Tom’s grandmother, affectionately called Oma (German for grandmother, as she hails from Germany), turned 97 in October. By the way, the majority of the females who volunteered to be part of this family (i.e., we married or were adopted into it) have October birthdays, and we October gals are Oma (in by marriage), my sister-in-law Robin (in by marriage), my oldest daughter Kristen (in by adoption), and me (in by marriage). Oma lives in an assisted-living facility in Arizona, and we typically enjoy a birthday visit with her each October, but last year one thing or another kept us busy each and every weekend from October through December, and so our earliest opportunity to go was the first weekend in January. Tom’s parents were also going to see Oma that weekend, and dear Uncle Al would be on hand (he lives near Oma, and, as Oma proudly told us, visits her every Saturday without fail), so we were able to visit with them too. It was with a good deal of trepidation on my part that we put off our October birthday visit, because, well, doesn’t it go without saying that postponing a 97th birthday visit for a few months is risky business?
From what Tom and I observed, at least on the day that we were there (and for that matter during all of our past visits too), that in spite of the loss in her hearing and vision, and being confined to a wheelchair due to a stroke affecting one side of her body, Oma’s still got it going on mentally. Now I think it could be looked at as a double whammy to have your body go and have the presence of mind to know it. Personally, from where I sit today at the age of forty-six, I’m thinking that maybe I’d like to have a hot body right up until the time that my mind goes and then I wouldn’t care what happened from there, but, of course, this strategy will first require me to get a hot body. How I do digress.
We had a very nice visit with Oma, as we usually do. Despite the loss in her hearing, she is remarkably able to keep up her end of conversations. She tells us stories about her days with Hunter, her husband and Tom’s grandfather, who was affectionately called . . . Hunter, by his wife, children and grandchildren. I didn’t have the good fortune to know him, but his professional legacy as a pioneering fluid engineer lives on in his books and the educational films in which he “starred.” His personal legacy lives on, not only in Oma’s heart and stories, but also (if my math is right) in his three children, six grandchildren, and thirteen great-grandchildren (by birth, step, and adoption). Oma leaned toward me to say that she wonders if Hunter is watching all of us from “up there” or whether he went “down there” because he was an atheist. I told her that I personally believe that he’s “up there.” And I do. I refuse to accept that an otherwise good man would be excluded on a technicality. But if I find out that “up there” does not admit atheists per se, then I’m going to opt to go wherever my atheist husband spends his eternity because “up there” wouldn’t be “up there” without Tom. But I’m digressing again.
Oma still has her sense of humor, the sense of humor that the women who were married or adopted into this family must have in order to best survive, er, I mean serve in her role as a volunteer member. After we arrived at Oma’s assisted-living facility and everyone had greeted each other, we all sat down to begin our visit. From her wheelchair, with a clear voice, a warm tone, a German accent, and a twinkle in her eye, Oma looked around at us and then said, “Well, why don’t one of you tell me what’s new with you because not much is different around here.”