Eric and girls(Grandpa and the girls)

Eight years ago today my father-in-law passed away. He was 67. It was a hard time for our family, but I have some sweet memories from that time that I cherish.

We told the kids that Grandpa was very ill and that he would get to go to heaven soon. Deborah was nearly three. Rachael was nearly seven, Hannah was nearly six. Each of them processed it very differently. Rachael acted like it was no big deal, but that's a regular coping mechanism of hers. We knew it was big to her.

Hannah was astute and forthright. During prayer time at church on the Sunday before he died, Hannah's voice rang out clearly as she asked for prayer. "My grandpa in very sick and he hurts really badly right here," she said as she pointed to her side. (He had liver cancer.)

I thought Deborah was too young to process it one way or the other. I was wrong. One day I was in the garden and I overheard her talking to herself in the tree-house. "Grandpa is very sick and he's going to heaven soon." She said it several different ways, several different times. At that point I knew she was agitated too.

The call came that he'd passed away and we went to his house. We gathered around his bed and his kids and wife told stories, we prayed and sang a few hymns. We learned that one of Eric's favorite hymns was "Morning has broken, blackbird has spoken...." We sang it.

When we cleared out of the room for the funeral home to come, Hannah asked if she could see him once more. She and I went back into his room alone. She held his hands and thanked him for being a good grandpa. She told him she looked forward to seeing him again in heaven and then she kissed him.

After the funeral home had his body on the gurney, the sons and son-in-law carried him to the waiting car. We all stood in the yard, solemnly watching them drive away. As soon as the car turned out of sight, 2-year-old Deborah jumped up excitedly and said, "Yaaay! Grandpa's in heaven." In Deborah's mind, when he got out of sight, that's when he entered heaven.

Over the next day or two, even Rachael revealed her heart. We had learned that "Morning has broken, blackbird has spoken..." was a favorite hymn of his. Rachael drew her therapy. It's a card. The front page is a blackbird in a limb.

Rach's card 1 

Inside the card, there is Grandpa on his bed and Beppe phoning us to tell us he had just died. May always wore a bun back in those days. See her bun?

Rach's card 2 

These memories and this card are precious to me.

white limo day

Yesterday, Grant (Gordon's brother) and Char had a group of people to their house. This get-together was a sort of "thank-you lunch" for those that helped them in their recent move.

After lunch we had a most unusual surprise. A limo showed up to take the kids for a ride. Grant is phenomenally gifted with coming up with who-woulda-thunk-it entertainment/gift ideas; this is just one example.

The limo carries 16, so we hauled in and went for a little cruise - all the children and five adults. These are some pictures from the ride.

Debs getting in limo

That's Deborah getting in.




This is our neice Sela, Jo's daughter.

Rachael in limo


Debs in limo




Deborah, a bit goofy.

Eric in limo

Our nephew Eric (Jo's second son), thoughtfully watching Edmonton go by.

White limo

It was a fun memory-maker. I wish I could have captured pictures of all the kids, but my seat in the limo didn't lend itself to that.

Did you go for a limo ride this weekend? :-)

you might be dutch if...

This is for my pure-blood Dutch husband.

You might be a Dutchman if...

You finish the food on your plate even when it is burnt or otherwise unfit for human consumption. (I have the easiest husband in the world to cook for. He'll eat anything. Whatever I make and no matter how badly I screw it up, he eats and doesn't complain. This was especially helpful in our early marriage.)

You reused plastic margarine containers long before anyone had heard of the environmental movement. (True story: Last week after an ice cream social at church, Gordon plucked the empty pails out of the garbage to bring home saying, "I have all kinds of uses for these babies.")

You have a two volume address book, Volume I: A-U Volume II: V-Z (For those who don't get this, many many Dutch names start with van. Dykstra doesn't start with van, as you know, but it is a common name in the Netherlands. It means they "live beside the dike.")

You have never skipped church to watch the Superbowl. (Dutch Reformed folks - most Dutch people are Dutch Reformed - are really committed to church.)

