Hello readers, family and friends. I took a break from blogging because of a sudden death in my family and, frankly, I had zero desire to do much of anything. My grandmother "Omi" passed away in February and my world kind of just stopped. After Omi's passing, the weeks that followed were extremely emotional, blurry and hard - but also healing. I would just randomly and suddenly start crying with any small thought of her. I flew out to California to be with my dad and, per Omi's wishes, to spread her ashes in the Pacific Ocean so she could be reunited with her love, my late grandfather. I helped pack up the remainder of Omi's belongings in her apartment and organized a celebration of life dinner with our close family and friends. It was a very sad week in California to say the least, but there were a few moments where I truly believe Omi was looking down on me and letting me know she was very much still with me. Those were my healing moments.
I'd like to honor my Omi's memory by telling you her story.
Omi was born in 1937 in Hagen-Hohenlimburg, Germany. Her name was Herta, she had no middle name and she was an only child. Omi was born to Fritz and Grete, but they divorced when she was very young and both remarried. Omi was especially close with her mother (pictured below).
Germany - 1940
|Omi and her mother, Grete|
Germany - 1948
In 1953, Omi's stepfather, Heinrich, found work in the U.S. and their family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. After high school, Omi attended nurse's training with the intention of becoming a Registered Nurse; however, her nursing career never took off because she fell in love. It was in Tennessee that Omi met her future husband, Helmut - my grandfather "Opa." My Opa was born in 1921 in Bremen, Germany. I'm not sure of the exact year he moved to Tennessee from Germany, but I know he moved to the U.S., like Omi's stepfather, for better work opportunities. He worked as a jeweler. From what I believe and understand, but Omi never really confirmed (maybe because it was scandalous at the time), in or around 1958, Omi and Opa essentially left Tennessee in the middle of the night to California and got married. In 1959, my dad was born.
|Omi and Opa|
Los Angeles, California - 1958
|My Dad and Omi |
Los Angeles, California - 1960
My Omi and Opa owned and operated a jewelry store in downtown Los Angeles to make a living. In their spare time, they took pleasure sailing out of the Long Beach Marina to Catalina Island, spending time with their German-American friends from the Phoenix Club in Orange County, long weekends in San Francisco, enjoying fine French dining at their friend's restaurant La Parisienne, going back and forth to Germany to visit family, and hosting their family and friends at an array of house parties, dinners and California sightseeing adventures. After my Opa passed away, Omi spent most of her time helping my parents take care of me and my brother, meeting her friends regularly for lunches and dinners, collecting and purchasing antiques (she loved sterling silverware) at the Rose Bowl and Long Beach flea markets, looking for bears in her Sierra Madre mountain backyard, drinking coffee, cooking German food in the middle of the night and talking on the phone A LOT with family, friends and me, of course.
|Omi (far right) and Opa (far left) with their Phoenix Club friends|
Anaheim, California - 1964
Long Beach, California - 1973
|Omi (left) with her best friend, Liesel|
Los Angeles, California - 1982
|Omi and Me|
Disneyland - 1990
|My brother, niece, dad, me and Omi on her 80th birthday|
Fullerton, California - 2017
Omi was a very stylish woman. She kept up with the latest hair stylings and fashionable clothing, but always kept it classy. One of her favorite fashion designers was St. John. She was a lover of all animals and would put out fresh water in her backyard for the mountain critters who would pass through. Omi was a very kind and giving woman, but also very stern and stubborn. You could say she had a bit of an attitude. Good luck trying to get her to do something she didn't want to (like quit smoking) or trying to convince her of a certain belief she didn't adhere to. She was always kind and generous to complete strangers and it wasn't uncommon for her to give money to a homeless person or buy them a cup of coffee.
Omi and I suffered a few years of a rocky relationship; however, I'm happy to say we moved past those difficult times and we had a strong relationship and bond at the time she passed away. Even though we lived thousands of miles apart, I spent all of the time that I could and wanted to with her, creating and sharing several years of memories where I was able to learn more about her and view her not just as my grandmother, but as a woman with a story and something to share. I was able to share my wedding day with her, birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, staying at her home in Sierra Madre before she sold it, cooking for one another and sharing recipes, going to the Rose Bowl flea market, shopping at South Coast Plaza, seeing a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, going to the beach and countless fancy dinners. When I wasn't in California, our relationship continued over the phone where we would have weekly conversations about my life, food, friends and future travel destinations. In her later years, Omi even took to email and Instagram (yes, you read that right - Instagram!) where I could share special moments in my life with her that would be the subject of our next phone conversation.
What I wasn't prepared for, and it's something I'm continually struggling with, is the sudden and complete physical absence of her from my life. I've had so many instinctive urges to give her a call, to send her an email, to post something to Instagram for her to enjoy seeing or to mail her a postcard from my travels. I know in time, this will get better, but I don't know that I'll truly ever fully recover from the loss of her in my life. She has forever influenced me and my beliefs and I plan to continue to share her memory, quirks and recipes with my family and friends.
You're forever in my heart, Omi.
|Me and Omi|
Indianapolis, Indiana - 2013