Journal: News & Comment

Saturday, November 17, 2001
# 12:16:00 AM:

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City girl

For a long time, it seemed like she would go on forever, but now it's over. Hedwig Olga Anders Müller Purkart, my grandmother, my Oma, died almost exactly 48 hours ago.

Until 1995, when she had a stroke that slowed her down, she was a powerhouse. Born in 1910 in Germany as Hedi Anders, she lived there through two world wars. During the second one, she raised two young kids (my dad and aunt) in Berlin as a single mom. (Her husband, my grandfather Karl Müller, was a soldier and, later, a Russian prisoner of war. He died in 1947.) She remarried in 1955, to my Opa, Milos Purkart, and here in Vancouver they ran some famous restaurants.

When I was very young and staying at their apartment in the West End, she used to make me soft-boiled eggs, out of their shells in a little bowl, mixed together with lots of salt and pepper. I never knew that anyone ate soft-boiled eggs any other way until years later -- when I noticed that she ate them from an egg cup. She also made the best fried chicken, plum cake, cabbage rolls, potato salad, and dumplings I (or my relatives and roommates) ever had.

Opa died in 1981. Oma could have died ten or fifteen years ago and still led a long and full life. But then she would have missed the fall of the Berlin Wall, moving into her new condominium on Vancouver's waterfront (including one final summer there watching the cruise ships gleaming in the sunset on the way to Alaska), and the birth of her two great-granddaughters, my children. They are not yet two and four years old, but she got to know them well enough to see what kinds of women they might become. And they had fun with her. When my wife and I were planning our wedding more than six years ago, Oma gave us the wedding rings from her marriage to Opa. We wear them today.

She lived most of her 91 years downtown somewhere, in Berlin and in Vancouver. She died there too, in St. Paul's Hospital, in the heart of the city. She went there on Halloween. She was still telling jokes on November 8, when I saw her a week before she died. Oma was a city girl.

Goodbye, city girl.


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