Tuesday, November 15, 2016


In chronicling all the ways our lives change, place to place, year to year, it is not always onward and upward. Sadly, our family recently lost our Oma, the kids’ grandmother and Phil’s mother. It was not unexpected and everyone had a chance to say goodbye, but still our world changed and here we are.
The kids and I came to know Oma after her career at the university was done and she was starting the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee. Our visits to Milwaukee always included a visit to Oma’s center and it was lovely that her memorial service was held there too. We did lots of walks along the river and to the center with Oma. One time she borrowed a friend’s dogs so that the kids could walk a dog around the neighborhood. The kids weren’t always enthusiastic walkers and the dogs did help. A couple of times we borrowed canoes from Oma’s center, put them in the Milwaukee River and explored the city that way.
Oma, always adventurous, visited us in Ukraine, Romania, Hong Kong and Germany. We all remember her arriving in Hong Kong and coming off the plane in a wheel chair. We were surprised but only for a minute. She recently had a bike crash, with broken bones and all, and did not want to postpone her trip but needed a little extra help in the airport. In all these places, she did things with us but also ventured out on her own. Inevitably meeting locals, telling us their stories and sometimes bringing them back to ours.
The kids always joked about Oma’s ability to chit chat. She could talk to anyone and usually did. In Gauting, she asked to speak with the store manager about a certain type of German bread she thought the store should carry. She spoke with other parents at the kids’ international school, typically not the German or American parents but the ones that lived the farthest away, that were the least similar to her. Though her slow progress, with all the conversation, threw off our schedule many a time, I came to appreciate it. Over our many moves, I too have started to talk to anyone and everyone. Trying to get information, trying to make a connection. It is somehow part of the expatriate experience. After living outside of the US, I came to see Oma, a German living in the US for decades, as a fellow expatriate. One who was thriving through conversation and community. One who could offer an example for us as we try to recreate our lives back in the states, once again.
Goodbye Oma from all of us. We’ll keep the conversation going.


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