Dear Oma, you are my favorite person and I can’t imagine my life without you. All the days that you picked me up from school and fed me sugar-covered strawberries while I watched my favorite cartoon. All the weekends I stayed with you, cooking, and playing with the dogs, making Oma soup, and eating tons of toast with strawberry Smuckers. The summers at the lake and your dark, almost black, tan. Teaching me to drive in your little white Honda. Your laugh and beautiful, sweet, round, cheeks. Your favorite colors of lime green and pink. Laying in bed at Opa’s house and teaching me multiplication and division. The terrible taste of black licorice. Your ironed jeans. The love in your voice. Your blue and white china and your love for sour candy. The familiar smell of your face cream like linden trees in the summer and your gold necklace of the Mother Mary that hung right next to two freckles on your chest. Your home, always tidy and clean. The sound of the second hand spinning on the clock next to your bed. All your knitting needles, your two special fingers, and all of your dirty jokes. Your perfect timing during a conversation when only the “f” word would suffice. Everyone said you had a Dutch accent, but you always just sounded like my Oma to me. The way you were with my boys and how much they love you. The way you counted out loud in Dutch on your fingers één, twee, drie, and how, to me, you knew everything.
How many knitted dish cloths, scarves, and gloves does one girl need?
Your laugh. Your laugh. Your laugh. What will I do without your laugh? I’m so happy for you that you get to go home to see Bob and Jim, your parents, and siblings, and all the pets that you loved so gently. You loved all of us so gently. Your body has done its job and now it’s time to lay it to rest. I promise to take Julien to Holland to see where his Great-Oma rode her bike and made memories as a young girl. I promise to laugh every day from my belly just like you. I promise to fill my hands with a love as deep as yours so that everything and everyone I touch knows they are loved. I promise to take all of the good that I have learned from you and pass it on to whomever will take it. No, you were not perfect but you were perfectly my Oma, and when I am an Oma I want to be just like you.
I want to hang on, I want to go back, I want a million do-overs. I want a cigarette and a stiff drink and maybe even more than a few. I can see why so many cling to their vices because this is a pain that wants to be shut off. But I can’t forget you, so I will welcome the tears and the pain will turn to joy. The clouds will clear and the tulips will greet me with wooden shoes and windmills. There will never be another Oma like you.
“What do you get when a man mixes cement with a fork? A mortar forker!” I’m not sure if this was her favorite joke or if it was the only one she could remember. Nonetheless, we all acted like every time she told it it was the first time we heard it.
We love you, Oma, and we will all see you again someday.