Saturday, July 11, 1998
Luise Bauer—I always knew her as “Omi” [pronounced O-mee] or “Oma”—died at age 62 in 1972. Renal failure.
At the time, I was seventeen, in high school.
I don’t recall her death as a big event. We certainly mourned. But I don’t think any of us (in the immediate family), aside from Manny, was close to her. Edith plainly disliked her. Her mourning was largely a matter of her saying nothing about the woman.
While Luise was around, I never got to the point of having my own view about her. I simply adopted the “family’s” take on her, which seemed to be a slightly mitigated version of Edith’ take. Edith saw Luise as vulgar, coarse, sloppy, and bitchy. (It does seem true that Edith got the full-on "mother-in-law" antagonistic treatment from Luise. Some of Edith's stories are amazing.)
On the other hand, occasionally, Edith would announce that “Omi” had a good side. “She has always been good to you kids,” she’d say. That was true.
I guess my memory of Luise extends a dozen years, from about 1960, when she came to live with us in Orange, until her death.
I recall spending a day with her in Opa and Omi’s crummy apartment in Anaheim. I may have been ten or eleven. She asked me if I wanted something to eat. I must’ve said yes. She made me a big sloppy ham sandwich. She used a special Asian mustard. A hot mustard. I recall telling Ma about it. I think I liked it.
I think she loved us kids. I remember her big bear hugs. Her big friendly laugh. She used to leave Easter baskets on the lawn, full of chocolate. Supposedly, Opa and Omi left this stuff, but I always knew it was Oma.
I guess I never had a significant conversation with her. We never really talked about anything. Too bad. She must have been very interesting, given all of the actions and characteristics attributed to her.
I do recall that she would sit at the kitchen table with the rest of the adults for hours arguing about things. Drinking, smoking, arguing. It’s a German thing, I guess. Or maybe something people do in her particular region of Germany. A kind of chemically-assisted endless bloviation.
I’m told that she would say absurd things and then insist on them. But I never actually listened to those arguments.
Opa (Otto) was a pretty inscrutable guy. He just didn’t say much. He was also stubborn and strong-willed. Nevertheless, I always had the sense that Omi ran the show in their marriage. She was bossy and tended to “take charge” of things, I believe. It seemed to me that Opa went along with her plans and projects because it was the course of least resistance. But I don’t really know. Maybe that’s just the voice of “the family,” with its many official views and takes and attitudes.
Yes, official views! For instance, one was not allowed to say anything good about Barbra Streisand, for she was, well, “bitchy” and tended to assert herself in an unseemly fashion. I recall saying--I must have been 14 or so--that I liked how she sang “People.” I immediately got push-back: no, she’s a bitch. I said, “well, maybe she’s a bad person like you say; but isn’t it possible that, nevertheless, she has a great voice?”
No. She’s a bitch.
We all agreed. I must be wrong.
For whatever reason, Otto acquired this document from German authorities in 1972. It establishes that he was born in Böblingen on November 22, 1907
Otto died on July 11, 1998, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was ninety years old.