Recently, an old school friend of Richard’s reached out and sent an email after receiving and reading a copy of Richard’s memoir, Outside the Box. It was an opportunity to reflect on lives well lived, a world of opportunities and how meeting the right person can change everything. This letter is posted with his permission.
Dear Richard and Cheryl,
What a wonderful story, what an amazing life. I take my hat off for you and congratulate you on all the hard work you did to reach that point in your life where you can look back and say, “We did all that and we can be proud”. I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading your book. That you included your children and friends to add to the story made it so real, that I felt I was there to experience it with you.
Of course I thought back to the years that I knew and spent time with you. After all, we lived near each other some of the time and tante Hans and oom Dennis were close friends of my parents. I think the only reason we didn’t see more of each other than we did was because we went to different schools.
I will relate some memories and other thoughts.
I too was not a very good student in my younger years and my parents, not knowing how to deal with that, send me off to different schools with little success. This started when I was in the fifth grade and meant boarding with families who seemed to make a business of having kids like me in their house. It was not much fun and in the end, after several of these experiences, I think it led to me immigrating.
Reading about your grandparents, Richard, reminded me of one of my interactions with them, which was very memorable. My parent’s property and orchard was adjacent to your grandparent’s place, but separated by a tall hedge and a sturdy fence. I remember once scaling the fence and I was caught in the process. The result was that I had to go and apologise for my trespass and was asked in for tea!
When we were very young, on hot summer days you and I used to play with apple crates (veilingkisten) in the backyard of the small wooden prefab house in Tiel. The crates were stacked high and we played in them and climbed on them, while a sprinkler kept us cool.
If I remember correctly, I once visited you in Kerk Avezaath after you were hit by a passing truck while riding on your bromfiets (motorcycle). Your helmet saved you that time, my friend!
It was funny reading about you buying a caravan. I was not surprising as your father did the same; he used a caravan for his office at home and it ended up at our house where I used it for many years as my hideout.
Remember the times in De Beurs pub? You liked putting coins in the small slot machine hanging on the wall. I think we played billiards there as well.
And then there were the parties at De Zoelense Brug. As far as I was concerned, it was the best place to go. The owners, the two sisters, were always very happy to see us. My grandfather often treated my parents and my siblings to a meal there and invariably we were welcomed into the sister’ personal dining room instead of the restaurant. This always made us children feel very special.
When I was 15 or 16, during summer vacation, I wanted to earn some pocket money. Oom Dennis arranged for some work at the factory for me. All I remember was that I ended up sitting in front of a light with little pots of jam passing by at great speed. I was supposed to check if there were any foreign objects in the jam and remove those pots. I believe that I lasted only three weeks at that job.
The last time I saw you was just before I immigrated in 1968 and it was on the occasion my parent’s silver anniversary party, which was held in an old castle. I had requested that you be invited so you could entertain my then American girlfriend , as your English and charm was far superior to mine!
My father was much like yours in many ways. Not very involved in the lives of his children, but ready to criticise or lend a hand, as needed. When I was struggling in my early years in Canada, helping financially was not something my father would generally consider, but thankfully when Lyn and I were trying to get a mortgage in 1979 (with not much money and no collateral), he and my mother were willing to guarantee the loan. There happened to be a Dutch bank newly opened in Vancouver, the ABN, which was their bank in Holland. Although it was a commercial bank in Canada, they were willing to take us on; we were their smallest customer and only residential mortgage.
I do believe that immigrating was the right choice for you and I. We could never have achieved in Holland what we managed to do in Australia or Canada. Of course, having the right partner helps a great deal and you meeting Cheryl and I meeting Lyn helped our lives greatly!
It was such a pleasure having you both visiting us on Bowen Island. It meant a great deal to me. I wish you both many more happy years together.
Perhaps we will meet again.
E & V