I took care of Omama until she died, at the age of 92.
Toward the end, I lived in Mexico, but I would spend half the year in Vienna. When Omama could no longer live alone, my mother found a nursing home. Before the house was sold, Val and I spent one winter there looking over all four floors, one object at a time, one paper at a time. My grandmother kept everything, her things and those that belonged to her relatives who were killed in the war: letters, diaries, photos, fabrics, plastic bags, boxes.
When Omama moved to the nursing home, she started to lose her memory.
Val and I used to spend every Christmas with her in Vienna. We would bring a small tree and dinner to her in the nursing home. Once we took her downtown in a wheelchair, so she could see the cathedral for the last time. It was winter, so we covered her in blankets. Then we had tea and cake at Demel.
My grandfather specified in his will that a third of the home sale would go to me. We used that money to buy our house in Mexico. We spent nine months remodeling it. During all those years, I gradually brought my grandmother’s things back with me in a suitcase: the wooden and vinyl stools from the 1950s, the lamp she bought for her first husband, faucets for the bathtub, water jugs, plates, all of her photos, negatives, letters, and diaries.
When Omama died, on January 16, she was alone.
A few weeks earlier, during the inauguration of my photography exhibition about her, they called me from the nursing home to say that she was agonizing. Again, I was on the next flight to Vienna. I stayed for two weeks, and she stabilized. I returned to Mexico, and she died soon after.
When my mother, my sister, and I went to the funeral, Omama had already been dead for two weeks. They had her in refrigeration. I touched her skin, so cold.
I took photos of her. I still haven’t developed them.
My mother organized the funeral; her ex-boyfriend from high school, who was president of parliament at the time, made a speech. I was mentioned only as the granddaughter from Mexico. At the Museum café a few days later, my mother told me: See how it’s my Vienna, not yours?
When I got back from the funeral, Val picked me up at the airport. In the car, he told me my cat Felix had died the night before. Then he told me that he wanted to leave home for a while. We buried Felix under a tree outside the house.
When Val came back after a few months, we started taking medical treatments in order to become pregnant.