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Posted by Mummy Dearest on Apr-16-2005

For some reason, the large obituary/ notice of death caught my eye this morning as I read the paper. I don’t usually read the columns listing births, weddings and deaths. I wondered if it was him, that certainly was his name, that was his wife’s first name, but nothing else rang a familiar note. And their names are very common names, all around.

When the plain, white envelope addressed to Mummy Dearest slipped through the mail slot in the door at around noon, I knew that he was dead. They always called me Mummy Dearest because Mummy Dearest sounded too alien , too jarring in their ears. I didn’t mind, I can live with Mummy Dearest ( ik ben stapelgek op jouw…)

I worked for a farmer once, for seven years. I was the only over the table worker and was the official boerenknecht of the family. He wore those blue pants that farmers wear and if the tasks of the day allowed it, wooden shoes on his feet. They were bleached silver by age and use and he told me that they were the best of work shoes : warm in the winter, cool in the summer. Sounded reasonable to me.

Right after WWII ended, he was pulled off of his father’s farm in the Langstraat and sent around the world- in every way- to be a soldier in Indonesia. He was there a long, long time- my memory says 3 years, maybe longer. When he returned to his village, they presented him with a spanking new bike, a token of appreciation for his service to his country. Whenever he talked about his military service, it was always with a profound sense of sorrow, remembering the young men who had traveled around the world with him and never returned. I don’t think that he found it to be a just war.

He rolled his own cigarettes, liked his Bokma young and loved his family and for a while, I was a part of that, for I was the boerenknecht.

I never saw him in anger but once. In the early months of the year, only he and I and his son Eric worked in the greenhouses. It was always my favorite season of the year, for we started work very early, while it was still dark outside, after I had biked the seven kilometers from my town to theirs, passing the leek fields as I did so and tattooing their rich scent upon my memories. Under the bright lights of the greenhouse, we would go up and down the rows, tending the new plants while the world around us slept. Eric and I liked the same sort of music and so the sound system would be blasting some classic rock station throughout the three greenhouses.

It was Whole Lotta Love that finally blew the farmer’s cork. After a minute, maybe more of it, Eric and I heard some mighty strong swearing * somewhere in the greenhouse and the next thing we knew, we were listening to Gerhard Joling or Andre Hazes or someone like that, some radio station that would play Mexico with a straight face.

I worked for a farmer once and he was one of the finest men I have ever known, in every way.

At 78, Hein is dead.

* he was saying that phrase which sounds like Mon de shoe ( in english spelling) The Father isn’t here, so I can’t ask for his help on spelling it, but that word, or phrase is just so descriptive, in a way, of the person that is using it that I am sorry that I can spell it right.

  1. lynn Said,

    this is a good tale, and a fine tribute. i hope someone writes something insightful about me when i dissolve into eternity.
    *he was probably saying “mon dieu”- “my god” – in the inimitable way the dutch do. :-)

  2. sue Said,

    Lynn, I suspected that it might be french, but the way it drags out into three syllables threw me for a loop.

    Me and french, we are not compatible.

    I find that I could say so many things about Hein, so many things which show what a kind man, filled with integrity,that he was. The things that I admired in him are the very same qualities that Han’s Dad has. Makes me think that it is a * dutch* thing.

    These alpha males who find no shame in weeping for friends who die or people who show them kindness when they are down.

    I should go to the funeral, but I don’t think that I can handle it on my own, without Han. I have led a sheltered life : except for my mother, I have never been faced with the death of someone that I knew well and admired.

    Poopy. I have to mull this one over.

  3. Angie Said,

    A lovely tribute to a respected man. My condolences.

  4. marjan Said,

    Was it perhaps ‘Non-de-dju!!’ ?

    May he rest in peace, he sounds like a great man.

  5. Martie Said,

    He sounds like a wonderful man. Glad you got to know him. :)

  6. sue Said,

    I have really lived a sheltered life : outside of my mother, Hein is the only person who meant a bit to me who has died. I should be at his mass and I won’t be.

    For all that people are foaming at the mouth to help me, it has to fit within their agendas and I totally understand that. And- truth be told- I don’t know if I could handle Hein’s mass without Han. For you see, I knew him in his good times.

    They lost the farm, the green houses. That is why my job ended. They lost everything.

    And ended up in a flat, with a balcony.

    I spoke of the good times, of a man with pale clogs on his feet and a twinkle in his eye. Very bad times followed .

    I should be there and I won’t and some how, I have to write a letter to his children and wife that will make up for that.

    You know it won’t. Not really.

  7. sue Said,

    Marjan- I don’t know what the phrase is, it is always expressed so emotionally, with that stress on the last syllable, which could be a J…

    But it is indeed three syllables…

    So. Are you the M Angel mentions ? Hmmmm. curious minds want to know.

  8. sue Said,

    Catherine- would a late May ( after the 20th), sometime in June be a get-a-way you might want to take? If so, let me know. I shall get out my polishes amd the dust-buster.

    I am really bad right now with …you know. But should you need a break, if you can tolerate my smoke, the dust, the spiders…well, you all are welcome.

    And I won’t offer gum to Callum again. I promise.

    hopefully, an email soon-


  9. jo Said,

    I’m so very sorry Sue. I went through the same with a man who was my alternative Dad. I didn’t go. I shan’t say anything to influence or taint your decision, but it is hard either way. The only decision is living with the choice, and it is never easy. He sounds like a wonderful man, and I wonder what could have taken the family down from such security to such a difficult situation.

  10. catherine Said,

    Sue – I only just read this. Let me talk to Kevin, and I’ll come back.

  11. sue Said,

    Catherine, just thought that I would throw it out. Perhaps you would like to see dutch rain for a change.


  12. sue Said,

    Jo, I didn’t go, but in the end, going wasn’t an option. No ride, as Han’s Dad had an adverse reaction to some new meds he took last night.

    I’m thinking once Han is back and all recovered, we will go and visit his wife.

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