The end of August is 65 years ago that John and I arrived in Canada after a seven day passage across a stormy Atlantic, armed with a suitcase of clothes, and another one with some carpenter tools, a five year supply of Gillette shaving blades for uncle Daniel, and a pair of scooter tires for Frank, his son, who was 10 years old when we arrived in 1953 and passed away last year November.
And – I had a tourist Dutch – English dictionary to study the English language since we were idle for seven days at sea, but that idea got shipwrecked when we met a few girls on board.
It is also 65 years long that we regularly received letters from our brother Fokke Smid, better known as Frank in Canada, who's style of writing never changed during that time, not only without writing mistakes, (he is a retired teacher after all) but also artistic enough to make my scribbles look like chicken scratches.
Letter writing was once the only communication available between families on either side of the ocean in the fifties and sixties as calling by telephone cost then three dollars per minute, at a time when we were making four dollars an hour by framing houses.
My brother Frank, did it again today by sending me one of these prim, neat letters chock full of worthwhile information, information where one would talk about after reading it, and in a dry humorous tone, like this time when he comes with the excuse that he tried to call at my birthday but failed since his telephone did not cooperate.
It is a strange experience – it is my brother's birthday and I get a letter from him.
Thank you brother, I feel blessed having you as a brother and will share your fine letter with whoever will take the time to read it.
Fokke Smid lives with his wife Hilda at Clingendaal 5, 6715 JG Ede, Holland
Here follows his letter
You are perhaps surprised to receive a letter from me, but things go not always the way one likes them to go.
I had wanted to call you on your birthday but the telephone did not cooperate, and whatever I tried, it did not work. So today I thought: I should go to the business where I purchased the phone last year, because it was not really that old. So, on the bike to the City-center, where the market is as well. There I planted the bike, locking it well naturally, because I was planning to use it again for my return trip home.
This bike, which I bought second hand for very little money years ago, is old, though it works fine, except for the tires which are worn out, therefore I will have to go shortly to the same business for new inside and outside tires, while at the same time I want them to check the rest of the bike, replacing what is finished and repairing what's worn out, so that I can ride her for a few more more years to come. I hope its getting to be in better shape than the owner, me, who am now 83, which is a reasonably high age.
I know Lex, you are now 87, and probably never thought about being that old when you worked for the brothers Frankema in the Lemmer. You are now older than our father was when he died. But what d'you think of Hilda, (Frank's wife) who became 92 last December 31. I know , she is not so fast anymore, and is needing the use of a walker outside, which she is using inside as well. Still, she does fall once in a while.
One time she wound up in the hospital with a small crack in one of the ribs, which was painful, but she received medicines for that.
She cooked as long as she was able to, our meals yet, but a few weeks ago stopped with that and now am I promoted to being the cook, and since then we get deep-frozen food ready made from Apetito, who are providing a wide choice of food, together with a book wherein everything is explained.
We look after ourselves on Saturdays, when I get black beans out of a tin with finely cut and fried ham cubes, followed by yogurt.
Hilda really likes her specialized food, and Sundays we eat quite sober – sandwiches and soup. (I have two plates.) After that I do the dishes.
Hilda cooks only on Mondays for as long as that goes, then we have vegetables out of our own garden, where it is still peaceful right now, but the spinach is ready to be cut.
I have given Esmee, who lives in Utrecht, enough for a meal yesterday.
Esmee lives together with Maarten Stopendaal, who has been honored with about 25 other inductees in the order of ? He has for many years exerted himself by promoting good causes for animals and for that he is decorated with a 'lintje.' ribbon
Esmee had kept it secret for him, thus was it quite a surprise. He was allowed to speak a word of thanks after he was was honored however the few words stretched into quite a long speech so that the mayor cautioned the rest of the speakers to please make it short, because he would like to have a little sleep after the festivities as well.
It was a great day for both of them.
When Esmee spots one of your stories she copies it for me and I safe them all, I have quite a few already. I think everyone appreciates what you are doing.
I hope sincerely that they get my telephone working order again. I went to the City center for that this afternoon, took the telephone along but not the cables and they told me that they were unable to do anything at all without those cables, all the cables, - what a nightmare.
I am happy to have my vegetable garden still, which is not too large anymore, 150m2, but for the both of us it is large enough, especially since we get regularly so many frozen meals send to us, but I have several clients, kids, neighbors, so nothing gets wasted and - there is nothing tastier than vegetables out of our own garden.
You probably remember father's gardens in Oosterzee and Ens.
I saw heit working with the shovel turning sods in the garden of the old age home in which he then lived, just before he died.
Well,Leffert, I stop now. I will put this letter into the mailbox, then you will receive it in a few days.
Hearty greetings, also from Hilda,
Our parents were married in May t6, but 88 years ago, in 1930.
My brother Fokke's has a birthday on the same date. He will then be 83 years old.
Happy birthday Fokke, many more in health and happiness with Hilda and all yours.
At the end of August John and I will have have been in Canada 65 years.
Leffert. 'Until we meet.'