She’s gone now, but never forgotten

My grandmother as a child and my great-grandmother

My grandmother and my great-grandmother

My paternal grandmother, Franziska Klementine, was my favorite grandparent. We called her “Oma.” She died in her late 60s. Certainly, there were medical diagnoses attached to her death but I think she died of a broken heart and shattered dreams.
She was born in 1913 – not a good year considering World War I was about to break out. On top of that, her mother, the pretty young woman on the right, died when Franziska was very young. Her father married two other women but none of them became a good mother to her. Franziska remained the rejected step-child.
I was given a copy of these pictures just a few years ago and now had even more questions about my Oma and our family history that only she could have answered. I was pleased to see that there were books in these photographs – surely a representation of their love for books. Maybe they were educated people? I had always wondered how I was born into a family of farmers and day laborers and ended up going to university and earning a doctorate.
When Franziska met my grandfather Stephan, she probably thought he was her handsome knight in shining armor. They had four children during World War II, all born in the city of Cologne in Germany. I don’t know when they left the city (before or after the bombing) and how much the children were exposed to death and destruction during that time. Eventually, they settled in Stephan’s home town in the Black Forest.
Stephan, my grandfather, was not a very nice man. He was prone to rage attacks, and physically and emotionally abusive. There was very little money, shoes with holes in wintertime and ragged clothes. Each of the children escaped as early as they could be on their own.
I said good-bye to Oma before I moved to the US. When I returned a few years later with the intention to visit her, now loaded with questions about my family and her life experiences, she was gone.
I still miss her and think of her now and then. But when I see this picture of her as a little girl, I just want to wrap my arms around her and take care of her.

WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone, But Not Forgotten

About Beauty Along the Road

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32 Responses to She’s gone now, but never forgotten

  1. Very touching, Annette. i hope that you can find some answers for your questions. Your Oma was a beautiful child. Just look at her lovely hair.


  2. Aggie says:

    Thank you for sharing this.


  3. Barneysday says:

    Too many of us are left with too many questions when it is too late. Thanks for sharing this.


  4. kazg10 says:

    A really lovely tribute and interesting read. She was born during one world war and had children in another. Life is so unfair sometimes. How lucky we are to live now and we should appreciate that fact. 🙂


  5. I had a German grandmother whose life was terribly altered by WWI and II, so this post deeply resonates with me. These lovely people through no fault of their own – born into the terrible conflagrations of two enormous slaughters – had really no chance to lead fulfilling lives. They endured, they survived, they suffered. One of my most powerful memories of my Oma, Annette, is her telling me that if the bombs ever came again, she would not run. She would stay in the house and let them fall on her. I didn’t understand that then, but I do now. I am luckier than you in this regard. My mother has many stories that she has passed on to me from both sides, so I feel a stronger sense of understanding. It is my Oma whose face you see in my blog header. XXX


  6. Tina Schell says:

    An amazing story Annette. I love this post – good for you for memorializing her so lovingly. And how amazing that she could still be such a loving woman after being so mistreated. Incredible.


    • Thank you, Tina. For some reason, I am thinking of her strongly today, even though she passed away over 30 yrs ago. It is amazing how she was able to maintain a sense of love and compassion given everything she went through.


  7. Carol says:

    Sometimes it seems the best people find the least happiness.


  8. dorotanna says:

    I think that the longer we live the more aware we are of the impact our Grandmothers had on our lives. I still remember my Grandmother who lived with us and I was lucky to spend my childhood with her. She survived two world wars but she was always friendly and helpfull for everyone. In my opinion such bad experiences help people realize what really matters in live, what is really important.


  9. Such a lovely child, Annette. How sad that she didn’t have a happy life, and most of all that you never got to ask her the questions you would have liked answers to.


  10. A wonderful homage. Thank you for sharing this special story.


  11. Annette , thank you for sharing your Oma’s and her Mom’s pictures and stories, just beautiful.


  12. Thank you for this touching story. I’ve been going through old family photos recently, and can relate to the questions unanswered.


  13. Annette, genealogy can be so fascinating as it makes history less abstract, and may help explain what shaped our relatives’ personalities. What a gift to have these images!


    • Tricia – yes, I came across a very old family bible that revealed some things that even my mother didn’t seem to know about her ancestry. It’s amazing what people thought to disguise or “forgot” about (even if it is the death of a newborn, or a second marriage; more understandable when there is an “illegitimate” child to cover up given the morays of the times).


  14. Jill's Scene says:

    A poignant post . I too have have photos of my family, some who were gone before I arrived, and I often wonder about their stories – about what they would have to say, if we could have just one conversation.


  15. Fascinating story. I love these photos.


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