Teta is an Arabic word meaning grandmother. I’m a Quincy girl so how did I get the title of Teta? First of all Teta is a name that I called my mother-in-law Salimeh Saleh Dagher. She was grandmother to Fauz, Saleh, Ibrahim, Husn, Regina and Michael. Her parents left Lebanon when she was a young girl and she wanted to stay behind. She made that choice. Her father Saleh moved to Brazil and raised a new family, the famous Daghers of Brazil, one of whom became a general. Her mother Fauz had died in a fire in Egypt when she was working there. Many Lebanese would seek employment overseas as maids and personal assistants to support their families. Salimeh was left to the care of her Uncle Milhem Dagher. My oldest child is named Fauz and my second child is Saleh. I chose to honor this remarkable woman by naming my children after her parents. And I took her son’s name as my middle name. She was a treasure from Lebanon with an amazing intelligence and spiritual knowledge. She was a role model I will always cherish. She loved me too, learning English from a book. She lived with us and taught me how to navigate in a strange and unusual country. She encouraged and supported me in such a loving way.
Her husband was Khalil Milhem Dagher, a stone cutter. Amazing coincidence! my great grandfather was a stone cutter. Khalil traveled all
over Lebanon building bridges of stone. My youngest Michael is a civil engineer, like his great grandfather., and like my dad Gerald Lyons, who had a degree in Engineering. Salimeh raised ten children, eight girls and two sons.My husband Rifaat was the youngest. By far her most famous son was Doctor Ibrahim Khalil Dagher, a world renowned open-heart surgeon who trained in America. Dr. Michael Debakey, an American heart surgeon who was also Lebanese, was one of his friends. Dr Ibrahim then practiced medicine in Lebanon, saving the lives of hundreds and hundreds of common folks and world leaders. He also was respected by all walks of life as great surgeons are in that part of the world. Salimeh raised her children as a single mom, her husband having died young from his habit of smoking. Never smoke, never,ever. She married her daughters to fine gentlemen and brought up two famous and scholarly sons by taking in ironing. My husband taught me how to iron. They were poor and food was scarce. During World War II many in their tiny village of Majdalouna, Chouf died of starvation. My son hunted for what meat they had, and she grew food and used it wisely. I have tried to learn from her the kitchen magic she did. My children love her chicken and rice. But she taught her children and by scholarships they earned they were able to go to fine schools and eventually American University of Beirut all through the generosity of American Presbyterians who established the great American University in Beirut. And because of their great success, Brahim and Rifaat were able to continue their great educations in the United States. So I am proud to be called Teta by all my grandchildren and in doing so I take the role of grandmother and I honor the wonderful Salimeh.