Tuesday, March 13, 2012

To the Woman I want to be

My paternal Oma and Opa on their wedding day
Dear Oma,

I tried really really really hard to find a picture of just you and me. But Johnny and/or Amanda seem to be in ALL of them. I can think of two, one from my wedding day and one from many many year ago. It's in your backyard and I'm about 2ish and I'm not wearing any pants because I'm potty training. Yeah no digital copy of that picture exists...thank goodness. At first I was frustrated and I thought Oma would totally sympathize, "she's a twin" I thought, "I'm sure her brother John was in lots of picture with her so she'll totally know my frustration." Then I realized the absence of lots of picture of just you and I speaks so specifically to the kind of person you are I was suddenly okay with it. You always want to treat all your grandchildren the same. If one got something you mailed that exact something to the others. Therefore, why would you play favourites in pictures? That and you're a sensible woman and you know it would take forever because there are so many of us so we might as well all pile in for pictures.

On this the occasion of your 85th birthday I can't help but feel overwhelmed with a strange combination of joy and fear. Joy that you've made it this far. You're a tough old broad. Fear that your long amazing journey is almost over. (This is at which point Oma I would usually use the f-word about cancer but even though you're 85, 7000 km away and very sick I'm fairly sure you'd figure out a way to yell at me for swearing.)

My favourite picture of my Oma
A mere 11 years after women in Manitoba became the first women in Canada to have the right to vote and hold political office you were born. You marched to the beat of your own drum long before it was an encouraged practice for ANYONE let alone women. You went to school including one year of University when it wasn't something a lot of women did. You waited until your mid-20s to get married and even then you made it more than a little difficult for Opa. I still maintain that, "Martha, we're not getting any younger" is the BEST marriage proposal in the history of all marriage proposals. You laughed in the face of your stroke and accepted your cancer diagnosis with dignity and grace but refuse to let either slow you down entirely. Just this morning as John was getting ready for work he commented to me how unstoppable you are. Unflappable, unsinkable, undeterred. Everything I want to be when I grow up.

The day in January I found out your cancer diagnosis I crumbled to the floor and wailed at Johnathan. I cried and sobbed and gasped for air and went far beyond the ugly cry. I looked at him in desperation and said, "...but she was suppose to live forever." And I continued to fall apart in his arms. Cancer has ripped through our family but for whatever reason I thought in the deepest parts of my heart some how you would be immune. Because of who you are and your very character that cancer would take one look at one and think, "nope, not going there, she's going to kick my ass." For the most part you are showing the cancer whose boss but, eventually you just won't have it in you anymore. Not because you will give up. No. But because you're tired and you're 85 so you're allowed to be tired now.

My dads first Christmas
I've asked John many times what am I going to do without you. What am I going to do without the only woman aside from my mother who can tell my dad he's wrong? What am I going to do without the woman who when she met my best friend immediately decided she was good people and adopted her as a grandchild because she could? What am I going to do without the woman who INSISTED on hugging my father in law at my wedding to much laughing by my mother in law? What am I going to do without the woman who loved roller derby and loved that I am Jam Buster? What am I going to do without the woman who says you make perogies by feel not by recipe? What am I going to do without the woman who will actually tell me she doesn't like what I'm wearing? What am I going to do without the only woman, other than his own mother, that can boss my husband around? What am I going to do without the woman once wrote in my birthday card, "cash the cheque right away so I can balance my cheque book."? What am I going to do without the woman who gleefully told me about hiding a deck of cards in the family root cellar? What am I going to do without the woman who parades my brother, her only grandson, through the lobby of her apartment building showing off the young man that came to visit? (Heaven help them when it was my husband AND my brother!!)What am I going to do without the woman who trusted the man she was going to marry so much she let him pick out the flowers for their wedding and she didn't see them until the big day? What am I going to do in a world without you?

The answer is very simple. Very you. Live. As progressive as you are in some ways Oma you are still very "old school" in others. You don't want to inconvenience anyone therefore living my life is the best way to honour your life.

My wedding day
My gift to you on your 85th birthday is a promise to honour your life by living mine. I remember after Opa died you were unbelievable sad but you carried on. You told me it was because you knew Opa was okay. You'd had a dream the night he died that he was standing at the foot of your bed. Young. Tall. Healthy. So handsome. Okay. He was okay. Therefore, you were okay. Sure you admitted living your life without him was sometimes unbearably hard and not a day went by where you didn't think of him but you continued to live your life because that's just what you did. Very casually once over way too much food you said getting out of bed every morning is how you honoured his life. I promise you I will do the same thing. I will get out of bed and live my life. I will write the book we skyped about on Christmas Day. I will make things by feel not by recipe. I will boss John around and I will always cash a cheque the moment I receive it. I will hug everyone upon meeting them and adopt people into my family just because I can. I will over feed people and speak my mind. My world will not end. I promise. It might stop for a little while but I will continue to strive to be unsinkable, unflappable and undeterred.

Now this is the point where I should be wishing you many more trips around the sun. But in all honesty I don't think you have any more left. As much as I want you to live forever, I want to ask you to stay. I know you won't. I know you can't. But, I know there is a handsome young German man waiting for you on the other side when you decide its time to leave.

Hartlik L├╝ckwunsch to dien Gebursdaag!

I love you all the way from Switzerland.

Your news lady,

Tania

PS. I'm sorry I used the word "ass." Please don't find a way to yell at me.
PPS. And Oma, we're doing okay. Pin It Now!

6 comments:

  1. Actually, your Oma was 31 when she married. She took her time choosing ;) She was considered 'on the shelf' She didn't agree.
    PS She once told us to 'quick the damn swearing!' On a Sunday!

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    1. See, she was always cagey with me when I asked about her age when she got married. I got a very broad mid to late 20's. So I guess 31 is "late 20's"

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    2. I agree with you Tania. Strange that someone so independent could still be a little self conscious about age. She still giggled when Mark congratulated her on her "29th" birthday!

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  2. What a sweet homage to your Oma. You come from sturdy stuff. You will be alright. I lost my Dad at a young age, and the funny thing is that whatever time God gives you with loved ones is at the same time never enough, and always enough. Mathematically, that's impossible, but somehow the spirit works it out. Now get writing that book. You have it in you to do it. jo

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  3. What a beautiful letter to your grandmother. I lost my grandmother to cancer this year so I feel for you. Came over from After 9 to 5 this morning. As a newly 31 year old I'm going to embrace your grandmother's suggestion that I'm still in my late 20s :)

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