Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
I posted this “Oma Sue” blog entry nearly two years ago. The blog entry contains a bit about reincarnation. I have been thinking about reincarnation lately so I decided to share again. FYI, I have updated the story by including a few new paragraphs at the end…
2-11-2019 - The original blog entry
My friend Leila, who happens to be the current executive director of Keep Fremont Beautiful, stops by the house every so often, to visit about the organization and to get caught up on what is happening in our lives.
Her most recent visit happened just a few days after I had gone to my oldest daughters’ home for my birthday dinner celebration. I had taken a ton of pictures and videos of the decorations and the family. Our little Gracyn had entertained us throughout the evening with jokes and singing – she is quite the performer.
Gracyn is my granddaughter who has muscular dystrophy. Gracyn is beautiful, intelligent, talented, funny and fierce. Leila was appropriately smitten with the videos of my adorable little granddaughter, as well as, the numerous pictures of the other magnificent grandchildren and the evenings activities.
Of course, the conversation led to topics concerning the sale of the book, the setting up of the special needs trust for Gracyn, creating the website for Oma Publishing and the writing and illustrating of the second book. There was a lot to get her caught up on.
I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but as it was winding down, Leila stated that she had never known my husband Randy but she imagined that I wished he was here to experience all of this with me.
I paused for a moment before answering Leila… “I feel that he is here. He is with me.”
For those of you who don’t know, my husband Randy passed away in 2006 from brain cancer. I have often talked to Leila about Randy and what a special man he was to me and our children. I have told her stories of his strength, his wit and his intelligence. The man was a wonderful and loving person. I miss him and always will but at the same time, I know he is here.
During the last few weeks of Randy’s life, he entered hospice care. It was much too difficult to provide the needed care for Randy in our home so we opted for a medical facility a few blocks from our house. I had my son-in-law move our recliner into Randy’s room so I could stay with him day and night. I rarely left his side as he slowly slipped away from me.
One day my Mom came in to the room. She stood at the end of his bed. I stood beside the bed. I looked down and saw that Randy’s hand was resting on his chest. I giggled because he was giving me the finger. I didn’t think he would respond but I jokingly said “Hey Randy, you’re giving my Mom the finger.” He opened his eyes, raised his head to look at my Mom, picked up his hand and with a bit of a smirk, gave my Mom a proper finger.
I could tell he was thinking... how many times do I have left to give my mother-in-law the finger? Mom and I both laughed as he rested once again.
Our oldest daughter Sara was pregnant during Randy's time of hospice. She would come visit and sit by his bed – his hand resting on her baby bump. He had told her he would live to hold his grandson. He had told me that he would beat the cancer inside his head. We were heartbroken as the cancer continued to take its toll.
I prayed, I cried and I worried during those days in hospice. I told Randy over and over how much I loved him and how I knew that he would be watching over us. I pleaded with him to give me a sign so I would know that he was with me, after he was gone.
Late on January 30th, I nodded off to sleep, holding Randy’s hand through the guard rail. I awoke suddenly in the early hours of January 31st, with a warm sensation throughout my body, I couldn’t move, the warmth faded, the paralysis ended and I knew that Randy had passed on. I appreciated the warm good-bye and hoped that I would receive a sign of his presence in the future.
That was in January of 2006. Fast forward to April of 2006 and the birth of our first grandchild. Sara had wanted me in the delivery room and I was so honored to be present for the birth of dear Sam. I was so completely delighted to get to hold that precious boy just moments after his birth. As I gazed at his adorable, and oh so familiar little smirk, he laid his hand on his chest and gave me the finger. At that moment I realized that Randy was with me – with all of us. We were surrounded by the love of the most special man I have ever known.
For those who knew Randy well, you know that he could be a tad irreverent – he had a wonderfully wicked sense of humor. Sam giving me the finger, just after entering this world, was the absolute most perfect sign to show me that Randy is with me still.
December 29, 2020 You might be wondering what this has to do with reincarnation… I’m not sure, but it seems like it does. The last little irreverent joke that Randy carried out in his life, is the exact same “first” little joke performed by baby Sam. I suppose the finger could have been merely a sweet little coincidence, but it feels like more to me.
