SRNA Care Socks: Remembering His Sitte

By Sandy Siegel, President and Founder of SRNA

Nancy and I went with our family to a farm to pick apples and pumpkins for Halloween. On a cloudy and cool fall Sunday morning, we drove out to the farm about a half hour from home. We drove separately to keep social distance, and we wore masks in the apple orchard and pumpkin fields. We are grateful to be with family, even if we can’t hug them.

As we got out of our cars and headed toward the orchard, I noticed that Leo had on his care socks. If you aren’t familiar with the socks, SRNA created these as an awareness and fundraising program in 2018. Everyone in my family has care socks.

Our grandchildren called Pauline, Sitte. This is Lebanese for grandmother. Of all the grandchildren, Leo was closest to his Sitte, and he has the most vivid memories of her. Stella has memories, but she was very young when Pauline died.

We spent so much more time with Leo and Stella than with our grandsons in Cleveland. We used to live less than a five-minute drive from them. They moved, and now it is a ten-minute drive. We regularly watched the kids for David and Kat. Pauline spent hours playing with the kids on the floor, reading to them, giving them baths, and giving them meals.

Leo was keenly aware that his Sitte was different. It broke her heart that she couldn’t walk around the house holding them and wasn’t able to dance with them. Sitte loved to dance. They understood that Kazu wasn’t just a dog, like their Luchiana. They saw Kazu pick up things for their Sitte off the floor, open doors, carry things, and get the laundry out of the dryer. They knew that Kazu was a very special kind of dog. When we had the walk-run-and roll awareness events in Columbus, the kids were always there to participate. They understood the work we were doing and why we were doing it.

When we were at the zoo or at a park, their Sitte would ride around on her scooter or was in her wheelchair. Leo and Stella often rode around on their Sitte’s lap. We called her devices, the Sitte-mobiles.

On a beautiful Sunday morning in the summer just before Pauline died, we went to a park near our homes. The kids took off their shoes and waded around in a creek and had such a good time. Their Sitte managed to get into the creek with them. That place is now known in our family as Sitte’s Creek.

Leo is a really sensitive person. He’s very much aware of his Zadie’s sadness. (Zadie is what my grandchildren call me and is Yiddish for grandfather.) I go to the cemetery on holidays and special occasions, and the kids sometimes come with me. They’ve seen their Zadie’s sadness.

Pauline loved being with these kids more than anything in her life. Regardless of how she was feeling, if we were asked to spend time with them, she excitedly accepted every invitation. Sharing the kids became our favorite thing. After Pauline died, being with the kids became difficult for me because her absence was most painful while I was with them. It is easier for me today, but that sadness is always there. The kids can feel it.

When Leo puts on those care socks, he is remembering his Sitte. He is honoring her memory and he is opening his heart to his Zadie; such big thoughts and feelings from a beautiful little boy wearing a pair of special socks.

Her memory should be for a blessing. Ana hubik, Sitte.

If you would like to join Leo in honoring his Sitte’s memory and recognizing the decades of work she did for the Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association, you can make a donation to SRNA and receive a pair of care socks. Doing so is a mitzvah.

Donate $25 or more using this form, and you will receive a pair of care socks as a thank you gift from SRNA! (Valid only in the United States.)