I only have one living grandparent and that is my Oma, my father's mother. She is also the grandparent I am closest to and know the best. We grew up down the block from Oma and she was always at our apartment. We ate shabbos lunch there most weeks and hung out there in the afternoon so my parents could rest. If my parents ever had to go away for a few days, she moved in with us and took care of us.
Oma would bring us cut-up fruit while we were watching TV and go to the park with us to feed the ducks or run around the playground. She had a lot of energy for us, even for my youngest brother, who was born when she was 72. She used to play soccer with him in the hallway of our apartment and use a broom to kick the ball.
We always marveled at her youthfulness and strength. We threw Oma a big bash for her 80th birthday. All the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren flew in for the big event. After that milestone, things slowly started to deteriorate. She became physically weaker and more and more forgetful. Her memory was not as good and she would sometimes get confused and speak to us in Hungarian, the language of her youth. Pretty soon after that, my father and aunt decided to hire an attendant to live with her.
I left home at 15 to attend high school in the US and as I got older, my visits to Vienna ( did I ever mention I am from Vienna? Post for a different day) got less and less frequent. I feel fortunate that Oma was able to attend my wedding in Israel in 2004 when she was already 83. Her attendant came with her and Oma looked great at the wedding. She even danced with me.
Whenever we used to visit Vienna, she would always ask my husband if he was happy, if I was a good wife to him. I always found this amusing because she should have been asking me, her granddaughter, how he was treating me :)
We usually visited once a year and though her memory was failing her and she was more and more confused, Oma met all of my children, including Baby M last summer.
If this post sounds like a eulogy, that is not my intent at all. My Oma is still here with us, 89 years old, though only semi-conscious and with the recent addition of a feeding tube. But the Oma of my youth, the Oma who was such a big part of my growing up is no longer here. I did not recognize her in the frail woman in the wheelchair I saw last summer. She exists only in the memories and stories that my siblings and I will always cherish. But I do hope that when I see her next, I will still be able to conjure up the image of my young Oma, laughing with us, playing Rummy Cube and thoroughly enjoying her 9 grandchildren and now 18 great grandchildren.
If you have a minute, please say a prayer for Leah bat Litsha.