When I told my Mom what had happened, and showed her the picture, she got chills. We both got tears in our eyes – I know it’s weird… getting the finger from a newborn… but it truly meant something special to us both…
As Sam grew older, he would say things that Randy had said to me. He would do things that Randy had done. Sam is 14 now and I still witness the odd "Randy" thing from time to time. Although I can’t prove it, I feel that Randy shared an aspect of his personality and that aspect reincarnated in Sam.
At any rate, I believe in reincarnation. I don’t know exactly how it all works but I think it is possible that reincarnation manifests in a variety of ways.
Before the Pandemic – in late 2019… I had finished the story for the third book in the three-frog series. I was working on the illustrations with hopes of a Spring 2020 roll out of the book. Then COVID hit and essentially everything went sideways.
I’m sure your experiences were similar – not that you were necessarily trying to publish a children’s book, but I bet you had your own sideways happenings throughout 2020.
As I write this blog entry, each State is in the red zone as far as COVID infection is concerned. There have been millions of people infected with this horrible virus and over 313,000 COVID deaths. So, life has not returned to normal and it will be a long while before it does!
It’s hard for me to understand, but some people got all worked up about wearing a mask – not everyone – but enough to make it a “thing”. Some people – not scientists – but some people (idiots), thought herd immunity was the way to go. It wasn’t – it isn’t!
To me it seems pretty simple… listen to the experts. The experts (scientists and health professionals) encourage you to wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds, to not eat in restaurants and not hang out in bars. Again – to me it seems simple – follow the expert advice and avoid the plague.
Here in Fremont, the City passed a mask mandate. I was kind of surprised and happily relieved. It used to be that I would go to a store and very few people would be wearing a mask. But since the mandate went into effect, I have only witnessed one “Karen” without a mask.
Soooo, I’m happy the City passed a mask mandate, I’m happy everybody, but that one “Karen”, has been compliant, I’m happy that people are taking this virus seriously and caring for their health and the health of their fellow citizens! There really isn’t a cure for COVID but we can slow the spread – please continue to wear a mask.
Switching gears here – have you noticed all the masks littered around town. Ya, mask litter! I mean, I don’t get out a lot but when I do get out, I am amazed at the number of masks I see littered in parking lots.
With more people wearing masks, more people are purposely or accidentally littering their masks. Every – well maybe not every, but it sure seems like every parking lot, I parked in this past week, had littered masks – all over. Seriously – all over! I finally started taking pictures to document this littered mask parking lot phenomenon.
Like I said before, we may not have a cure for COVID but wearing a mask will protect you from the virus and it will protect other people from getting the virus. Soooo, no cure for COVID, but we do have a cure for litter. THE ONLY CURE FOR LITTER IS YOU! Sorry – didn’t mean to yell, but I did want to get your attention.
Each of us is responsible for our own health and safety. We are also responsible for not endangering others. Wear a mask until the experts say it’s safe to go without! Take extra precautions to not litter your mask. Don’t take your mask off in the parking lot – you might accidentally drop it on the pavement. Wait to take your mask off until you get in the car. Never purposely drop your disposable mask on the ground – that’s littering and it’s nasty – find a trash can! If you are picking up litter, be sure to wear protective gloves and for sure, don't litter the gloves. OK – rant over!
So anyway – back to the third book. It is coming out in January, 2021. And information will be posted in a few days, on how you may pre-order the book. So – Hooray!
I am so proud of my granddaughter for taking personal responsibility in wearing her mask to school every day and helping to keep her old Oma healthy and virus free. It seemed appropriate to dedicate the third book – completed during a world-wide pandemic, to all the students who have so faithfully worn their masks to school. The three little frogs are pictured in the dedication, wearing their masks… they look so adorable!
But don’t let their cuteness fool you – those three little frogs dislike litter almost as much as I do. I have it on good authority that creating public awareness and reducing mask litter is going to be a “thing” for them in 2021. In addition to the third book, Freddy, Green and Hops are coming out with new litter reduction posters, book bag designs, t-shirts and education materials. (And yes, those three frogs speak to me and that's not just a quarantine thing.)
