I am wallowing in memories today. My Oma would’ve been 104 this coming Monday. This time of year is not just Christmas, but Oma’s birthday. This time of year my mom used to fly over. This time of year is all about family. This year it is incredibly lonely.

I miss my moose. I miss Cole. He leaves a big hole behind. The house is so quiet without him bonking up the stairs, against walls, breaking a glass a day… And he leaves behind a big hole in my heart. He is still there but I can’t hug him, yell at him, talk to him. It’s unimaginably difficult transitioning from a full house, to an empty (er) one.

I miss my Oma. Even after 3+ years she leaves a big hole in my heart & in my life. How I wish I could go for one more visit. I always thought my favorite memories were sitting at the table, covered for some odd reason by a thick, old, red carpet, and playing cards for hours on end.  But now, really, truly missing her, I long for the after dinner sit-in-front-of-the-tv and talk-time the most.

After dinners we would wash the dishes together by hand, she never owned a dishwasher, dry the dishes, and put away the dishes. In my house now, with a dishwasher, it’s a struggle to get them all washed, dried and put away. Yet back then, in her dishwasher-free house, it was always completely done three times a day. And I loved doing it together. Once the chores were done, we’d move to the “serre” or sitting room. Really just an extension of the dining room. The house, despite having held seven kids at one time, was very small. Perfect and small.

I would sit in my Opa’s old chair. Oma had her chair. And there were two other chairs, usually unoccupied sometimes filled by aunts, cousins, or one of my kids. When it was just us she’d move to the almost-room-length sideboard, turn the key & open the door to the bar.

“Advocaatje?” She’d ask as she poured each of us a cordial glass full. She would slip a small silver spoon in each, and hand me mine.  Dave hates Advocaat.  I love Advocaat (think of it as a brandy suffused custard more than a drink). I prefer it over ice cream, sprinkled with chocolate & topped with whipped cream. I mean, who wouldn’t? But a small glass full, with a silver spoon, and my Oma right there? That is my favorite.

She would turn on the tv, to her game shows, think word-puzzle type games, and we would watch TV for an hour or two.  I don’t know how it is now, but back then in the 80’s & 90’s Dutch TV would have an episode, with a long block of commercials every 10? 20? minutes. Commercials would be bracketed by short game shows. A round or two of a puzzle game. My Oma watched TV for those short puzzle game segments. During those segments I needed to:

  1. Be quiet.
  2. Not shout out the answer.

The rest of the time, during the commercials and/or show, we would talk. This is the time together I miss the most. My Oma had a sense of humor. She had an amazing, broad smile. She would smile, laugh, even giggle every time we talked. Even when the conversation was difficult, her life was not always easy, she would find the bright side. A little ray of joy to toss in.

She did that for me too. When I felt overwhelmed. When I felt things were hard. When I was angry, sad, upset, frustrated… Oma would listen. We would talk about it, and then when she had enough, she would find the one ray of sunshine in every situation.

I am trying very hard to find a ray of sunshine. How I wish she was here to do it for me.

Me, Soren & Oma in Den Bosh summer of 1991