Compote or History is Made

Markus Köhle
Compote or History is Made
Oma had a thing for stones: gems, kidney stones, gall stones. Opa was a stonemason. Oma always used to say: “Whomever sits in the warehouse should not throw stones, or else the warehouse will turn into a stone pile.”

Oma also liked to say: “It’s better to be written in stone in the good books of a few then to be stony in the bed of one.” Opa was not stony in bed. And if he was a stone in her bed, then he was her philosopher’s stone. Opa ennobled Oma. Opa was Oma’s heating blanket, her security mantle, her Every-Evening-Good-Night-Story.

“Rather sleep like a stone, then snore like a pig”, said Oma.

Yes, Oma never restrained her smart mouth. Oma could afford it.

Way back when, it had been love at first sight with Opa. A beer mug fell on the ground at the forest festival near their village. Oma picked it up with her back facing Opa. Opa turned her way, leaned over and was delighted. He started to fondle, several times. Oma let him, back then and thereafter. Opa looked at her in a funny way. Oma said: “Now that your beer mug has fallen off the bar, you don’t have to let your heart fall into your underpants.”

Opa answered: “Better to have your heart in your pants, than a heart made of stone. I am Konrad and if you want, I am from now on ... yours.”

The mug didn’t break. Oma and Opa’s love never shattered either. The mug simply became empty and could be refilled again. That is what happened multiple times on that very evening and together they wrote their love pages anew. They wrote quickly.

“Whoever writes with a stone-nib pen writes more fluently”, says Oma.

Soon Mama was there. Then for a long, long, long time a lot happened that I know nothing about, although I would like to know what happened, and then suddenly a new house and I appeared, but Daddy was gone.

Oma said: “When no stone remains stacked and fixed, then the house won’t stand long.”

Mama worked and cried a lot; Opa jobbed around and I spent a lot of time with Oma.

“Trusting in foreign loans is building a foundation on sand,” said Oma.

Then Opa was struck; no, his heart was still in his pants, but the stonemason master actually tripped over a stone while strolling in the pedestrian zone. A stumbling block, a fall, headstone damage and out. From 100 to 0 in one second. Fully healthy at 70, then straight into the grave. No one’s fault, no one responsible. Oma was sad. Mama cried over Opa’s retirement support and I didn’t know how I could help.

After that happened Oma talked exclusively of stones: “Whoever sits like a stone hopes for mortality. Whatever is set in stone is not temporary. A short stone-sitting can possibly be found at a vineyard. Whoever knows the stonemason wishes he will never roll away. Then moss will grow on the rolling stone because it is not rolling and too much moss makes the brain soft.”

I tried hard to show Oma that I wanted to understand her.

I laughed, Oma grinned, Mama cried.

Oma could waggle the pouch of loose skin between her chin and neck. Oma knew every wildflower by name. Oma had long, grey braided hair like the squaw of Chief Silverback. Oma dried nuts, made applesauce and mashed potatoes.

Sometimes Oma had light moments. “Sustainability is the nemesis of impermanence”, said Oma and then I would try to remember to add the word nemesis to my vocabulary because it sounded interesting.

Oma did my handcraft homework for me. Oma knitted the warmest of all winter slippers. Oma could make clapping sounds with her dentures. Oma loved to order from Quelle. Oma was unbeatable at Schnapsen and also played Unter-Ansetzten with me. Oma called waiters “Lady Legs”.

Sometimes Oma would surprise me saying, “Many lives are ruins, ruins like the city Borsippa in Babylon. Left over towers made from millions of stone bricks. It is impossible to grasp so many stones. It is important to select those stones that reveal their meaning.”

I tried to remember Borsippa and Babylon in order to look them up later. Oma smelled like compote. Oma wore colourful aprons when she cooked. Oma watched Columbo with me. Oma often fell asleep during it. Oma started lying in bed more. Oma said: “Earlier I had Konrad, now I have polyneuropathy.” She kept her humour though saying, “On my gravestone it should read: don’t be a stone!”

Oma began to talk less and less, but she could still wiggle her chin pouch and I felt like she wanted to say something more: “Stones are like stations in life formed by history. Stones are the building materials that make history and stories tangible. Stories are immortal as long as they are passed on,” said Oma and asked me to remember her fondly and occasionally tell stories about her.
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