I wanted to write this post a few weeks ago, but as usual life just got too busy and I didn’t feel I had the time to focus on what I wanted to say – and this is a very precious post for me, so I needed that time. Now I’m finally getting a moment to sit down and put words to my thoughts.
There is always that one special person who makes an indelible impact on our life; one whom we wouldn’t have predicted to make such a difference. Here’s what I mean: we half expect to be shaped by the influence of our parents, or teachers, or other role-models, but for most of us there is also that one person who we know made a massive difference in our lives, and we never expected them to… The love, support, and wisdom we receive from these people surprise us in the most wonderful ways, and end up following us forever.
For me, that person is my husband’s grandmother (“Oumie” as she is affectionately called by us all). I have never met a more gentle, kind-hearted soul.
I remember the first time I met her… My husband and I had just started dating, and he told me we were going on a romantic weekend away! So there I was, super excited, and totally infatuated with this new man in my life. Almost 15 years ago.
Only later (half way to our romantic destination) did I figure out that he was taking me to meet his family. He had arranged a “blind date” meeting for all of us. Yup, only his dad knew that we were coming, and what the reason for the visit was. Over the course of the weekend it became clear to me just how much my husband loves his family… Romantic? Nah. But special and sweet? Hell yes.
I walked in super shy and nervous, and I could see the surprise on his mom’s face; but all the first-time-meeting-jitters quickly faded into the background, replaced with warm smiles and easy conversation. Later that afternoon, Oumie and I had a quiet moment together (a first of many that I have come to cherish). We decided to bake muffins. And right there in front of the oven, laughing about how I pronounced the Afrikaans names for the ingredients we were using, started one of the most meaningful relationships in my life.
Oumie is one in a million! Someone who is always willing to listen, without judgment, offering advice in a gentle way. I treasure the moments when she would share her secret recipes with me while we chatted over a cup of tea (always in a cup, not a mug), or tell me about her childhood antics over a glass of wine (sweet rose), even when she would open up about her own anxieties and concerns while we sat outside enjoying the afternoon sun. I love listening to her stories about growing up as 1 of 12 children, her being a twin, the world changes she has lived through, the way she raised her daughters – in fact, I love listening to all her stories. But what I will perhaps come to value most of all are those long, lazy nights we had together (while she lived with us) chatting deep into the evening – about nothing, and everything, all at once – happily picking away at a bowl of sweets (which she always kept well stocked).
From what I’ve seen, Oumie’s secrets to living a healthy and happy life are:
- A glass of Sherry a night keeps the heart pumping and the blood warm – this is a survival strategy in the winter.
- Always show humility and kindness to people and animals – especially animals.
- A Family that eats together, laughs together, and forgives each other, stays together.
- Eat what you want, when you want, in moderation – a hard-boiled sweet every night before bed is the perfect remedy for a long day.
- Try to relax, take it all in, and enjoy the ride!
This special lady turned 89 this month. Both she and her twin sister celebrated with family and, true to form, enjoyed a glass of Sherry to end the evening.
Happy Birthday Oumie. Thank you for being a ray of sunshine in our lives. I love you!
Wish we were there to celebrate with you!
One Messy Mama