“Choose any fruit you like and you can have it,” Anne's granny said to the toddler, holding onto her hand as they stopped at vegetable wagon in the village.
“I choose a tomato,” Anne said “I liked the texture and color of the fruit, and the little green stem peaking out.” Granny tried to change her mind but Anne stuck to her choice.
“You have to eat it,” granny warned and Anne did, 'and liked tomatoes ever since.'
She was born a healthy baby but not the baby boy her paternal grandfather had expected her to be. He considered her a spoiler being a female and refused to see her.
Named after was considered a great honor.
However, baby Anne was the darling of her grandmother as well as her aunts and uncles, because she was the first of a new generation of Smit's, since she was the firstborn of the the oldest son of the Smit family.
Every time Anne visited the old country from over seas one of her uncles would bike 120 km one way to see Anne and honor her as the first one of the new generation of Smit's.
Anne was certainly loved.
Anne's grade two and three teacher, however, discouraged her to write with her left hand, even though she was born left-handed, and when she refused, he taught her a lesson in obedience by ordering Anne to hold out her offending left hand, knuckles up, and rapped her over the knuckles with a square ruler.
“What made it so hard,” she later said, “was that I liked this teacher. I could not help but cry because it hurt but I did not scream.
I had already beautiful handwriting which I never acquired with my right hand.”
After Anne's death I made contact with a woman telling me that her sister had attended the same school and had received an equally despicable treatment by that teacher. Since then she had started to stutter. She still stuttered as an adult after many years living in Australia.
The woman went on to say that her sister stuttered so bad that she had given up calling her by telephone as she was unable to make out what her sister was saying and corresponded since by (slow) mail.
This was a trauma that could've brought on ALS in Anne according to a specialist, but since people knew little about the illness then, (only a mere dozen years ago!) they were very generous with providing help in such ways as providing walkers, wheelchairs, handles and bars in bathrooms, free of charge and for as long as was needed.
Free rides were available in specialized taxi's, and loads of information.
There was a dutch-born chiropractor living in Burnaby BC, who's business did not flourish. Once he had treated his clients they usually stayed with him, but he didn't attract new patients, until someone advised him to change his dutch name to a proper English one. The Dutchman listened and changed his name to the name of the street he lived on - Willingdon.
His divorced son, Peter W. Willingdon lived with his mother in Lynden WA where he made a living as chiropractor as well. His mother was a sister of Janneke's mother, (Janneke was the Frisian girl who provided me my first real kiss when we were fifteen, really astonishing me.
When this Janneke spend time with us in Abbotsford a few years before Anne was stricken with ALS, she introduced us to her aunt in Lynden, who in turn introduced us to her son, hinting that her son was very smart, and was dabbling in many kinds of research, including research in ALS, after his divorce but still practiced chiropractics.
At that time we still made short trips to anywhere but had to adapt to different situations all the time starting when Anne took a shower in a motel and lost the strength in her legs.
She cried out and I caught her in time before she fell. She was petrified.
“There was nothing to hold on,” she said.
From that time on we inspected the bathrooms for bars and holds before taking a room.
We also installed a floor to ceiling rod in our own shower, provided by the ALS society.
By the time Anne used a wheelchair, I screwed plywood over the carpet in the living room, bedrooms and bathroom since it was hard to push the wheelchair over the plush carpet.
I never cease to fully understand women, because when I was finished with that, Anne said
“That is exactly how I wanted the floors to be.” Anne liked wood floors, but plywood?
Luckily we had an large shower but the floor of it was about three inches higher than the floors of the bedrooms, therefore I raised the bathroom floor to the height of the shower floor, and then connected the bathroom floor to the bedroom floors by sloping the one onto the other, which meant I had to remove the bathroom doors as well to be able to drive the wheelchair from anywhere in the house to the bathroom, which made Anne quip
“Now we have a real open plan.”
I removed the glass end of the shower-stall to get access into the shower by the wheelchair.
We both undressed and showered together in comfort, Anne on the toilet-wheelchair while I operated the movable shower on both of us, which became an enjoyable excersize for both.
The words of mother Willingdon 'my son is a smart man' crept into my mind again and again, and I said lets go see the man to find out how much he knows about ALS.
We made an appointment with him and after a few days were sitting face to face with Dr. Peter Willingdon. He charged $50 American an hour, he said, which was reasonable and it hit me how little money is worth when a life of a loved one is at stake.
I would have gladly traded our comfortable house on the mountain for a healthy Anne.
Still a disturbing thought slipped into my mind – if, not if but when, Anne would pass on, our house, ours now would not be hers anymore. I hardly dared anticipate any further, feeling as if I was going to be commit larceny on my wife's assets.
How certain are wealth and possessions in our life, how sure was our our house, our surety, build upon the rock of Sumas mountain, to us?
How unsure it was for Anne, I thought.
Even Jesus, after his death on a cross, was stripped of his belonging, his robe, only to have it disappear into the winning hands of the lucky dice-playing soldier, who was wearing it now.
In like manner all Anne's possessions, including half ownership of our house upon the rock, would, after the bells had tolled for her, slip from her - to another.
And the other would be me.
Ownership is temporary.