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