I wrote this shortly after my Oma died on April 6th of this year. I read it at her services in May. There's so much more that I wanted to say, so much more that I felt. But I don't think you can ever really capture the entire scope of someone's affect on your life, or their life in general.... right?
The year was 1987. I was 8, my brother Rick was 5, and we were quite possibly the only people under 30 who watched reruns of the 1950’s TV show “Dragnet”. Dad was a big Nick at Nite fan, so we were forced to watch reruns of shows like “I Love Lucy”, “I Dream of Jeanie”, & “The Dick Van Dyke” show. I’m pretty sure we complained more than once about being subjected to the horror that was black and white television. It was that year though, that Tom Hanks, and Dan Akroyd took to the big screen as Detective Pep Streebek, and Sgt. Joe Friday, in a movie version of “Dragnet”. I can remember standing outside the theater on Silver Springs Blvd, with Rick and Oma, looking at the movie posters, and deciding we were going to see the movie remake of “Dragnet”. I remember sitting about 2/3rds of the way back in the theater, Oma sandwiched between Rick and I. The theater had just a few other movie-goers scattered about, which was surprising as it was mid-June, and one would think that it would be full of parents, grandparents, and kids, like us, desperately trying to avoid the summer heat.
The lights go down, and the movie begins. We sit & watch as Dan Akroyd plays the part of our Sgt. Joe Friday. Now, having seen the movie as an adult, I know that there were some innuendos, and vulgar remarks that flew right over my little 8 year old head, as well as Rick’s, but Oma had to have known what was coming. Friday, and his sidekick Streebek, walk into a strip club, and front & center screen is a topless dancer, wearing star shaped covers on her breasts. Before I could even process what we were seeing, my innocent little 5 year old brother flies up out of his seat, and yells “OMA! LOOK SHE’S GOT STARS!”. Oma never flinched; I of course, taking after my dad, was mortified. I yell at Rick to sit down, and can’t believe that it all just happened.
Back then I was totally embarrassed. Now, it’s one of my favorite stories to tell of our times with Oma. Believe it or not, I found myself in a worse situation with her when I turned 18, and she & Aunt Susan treated me to a movie, where I picked to see “American Beauty”. If you aren’t familiar with the movie, let me just tell you… I was embarrassed to be seen in public watching the movie, let alone watch it with my grandmother. She of course, took it in stride.
But that’s what was so great about Oma. Nothing really about her was ordinary or traditional. Some grandmother’s bake you cookies, and read you books, she rented convertibles and drove fast with the top down, and always made you eat something green with every meal. I can’t tell you how many leaves of romaine lettuce I gagged through eating dinner at her house, but I can tell you that lemon pepper doesn’t mask the bitterness, greek seasoning does, and Oma’s chocolate stash is always worth getting down the green stuff for. Oma loved her sweets, and she was always ready to share. Rick and I were fortunate to suffer through many of those kinds of green-laden dinners with Oma throughout the years, with both mom and dad working night shifts.
If I had to pick a word to describe Oma, it would have to be extraordinary. She was easily the first person I ever found myself fascinated with. She kept little gemstone crystals on her nightstand, and rubbed apricot cuticle cream on her fingers every night. She had a bottle of regular Listerine in the front seat of her car at all times, and I don’t think she knew the radio went had an FM, because it never switched from AM, and it was ALWAYS playing opera music. She taught Rick & I how to play rummy, and then spent hours playing with us on her back porch when we were kids. She took a photography class at the community college, and took a picture of Rick, Mikey, Stevie, Lisa & I jumping into a pool, It is, to this day, my most favorite picture of my childhood. The point is, she was just the kind of grandmother who never stopped surprising you as a kid, and also one that wasn’t afraid to call you on your crap.
And her heart. I sometimes wonder if her heart didn’t give out, from the sheer amount of love she carried around in it. The love for her family, present and gone, love of music, love of chocolate, love of Seminole football, love of children, love of animals, love of charities, love of McDonald’s Frappe’s, love of nature, love of watermelon, love of angels, love of hope, love of love, love of chocolate… yes that’s chocolate twice, but if you knew Oma, you knew the love of chocolate was a BIG LOVE. Godiva, Russell Stovers, Hershey’s, it mattered not to her if it was the gourmet stuff, or the drugstore variety.
I think that’s the most important thing Oma instilled in me. Not just in chocolate, but in people. That people are people no matter their race, gender, upbringing, or perceived handicap. She always routed for the underdog, always made it her duty to lift them up. To fight for them. To SEE them, and let them know that they were SEEN.
And I say all this because somewhere out there, she is listening, and I want her to know that she was SEEN. I saw her. I loved her. She was my Oma.