The holidays are awash with sentimental invitations to take a walk down Lane Memory, are they not? How does that Streisand song go again? Now, in addition to misty watercolor memories, I have digital detritus to comb through whilst I tarry in the land of Before Now. Five-and-a-half years of blogging to revisit.
Just for fun, today's post is a reprise of one posted in December, 2006. It's an experiment in staying power, and a tribute to the
The thought snuck up on me today, on this, yet another “
Meanwhile his wife, my grandmother, rots slowly in a nursing home. She is
I think about them more and more, those two— my Oma and Opa.
When my sister and I were children, we spent many summers with our grandparents. They were Austrian immigrants, and their house
My grandfather’s office was separated from the house by a garage, and at the noon hour you could hear the series of doors opening and closing as he made his way over for lunch. My grandmother would serve him a frankfurter, some brown bread. A little cucumber salad. Opa wolfed this down before striding over to the piano in the parlor, where he spent the remainder of his break time playing mostly original music. Stuff he’d spent decades composing, erasing, composing.
My grandfather was a physician by trade, but his artistic nature burst cholerically from every cell. He sketched, he wrote poetry. He built my sister and me a lavish, multi-story dollhouse with every miniature refinement found in their own home: little Victorian chairs, cabinets festooned with bric-a-brac. When my father, their only child, was a boy, the result of Opa’s obsessive handiwork was a railroad masterpiece spanning half the cellar. Not wanting to leave anything out, Opa fashioned forests and mountains. A village bisected by a paper-mache creek. The railroad sat in grave disrepair during my childhood, finally becoming permanently disassembled by my sister and her
husband ex-husband just last year a few years back.
My grandmother was a temperamental hausfrau, ruled and defined by the degree to which she felt uncherished. Her sole creative outlet, painting pictures that became more and more abstract as she aged, was not embarked upon until she reached 50. Compelled by duty to engross herself in quotidian tasks she abhorred, she became as brittle as her teacup collection, over the years. And yet. And yet. At
94 99, she somehow continues to supply the necessary trickle of blood to her wounded heart.
That my grandparents had a horrible marriage intrudes vaguely on my recollections of them. (Much like the ever-present tinge of turpentine still permeates their house.) The sharp bickering between them, cast in German aspersions, is far less defining to me than their strong personalities. My grandfather clearly could not bear to spend time in the same room with his difficult wife—a woman who has outlived him by over
30 35 years,
keeping the same middle-aged likeness of him in a gilt-frame within
arm’s reach of her bedside. But still, I continue to think of them as a pair of bookends—Oma riding shotgun and Opa trying to escape.