A high-schooler's memories of her beloved 'Oma'

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 13, 2012

By Parker Williams
For The Salisbury Post
It was the Fourth of July and my mother and I were riding home from having dinner with my grandparents. A thousand thoughts, unanswered questions and curiosities burned through my mind.
“Mom?” I said, “Was everything alright with Oma? She seemed a little….” and I paused. I could see the worry in my mom’s face.
“Park, your Oma is having a lot of trouble with her back lately. The doctors think it’s coming from all of the chemo but they’re not sure.”
“Oh. Mom, is she going to be ok?”
Mom didn’t answer me right away and I could see the tears in her eyes. Finally she said,
“I don’t know Parker, but I want you to take advantage of every second you get to spend time with her. I’m not saying that she’s not going to be around in three weeks, but maybe not six months either.”
I took a deep breath as I felt the warm drop of water gently roll down my cheek. Oma and I had always been very close. From when she would pick me up from school, to our many shopping trips, the annual beach trips, and the tradition of baking Christmas cookies each year. Even just seeing a glimpse of a future with the absence of her made me cry. I was having a hard time. High school was only a month and a half away, and volleyball tryouts were coming soon too. For as long as I could remember, at every sporting event, I could always look up and see Oma and Opa sitting there.
I woke up the next morning and got dressed for volleyball. Workouts seemed endless and unsuccessful. Something was on my mind, something didn’t feel right. When I got home that afternoon my mom came into my room.
“Parker, your Oma was put in the hospital last night because her back just started bothering her too much. There’s no need to worry! The doctors said they couldn’t find anything so hopefully she’ll be able to come back home soon.”
“Are you sure? Can we go visit her later today?”
“Of course! She wanted to see you today. You should tell her how volleyball is going!”
As we rode to the hospital, every possible negative thought ran through my head. As I walked through the halls of the hospital, I remembered just being here a couple of weeks ago, wheeling Oma through these halls for a quick doctor’s checkup. Only a couple of weeks ago everything was fine. Just six months ago, everything was fantastic, great; she couldn’t be doing better with her chemo. Not now. Not anymore. Now I was standing in the hospital room looking at my sleeping grandmother. She looked so small, so frail.
The doctor came in to give a report. He seemed positive…for the moment. My grandfather twitched nervously in the chair beside me. I’d never seen him quite this wound up before. He looked as if he would burst into tears at any moment. I thought I might too.
“Everything looks OK right now. We can’t see anything potentially dangerous yet. We will be giving her an MRI in the morning, just to make sure,” the doctor said.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and believed him. Two days later she was rushed to the radiation office just a mile away from the hospital.
“It’s spread all through her back. That’s where the pain is coming from. It spread so quickly from two weeks ago. We can’t stop it. All we can try and do is control it, and try to keep her comfortable.”
I panicked silently, in my head. I didn’t want to give off any clues of my nervousness or fear. Two days later my Oma was able to come home, but it wasn’t because she was better; it was simply because that was her wish. Nurses swarmed the house, and my mom had moved back into my grandparents’ house. The back bedroom in which I used to sleep when I spent the night with my grandparents, had turned into an in-home hospital room.
My Oma couldn’t hardly walk anymore. But she talked to me as if nothing was wrong. For the first time in a long time, I saw Oma relaxed, carefree….peaceful. For the next couple of days, I talked and sat with my Oma for hours every day. I would crawl in the bed with her and tell her about volleyball, softball and the nerves of starting high school. During that time, she gave me so much advice — from school and sports to friends, and even about boys! Oma was very specific about the important characteristics of a boyfriend, and under no circumstances was I to settle for anything less! I hung onto every word and I will never forget all the wonderful stories and valuable lessons that she left with me.
For the next couple of days, she seemed like herself, but everyone knew it didn’t mean she was going to get better; except for my Opa. In his heart, I know he kept hoping the doctors were wrong. But then she stopped eating. She refused to eat anything other than this orange salad from a nearby store, and I was the only person she would let feed her. Then all of a sudden, it got even worse. She couldn’t talk anymore, sit up by herself, and all she did was sleep. She wasn’t herself anymore. My Oma was slipping away and there was nothing I could do about it.
Early one morning, my cousin and I were sitting in the den of my grandparents’ house. Everything was quiet until the back bedroom door shut. We could hear everyone talking, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
Suddenly my aunt rushed down the hallway, and told us that we would be going to someone else’s house for a little while. Nothing to worry about, we just needed to get out of the house for the day. But I knew. I wasn’t stupid. Something had happened. My Oma was gone. The world turned cold, everything was suddenly out of tune, like a broken accordion.
At her funeral, we each laid a yellow rose on a table. Yellow roses were Oma’s favorite. I gently kissed my rose before I set it down on the table, and whispered a soft goodbye as if I was talking to her like I had a million times before.
Exactly two weeks later, I found out that I had made the varsity volleyball team. Even though my Oma was gone, I knew then that I will always have an angel watching out for me in heaven. I never have to be afraid of anything ever again. From that moment on, everything I do, I do for my Oma. I decided I would even put bright pink shoelaces on every pair of shoes I could to honor her memory and the battle she fought. I started with my brand new volleyball shoes!
A couple of weeks later, I was walking with my Opa when we ran into a couple of their friends. They talked for a while and I talked with them too. They asked us how everything was going and if I was ready for school to start. After talking, before they walked away, the lady turned around, smiled and said:
“You remind me a lot of your grandmother.”
I smiled and simply said thanks. As she walked away though, I thought to myself:
“That was the best compliment I could have ever received.”
Parker Williams is a freshman at West Rowan High School. She wrote a version of this essay for her Honors English class.