Sister love is a great foundation for Alida’s husband
Sister love for a younger brother is something which Opa relied on to survive, Sophie thought while she and Bea cleared the lunch table.
‘Would you like me to finish translating your great-aunt Angelique’s letter?’ Bea walked to her beige leather couch and made herself comfortable. Sophie brought a cup of tea for each of them.
‘That would be great, danke u wel.’ Sophie extracted the letter from her tablet cover, set up the video, and sidled up beside Bea like she’d done as a child when her mother read stories.
I found now that all which I have given up for my brother to help him has been for nothing. He hates me. He wrote this to his friends.
Sophie’s eyes closed and her brows disappeared under her fringe, while Bea continued to read, fluently translating the Dutch handwriting into English.
But I don’t hate him. I’m really very sorry for him because he wasn’t like that before.
Sophie’s eyes popped open. ‘Just when I think I’ve finally let go of my strong sense of loyalty and accepted that Opa was a very cruel, selfish man whom I’m deeply ashamed to admit, is my grandfather…’ Bea hurried to read the next part of the letter.
Once he said to me, ‘The happiest years of my life were in Holland when I was just married, and when I had my two dearest children. I was loved, before I went to Canada.’
Bea’s face relaxed as she scanned ahead. Sophie’s eyes were round as she pointed at the page, ‘So, it was Opa who was happiest then?’
‘Yes, he told Angelique that.’
A vein protruded in Sophie’s temple. ‘With Alida?’
Bea opened her hand in offering with an emphatic ‘Yes!’
‘How about that!’ Sophie slapped her thigh hard. ‘Now I’m totally confused about what to think of Opa.’
‘Yes, it’s all very strange.’
Bea reached for her cup of tea, which Sophie was quick to pass to her. ‘But notice it’s about him being loved, rather than him saying he loved Alida. It seems he’s only happy when others are caring for him in the way he expects.’ Bea sipped her tea as she regarded her niece. ‘It’s good that you get to hear this.’
‘Amazing!’ Sophie shook her head slowly, her mouth opening wide.
‘It truly is.’ Bea sat back and finished drinking her tea. ‘And here is someone writing about this who knows the whole story…’
Greatest love a Sister can give
‘His big sister!’ Sophie’s face was purple. ‘Who loves him.’
‘Yes, and she was the one who went to Canada to help him, when Alida was having difficulties, and getting… But it’s a strange way of acting – incredible. What he does after going to Canada is terrible.’
‘Oh yes,’ Sophie’s eyes connected with Bea’s. ‘But it’s fantastic that it’s her telling the story, because we can be sure it’s true.’
‘Exactly. You know it’s true. To have gone through all of that and still remember when he was good and write about it.’ Bea turned to Sophie.
‘I’m so pleased she has described Opa’s character changes, because people who are reading what I’ve already shared of the story have been asking me to describe Opa more.’ Sophie’s face radiated as it relaxed. ‘It’s so much better that it comes from his big sister who watched him develop over the course of his life. To think she wrote this letter when I was only six months’ old, more than fifty years before I began writing Alida’s story.’
How big is a big sister heart?
‘Yes, and we can see what a forgiving person she is. She only writes to inform, not out of spite.’ Bea frowned as she consulted the letter, ‘Let me see, page four…’
Before I went to Canada, I was the only one who was very close to Alida, and I know how much she loved those kids. But my brother was alone, and his oldest sister supported his dream to go to Canada. She helped him.
Bea frowned at the next line, then laughed.
I hope that Bea will still be allowed to write to me.
Bea laughed, ‘As if Nico had any say in this!. I just did so.’ Both women chortled as Bea turned back to read.
I hope it will help you, and I hope that you are not angry that I have written this. Bea’s letter and pictures of the children are the sunshine in my life. I hope to see you again in the future. It would be wonderful. Bea, I hope that this time will be good to you, with no accidents, and I hope that you give birth to a boy. But if you have another girl, may she carry my name, or do you prefer not to do that?
Lots of love for you, from your old aunt far away in Canada, Tante Angelique.
Bea leaned on her elbow bent toward Sophie. ‘Well, I didn’t. Emmanuelle already had a girl with the same name, and two in one generation so close together would have been too much. Anyway, it wasn’t a girl, so thought I should give him a proper name…’
Sophie was shaking all over with laughter at the thought of her very male cousin with a girl’s name, even if it had been modified.
‘And here is a little more.’
Henry is in good health and has had a girl who will be baptised next week. They come to visit nearly every week on Sundays. Included are some pictures of my 73rd birthday. Goodbye my dears [more kisses and lots of kisses with a little smile.]
Please, I hope that I didn’t do something wrong with writing this and are alright [sic] with what I have written.
Bea now straightened up from resting on her elbow to consult the letter again.
She turned over the page, ‘Oh, here’s some more on the back.’
In February, I was so sick with pneumonia that the doctor came to visit eight times. That says a lot, for in Canada they mostly put you in a hospital. He didn’t think that I would come through it, but he always said that a strong will to live to celebrate your 73rd birthday, especially trust in God would make me better.
Wishing you well with your 39th birthday and trust God you will be just as well on your 73rd. Thank you for your letter of October 1962 where I got your nice story of your celebration, which must have been wonderful. If I feel lonely, I always feel support from my church organ playing. Again, bye bye, [kiss].
‘That explains all the kisses. It sounded like she felt this might be her last letter. I guess she didn’t want to take all the truth to the grave. Her pneumonia must’ve given her the courage to write to you both.’
Bea nodded and folded the thin pages carefully, then gave the letter to Sophie.
‘Thank you so much for keeping this letter and sharing it with me. So did Opa ever pay the interest on her money that he suggested he would?’
’Well, she wrote in another letter I have that in the end she went to the police in Canada, because he refused to give her her money and she wanted to go away.’
’Was that paying her interest or…?’
‘He gave her nothing. But in another letter, she told me that first she went to a priest. He advised her to go to the police, which she did. Then she got her money back.’ Bea folded her arms.
Sophie took the teacups to the sink and returned to the couch to ask, ‘What year did Tante Angelique die?’
‘When she was about eighty.’
‘Ahah! That would have been about 1970. During my early teenage years, Opa was raging about money, and it sounded like inheritance money. I could understand quite a lot of Dutch because he was often ranting about things to do with money. It may have been a few years after Angelique’s death when he must’ve found out about it. Having not inherited anything would’ve enraged him. He would’ve been making attempts to claim something because he was on about it for ages. But there was nobody left to let you know about that.’
Bea clapped her hands. ‘Except you have now told me! But he couldn’t get any. Angelique made sure everything went to her son. I know she started something so that he was looked after. He was in a shared house with similar people. As far as I know, he never married, but when he had money, he had a couple of girlfriends.’ Bea chuckled. ‘So, when you are not a 100 per cent and have a lot of money many girls are interested in you, of course!’
Sophie sighed. ‘Thank goodness Tante Angelique managed to get her share of their older sister’s inheritance back.’
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