I don’t want to jinx anything, so let’s just say the books, bags, t-shirts, posters and other stuff will be available soonish! Watch this space for updates.
When I was a little girl, the Thanksgiving meal was prepared by Grandma Lil. We always gathered at her and Grandpa Joe’s house just a block south of the greenhouse. After the feast (and after 1956), the ladies would clean up, the men would retreat to the family room and watch football or nap on one of the three large couches or relax on one of recliners facing the huge console color television set.
Us kids would get out some toys or play games in the family room. Aunt Rose was usually excluded from the cleanup activities and instead was tasked with watching us kids. She told us stories, teach us card games or tell us our fortunes by reading our palms – Aunt Rose was always entertaining.
One year after the meal, Aunt Rose took us kids over to the old work room of the greenhouse to show us her nativity set project. She had taken over a corner of the design table and had molds lined up filled with plaster of paris. Several sets had already been removed from the molds and were ready to be decorated.
This was something new to me - red pliable plastic molds were sitting upside down and filled with white plaster. Aunt Rose picked one up and carefully peeled the red plastic from the plaster. As she peeled the red plastic from each blob of plaster, a character from the nativity was revealed. One was Mary, another Joseph and a little one was Jesus in a manger. There was an angel, a sheep, a cow, a donkey, a camel and each of the three Wise men. Several nativity sets had been made and were ready to be painted.
Paints were set up so us kids could decorate the figures. I thought I did a great job… but Aunt Rose favored brother Billy and his precision details… I think my painting style at the time, was much more indicative of the abstract style I would explore in later decades of artistic endeavors. My painting of the nativity was lively, expressive and definitely colorful.
I wasn’t content to just paint the sets, I wanted to pour the plaster and peel the forms. Aunt Rose showed me how to mix the plaster and pour it into the mold. I did my best - but was disappointed when I peeled back the plastic and Mary was missing much of her face… it was a large gaping hole with a portion of an eye on one side of her face and a bit of her lips present on the other side. She looked monstrous. The donkey had a thing going on with its ears – they were sort of gone – the plaster of paris didn’t quite reach all the recesses in the plastic forms. Jesus turned out fine, but I broke off a corner of the manger when I dropped him on the table.
The afternoon activity was completed, all too soon, and it was time to return to my Grandma Lil’s for left overs! Aunt Rose cleaned up the mess and took many of the unpainted forms with her to be completed at her leisure. I think the set my brother painted was displayed in her Sunday school class for a number of years. My fun, monstrous, irregular, colorful nativity set was proudly displayed on one of the colonnades that year for Christmas and then at the end of the Holiday Season simply disappeared.
A few years later my Aunt Rose traveled to the Holy Land. She had been planning, meticulously organizing this journey for years. She was giddy with anticipation and it was contagious – I knew this trip was a big deal.
My family drove Aunt Rose to the airport in Omaha for the first leg of her travels. Eppley was just a small building at that time, you could pull up and park right in front of the terminal.
After checking in, we walked my Aunt right out to the gate. We waited and watched her board the plane, saw the jet taxi to the runway and gently take off into the sky. I thought it was amazing. Aunt Rose had begun her long-awaited adventure and I couldn’t wait for her to get back and tell me all about it.
We returned a few weeks later to Eppley and collected Aunt Rose. She looked the same. But with more joy – she was happy. My brother and I wanted to know about the flight – she gave us details… sharing how she chewed gum to keep her ears from popping when taking off and landing… and she told us about the pyramids, the sphinx and even how she had ridden a camel. She was super excited to have her pictures developed. I was super excited to see the wondrous sights that she had described.
When we pulled up at the Pathfinder, she invited us to come in to the café for a dessert. I had a butterscotch sundae – I don’t remember what anyone else had – but my treat was wonderful. Aunt Rose continued her tales from the Holy Land. She had purchased a hand carved nativity set in Bethlehem and was anxious for my mother and I to see it. She didn’t have room to bring it back in her luggage but it would arrive in a few days. I would have to come visit her to see the set. She had gotten me a little gift that should arrive at the same time and she had bought a Persian rug that should be coming soon after that. This was exciting – pictures, a gift, a nativity set and a Persian rug (whatever that was). I couldn’t wait.
