Saturday, December 5, 2015
Four years ago today, my children's grandfather, my hero, passed away in Sabrata, Libya. He adored and spoilt all his grandchildren every opportunity he could. Sadly, because of the political situation in Libya and personal circumstances afterwards, my children only knew him for a few years. He was an extraordinary man, and had they known him longer, I know he would have been a major force in their lives, as he has been in mine. When I am around my dear nephew, who adores his Jeddi, I feel sad that my kids missed the opportunity he had, to have known what a great man their grandfather was. But, I remember Jeddi Ibrahim very well, and I will take every opportunity I can to remind my children of him, if they will let me...
I did not grow up with grandparents, but from my children's Libyan Jeddi and Jdeda, I saw the pure love and essence of being a grandparent. I hope with all my heart that my own grandchildren will remember me one day with the love and memory that I remember their great-grandfather.
When we lived in Libya, we always went to the family home in Sabrata on Fridays. All the sons and their wives and children would be there, unless they were out of the country...every Friday, without fail. Jeddi and Jdeda would come out to the car to greet their grandchildren with a million hugs and kisses, and the joy on their faces was priceless and always worth the drive. From that point on, we relenquished our children to them. Their Jeddi would have already raided the shops in town for clothing, toys and special sweets, and their Jdeda, who had spent the whole morning cooking, was just waiting to put her food in their mouths, as if we hadn't fed them all week. We all let them do whatever they wanted, because they were their grandchildren, and because they were the undisputed patriarch and matriarch of the family. It was that simple. No one argued with Jeddi or Jdeda.
Life is simpler in older cultures because of thousands of years of traditions. There are distinct codes of behavior and expectations. Unfortunately, many families in America are conflicted, including those whose parents come from traditional cultures, because they have shunned the old ways to make up their own haphazard new ones. Their concept of being modern and American gets warped in experimental trends du jour, in the process denying and eventually losing their own rich heritage.
When my children went to Sabrata, there were no instructions, rules or orders for their grandparents to follow. Their Jeddi would have laughed and probably scolded me if I had said no chocolate or juices allowed. He loved his grandchildren unconditionally, and I let him, because I loved, trusted and respected him. I hope my children will let me do the same so that my grandchildren can experience and remember the pure love of a grandparent.