The Froese's place was a friendly looking farmhouse about half a mile down the slough from my house, smaller than ours but comparison was not possible anymore as my house was totally destroyed by now. I was greeted by a wide smiling women not quite my age who cheerfully welcomed me in inside, where a delicious odor filled the large kitchen.
“I am cooking up a mesh of pork-chops,” she said as if the aroma needed to be explained,
“I hear your children are eating with us, or you must have other plans,” there was definitely no need to twist my arm to stay for supper.
“You better go in the tub first though,” she said, while tending to the rest of the meal.
“Throw your dirty clothes through the door so I can wash them.” What a woman, I thought.
Their bathroom was like we drooled about when we arrived in Canada, a five feet long tub at the end of the 'room,' next to it on one wall a toilet and next to that a sink. The room was exactly 5'X8'.
I undressed, opened the door a crack and dropped – all my clothes outside. Here I stood, naked as a newborn baby in a stranger's house, alone with the wife of a man I hardly knew.
A very attractive woman who seemed to like me.
A myriad of thoughts whirled through my mind, thoughts about loss, what to do, where to sleep, about the nice woman Lee, about my children, about what to tell my wife or not to tell her, and again about Lee, anything. When the tub had enough water to my liking I let myself glide into it. I took a long bath, which I had not taken for ages, since I normally showered in our double shower in which Anne and I sometimes showered together.
I really felt refreshed when I stepped out of the tub and timidly asked Lee through a crack of the door “What am I going to do now?”
“Try Hugo's bathrobe, I have a nice drink waiting for you.” So his name was Hugo, I thought, but Hugo was much slimmer than I and his garment not nearly covered me.
“Turn it back to front, your clothes are not dry yet.”
I followed Lee's advice hoping all men looked somewhat the same from the rear.
The drink Lee had made for us was my favorite - Scotch with water. It went down as smooth as a salted herring into a Dutchman. I felt more and more comfortable sitting in Hugo's chair. Were we celebrating the burning of my house? Of course not, it was a reaction of a day full of emotions for me and a compassionate gesture of Lee to a neighbor who was from then on a friend. And then her husband Hugo came through the door.
I have no idea what Lee's husband was thinking to see me in his chair, his robe somewhat covering me, having a drink with his wife, since he did not know me either. In any case Lee invited the rest to the table and then I finally discovered how great a cook Lee was by tasting it. The meal was delicious and I forgot to call the insurance company. At the end of the meal the pastor of our church knocked on the door and Lee with a restraint smile directed me to the door.
The pastor seeing me in Hugo's attire was wise to excuse himself 'I have my wife with me in the car,' and he was going to come back some other time. He advised me to immediately call my my wife in Holland about the terrible news, which I forthright rejected because I did not want half of my family in Holland have their holidays spoiled. Later Debbie and Len slept at the Froese' place while I slept in the basement of a former neighbor.
A builder of houses I was a homeless person.
The following morning after a sleepless night I finally called our insurance agent.
“Bert, I like to know how much insurance we have on own place in Ladner.”
“OK, Lex, give me a minute,” it took long before Bert came back with the answer, I got antsy. The five minutes waiting seemed like an hour, but then someone picked up the phone.
“Still there Lex?” Where do you think I am for goodness sake. This is life and death for me.
“Just let me check this file Lex,” by this time I am so scared, I can hardly breath.
“I got it right here mm mm, ya, it's under Anne's name, do you know that?” Tell me how much.
“The house, under Anne's name, is insured for $165.000, and half of that amount is for the contents, is that all I can do for you?”
“Start counting Bert, there is no house anymore.”
A few years earlier I found a 200 meter deep lot in Ladner which was listed by an out of town real estate agent, which was important, because these non local agents were not always knowledgeable about the value of the property they had for sale. The property was 66 feet or about 20 meter wide, thus a very large lot, compared to a normal 20 x 30 feet lot, which was worth about $8,000 then. This lot large lot was priced at $10,000, I offered $ 8,000, and got it for that price. As I decided not to build on it right away I put the lot in Anne's name.
Only four weeks later a salesman offered me $14,000. for the lot, which would make a handy profit for me of $6,000 for not doing anything and I told the salesman to write up a sales-contract, and happily told Anne of that fortunate deal. Anne asked, now that her name was on the property if she was the one to sign the sales documents for the resale and when I said that she of course was the one to sign these documents, she said that she liked the property very much and did not want to part with it.
She made it perfectly clear that she was not going to sign the documents
“We always said that we did not care about making money as our goal in life. I like this piece of land, and now that I own it I want to keep it, I hope you understand.” There went my easy profit. Little did I know then that one day soon she would repeat that statement.
The house was build and burned in 1977 and I was able to build a house on the existing foundation for the insurance money at that time, but a house like the one that burned we never got back.