I watched as my cousin walked up to the cashier, basket of groceries in one hand and a small orange pumpkin in the other.
With room in the basket, it struck me how he separated the small orange squash with its lopsided bit of curled stem from the rest of the groceries.
I also wondered what he would do with it. He had only a couple more days in Zweibrücken, where we both were at the time of the great pumpkin purchase, before he’d return to his reality in London. And I, along with my husband Steve, had only a couple days beyond that before we would also be bidding adieu to Germany.
We were there together this fall on short notice. Members of my family came from respective corners of this country and that continent to say good-bye to the matriarch of the Mayer clan; a woman who is, without question, loved, though there have been moments when that wasn’t easy. She is admirable in many ways, and yet those same qualities we all grew to admire — and to which we credited her longevity — had once made her unbearable.
Still, at 99 and three-quarter years, with a mind that could put most a third of her age to shame, and a stubbornness that convinced everyone she would outlive us all, my Oma was flagging. She was certain she was going to die and as she laid in a hospital bed, she begged for death to happen.
It wasn’t my favourite trip to a place that I love and, in typical Oma Mayer fashion, she cheated death, though I know she was the only one disappointed.
For most of the week we were there, there was a heaviness to the days — hours of which would be spent at the hospital with her. There was a hollowness to any laughter, a worry about what the next day would bring. It was hard to imagine a world without her.
And then there was this pumpkin.