I will be featuring Byron-related items here. Dr, Byron Lambros David was my beloved Uncle, who died after a long illness on December 23rd 2003.
On Friday, December 8, 2006 there will be the dedication of the BYRON DAVID CLASSROOM at Baruch College. It is at Baruch College, Vertical Campus, 9th Floor, Room 165 (in NYC of course.) May many future students be inspired by his journey!
The following was read to us by Jim Shapiro in the pouring rain at Byron's grave on the first anniversary of his death (Dec 2004.)
I can’t find Byron in this world of ours any longer.
Byron has disappeared.
He has done his work, lived his life, faced his death, was washed and laid in a box and buried beneath our feet. We did all our best to delay his going and in his crabby and heroic fortitude Byron kept breathing until he could breathe no more.
The one thing I fault Byron for is that he left the party too early and it hasn’t been the same since.
Every time I am in our kitchen making a meal there is the sound of Byron’s politely eager, questioning “hello?" and his cheerful face turning the corner. Byron never turned down the offer of a meal, a glass of wine or a chance to play Scrabble.
I recently reread the Odyssey. In the world of the ancient Greeks they were constantly pouring libations into the earth to honor dead warriors.
I don’t know if Byron would have approved of such a reckless use of Merlot. But it’s hard to bicycle with the weekend warriors and not hear his name.
“Excuse me," I want to say, “but Byron is missing. Don’t you see that?"
The ancients knew better. They simply took fate, they accepted the snapped thread of life and they grieved as long as memory endured.
Byron had a gift for friendship. He had a knack, a way to protect his friends, a way to appreciate whatever you offered. Byron’s good nature brought out the good nature in others.
So we have to honor Byron this afternoon at the end of the first year of his new absence. The door will not open again. His distinctive voice is not to be heard. Byron has transmitted himself to us and lives on in a very different way than before. In the party that follows we will pay attention to each other differently and better because he was once among us, once ours. In this painful new paradox our missing host becomes our beloved guest.
To take a human shape is to surround yourself with everything that is not you. Then with death that smaller you goes away, changes form, and all that was not someone is all that remains. Except the world still holds you, just differently. Silence is fuller; emptiness vibrates differently.
Until each of us dies, we carry Byron forward. It’s not as good as it was but at least we will never lose Byron again.
Farewell Byron. Greetings, Byron.
Meanwhile: The right of return to a lost home
By Byron L. David (IHT)
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
PINE PLAINS, New York: One evening in July 1974, my mother was preparing to spend her first night in her new house in Morphou, a town in the northern part of the then unified Republic of Cyprus. Suddenly one of her sisters burst in: "Thalia, pack a couple of suitcases, the Turks are going to invade." My mother, who died this summer, was never to return to the house.
As Turkey invaded the northern part of Cyprus, nearly all of the Greek Cypriots fled south, and the Turkish Cypriots north. The Turkish Army quickly secured almost 40 percent of the island and has been occupying that land ever since.
This year, for the first time in nearly 30 years, people from the north and south are permitted to cross the Green Line - the military buffer zone - freely on a daily basis. During our visit to Cyprus this summer, my wife and I ventured to the Turkish-occupied north. I was surprised by my reaction to Morphou, a place that played an important role in my childhood, and where I owned, at least on paper, some property that had been in the family for generations.
The 70-year-old Turkish Cypriot woman who has inhabited my mother's house for three decades graciously invited us in for coffee. She explained that she abandoned her properties in the south and had been given our house after an army officer vacated it, shortly after the invasion. I asked if she had come across any family photos left behind by my mother. She replied, "There wasn't a needle left here." The house had been stripped of its carpeting, furniture, cabinets, light fixtures, window frames and door frames.
Morphou only remotely resembled what it had been. There was a lot of dilapidation; empty fields sprouting weeds where there had once been small citrus groves, buildings sporting updated but out-of-character facades. The people in the streets were mostly Turkish-speaking Cypriots.
Compounding my alienation was the desecration - apparently by the Turkish Army - of the Greek Orthodox cemeteries. When we inquired about the precise location of the cemetery where my father was laid to rest in 1966, the elderly Turkish Cypriot man who directed us hung his head as though ashamed when he pointed the way. The cemetery was now three-quarters surrounded by an army base and so severely damaged that one had to walk among the toppled and smashed crosses and stones to know that it was a cemetery. I could not locate my father's plot because the inscribed marble slab over his grave, like those of all the others, was gone.
My lack of emotion made me wonder about the meaning of "ownership" and "right of return." Ownership means more than a government document. It has to do with a person's feelings about a place. For me, the soul of Morphou was gone. While not in the same situation as the 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees, including my mother and most of my closest relatives, my first language was Greek; I attended elementary school in Morphou, and have frequently visited the island for periods of up to two years. Now I felt that I was in a totally foreign place.
I now understood the refusal of my mother and many of my cousins to visit their old homes. What could they hope to find? Even the Turkish Cypriot woman in my mother's house dreaded the prospect of a political settlement that would take her back to her original property. She was 70; she had lived most of her adult life in my mother's house and did not want to move next to strangers.
Are people in other countries who have been displaced for many more decades even less likely to have feelings defining ownership? Certainly, other factors play a role. But could it be that, over time, calls for the right of return more likely support political ambitions than the needs of refugees? Would not a focus on recognition and compensation be more suitable?
It was heartening during one of our visits to the north to have a lively discussion with a couple of young Turkish Cypriots who vehemently proclaimed, "We're not 'Turkish' Cypriots; we're 'Cypriots'!"
The writer is an assistant professor of economics at the City College of New York.