Beginning with this post I’d like to share my second travel log I wrote during a trip to Chicago in 2013 for a second funeral there in just over 12 months.
In recent months, my sole surviving grandparent whom we called Oma had been in residence at a nursing home receiving nursing care and attention. At first she seemed to respond to the attention but in recent weeks her health had seen a steep decline.
So there I was riding the train on July 11, 2013. I had just finished another punishing day at work. I already had my cell phone off when I boarded the train and left it off during the ride home so I could relax. As I got closer to the Mangonia Park station, I turned the phone on in anticipation of the usual barrage of voice mail when I received a text message from my parents.
Oma is getting worse. She might not survive the night.
The shock I felt was similar to jumping in an electrical swimming pool. I was overwhelmed with sadness, shock and despair and it set a very dark mood for the rest of the evening. I knew Oma had been in declining health but didn’t think she’d take a turn for the worse, not after all the impressive feats of recovery she’d pulled off in the past. I began to anticipate losing my sole surviving grandparent, just a year after my other grandmother died.
After I got home, there was a message on my answering machine from my father, who wanted me to call him for news on how Oma was doing. That gave me some hope that she was beginning to recover. However, when I called home, my dad told me that Oma had never regained consciousness since returning to the nursing home and was exhibiting shallow breathing, both of them clear symptoms of dying. The news did not sound good at all and further saddened the mood of the evening.
The next morning, on July 12, 2013, right after waking up, I cautiously approached my cell phone and checked it for any new text messages from my parents. There were none. I was relieved, assuming Oma was still hanging on. She was always strong.
I proceeded to get ready for another day at work. As the morning progressed I began to worry about Oma. When my morning break came I went straight to my locker, turned on my cell phone and nervously watched for any new text messages. There were none. Good. Oma still hanging on. Who knows, she may even be alert. Again I was relieved. I turned off the cell phone and put it away.
I worked some more until lunch and as my lunch break approached I was again getting nervous. When I sat down to eat, I turned on my cell phone and again, no text messages. Again the usual assumptions of Oma hanging on and possibly making a recovery. That put my mind at ease for a while but towards the end of the shift I began to worry again.
When I left work for the day, I turned on my cell phone one more time and was again relieved when I got no text messages. I began to assume that Oma was still hanging on and still had hope she was recovering. I walked to the train station as usual and caught the next train home. The interior of the car I boarded had the coldest temperature I ever felt. It was so cold in the train that the windows were fogged up. It felt like riding in a refrigerator.
When I finally got off the train at Mangonia Park, my cell phone rang. It was my mother, calling to report that Oma had passed away earlier in the morning. That means she was already gone when I checked my cell phone earlier in the day, but my parents had held off telling me the news until I got home from work. When I heard the news that Oma had finally passed, I felt relieved that she was no longer suffering. I had spent the day agonizing about how Oma was struggling with dementia and poor health and it briefly felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. No more worrying. She’s in a better place now in the company of her family. I can imagine that Opa, Uncle Vic, Uncle George and the rest of the family were waiting for her. Oh yeah, and her faithful dog Chips at her side.
Over time though, relief gave way to sadness when I began to realize I had just lost the last of my grandparents. Yet another branch has dried up and fallen off the family tree. I’m still not fully recovered from losing my other grandmother and the loss of Oma only prolongs the grief. Never again will I see her smile, not will I feel the tender touch of her hugs. Even during her last months she still had that personality that was unmistakably Oma. I will miss her smile, her laugh and her cheerful personality that made every trip to Chicago memorable. All that’s gone now, never to return. Chicago just got darker and sadder with no relatives living there now. This is sadness beyond comprehension that continues to follow me everywhere I go. And here I am at work, having just requested the time off to fly to Chicago for the funeral. As of right now, Oma has not been buried yet, and I am nervously anticipating what will be one of the saddest trips to Chicago in recent memory. That means as of right now, I have not attended the funeral, not have I seen Oma since she died.
I leave for Chicago in 3 days. I already can’t wait for this to end.
In the meantime, I have found great solace in knowing that there’s some Oma inside of me, along with Opa. They both produced my father, and my father produced me. Therefore I carry traces of Oma and Opa as well. I carry them both with me and will continue keeping them with me wherever I go.
To be continued…