I wrote this on January 27, 2009 Photo taken June 2009
My mother (in law) is dying.
SIL called to say two days to a week.
My appreciation for having this woman
In my life
Far surpasses the son she brought into the world
Whom I was lucky enough to marry.
Erika became the mother I never had.
And to many that will seem unfair, as I had
A perfectly good mother.
Maybe I never appreciated my own mother enough.
But Erika gave me something I never got from my own mother…
Erika appreciated me out loud.
Maybe it’s sad to think that my EGO needed a mother
But it did.
And Erika gave me that…she appreciated everything I did
Everything I created
Everything I wrote, or made or did.
She made me feel special and good at what I did
I love her for that.
When I first met Erika she lived in Cambridge, MA
In a small apartment. I knew she was born in Berlin, Germany
And grew up during WWII
I worried how she would accept me
Her Jewish Daughter in law.
I think it was when I saw a Jewish symbol in her home
One early Christmas visit
That cinched it for me…that I was okay
and that neither my Jewishness nor her Germanness would be a problem
And it never ever was.
Erika and I used to write letters to each other
We’d write weekly
In long hand
(This was before computers)
I eventually switched to the keyboard
But Erika never did. Always in long hand
And often on legal sized pages
Her letters and mine could be many pages long.
Erika still has (or my SIL has) boxes of all the letters
I wrote to Erika…
I saved some of hers too.
Erika kept notes on large calendars
So every Jewish New Year I’d send her
Another Jewish calendar
And at Christmas I’d send her German Marzipan
And German cookies.
The last few years dementia kicked in for Erika
And the letters stopped coming from her
I tried to write on occasion anyway and send photos
Of us and our grand kids
She said she was the grandmother to my children
Even though they were her son’s stepchildren & she never
met them in person.
And therefore she became a great grandmother to my twins.
We went every Christmas to visit her.
And in summer too.
I will miss this feisty woman
Who had a mind of her own
Who was smart and kind and loving
And who took me in as her “other daughter”
And who is/was my “other mother”.
Go in Peace Erika, Shalom. I love you and will miss you.
I wrote this January 30, 2009 to family and friends: Erika fell ten days ago and broke her hip. (This about a month and a half after breaking her other hip and having surgery for it) She had surgery but did not come all the way round after the surgery. We have been watching from a far and waiting and today we have heard that she died peacefully at six o'clock this morning in her nursing home in Minnesota. Needless to say we feel very sad.
Erika had a long life, tumultuous in the beginning (growing up in Berlin, Germany; becoming widowed in her first young marriage; surviving the war ...meeting my husbands’ dad, an American Soldier there...marrying and immigrating to America. She followed her military husband all over the globe. She raised two children. She worked as a Librarian at Harvard University. She became widowed a second time when my husband’s father died. She was lucky to live with her daughter and help raise her grandson, until he left for college four years ago. She was much loved by all of us. She was my "other mother". Erika and I had a special friendship over the past thirty years that was first lived through long weekly letters back and forth...the acceptance and praise I got from Erika has sustained me in my adult life in ways that is hard to explain but helped me in many ways. I will miss her.
I will miss that.
I know we have been dealing with a lot of deaths of blog friend’s loved ones lately…and I hesitated to add mine to the mix.
But many of you got to know Erika from my previous postings about our visits with her, especially this past summer and winter holiday time in the nursing home…I guess it’s the end chapter to that part of my story. Sorry to add to the sadness today…thank you for reading this and being my ear and shoulder.