made her try radishes with butter and sea salt -- bitter tops and all, nonetheless a bright spot in the day.

For fuck's sake -- she just sold the house in Madison (in contract at the time and closed last Friday). After 35 years! Suddenly, to find yourself not only fully and solely a resident of Chicago, but sole owner of the spacious condo on Lake Michigan, and heir to the apartment in Cairo with the balcony overlooking the Nile, too. All the transitions at once!

The department, the community, came out in droves. More quiche, flowers, invitations to future dinners. I saw her eyes light up at the mention of colleagues bringing their young children over to play. She was either too sad and/or too tactful to point out that my own ovaries aren't getting any younger, but Ahmed promised me that, when I had children the ages his are now, I could reinherit the books donated from my and my sister's childhood library to his. I'm going to take him up on that.

The day after arriving back in San Francisco, I'd never been so happy to be back at work, even with 18 promotion packets to read before yesterday's committees. It helped, too, to be picked up at the aiport by the smiling J., driven home, absolved from the first day of my oncall shift, and to go read Beethoven fugues with the Symphony Chorus.

I've had at least two dreams that this was all an elaborate prank; I'm sure Mom's are worse. It's an odd thing to say about an atheistic Egyptian, but Christmas this year won't be the same without him.