The Last of the Old Guard

I was taking a nap today with my son. Was nice, a little long but we were both warn out and we both tend to take pretty strong naps when we lay next to each other. When I woke up I just felt really odd. Rested but odd. My brain had been stretched pretty damn thin lately and if felt like something else was just resting on that frayed cable that was once my sanity. As I often do when I just get up, I checked my laptop and saw I had a message from my mom.

I know, I’m in the future also.

So I checked the message and it turns out that yesterday, July 4th, 2015 around 8 in the morning, my Oma (grandma in German) died over in Germany. This hit me hard on multiple levels. I’m pretty good at dealing with death, I’ve dealt with a ton of it. I’ve seen people die first hand and I’ve watched people die over a long period of time. I’ve seen enough to numb me to it.

But my Oma was a special case.

First off, she was awesome. Hands down. She was one of those old people that just looked the same your entire life. She looked the same in the last year of her 92 years that she did 30-some years ago when she first met me. In a good way. And she had just as much energy too. She’d run around and play with us. She had a magical kitchen booth where the seats lifted off to reveal more board games than you could even know what to do with. And when my mom decided not to teach us Germany, my Oma stepped up to the plate and learned basic conversational English so we could talk. Given we didn’t have the most thrilling conversations, but it was much better than sitting in silence with no communication between us.

Secondly, I recently had a falling out with my family over in Germany that I don’t think was ever reconciled. I was given a large collection of old family pictures from my mother and I was fascinated with them and thought they were charming so I decided to upload them to an album only my friends and family could see. Apparently one of those pictures reveals something my family overseas was incredibly not happy with and ever since then, communication with them has been at an all time low. And it’s not like we talked a lot already given the distance. So, there’s this part of me that knows that, even those she apparently talked fondly of me in her last days, that I never got to actually apologize to her. And anyone who knows me knows that I don’t let those things go. Everything I ever felt guilty for I wear like a feather in a giant heavy head dress. Which leads me to the last way that this hit me hard.

I wanted to save up and go out and visit them really bad. For years I had this nagging anxiety. This voice saying, “Eric, your grandma’s lucky to have lived this long. You really need to go see her.” And I wanted to but it’s so expensive to get out there and I just had a kid and started school. In addition, I’ve been fairly broke for years. It’s just not something I could do. But I wanted to, so bad. I wanted to get out there and have her meet my son Damian so badly. And apologize to her and just, I don’t know, I wanted to know we’re cool I guess and while I know her well enough where I know that in a way we were, I wanted to tell her to her face that I was sorry for all that and now it’s not really an option.

And I realized today that she was the last of my grandparents. I know it’s merely me putting unnecessary ranking to things, but she was the last of the old guard. The last of an entire generation of people of my genetic lineage. It’s sort of crazy to think about it. It not only means that they’re all gone, but it means that my parents, my aunts, my uncles. They’re the old guard now. They’re the grandparents now and I’m in the parent rank. It almost feels like a person in front of me in line has left and we all stepped forward in line. It sort of rubs my face into my own mortality and anyone who knows me deeply knows that that is not something you want to do. Ever.

But this isn’t about me, it’s about my Oma. She’s gone and frankly it sucks. It really does. I don’t want it but she was an awesome person who lived a long and eventful life. She got to see her kids have kids and those kids have kids and that’s more than so many people get and I’m happy she had that. I know I didn’t learn a lot of German from my time hanging out with her but I learned one phrase and it’s the most important one that I want to tell to my Oma now. “Ich liebe dich.” I don’t really believe in the whole idea of an after life, but I want to make an exception for her because I want for anything to know that she’s somewhere, wherever, hanging out with my Opa (grandpa) again. Rest in piece, Oma. And again, ich liebe dich.



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