Today is my grandma’s funeral. I can’t be present because it’s taking place in Colombia. But I’d like to pay tribute to her in my very own way: By remembering the moments we shared and being happy that she’ll forever be my Oma.
When I think of my grandma I think of flowers, dogs, books and wool. She loved taking care of the flowers in her garden. I remember her walking around with a watering can in the mornings, taking care of her plants. When she and my grandpa still lived in the countryside, they used to have many dogs such as Paco, Pacheco, Firgo and Simón. The latter one was a sausage dog. My grandma loved sausage dogs. The last dog she had was a sausage dog, too. He was called Whisky, named after my grandpa’s favourite drink. Whisky disappeared a few years ago, when my grandma had already moved to the city after my grandpa had passed away. I remember her patting her dogs who would snuggle up on her bed. When my siblings and I were still young, we went to visit every summer. We would also snuggle up next to her in the mornings and she would pat us, too. My grandma wasn’t the most expressive person when it comes to showing her feelings. But I know she was very fond of us.
In the summer of 2007, I got to spend two and a half months at my grandma’s place all by myself. This was the longest period of time I got to see her in a row and this experience brought us closer together. In the mornings, we would have breakfast together, usually arepas or fried eggs. Then each of us would start their separate activities and in the evening we would share our experiences of the day. We would also watch the latest telenovela together or recommend books to each other. My grandma liked to read. There was always a book on her bedside table. And there was wool. When she was at home, her fingers were almost always knitting. She would create little blue, pink, turquoise and white jumpers that she donated to a hospital. They were distributed as part of a welcome-kit to disadvantaged young mothers. My grandma also knit me a scarf in the colours of the Colombian flag. I still have it.
Sometimes we went on errands together. We went to the mall nearby to buy wool or to the local grocery shop. We could talk for hours and never ran out of topics or we would just happily sit next to each other. I remember having bought two pairs of earrings as gifts for my friends. But when I came home and showed them to my granny, I somehow wanted to keep them for myself. “Just keep them“, she said. “You’ll find something else for your friends later.“ One of the things I particularly admire about my grandma is that she didn’t really care about what others thought of her. She just did her thing. I remember a situation in which my mum was all worried about what to offer some visitors we were expecting: “We don’t have anything at home. What could we offer them? Tea? Yes, we could offer them tea.“ To which my grandma replied in a plain voice: “Or we don’t offer them anything.“ I loved it.
My grandma was a strong woman. And a healthy one, too. She recovered from two hip operations within weeks. The doctors couldn’t believe their eyes as they saw her walking just shortly after the intervention. Even when cancer struck her and they said there was no hope, she proved them wrong. She survived. She fought cancer, enduring chemo and radiotherapy, without hardly ever complaining. She aged a lot in the process and was left very weak but she was simply too strong to let go of her life. She fought until the very last second.
The last time I spoke to my grandma I told her about my new job, about my new neighbours, about my life in general. She hardly ever asked me anything because every word she pronounced was painful. Her mouth didn’t produce any saliva anymore. So I just chatted away in a monologue. But whenever I mentioned anything Turkey-related, she would ask me if Turkish was a difficult language to learn. She asked me this question every time we spoke and I was quite happy to share my Turkey experience with her over and over again since everyone else in my surroundings is probably already saturated by it.
The last thing I said to my grandma was that I loved her and that I hoped to see her soon to which she replied: “Bueno“ (Ok). Sometimes I regret not having spent more time with her the last time I saw her, back in 2012. I regret not having seen her again after that, not having been present to accompany her through the difficult times. I guess I somehow did through my letters and phone calls but it’s just not the same as being physically present.
As I’m typing these words, I’m not fully aware that she won’t be there next time I’m in Colombia. She won’t be sitting in her bed, chatting and knitting at the same time. She won’t be making funny comments, she won’t be patting me. But she’ll be doing all these things and so much more in my memories.
Gracias, Oma. Te quiero mucho.