Thursday, January 19, 2006
Requiem for my 'Bomma'
My grandmother died yesterday, at the blessed age of 94 (yes, ninety-four!) My mother called me in the morning to tell me the news, but it wasn’t really a surprise. She hadn’t been well lately, in the sense that she didn’t eat anymore. ‘Of course she died’, you’ll say, but eating to her wasn’t a vital activity. There are nurses and intravenous fluids to take care of that problem. No, the worst thing by far was that she didn’t speak anymore. That was an absolute first in her full 94 years of existence.
The word ‘grandmother’ generally invokes warm feelings and mental images of sweet old ladies spoiling their grandchildren and stuffing them with all things sugar. Mine was a tad different, to say the least. She gave birth to eleven children and ruled them (and my grandfather) like a general. Some of Latin America’s most infamous dictators based their style of governance on hers. Coming from a sound catholic family, the eleven children produced a lot of offspring themselves, so basically if my whole family would travel to Africa, the European continent would jump up half a meter because of the shift in weight. It got so complicated, that they invented a numerical system to keep track of everyone. I for instance, am known as one of nine, or the firstborn child of my father, who was the ninth of the eleven children. By the way, I am not the brother of Jerry Ryan, a.k.a. Seven of Nine in the Star Trek Voyager Series. Which is a good thing, because you’re not supposed to have wet dreams about your sister. Anyway, for my grandmother, even this system was too much of a hassle, so she just called everyone ‘thingy’ (dingeske).
Her most favourite hobby was to terrorise people and set them up against each other. She succeeded in creating many a row between her children and grandchildren. Oh, how we laughed! She was renowned in restaurants all over Belgium, making waiters and cooks hurl away screaming when she entered. One time when she found a police officer by her car writing a parking ticket, she yelled at him ‘Do you have any idea who I am?’ The poor man was oblivious to the fact that she was the widow of the former chief medical doctor of the city of Antwerp, which she then explained in all its detail and glory. He ended up by tearing his ticket to pieces, on which she said: ‘You’re a nice boy. Here, have a candy’. He accepted the bonbon and retreated, completely stunned.
When she finally moved to the old people’s home, she continued to boss people around. She teamed up with her sister, which meant living hell for the other pensioners AND their families. It got so bad, that the director told my family she had to move to another home because too many guests were pushing their furniture in front of their doors to block her out. That was four years ago.
People wonder what the secret was of her old age. My guess is that my grandfather, who died more than twenty years ago, lobbied god to leave her on earth as long as possible so he could enjoy his peace and quiet for as long as it lasted. Another scenario that is very likely is this one:
GOD: You take her.
DEVIL: No way man, you take her.
GOD: You take her, it’s your task. You’re supposed to take in people like that.
DEVIL: It’s not fair, I already got Hitler AND Mussolini AND Pol Pot AND Atila the Hun AND Mother Theresa…
GOD: Ok, this is getting ridiculous. She’s already ninety-four and we still haven’t found a solution!
DEVIL: You can do what you want man. I’m not taking her in.
GOD: If you don’t, my eternal wrath will be upon you!!!
DEVIL: Oh yeah? What you gonna do, cast me into hell?