"Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete." - Marcy DeMaree
I still remember my grandmother so fondly. She was my grandfather's second wife. His first wife - the mother of my dad - had passed away unexpectedly when my dad was very young. So he had re-married and the woman I got to meet and spend time with was not my paternal or biological family, but never once let me feel this way. In fact, it was only in my 20s that it dawned on me that my grandmother was not even biologically connected to me. Her unconditional love, her warmth, her unabashed acceptance of me never let me feel any differently. She left us when I was young and still living in Pakistan.
Many, many years later, after we immigrated to Canada, I graduated from university, and met Monika, I had the blessing to meet her grandmother / Oma. It was our first trip to Europe together, and it was Oma's 75th birthday. It was my first time in Monika's hometown and her first time bringing a boy home. And what a boy she choose to bring home: a Pakistani-Christian who lived in Canada and had graduated with a Communications degree. Oma had been through communist Germany and the second world war and spoke not a word of English. She met Monika and I at the front door and welcomed me in with a beaming smile and a bigger heart. Since that moment, I have marvelled at my absolute luck and good will to have had the pleasure of having my own German Oma.
A few days ago, we took our usual 2 hour train ride to visit Oma and the family for Easter celebrations, and we stayed in her home. And we had - as usual - an absolutely amazing time with her. And that is when I realised that everyone needs an Oma or a grandparent. If you don't have one, find one. And if you do have one, and haven't made time to see them, are you crazy? Go and bask in the love because it will not be there forever.
NUMBER TWO: THE CONVERSATIONS / Yes you read that right and yes I confirmed that Oma doesn't speak a word of English. But who cares about language when love is involved? Oma speaks directly to me, in her staunch German, and I typically reply, in my Canadian English, and we always have a good laugh. This, to me, is one of the most beautiful things. Why let a little thing like language get in the way of chatting it up. Normally, Monika is around to translate the conversation both ways, and she never ever minds doing this, but on the few off chances that Monika isn't around, Oma doesn't sit around awkwardly. No, she looks me square in the face and says something hilarious, which I have no idea about but laugh anyway. Lessons in unconditional acceptance and in letting go of pride should begin with this story.
NUMBER ONE: THE BAKING / On the weekend, German families all over the country gather for the sacred ritual of "coffee and cake", also known as "Kaffee und Kuchen". We love this tradition so much that we even had a separate celebration at our wedding for coffee and cake. Anyway, this Easter was no exception, and we got together with the whole family, and Oma baked not one, not two, but three separate and unique cakes. There was other cakes waiting at home for us too. And these aren't your out of the box cakes. These are "the-carrots-are-from-my-garden" carrot cakes and "I-used-stevia-instead-of-sugar" chocolate cakes.
NUMBER THREE: THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE / The one thing that I have always felt from Oma was her kindness, her generosity, her thoughtfulness, her care; in short, these are all qualities I equate with unconditional love. She loves her Monika so much, that it naturally spills over to me and then engulfs me also. Although we live in a hateful world where skin colour, status, and religion are still widely scrutinised and judged (and which being in Germany has sadly reminded me of), being in the home of Oma I always feel protected and warm and also comfortable. She always comments on my hairstyle, my outfit, my current weight, always asks about my "very nice" parents, always makes sure I eat at least two servings of everything she prepares, and has never once judged my for always falling asleep on her couch, for not learning how to fluently speak German, for not cooking for Monika, etc. Being in her presence brings me joy because of the joy she feels to have her granddaughter (and me) around her. I always tell my wife just how privileged I have been to have spent so much wonderful time with Oma, and I can't wait to continue building beautiful memories together.
I hope this reminds you to call up your grandparent. Or your parent. Or your partner. Life is short and its only the beautiful moments that we build together that really matter in the end. Do you have any special memories with your grandparents?