The Nativity Set and my gift were the first to arrive. Aunt Rose had bought me a small, intricately carved, mother of pearl box – I loved it. That little box adorned my dresser for the years my family lived on Military and then in Fontanelle. It came with me when I married and it survived the thirteen moves of my first marriage. The little box is with me still, some 60 years later, and is a precious memento from a dear great aunt.
The box the Nativity set was shipped in was soooo cool. It was a wooden box with a cardboard lid. That box was placed in a larger cardboard box surrounded in scrunched up packing paper. Each piece of the Nativity was wrapped in tissue paper.
Aunt Rose carefully unwrapped the wooden carvings and I genuinely ooooooo’ed and aaaaaaahhh’ed as each was revealed. It reminded me of the time Aunt Rose removed the nativity pieces from the molds. This set, however, was the most beautiful nativity set I had ever seen and Aunt Rose was delighted at my enthusiastic response.
A few years later, when Aunt Rose set sail on a voyage around the world, she gave me the Nativity set for safe keeping. She knew I liked it and she wanted me to have it, if something should happen to her. She returned safely a year later – it was a long trip! I always displayed the Nativity set at Christmas and she always attended our family gatherings. She never asked for the Nativity set to be returned. We all knew it belonged to Aunt Rose, but I was the caretaker of that particular souvenir and she was more than happy to visit it at our house during the holidays.
So, anyway – now to the Persian Rug. It took a couple of months for that to make its way to Nebraska. When it arrived, Aunt Rose called my Mother and was absolutely thrilled with how the rug looked in her apartment – the expense had been well worth it. She had placed the rug between her desk and her bed – it fit perfectly. She was amazed by the vibrant colors and astonished by how they changed as the sun traveled across the sky. She couldn’t wait for me to see it.
My Mom and I went to the Hotel a few days later to see this magnificent tapestry. I was truly awed by its beauty – Mom was a little less awestruck. Mom was kind and admired my Aunt’s prized acquisition from the Holy Land… but she would later tell me that she was disappointed that the rug was so small. She really thought that this rug was going to be huge from the level of my Aunt’s excitement and her admission that it was an extravagant and pricey acquisition.
I didn’t have any expectations concerning the size of this Persian Rug – I knew nothing other than it was a rug. So, I wasn’t disappointed – to me the rug was perfect. My Aunt wasn’t big on possessing a lot of things – and smaller was better. In many ways she was a minimalist - except earrings and purses – she had a lot of those. The rug didn’t need to be massive to remind my Aunt of her cherished time in the Holy Land. It just had to be big enough to bring a bit of the history, color and culture back home.
In later years, my Aunt gifted me the Persian rug. She was moving into assisted living and she wanted the rug to have a good home. I have it placed in the guest room where it doesn’t get much wear. It still has vibrant colors and they change as the sun drifts across the sky. The edging has come lose a bit but still looks pretty good for an old lady.
I’m reminded of these gifts from my Aunt because of the time of year. I went downstairs to retrieve the box that contained the Nativity set. Last year, I transferred the set to a new box as the old lid was deteriorating. It took me a minute to locate the set. I gently unwrapped each piece of the nativity and set them on the table behind the couch.
That process of unpacking each piece, reminded me of the day when Aunt Rose unpacked the set for the first time in her apartment in the Hotel Pathfinder… that made me think of the time we gathered around the old work table and watched my Aunt as she removed the plaster figures from the molds. I think I might have done a little ooooohing and aaaaahing in my head, as I unpacked and examined the carved figures from Bethlehem.
Yearly traditions and the unpacking of family heirlooms trigger all kinds of memories. Completing these simple tasks, take you back in time to the people you’ve loved, the special times you spent together and the joy, wisdom and adventure they brought to your life. The past few weeks have been a time of remembering Aunt Rose – thanks for going on this little journey down memory lane.