The objective of the immigrants arriving in Canada during the early fifties was goal oriented, they wanted something, which was for them unattainable in the old country, to own their own business in whatever form. For Lolke that was having his own dairy farm and he was willing to work hard and long for it.
When Gert and him after a long drive over the wide expanses of the prairie provinces arrived in Calgary, they found a coffee shop, where they discussed in the dutch language what to do next, when a young fellow sitting behind them said “Hey, I am a Dutchy too.” He knew a place for them to sleep – on a bench in the entrance hall of the city hall, for free.
The following morning they started looking for work and a place to live. They rented a basement suite with two other young men, where they did their own cooking as well.
Lolke - “I found a job roofing. It was still quite cold in Calgary so my fingers just about froze
pounding these little roofing nails all day for 98cts/hour, but after a few months of that I got an inside job, sanding oak floors with a big electric sander. It was tricky work, if you stopped moving that machine you made a hole in the hardwood. It took some learning but I got quickly the hang of it. I did that for almost a year, but it was very unhealthy work, I did nothing but breath in fine dust and was spitting out hardwood dust all day. It was not going good for me, no matter how hard I worked.”
He had been well over a year in Canada now, had saved little money, and still did not have a decent place for Helen to live. He had not heard from Helen since he left Holland and neither of his parents, because they traced him also only to Stonewall Manitoba, where the line went dead. His parents did not worry about it, but Helen did, she sent several letters that came back with the sickening scrabbled message saying that he had moved without leaving a forwarding address.
Helen was given a rough time in the village as rumors went around that something had happened to Lolke, no one had any concrete accounts but parts of stories had it that he was sick, others were talking about him being killed by a a bear or by Indians, lingering in jail, and yet another story went around saying that he had married a native girl. The stories the villagers were circulating were increasingly more unkind as people remembered how Lolke as a child already was a handful, a spoiled youngest child, who didn't want to learn at school and prophesied a nasty end for him.
Helen got a somewhat alike treatment, 'how could she have seduced a young man just before he was leaving for a country on the other side of the world.' Her baby girl was not baptized, and she herself was not allowed to partake of the Lord's supper, Lolke's parents shunned her and her own parents felt the weight of a gossiping and slandering community, which made Helen one evening grab the newspaper looking for the want ad section. Johanna was almost six now and knew her father only from what Helen told her, which was different from what the community said about him. Helen was afraid that soon she would hear the other side.
She pushed the paper to her father pointing to a want-ad where a detached man asked 'for a woman of irreproachable repute to take care of his household which included a two-year old.'
Her father slowly shook his head, which worked up Helen to blurt out
“Does heit think as the rest of this town that I am not of a proper character?”
“You know better than to think of me that way, Helen, but I think about little Johanna here. She is this summer going to be six year old ”
“What about Johanna, heit?” Helen felt her blood pressure rise, would she loose even the respect of her father?
“I am already missing the little girl and you haven't even left yet,” he said, “but if you think it is better to go somewhere else, I can not and will not keep you.”
Helen's mind was made up, the ad had made her curious. Who was this detached man and why a two year old?
She grabbed her motorbike, setting out north-wards to where the mystery man lived.
The wind in her face made her skin glow and why not? She was only in her mid twenties, where had she been all these half dozen years. She pushed the gas pedal making her bike roar and her mind react. She was alive, and... Lolke seemed far away.
She estimated the man in his fifties, as she was led into a modestly furnished living room.
“I am Doede Harkema, I live here by myself with my son, my mother comes twice a day to look after little Doede. I want to have a house keeper or a wife, because I don't like my mother over the floor. I am used to saying things only once. Now you. What is your name again?”
This was not at all what Helen had expected, and she stumbled over her words.
“Doede, or mister Harkema?” she said. He smiled. “Doede is fine. Didn't get your name.”
”I am Helen, you want my age and weight?” What did this dumb farmer want of her?
Ignoring her unkind remark, he said “Do you know how to handle a two year old boy?”
“I have a six year old girl” So there, now you know that I had sex to, it said in her head. “Daughter?” Helen colored. The man looked as if he was undressing her.
“Yes,” she coughed, “she is my daughter, Harkema. Is that all or do you need details.”
”I will tell you some more about me,” he said, ignoring her last remark. “My wife and I had no children and that was fortunate, because she left me. 'For a man who knew how to make children' as she said. She is out of my life but I had a roll in the hay with a maid who worked for me, just to find out. That made little Doede. The little guy cost me a lot of money, to pay off his mother, but she is out of the picture as well.”
“So, now is it my turn?” Helen said weakly.
“Helen, I make you a deal,” he said, “but before that I have to tell you that I have an incurable cancer, which is in remission. My chances are about five years according to the doctor but I am sure I will live ten, which I will spend with seeing little Doede grow up and eventually taken care off. Now, here is the deal - let us try out for a year to live together, during which time I will not climb in your bed and you will not in mine. Deal?”
Helen wished that she had been the one to set the rules, but found a strange comfort in the strength of this viral yet mortally sick man. Lolke was not in her mind as she yielded to Doede Harkema, and after only eight months they were married, be it under certain conditions.
At about the same time, way out on a ranch in the wilderness of Alberta Canada, Lolke's wife bore him his third of seven sons he, in time, would have.