Your main contribution to gender equality was the switch from King to Wilhelmina brand peppermints. (Queen Wilhelmina was a heroine and Dutch people take their mints really seriously too. I know a Dutch home school family and for a science research paper, the son researched brands of mints. Kind of weird, eh?)

Your range of restaurants is restricted by the contents of a "Buy one meal, get one free" coupon book that you purchased to support missionaries in Sierra Leone. (Again, this is a joke about the commitment to the Dutch Reformed Church and its missionaries and thriftiness.)

You wipe the last of the butter out of the container with your bun. (This doesn't need an explanation, but oh my, how true it is.)

All your cookies taste like almonds. (True mostly, but I'd add anise seed to that too. Almonds or anise seed cookies, your choice.)

You have always been to church on New Year's Eve. (You remember the church thing don't you?)

You can sing "eere zij God" even though you can't speak Dutch. (I can sing a song in Dutch. Well that's too strong, my in-laws laugh at it, but it sounds to me like I'm saying it right. I can't get that throaty h sound. My Deborah does it amazingly well.)

You think that being progressive means discarding the church hymnbook in favor of Keith Green songs on the overhead. (In  church, tradition is everything. You do not stray from it.)

Seeing raised hands during worship causes you to look around for a stick-up man. (I knew a man who tried to bring "revival" to the church. He suggested they stand more while they sing. He was ostracized as a radical.)

You are still trying to justify owning a dishwasher. (Holland was occupied during WWII and many people had nothing to eat. I go to church with a lady whose family survived on tulip bulbs. Thriftiness is inherent if you're Dutch.)

At your wedding everyone is swaying but no one is dancing. (Dancing is wrong.)

You have lace on your windows. (It's true, but I don't know the explanation.)

Your two permanent Saturday jobs are to wash the car and make sure you have enough single bills for the offerings. (Can't explain it, but I've seen it enough to believe it.)

All of your recipes are adapted to fit a 9 x 13 pan. (Functionality is supreme.)

You can't imagine a funeral reception without ham buns. (It's so true.)

The usher never needs to ask you where you want to sit. (Tradition is everything. But consider this, in the old world they actually own the pews they sit in. Yes, it's true. I suppose there are pews there for visitors to use, but the regulars have their own pews that they purchased and always sit in.)

You consider ketchup a spice. (My Dutch connections are more mayonnaise people. We had a delicious meal at my mother-in-law's a few nights ago. There was a jar of mayonnaise on the table. Gordon and his mom put it on their bread.)

To add just a few of my personal observations:

Dutch people sniff whatever they take out of the refrigerator. We became good friends with a Dutch couple a few years ago. I was telling them how Gordon's family always sniff their food when they take it out of the fridge. They looked at me like I was weird and said, "You don't? Don't you want to make sure it's still okay?"

Dutch people put lots of stuff on their walls and in no particular order.

They leave their blinds open lots. When you go for a walk after sundown you can see in houses. Many times I smile at the houses with their blinds still open well after dark. How do I know they are Dutch? The cluttered walls and the Dutch shoes that are hanging.

They LOVE flowers. I love flowers. They LOVE flowers. The first year we were married, Gordon's cousins came to visit. I asked one of them to tell me the biggest difference between our countries. She didn't hesitate. "We have many more flowers." 

This is purely a light-hearted observation only meant to humor and shed a bit of light on my take of this sub-culture I married into.

little eric

(Eric, 2006)
Sunday at Deborah's birthday party, our two-year-old nephew Eric wouldn't keep his clothes on. He spent a good amount of time running around the backyard naked.

At one point he made his way into the house unnoticed. When he came back, he carried next to his naked little body a book that Gordon had bought just the day before.

He lovingly brought the book to his mommy and cracked it open to reveal a green piece of art (scribble) he'd created. Opening the book to his artwork, he proudly proclaimed, "TA-DA."

It was a sweet moment of pure innocence.