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Posts Tagged ‘Oma’

Oma is 97 years old. Born in Germany, she escaped the Holocaust and lived most of her life in Manhattan. Today she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and lives with her daughter (my friend Peggy) and her family near me.

Peggy told me her mom grew up loving marzipan—not a surprise for a German girl—and asked me if I’d bring her a little piece of my homemade stuff. Last week I did.

When I arrived her mom was still out at the doctor’s office. Peg walked me around the sunken living room and showed me all of the shelving she’s had to clear off because Oma likes to take things down and move them to new places. We came upon books and knickknacks in odd spots, hand towels and garments neatly folded and set down on the carpeted steps. I put the candy on a higher shelf, figuring I’d give it to her later.

Oma came home and joined us in the kitchen, all smiling wide blue eyes and wispy white hair. She asked who I was. I told her I was Peg’s friend from long ago. Peggy asked her in German if she had found a candy and eaten it, but she didn’t respond.

The candy was, in fact, missing from the shelf. We peered around every table and chair and into every corner of the living room, looking to see if she’d moved it. Finally we found the empty wrapper, carefully folded. Well, she must have liked the candy; it was gone.

I thought about the fact that it was likely her last piece of marzipan, and almost certainly her last piece of homemade candy. (Truthfully? It was the only homemade food I’ve ever brought over, since Peg and the rest of the family keep strictly kosher. But Oma renounced Judaism years ago.) And I thought about the honor of treating a Holocaust survivor to a taste of her youth.

But mostly I thought about this: It’s entirely possible to derive pleasure from a single bite and fold it up neatly and tuck it away into a corner of one’s mind—maybe to be retrieved later, maybe never again. And that later or never is beside the point; the pleasure is the point.

When it was time to go, I asked if I could give her a kiss goodbye, and she nodded.

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