Monday, November 4, 2013

Losing Oma

I got that dreaded call -  or rather, a text - from my mom in the wee hours this morning (though I suppose at the time I'm writing this post, it's still the wee hours).

My maternal grandmother, Oma, passed away at 1:13 CST today, Monday, November 4, 2013.

She hadn't been well physically for quite some time. She (and the rest of us) had been greatly robbed of her memory by Alzheimer's. It was not an unexpected death. But it is a significant one; there is never anyone quite like one's grandmother.

I was lucky to have my grandmother until the week before my 43rd birthday.

She was the woman who would do anything for me. ANYTHING. She would've fought off a wolverine with her bare hands to protect me (if that situation had presented itself, of course).

There was nothing better than her grandchildren. We were better than all the Olympic gold medals combined. Better than all the riches in the world. Nothing made her happier than her grandchildren. Nothing.

She has always been a constant in my life. I could always count on her for certain things. Riding the Dumbo ride at Disney Land (or the helicopter ride or haunted house at Western Playland) when I was very young. Her homemade beans, tacos, and rice. I've never had any better than hers (and had, as a matter of fact, craved HER tacos and beans when I was pregnant hundreds of miles away from her home in El Paso, TX, when I was  in the Air Force, stationed near Concord, MA). Occasionally having an "ice cream soda" with her (she loved having those - vanilla ice cream with Coke poured over it), or a Klondike Bar. Going to a movie or play. Heading to Mesilla, NM for a day trip (it was only about a 45 minute drive from El Paso). Going out to dinner. A birthday card with a check in it. Her slipping me some money on those days I had to head home after visiting her.

Once, while I was a student at Lake Forest College, I had flown out to her house one spring break. We decided to go to a movie at the Cielo Vista Mall's movie theaters. We saw a Julia Roberts movie, Sleeping with the Enemy. It was one of those psychological thrillers about a woman who escapes from her abusive husband. When the movie was over and we left the theater, she said, "I was so tense throughout that whole movie, I now have a horrible headache." I think she ended up making one of her "ice cream sodas" when we got back home. How's that for treating a headache?

Another time, while I was still in the Air Force and stationed in Tucson, AZ (probably in the summer of 2000), I had a 4-day weekend coming up. It was an easy drive from Tucson to El Paso. I called her and told her I'd be at her house for my long weekend. I think I'd had both Friday and Monday off, so I was planning on leaving early Friday morning, expecting to arrive at her house around mid-morning.

However, I unexpectedly ended up having wrapped up my duty day much earlier than expected on Thursday afternoon. So I quickly headed back to my apartment, changed out of my uniform, grabbed my overnight bag, stopped at the gas station, and headed to El Paso. Since it ended up being kinda late (around 9-10 PM) when I got into El Paso and they weren't expecting me until the next morning, I headed to Ft. Bliss and checking into their lodging facility for the night. I hadn't wanted to worry my grandparents by ringing the doorbell that late at night, as I knew they'd both be in bed.

The next morning, I got up, showered quickly and headed over. It was about breakfast time. I pulled into the driveway, rang the doorbell, and heard Oma asking my grandfather who it could be. When she answered the door (my grandfather rolling up behind her in his wheelchair), she was really surprised, but incredibly happy. She hadn't been expecting me 'til closer to lunchtime. Just the smell of her house at breakfast time was "home"enough for me. But she had pulled me in the doorway and squeezed me as hard as she could before ushering me to the breakfast table.

That was a fun memory of surprising her.

Know what she did to help me one night? I may have told this story here before, but I'll tell it again, briefly. While I was stationed in Alamogordo, NM, when Livie was just a baby and Andrew was deployed to the Middle East, Livie and I spent Labor Day weekend at Oma's house.

Livie ended up coming down with the coxsackie virus - hand/foot/mouth disease, as it's commonly known. She had little blisters inside her mouth and on her feet. She wasn't nursing or taking a bottle because her mouth hurt. Well, I was worried she'd become dehydrated, so in the middle of the night, Oma went with me that rainy night when I took Livie to the hospital at Ft. Bliss.

Livie hadn't quite been herself during the day, and had become increasingly fussy throughout the night, refusing to be nursed and refusing a bottle, which is what prompted the visit to the hospital. However, when the doc came into the exam room, Livie, wide awake at 2 AM, looked at him and smiled. (By the way, there was nothing we could do but wait out the virus. The doc recommended we get those pedia-pops because the cold "popsicle" would soothe her mouth.)

When I walked into the waiting room to get Oma after the doc saw Livie, I told her that Liv had smiled at the doc. Oma couldn't do anything other than smile, shake her head, and say, "Ay, Olivia!"

But the thing Oma gave me that night - since Livie was too uncomfortable to sleep unless being held, Oma took her and sat in the rocking chair in the guest room, rocking her and telling me to get some sleep. She sat with Liv in the rocking chair until dawn!

And then there was the time we were in Chicago in 2009 for my niece's baptism. One evening, we had all decided to go out to dinner. We ended up at Ruth's Chris steakhouse. That was one of the best steaks I'd had in a long while.

Oma ended up footing the bill. And it was a large bill, because there were a lot of us family members at that meal. Andrew, my Uncle Hector, and I walked away nearly speechless at Oma's generosity; we didn't talk about it in voices above whispers, we were so surprised and thankful.

Of course, one of Livie's favorite memories is taking Oma for frozen yogurt. You see, Oma always had a sweet tooth. She once told Livie that she doesn't have a sweet tooth "because all of them are sweet." The last time we'd taken her for frozen yogurt was a few of months ago, probably during the summer while we were visiting her at my parents' house. The local frozen yogurt place had coconut flavored frozen yogurt that day. Oma LOVED coconut. So, since it was a self-serve place (where they weigh your cup and you pay by the ounce), Livie helped me fill a cup with the coconut flavored "fro-yo," topping it with caramel (another of Oma's favorites), then adding plenty of shaved coconut and cashews. Liv and I had called the creation "the Three Cs" for coconut, caramel, and cashews.

Oma couldn't get enough. She lamented that she should've skipped dinner so she could have two servings of that delicious sundae. She had never had anything she'd enjoyed so much. After every bite, she would exclaim, "Boy, that's good!" When she had finished, she'd said that was a big disappointment - it was gone.

She talked about that sundae the rest of the evening, and surprisingly (due to the Alzheimer's which caused her to forget certain things within just minutes) she talked about that sundae the next day!

Oh, Oma. There are so many good stories to tell. Stories I'll have to tell Livie, so that Oma's memory lives on. Stories I'll tell Livie to take a little bit of the sting out of the loss of her great-grandmother.

Oma, it was time for you to go, but it had to be. You are greatly missed.


Little Merry Sunshine said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of Oma. She was obviously a great lady with a heart of gold. She'll always be with you.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your Oma. I have so enjoyed the stories you have shared of her here. (((((Hugs)))))

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