Since neither of my parents shared much about their pasts, I try and piece together their story from stories by other family members and my own experiences. Where my father’s parents both passed away when I was still very young, my mother’s parents were a consistent presence in our lives, at least in our younger years.
Sleep Over At Opa And Oma
Despite this, I don’t have many personal memories of my grandfather, my Opa, in Dutch. He had a stroke when I was a kid, and passed away when I was 17. I do remember, though, a time I went to stay with my grandparents for a week. I was still young, maybe 5 or so. My sister went with me, but regardless I suffered from immense homesickness. I cried myself to sleep every night. Opa did not approve of such displays of emotion and lack of self-control, but no matter how hard she tried, Oma could not console me. I remember her almost frantically trying to console me, often saying that I had to be quiet or Opa would be upset. Despite all her efforts, I could not control my sobs.
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On the last day, my parents were to pick us up after dinner. We were having a dessert of yoghurt when the doorbell rang. My sister got up to open the door and say hello to my parents. I went to get up, too, but Opa said, “Not before you finish your dessert”. He made me eat every last bite of my dessert while my parents, Oma and my sister were in the next room catching up. I remember I was fuming with the injustice of it because my sister had not finished her dessert yet either.
It is one of the few times I remember feeling such anger and it was because I knew that I was being punished for something that I felt I shouldn’t be punished for. I will not have been able to articulate that feeling, of course. But even as a young child I knew that being punished for emotional pain (homesickness) was unjust and wrong.