Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pastor's Perspective - The Power of Sloppy Kisses

I wish all of you could meet my Oma!

The endearing name ‘Oma’ is a German slang for grandmother. Recently Oma was hospitalized in Reading, Pennsylvania, so she has naturally been on my mind and in my prayers. Indulge me as I share just a few things about this amazing and unforgettable 92-year-old.

Oma raised three children in the middle of WWII, while my grandfather (‘Opa’) was off fighting for the bad guys. She kept her family together in the midst of chaos in a battle-torn, dictator-led country, surviving under the harshest conditions. Following the war, she left her family and homeland for America. By way of Canada, she and Opa eventually settled in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York. It was there that my then teenage parents (Klaus & Sandy) met as neighbors, and fell hard for each other. Mom was a pretty, gregarious, brown-eyed brunette; while my Dad was a hard-working, blue-eyed foreigner, bent on destroying the English language single-handed! After a long sweetheart courtship and eventual wedding, I came along in a blinding Lake Erie snowstorm in January 1963.

I always adored my Oma. From my earliest recollection, she has always been old! After we moved to Tampa as kids, we would beg to go see her every single vacation. As a child the hardest moment was saying goodbye to her. Several days before our departure, she would already be saying things like, “In four days you go home, so far away. I hope I see you again.” She had us weeping days in advance! I laugh at that now as a 46-year-old man – crying that I’d never see Oma again - back in 1970! I still think she’s going to outlive us all.

Oma never mastered the English language, speaking only German with Opa. Oma also never drove a car, because Opa drove everywhere. Oma was a ridiculously amazing cook and housekeeper. She was a ‘hausfrau’ through and through, and wore that title with great pride and honor. She adored all her kids and grandkids (still does) and lavished us with crazy lavishing love.

Oma is my only living grandparent. Opa died several years ago, as did my wonderful grandparents on my Mom’s side (Albert & Mattie Lou Watson). Several years ago, Oma asked me to do something I’m already dreading. Oma asked me to preach her funeral someday. Naturally I’ll keep my promise, but I don’t have to like it.

With her last emergency hospitalization, I thought about the reality of keeping that promise. My mind raced back over a lifetime of priceless memories – the parties, the meals, 6-weeks in Germany with her in 1974 at age 11, the endless laughs, the hospitality, the culture and pride of heritage she instilled. Then it hit me. My favorite thing I love about Oma is this – before kissing me, she always licked her lips – big, pink, Euro lips! As grandkids, we would literally inhale when we saw her coming with a smooch. There was no escaping those drowning, smothering, lip-locks. When Oma loved you, she did it openly and all the way. Dry kisses were absolutely unheard of at Oma’s place!

Today, she would remind all of us to love your family madly and affectionately while there is time to do it, withholding nothing when it comes to love. Let’s be honest. Your kids when they grow up will most likely forget everything you buy them this Christmas. However, they will never forget the love they experienced through positive consistent physical touch. So, honor my Oma tonight when you kiss your kids goodnight. Run your tongue over your lips and get em good! Sure they’ll think it’s gross. But they’ll doze off knowing that sloppy kisses can be wiped-off, but the love gets down deep.

Thanks Oma. I love you.


Your Sister, Julie said...

There's none as precious as Oma! I dread our next trip to Pennsylvania, but look forward to celebrating her life with our extra special family :)

Anonymous said...

Steve, thanks so much for sharing Oma with us... I feel like I know her. She reminds me of my two European grandmothers... Your right. Absolutely. Love is what will be remembered. Love... -Nat

Shannon O'Shaughnessy said...

Such a wonderful tribte to your Grandmother. She was quite a person!! I remember Sandy telling my Mom, Kitty Thomas, that her Mother-in-law, Juliana, was coming for a visit, so her house had to be in tip top shape because your Grandma would check everything with a fine tooth comb. It was humerous at the time but Sandy did admit that she was an immaculate houskeeper!! We all have fond memories of the Kiefer family!! Kind Regards, Ginger{Thomas} Oshaughnessy.