Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy 77th Birthday, Oma!

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"Oma" and "Opa" are German for "grandma" and "grandpa". My mother-in-law, Oma to my daughters, is one of the greatest women that I have ever met. She lived through WWII as a teenager in Germany, caring for her six younger siblings and rushing them off to safety in the wheat fields when bombers flew overhead and dropped their explosives on her town. One time, during the night, the entire family fled down their street, only to come home and find that their neighbors house had been hit, and everyone inside killed, including my mother-in-law's friend who lived there.

She came to the US in 1953 with her husband and their oldest child. My sister-in-law was two years old when she came here, and two more children were born in the U.S. - another sister-in-law and my husband. Oma and Opa worked tough, physical jobs and fought for every penny they earned. In the 1980's they bought their first home, and my MIL still talks about this as one of her proudest achievements.

A few years ago, she suffered a stroke, but she was still her fiesty self afterwards. Last year, in September, she suffered a much larger stroke that has robbed her of her short term memory and a lot of her independent care skills. We celebrated her birthday today, and it was a true celebration. Oma had been in the hospital for several weeks with a bladder infection, and a medication update that was made to help make her happier and less depressed and angry since her strokes. It seems to have worked. Although she STILL won't smile for a picture - she jokes around and sounds more like her old self.

In the picture above she is wearing one of my gifts to her. I made her a bedjacket. It is basically a shawl with cuffs, and it is the first project I have made from yarn I spun myself. I picked out the color with her in mind, it's called Weathered Barn. And the bedjacket was actually a marriage of two different patterns - a fan and feather shawl with cuffs from another pattern so that the shawl won't fall off of her shoulders, especially when she uses her walker. Oma's short term memory loss made it possible for her to enjoy her gift every 20 minutes. She would ask, "Whose is this?" grabbing the shawl and looking at me, using long term memory to know that I am the knitter in the family.

"It's yours," I would tell her.
"Oh, my goodness. Really? It's beautiful," she would exclaim as she stroked the wool against her cheek, closing her eyes.
"Yes, I made it for you, and I spun the wool myself."
"Really? You made this yarn? It's beautiful. Thank you!" she would say. Then about 20 minutes later we would have the exact same conversation.

It is hard for her to put on the shawl by herself so she may just hold the shawl and enjoy the feel of the wool - she was also a knitter and crocheter before her strokes, and has always enjoyed the feel of wool. I also made it for her for this reason, hoping that if she didn't wear it, she would enjoy just touching it. I think I succeeded.

My second gift to her was this:

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This is Buttercreme Torte, and I was the first one other than my MIL to make it. It is a huge family tradition, one of those recipes that isn't written down, but rather kept in someone's memory. Over 10 years ago, I sat down with my MIL and asked her to tell me all of her recipes. This was one of them, and it happens to be her favorite torte. She would make it every year on her birthday.

When she was discharged from the hospital on Dec. 26th, she knew that her birthday was coming up and kept commenting that she wished for a Buttercreme Torte. It takes two days to make and uses 3 sticks of butter combined with thickened pudding for the frosting. Truly NOT a diet food. In the past two weeks, Oma wouldn't eat anything at the hospital. She lost 20% of her bodyweight during that time.

She polished off two pieces of the Buttercreme Torte and told me that there was only one thing wrong with it. I braced myself for her honest criticism.

"The one thing wrong with it," she said, "is that it tastes like more!"

Happy Birthday, Oma! We love YOU more!


  • At 8:26 PM , Blogger --TECHknitter said...

    Don't know whether you go through and read comments on old posts, but this one touched my heart. My mom is also "Oma" to her grandchildren. Like your "Oma," ours has a memory problem, and like yours, ours LOVES buttercream torte! Not being as ambitious as you, I buy mine from a bakery (Clasen's, Madison WI) which makes the authentic thing, but even theirs doesn't look as yummy as yours! Thanks for sharing.

  • At 10:25 PM , Blogger Chris said...

    What a sweet story! I have never had buttercreme tort, and man do I love butter!


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