She wasn’t thrilled about Phoebe, at first. At 95-years-old she had things the way that she wanted them. Her house was immaculate, the carpets as white as the day they were installed. Every knick knack had a story in a house built on love and second chances.
I started working for Oma last year. I responded to a caregiver ad and a week later I found myself sitting at her dining room table, notepad in hand, jotting down medication schedules and hearing aid instructions. The responsibility was a little nerve-wracking and I found myself wondering if we were going to have much in common with one another. I soon learned that Oma and I were more alike than different and that this tiny woman with a German accent would turn out to be one of my dearest friends.
For the first few weeks we mainly worked around the house. I helped her with laundry and dishes and she taught me to sew. She was appalled when I told her I had never learned.
“When I was a child we learned sewing at age seven. In school! It was REQUIRED, you see. I shall teach you. You will make a wonderful headmistress of your household!”
She always offered me something to eat upon my arrival and sent me home every night with a can of 7up of a slice of microwave pizza. She became “grandma.” In fact, I never knew her name was Ruth until much later. She had asked me to call her Oma, which, come to find out, means “grandmother” in German.
In time she shared with me her incredible past. She and her husband fled Nazi-occupied Germany and lived in Cuba for two years while waiting to obtain American citizenship. Her husband went on to work as an international reporter, interviewing classic movie stars from Hollywood’s golden age. They created a beautiful life for themselves, carrying with them always the memories of those they had lost.
Recently, Oma suffered a terrible fall. She broke several bones and spent her 96th birthday, and the weeks that followed, in the hospital. I visited as often as I could and together we ate chocolate cupcakes and watched Gone With the Wind (her favorite movie.) She’s home, now, but requires around the clock nursing care. When I stopped by for a visit last week she was so happy to see Phoebe she started to cry. They sat together like old friends and held hands for the longest time.
I will forever cherish the memories of my time with Oma, the two of us zipping around Target on a motorized scooter with Phoebe by our side. It was all quite the adventure. I continue to be amazed, every day, by how much happiness and love Phoebe brings to everyone we encounter. It makes me feel lucky.