Oma’s Sunset Years

“Well, decision time. Either I buy this boat or I buy a condo.” It was a warm, sunny afternoon in April and we were sitting on the dock next to Wildfire, a 30 foot sloop we had just taken for a sail. “Don’t be so silly. I already have a condo!” Laura and I met in January. I was clearing tables at my newly acquired Cafe when she walked in. “There you are!” It was instant recognition for both of us. The first time we had dinner at her place, I found my books on her shelf, my spices in her cupboards. And when she walked up the steps to Oma’s cottage for the first time, she broke out in tears: “You are real!”

Billy’s buyout was protracted. Over five years I slowly removed myself from Compu-Clone so as to cause minimal disruption in his business. That gave me the chance to gradually re-locate to the west coast and realize a lifelong dream. In 1998, my mother was in her late 70s and although she had closed the Glendale Reflexology Center, she was still working almost full time as a Reflexologist to support herself. Now that I had ample financial resources it was an opportunity to bring our lives closer together. And so, in February of 1998, I purchased what would later be known as Oma’s Cottage, a small house nestled in the woods along Westcott Bay on San Juan Island.

My commitment was to provide food, shelter and a loving, peaceful environment to the woman who had dedicated so much of her life to her children. By her example, she had given me strength, guidance and fortitude. After a long and arduous journey through life, I wanted her to find sanctuary in her sunset time. Sailing back and forth across Haro Strait in my sloop, and using up my many points to fly cross country, I divided my time between Compu-Clone, the Cafe in Sidney and caring for “Oma” at the cottage.

They say that old age is not for sissies. It’s something I found out first hand over these seven years, caring for my mother as she had a hip replacement, tripple bypass surgery, and finally breast cancer. In between there were bouts of recovery where in my semi retired state I relished napping with her under the speckled shade of a big leaf maple or sailing the Salish Sea with Laura, My Love, in our sloop.

Not being there full time, the Cafe naturally didn’t make a profit and so I passed the baton, just eighteen months after purchasing it, at a considerable financial loss. Once the Comp-Clone buyout was complete I looked for new opportunities to make money while enjoying this idyllic life. So I became an amateur commodity trader on my own account. There is a German word, “lehrgeld”, literally translated to mean “Learning Money”. It basically refers to the pain that can be caused by inexperience and the hope that becasue of the tangible consequences we become wiser for it.

My time trading sugar, wheat and soybean futures can be classified as such. Although it seemed perfect at first, (I could watch the market early in the morning and care for mother the rest of the day) in the end, when a major contract exposure in wheat went limit down, preventing me from exiting my position until after serious losses were crystalized, I could not stomach the ridiculousness of futures contracts anymore. Like most people I had been naive enough to believe that there would be an intrinsic value associated with 5000 bushels of wheat. My time in the commodities market set me straight.

But this time in my life was not about making money. It was about the care we give our elders. And I was blessed to have the foresight and means to take the lead and responsibility for my mother’s care. We had a very special time together and although some aspects were very hard for both of us, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it. In the end we were both enriched by the love that we shared. At 2am on March 15th, 2006 I sat by her bedside in her beloved home, holding her hand, as she gasped her last breath.

Her incredible life story, of growing up in Hitler’s Germany, hiding her husband when he went AWAL, walking hundreds of miles from east to west as the war ended, crushing hunger after the war, building a business, loosing a business, and then starting a new life as a single mom in America, will be told in a book that I hope to complete within the next few years.

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