Asleep in the cold

If anyone knows about starting again, starting over, picking up pieces and going on, it is my Oma.

I sleep in an unheated bedroom. Always have. On recent nights when the temperature has plunged to -14 C, it’s been downright chilly.

“Why?” is a question I know you must be asking. “Polar expedition training? Slight streak of masochism? Saving electricity?” might be answers you suggest and all are partially right. The reason I sleep in an unheated space, however, comes down to one woman: my Oma.  Oma is the German word for grandmother and my Oma, Frida, is one heck of a woman.

Oma turns 94 in September. Oma has had a hard life filled with the challenges of beginning over and over again.  Orphaned at the age of six, she had to go live with a new family. She survived World War II but lost her home and all belongings. After the war, she immigrated to Canada, beginning her life over once again in a new country. but spending her first year here in indentured servitude.

Oma has lived the past decade without her dear husband, Alois, with whom she shared life for over 50 years. If anyone knows about starting again, starting over, picking up pieces and going on, it is my Oma. Her favourite saying is, “Whatever comes, comes!”

Secrets of a long life

Despite all the hardships she’s faced, Oma is a delightful, generous, and loving person.  Her voice brightens whenever I call on the phone. I frequently ask, “What are your secrets of living a long healthy life?”  She thinks a minute and replies, “I walk everywhere.  And I never overeat. I eat my veggies.  And I have some sweets every now and again. I never hit the bottle much. Though schnapps is a good cure for an upset stomach and I take everything as it comes.”

“I walk everywhere. And I never overeat. I eat my veggies.  And I have some sweets every now and again… I take everything as it comes.”

This from my Oma who can still out-walk me, who is famous for carrying heavy cement bags at age 70, and who still uses the stairs to climb to her third floor apartment.

Just before Christmas when I called Oma to let her know I was coming to visit, we had a conversation that went slightly like this: “Oma, how you doing?”  She replied, “Oh each day is like the other, my fire is burning low.” I offered, “Perhaps I should bring you some kindling.” She answered, “You could bring me a nice young man.” I chuckled and said, “I’ll keep my eyes open on the plane.”

While there, I had the wonderful fortune of placing my laptop onto Oma’s lap. It was a precious moment as she saw herself appear on the screen.  Magic happened as she looked herself in the eye and soon had Mom and I in stitches with her candor about growing old.

In the cold

So back to the unheated bedroom, Oma has never slept in a heated room either. I take my lead from her. I can’t argue with 93 years worth of good sleep.  Oma says sleeping in a cold room keeps colds and viruses at bay, invokes deeper sleep, and makes snuggling a necessity. Turns out that science backs her up… Who can argue with that?

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