Returning home can be comfortably familiar
Returning home to Anna’s, Sophie packed away the dishes and leftover ingredients, while Anna took her Alsatian out for a walk. When she returned she said, ‘The only problem is that my mother has got locked out of her apartment for the last two Sundays.’ Anna chuckled. ‘She phones me from a neighbour’s place because her friend has my number, but my mother won’t tell us where the key is that she’s put in the garden.’
‘Mmm… So she must have forgotten, because otherwise why would she phone you to ask your brother to come with his key?’ Sophie’s forehead furrowed.
‘You’re right. Even though he lives only three kilometres away, he was at his mother-in-law’s place for lunch when I rang.’ Anna smiled mischievously. ‘I told him to make her wait till he was ready to leave to teach her a lesson.’
Sophie guffawed somewhat shocked, but also amused at the ongoing tough love that Bea had cultivated in her children. She thought about the contrast between Bea’s family gatherings and those at her own parents’ place during the later years of their lives. Her sisters, brother-in-laws; nieces and nephews all talked over each other, barely acknowledging the hosts of the party, namely her parents. When their dad, then mother were put in the dementia institution, they received more attention because they were more needy, and in general the younger generation started to tease or comfort them, as appropriate. She wondered if the secret to Bea’s healthy 94 years was due to this irreverent humour and fun she’d cultivated in her family of four daughters and their younger brother.
‘Would you like to join me for a drink?’ Anna waved a bottle of wine as she squeezed by Sophie to the cupboard with glasses.
‘That’ll be nice. Our last evening together for four days while I meet a potential editor in London. Do you want anything to eat?’
‘No thanks, I’m getting too fat.’
Sophie scoffed as she took the Greek yoghurt pot and spoon with her to join Anna at the small dining table, piled high with three people’s ‘to-do’ piles of papers, books, computer storage and video discs. ‘You don’t have a weight problem.’
Anna stood up and extended her stomach. Sophie laughed. ‘That’s part of the breathing technique we learn at yoga! ‘Her cousin sat down and clicked glasses as Sophie continued. ‘You know, I think you could hide a key somewhere near your mother’s place, so that when she phones again you could tell her where to look for it.’
‘Ha! I tried that. She said it was too easy for the wrong people to find.’
‘Oh well, you can only do your best. She’ll probably settle into a routine soon. It’s only been five weeks since she moved there from her home of forty years.’
Returning home to Holland, Sophie was met at the local airport by her cousin.
‘How was London?’
‘Very successful, except for the stupid SIM cards, which didn’t work at all, even for WIFI. So I spent my first afternoon trying to sort that out with foreigners who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, speak English.’ Sophie snorted. ‘Like many people have said, it’s hard to find English people there these days. It was so frustrating to have even more communication difficulties than here in Holland when in London.’
‘Returning home to Holland where everyone, including migrants, speaks great English, with an accent I’m accustomed to – is so nice. Even when somebody’s English isn’t so good, I can understand Dutch, and speak enough to be understood.’
They lifted the small trolley case borrowed from Bea into the rear of Anna’s station wagon as Sophie continued, ‘So, I’m sorry I could hardly ever connect to be able to send you messages, as I was racing around seeing all the sights, enjoying lovely weather rather than sit at the host’s house on the computer. When I was at my host’s, we’d end up chatting a lot of the time, too.’
Anna smiled, ‘Oh, that‘s fine. I’m glad you had good weather.’
Returning home to Anna’s, Sophie packed away her things and asked, ‘Would you like a red wine?’
‘Of course. My turn to supply it – but it’s the same trusty type.’
‘Nice home-coming. Prost!’
Anna offered some cheese. ‘Are you hungry?’
‘Yes, but I’ve struggled to keep to my diet, so I’ll just get some of that leftover fish from the freezer, microwave it, and have my favourite Greek yoghurt after the wine.’
‘So tomorrow you should hear back from the institution about finding Oma’s grave?’ Anna looked at her cousin.
Sophie’s smile nearly cracked her face. ‘It will be amazing to actually see the physical remains of Oma Alida’s grave, knowing her body lies beneath.’
‘Have you heard anything else on email in the last four days?’
‘No, but I didn’t expect to hear until 15 May. I was very impressed with the website descriptions of the organisation, which aimed to be a leader in progressive treatment of their patients, including for the elderly and those with dementia. It gives me hope that they might even speak to me about Oma Alida’s diagnosis.’
Next morning, Sophie checked her emails at 9 o’clock. There were no emails about Alida. Later, as she settled at the table with her lunch, she found an email sent at 11am. She called out to Anna and began to read:
Good news… My colleague found the records which show Alida was Doopsgezind (Protestant). She moved here on 21 October 1980.
She died on April 10th 1981 and was buried at our cemetery on April 14th 1981.
Now it gets more complicated.
The registers show she was buried at the little part of the cemetery where Protestants were buried. The organisation used to be catholic, so the few protestant patients were buried in a different section of the cemetery.
We know she is buried at row B number 020.
In the attached file you can see in the upper left corner the section – Protestants Kerkhof – Also you see row B there. But we don’t know where they started counting. Most graves have no name and number. We think they started the count at the beginning of the pathway.
I hope you have enough information and are able to visit her grave.
I wish you a pleasant stay in the Netherlands and a good flight home.
‘Well, let’s see if we can make sense of the map. Shall I print it for you?’ Anna stood and turned on her old computer, which took ten minutes to warm up before it was ready for action.
‘That would be great, thanks.’
After printing the email and poring over the mud-map, together with Sophie rewriting unclear words, she declared, ‘I’ll go tomorrow on the train day-card, then down to Maastricht.