“How far do you think it is from eastern Ontario to the lower mainland of BC,” asked Doede Jr. his mother, as he saw a look in her eyes he had never seen before.
“Had I said about as far as to the moon she would've said lets go,” he later told his wife, but to the excited Helen he said
“It is as far as from Amsterdam to Moscow,” which really astounded Helen.
“And back,” he added, but said he had a plan, a plan that needed the cooperation of all.
With the help of his in-laws he unfolded what he had in mind. His suggestion was to rent a motor home to travel to BC. He figured that two weeks would be sufficient to drive back and forth and have a few days visiting Lolke. If - they could find him.
“I have talked it over with my wife, Doede Jr. said, who would've liked to come along but two weeks away from her parents of the four weeks holiday was cutting it just a bit too deep, she would rather stay with her parents, but urged her husband to take his mother to BC.”
“As long as you come back,” she said.
“I will,” he said.
In spite of his mother, who would've traveled right through the night, it was a nice trip that both enjoyed. Helen liked the fastness of the prairies the best because it reminded her of wide expanse of the green meadows of her home country. They progressed well and did even better than they thought they would.
Meanwhile Lolke had made the short walk to what was now a cornfield, to take a last look at the fine crop before he went to bed, entered the house from the rear. He did not see the motor home half ways in the driveway, and when he he did see it from the living room his thankful mood changed to annoyance. No one was supposed to come this late in the evening at a farm no matter what the reason. His tone of voice was blunt when he asked
“Can I help you with anything?” Doede Jr. hearing the gruff voice answered coldly in return
“No, you can't do anything for me, but maybe you can for my mother.”
Lolke got upset, and when he got really upset, he stuttered. He quickly advanced to that point as he wanted to go to bed and these – these – strangers …
He was going to tell them to get off his property but could not find the right words. He stuttered – and stuttered - then tried swearing - but stumbled even more - when Helen stepped out of the truck, tears coming out of her eyes as she said one word - “Lolke...”
As if struck by lightning Lolke stumbled backwards.
Time stood still, his arms automatically unfolded while he cried in his mother-tongue
“Bist thou dat Helen?” Is it truly you?
They fell into each others arms crying and crying, while their memories went back fifty years, they did not stop until Doede Jr. showed himself asking
“Is there a place around here where one can get a cup of coffee?”
It was inside that the tongues came loose and did not stop until deep in the night and when Lolke opened a bottle of Beerenburg, a delicious Frisian drink, they started all over again.
“I don't have to milk tomorrow morning,” said Lolke.
While the threesome had brunch in town the following morning Doede Jr. shared a carefully thought-out plan with them.
“I have to bring the motor home back but you, Mr. Harkema, and my mem mother have a lot to talk about together, so I would suggest that mem stays with you to have a proper visit together and I will call my wife to fly over here and drive back with me to her parent's place in Ontario.”
“Ya, but what will the people say,” protested Helen.
“There was a time that we didn't care much about what people said,” chuckled Lolke.
“But then we were young.”
“Now we are wiser. We should be anyways. I am all for it Doede. Any time she is homesick – on the plane she goes, but I hope she won't,” and then Helen couldn't hold back her tears.
Doede Jr,'s plan worked.
Helen stayed longer than she was going to, as they enjoyed being together.
And then they made their own plans. The were making trips together and on one of the first ships, the ss Westerdam of the Holland America line, they got married because Lolke wanted to make a trip to Africa to meet the daughter he had never seen, and though they were satisfied to living together, Helen insisted they should be married when visiting Johanna.
After all she was a missionary, who did not need a mother living in sin, as she put it.
Their plan was to live four months in Canada and four months in Fryslân. The rest of the year would be spent in Africa, or the Holy land or at Lolke's seven sons.
And for a few years everything went according to as they had planned but then Lolke noticed a very subtle change in Helen's behavior which worsened over time and had unmistakably the signs of dementia, and after a heartbroken Lolke was unable to take care of her anymore, she was finally placed in a local care home.
And that is where I finally met Helen.
We were living quite close together on the the second floor of the same building, and as she was born in Fryslân where I was born as well I often spoke a few words with her in our mother tongue, which we both enjoyed .
Helen was not the blond wavy haired young woman who danced through the village anymore, her hair was still wavy, but gray. Though older than I, she walked upright without the support of a walker, and she was definitely a woman worthy of a second look.
She had joined a walking club of which I was a member as well, but when her best friend could not take care of her self anymore Helen's sense of direction left her and outside of our building got confused.
It was then that one of her daughters asked me to walk with her, and from thereon in I did.