Saturday, May 13, 2017

Being Sitti

I have been reflecting on the awesome responsibility of being a grandmother. It has been a transition to say the least. And with all transitions there is an adjustment period and an awkward sense of the unknown as well as the anticipation of what is to come and how it will all look once everyone finds their sea legs.

My gracious son and daughter in law let me choose the name I would like to be called by little Boe and it was a quick decision. Like my Sittis before me, I felt that the Arabic name for grandmother was more than appropriate because it speaks of a long history of Lebanese women who wanted nothing more than to cook, feed, and make a cozy home for their families. And even though I had the means and awareness to get a college degree and beyond and have a thriving and rewarding career, I have to admit my first goal when I stepped onto a college campus at 17 years old was to get my MRS degree, have a family, and create a loving home for them.

I was named after my maternal Sitti, Rosa Maloof, and of course like all good Catholic girls, the Blessed Virgin Mary. (My parents must have had high aspirations for me!) I had to do some fact checking with my brothers and as my memory serves me, I only saw my maternal grandmother three times in my entire life. She and my grandfather lived in Atlanta and were not fond of flying. We were a family of eight in California and traveling across the country to see our grandparents was a bit out of the budget. I was able to spend time with them once as a little girl, once as a teenager, and much later when I was 30. When my mother passed away at 61 years old, they did not come out for her funeral. It is still incredulous to me today. I would move heaven and earth to see my children in any state (or state).

My father’s mother, Louise, died in childbirth along with her fifth child. My dad was the oldest and we think (our collective memories) he was about 6 years old when she died. The baby’s name was John and I remember my dad telling me the story- never with a straight face- always with tears running down his cheeks. My brother John was named after my dad’s little brother.

My grandfather sent for a wife from Lebanon (cousins.. can you do some fact checking for me? This is part urban legend passed down through oral history). Her name was Madeleine and she had to quickly adjust to a new country, a new husband, and to my grandfather Thomas’ four children. They went on to have four more children of their own whom my grandmother favored. And she favored their children as well.

With that said, I must confess that I don’t remember having a Sitti who wanted to kiss me and hold me, babysit me and get on the floor and play with me and/or agonize over the next time she might be able to spend time with me.

I write all this not so that you will feel sorry for me. I write it for my own understanding and for my children’s understanding. I write it to rub a salve on a wound that has just recently been exposed as I reflect on my own experience as a grandmother. I write it to help me understand this longing in my heart to be near my new grandson and be a part of his life. I write it because I know I am not alone in this reflection and confession and to open a conversation about the role of a grandmother in a child’s life.

In the song Both Sides Now Joni Mitchell sings “Something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day.” Life is not always easy. Family is not always as Norman Rockwell would illustrate but I believe people try. In the absence of holding me and reading stories to me, my Sittis cooked and cleaned and fed me and I suppose they thought that was enough. But this Sitti wants something different with her grandchildren.

I would love to hear your thoughts on being a grandparent.


2 Responses

  1. I enjoyed reading about your family, Rosemarie. And I love that you will forever and always be Boe’s “Sitti.” Being a grandmother, like being a mom, is such a great joy. The roles are both gifts from God. Neither is easy; I’m still learning about them. Having said that, we’re with our children and grandchildren all the time Each has told us how important it is for us to be in their lives. So, we are! And we love it! It’s been said: “A child needs a grandparent to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world.” I think there’s probably great truth in that statement. I wish I had known my grandparents better. Rich’s mom played a huge role in our kids’ lives. She taught them so much about generosity and love. I barely knew my grandparents and that’s sad. Coincidentally, Rich and I just returned this afternoon from a family gathering celebrating John’s third birthday. Mary and Greg can’t believe he’s three already. Time goes by so fast and we must make every moment count. The whole family — all sixteen of us — were in Pasadena and we had so much fun! Seven children and seven grandchildren make for a certain amount of chaos, but always there is laughter and silliness and love. I’m not sure life is ever any better than these times and Rich and I cherish them so much. Enjoy being a Sitti! Embrace the awkwardness and the learning! Savor the diapers and the spit up! These moments are God’s way of teaching us about heaven! I can only imagine what a wonderful Sitti you are! Every maternal fiber within you threads itself into the shape of a loving heart. It’s the role of a lifetime! You’ve got this, Rosemarie! High five from a friend who loves and admires you.

    • Kathy, I so remember Rich’s mom being such a visible presence in your children’s lives. And my mom as well. I feel so fortunate that my larger family, the Shaheen family, still stays in touch and gets together at least once a year. That is truly a tribute to my parents who were both very devoted to their children and to each other- at least for 25 years. I think there’s a lot of pressure on the first grandchild (as there is on the first child!) because everything is new and different. One thing I know for sure, at this age when I get into a funk I KNOW that it is temporary and that life goes on and joy will come around again and all will be well. I have really “overthought” this role of grandmother and hopefully (fingers crossed) when more little munchkins come along I will feel a little more sure of myself. I love your reflection and I love seeing your beautiful children and their beautiful children on FB and I feel privileged to be a witness to it all. xo

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