Yesterday, March 29, would have been my grandmother's 90th birthday. Remembering her on this day, I was prompted to write this post and share a recent page I created about my Oma.
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My Oma was the type of lady who expected a thank you note when she gave you a gift. Even in the recent years of email (which she did, eventually, learn to use) and phone calls, she preferred a handwritten note acknowledging your thanks. During my years at college and for almost a decade after that when we lived in different states, these notes were one of the few contacts I had with her. I often thought she sent me little packages just so I'd be obligated to write back, because like most twenty-somethings, I was preoccupied with my plans for an independent life, and presumably guilty of taking for granted family ties in this season of self-centeredness.
When we moved back to Colorado in 2004 and were living a mere 30 minutes from her house, I kind of assumed that Oma's expectations of thank-you cards might lessen. After all, I was often in her company when receiving these gifts, and wasn't an in-person thank-you the best kind of all? And she did relent a bit in the note department, but that reprieve was countered by her all too often reminding me that I did, in fact, live only 30 minutes away, and didn't I want to come visit? Often? And so I did. We'd meet at JoAnn's and she'd have me pick out fabric for a dress she wanted to sew for Riely. We'd plan lunch at Chipotle, where she'd insist that Opa split a burrito with her because they were too large, but she'd eat most of it and he'd let her, so I'd sneak him a brownie for the ride home. We'd plan a shopping outing to the OshKosh outlet store because Hayden needed new jeans and on Tuesdays, Oma could get a 20% senior citizen discount. (She was famous for her stash of coupons and extensive knowledge on exactly which stores had senior citizen discounts!)
Those visits (and countless others) make up my many memories of her. And looking back now, I can see that what Oma really wanted from me was not the thank-you note. It was to be remembered. A few months before her death, I was sitting with her in her sewing room and she told me the story behind a painting hanging in there. It was a portrait of a woman leaning on a wagon filled with wheat. After obviously spending a long day working in the field, she is reclined and laying her head on her arm, looking fatigued, but with the glimmer of a smile on her face. The painting was given to Oma by her aunt, who told her that this woman is a reminder that life will be hard work, but through that work, you can find immense happiness. It is image that truly captures the spirit of my grandmother - through work and discipline, life brought her amazing blessings and happiness.
That painting is now in my kitchen and I am reminded of Oma each time I see it. There are rarely days that I don't think of her - of her words, her actions, her love for me. I can no longer write her thank you notes for the things she has given me. But it's my thoughts of her, those memories that are recalled every day, that will be a lasting thank-you note to Oma: You're in my heart...you are not forgotten.