Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rest in Peace, Oma

This is not an easy post to write.  The woman who I affectionately call Oma (grandmother in Dutch), passed away on Friday.  She was 93 years old.  I wish every single one of you reading this could've met her, because she was amazing.  Here are some of the things I will miss about her, but will never forget:

  • Her meals made my mouth water.  Meatloaf, cauliflower, Zuurvlees (sour meat), rabbit, homemade french fries, jimmy cake, strawberry cake, pies, waffle cookies, etc.  I always looked forward to eating at her house because she was an awesome cook.
  • Her bluntness made me laugh.  Dutch people have a reputation for saying what's on their mind, sometimes without tact, and she was no exception. "You have a big pimple on your forehead." Thanks, Oma!
  • Her generosity led to me being able to buy my first car.  She had been saving money to give to me as a high school graduation present, but let me have it early so I could buy a car at 16.
  • Her accent made me smile. There was no question that she wasn't born here originally.  I loved the way she said certain words, and I loved hearing her speak in Dutch.
  • Her go-to phrase when someone mentioned Germans was "Those damn Germans!"  You couldn't help but chuckle when she found a reason to throw that out there.  When a guy in her retirement community heard her accent and asked her if she was German, she got so offended!  There's a bit of a history between the two neighboring countries, so you can kinda see where she's coming from.
  • Having grown up in a time where women went to homemaking school instead of pursuing professions outside the home, she had a conservative view on lots of things, including "alternative" lifestyles.  When speaking of a homosexual person, she would take her right hand and slap her left arm and say they were from "the other side."  I honestly don't know where that tradition of hers started, but it was harmless, and made us laugh.
  • She loved playing "Seven cards."  It was a variation of Rummy, and her and Opa would fill up notepad after notepad with a running score between the two of them. She taught my sisters and I how to play it, and there was rarely a visit with her where we didn't play a few rounds.
  • She always wanted to pay for my (and my sisters') lunch when we went out to eat.  She would also always let me pick out a candy from by the register after lunch, and I usually chose mixed fruit mentos. I can't look at a package of those without thinking of her.
  • She regularly got her hair done.  It was very important to her to look nice and keep a groomed appearance.  Even as she neared the end, and couldn't remember things as well, or get around as easily, she kept her regular appointments at the hair salon at her nursing home.  Two days before she died, when my mom, sisters, and I were visiting her in the hospital, she seemed very lethargic and unresponsive. When she did talk, it was just mumbling, and we couldn't understand her.  She would only open her eyes occasionally, and didn't seem to realize we were talking to her.  We all took turns speaking to her anyway, just in case anything was getting through.  At one point my mom brushed Oma's hair back from her face and said, "Mom, I think we need to get you a shampoo and a perm."  Out of nowhere, my Oma clearly said, "I just got a perm!"  We couldn't help but laugh out loud.  Even in the seemingly hopeless state she was in, she had a lucid moment and her personality shone through.
  • She liked sweets but swore to everyone that she didn't eat them.  She'd always refuse a piece of whatever dessert she made for the rest of the family, but you'd catch her eating a bite later and then saying, "But I never eat sweets."  You weren't fooling anyone, Oma!    
  • She had a very old refrigerator in her garage, like surely from the 70s or 80s, where she would keep the drinks.  I'd always go out there to grab a soda, and I remember having to pull the heavy handle that bent outward, and feeling like the door to the fridge weighed a hundred pounds.
  • She loved her three sons and husband like crazy.  She spoiled them like crazy too!  She'd make the three boys a separate meal at dinnertime, just so they were all happy. Kinda sad to say, but my Opa didn't know how to make himself a sandwich and cup of coffee until he was like 70, because my Oma had always done it for him! (Only reason he learned was because Oma was out shopping or playing bridge later than usual one day, and she came home to find Opa fuming.  I believe his words were, "I could've starved!"  Having been in America for quite some time by then, Oma finally put her foot down and taught him how to make his own lunch.  Old people can be so cute).
I think I could go on forever, but I'll finish by saying this.  I'm sad that my son never met his Great Opa (he died 11 years ago).  I'm sad that my son won't remember meeting his Great Oma.  But, there's a reason I gave him the name I did.  I am so incredibly proud of my heritage, and it all came to be because a Dutch couple left behind everything and brought their three sons over to America in search of a better life.  I can't believe that wonderful couple is no longer with us, but their legacy will live on through their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  And my son, Dutch, will be a constant reminder of where I came from.  Rest in peace, Oma.  Thank you for everything. 


lyndsay said...

So sorry to hear about your Oma...but I love the post and the memories you have with her. Her legacy will live on! So glad you have the pictures of her with Dutch. Sweet pictures!

Unknown said...

I'm so grateful that you have so many wonderful memories of your Oma. In the years that follow, as we miss them and think back on them, it is so much easier to have memories that we can think on fondly.

Thinking about you and the family. Love you!

hilda dada said...
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JoMama said...

Great memories. By the way, did you know I have that old turquoise fridge in storage? It doesn't work and I don't have a place for it in the house anyway, but I can't bear to part with it!