Remembering the cold and the hungry edited

It’s cold.

“How cold is it ?” – a la Johnny Carson to his audiences’ question: It’s so cold you’d have to jump-start a reindeer.

So today, even though it’s really cold there are things to see and do, so I bundled up and went off to the southern part of Den Haag to give my regards to Toosje Van Dyke who is in the hospital.

Toosje, age 85, is a family friend and former neighbor of the Diephof’s. The families’  friendship goes way back to the beginning of WWII when the Van Dykes had several children and the Diephof’s had two: Wim and his sister, Poppy.

I cannot help but think how both families, and the entire country of The Netherlands, suffered during the cold winter, when there was no food, and no heat and limited water.

The Dutch burned their furniture for warmth and to warm up any food they might have acquired somehow. Some folks in desperation, burned asphalt to make a fire for cooking.

It was a rough time, and getting to see Toosje, those years were on my mind, as I walked nearly two miles from the tram to get to the hospital. I was cold but I would be capable of getting warm soon, and food was no problem.

The story of Wim and his family’s survival during the worst time, is in my book, “Too Close to the Sun.”

I took a bus to the central station and looked for a sign that would give the number of the tram I needed to get to Wateringen, where the hospital is located. The station is undergoing extensive remodeling, so one must take the responsibility, search and ask questions about what mode of transportation would get you to your destination.

I saw that tram 17 would go to Wateringen, and that was verified by the nice tram driver. It was a long ride, and on the marque, that announces the stop never showed Waterlingen.

Soon the tram driver stopped, turned and told me we were in Wateringen.

There was nothing around; no town, no stores, no station. “Where do I go to get here?”

I showed her a card with the address, but she didn’t know. So I got off and asked two women walking my way.

All transaction was in Dutch. The older one was the mother and she began to explain, but when the daughter spoke up, the mother slapped her hand and said, ‘nay’.

So both of us paid attention to the mother. She told me to walk that way, turn left over the bridge, keep going to the end, then go over a blue bridge on your right, then go straight and the hospital would be on the left.

The daughter got a word in: “See the church? It’s across the street from the church.”

I walked with them as far as the first bridge, working my legs has fast as I could to keep up, not with the daughter, but with the elderly mother, who appeared to have motors in her legs, as she walked fast.

Their friendly directions were great and I arrived at the hospital.

“I’m here to see Toosje Van Dyke,” I told the receptionist. But she saw only two people with that name, but the wrong first name. She took me to a lunch room full of residents, and pointed to one woman, but I had to say it wasn’t her. The next room with a different first name no one answered the door. I was about to give up, but went back to the receptionist again, and told her the family had given this place as where Toosje was living.

“I’ll call sister and ask her for help.” The nun took me to the second room and we went inside where a woman looked hopeful up at me; hopeful for a visitor, but no, that wasn’t her either.

“Let’s go back downstairs. Maybe she is here only temporary,” the nun said.

She asked the receptionist for the list of temporary patients and there, right on the list, was Toosje’s name and room number.

The nun took me to Toosje’s room and left me there to visit.

Toosje’s memory is excellent. She remembers practically every time we were together. That is in The Hague and in Colorado where she visited us.

Toosje’s humor is as good as ever; she managed to make fun of my bad Dutch and the big boots I was wearing. She doesn’t speak English, so I had to find the words somehow to express myself. I could understand most of what she said.

Toosje, for many years, took care of Walter and Poppy’s children, who are now parents and grandparents. She is someone the family has treasured throughout the years.

I didn’t stay long as I had to be in Den Haag soon after.

I went outside into the cold and jump started the reindeer; actually, it was bus number thirty.

 

 

 

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