My dear 90 year old opa Valk passed away yesterday. He has had a full and mostly happy life. I have so many wonderful memories of him. It's strange and hard to envision my life without him.
Some of my very first memories have him in it. When I must have been about 3 years old, Opa and oma came to visit us in England. We were living there at the time. The only thing I really remember is that they gave me a doll and carriage. I had that doll for many years.
My opa always made fresh squeezed orange juice and a hard boiled egg for breakfast. They had a large tray on a stand in their kitchen in which they kept their fruit. He would pick out the oranges, and use an electric juicer to get all the juice out of the oranges. I was always impressed at how much he coud get out of it. Then he would use a butter knife to fish the seeds out before giving it to me.
He was also a great helper for my grandma in the kitchen. She did most of the cooking, but he would cut the green beans (or maybe they were a different kind of bean) into small slivers. They were so delicious! I think he got a lot of those beans from his garden. They owned a nice trailer that was parked at very nice upscale park, where many other older folks spent a lot of time. He had a little plot of land in the garden area where he grew beans and other veggies. I remember the beans because he had built little stick structures that made an impression on me.
We went over to their house occasionally to celebrate Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas delivered the presents in a large sack, instead of the laundry basket that was filled with toys when Sinterklaas came to our house. I remember one toy me or one of my siblings received from them, which was a catch the flea game. The fleas would just pop up, and you'd have to catch them. I remember playing that game in the upstairs room of their house. That house was right next to a big field. They didn't have very many games at their house, so I really remember the ones they did have. A mosaic tile game, where you would try to follow the examples in a booklet. Some of my childhood games were still around for my kids to play with. Like this shape matcher that Winter is holding.
Opa had a small mole next to his left eye. I would play with and poke at it while sitting on his lap, and as I would touch it, opa would bark at me. It scared me every single time. Then one day, it was just gone. I was so sad that the doctor had to remove it.
My opa always had "witte muisjes" sandwich toppings. And although there came from the store in a cardboard box, he had one of those antique metal containers. He would make me a muisjes sandwich and then cut the bread into many small manageable pieces.
Opa would play a fun game with my as a little kid, and later with my children too. It goes:
Dames Paarden, dames paarden (gentle bouncing)
Heren paarden, heren paarden (medium bouncing)
Boeren paarden, boeren paarden (crazy over the top bouncing)
Gat in de weg! (separate the legs, and let the child "fall" down)
My opa was a thrifty but very generous man. He worked hard his entire life and was always smart with his money. But he was generous with his hard earned money. In the past 7 or 8 years he occasionally gave each of his 6 grandkids a white envelope with cash.
My opa could be a serious man. He spent years hiding from the Germans during WWII underneath the chicken coop of a farmer. Opa never talked about the war, but I can only imagine how this would change you.
Opa always bought special drinks and snacks for us. We could always count on him having Chocolade melk and Ginger ale. Also, he would have leverworst (liverwurst) which he would cut into slices. And Engelse drop. I think I so vividly remember these snacks, because they were things we rarely, if never, had at our house, so every time I eat or drink that I think of my opa.
My opa was a smoker. As I grew up, he would have periods when he tried to quit, or maybe even quit for some period. He was the only person I knew well who smoked. I'm sure I gave him lectures about the health risks, and must have pointed out dozens of times that the cigarette box clearly says: Smoking kills! He would just kind of shrug it off, and never got offended. While my grandmother was still alive he would usually smoke outside on the balcony. He was the master at keeping the ashes connected to his cigarette. It's almost as if he wanted to show off his ash sticking skills. Although most of my life I felt like he was making the wrong decision by smoking, I loved him the same nonetheless.
Opa was sweet, funny, and best of all loving. He loved receiving phone calls from us, and would tell me about the road biking or soccer matches he watched on TV.
I feel so blessed to have had extra time with opa while we were living in Holland last year. We made an effort to visit him every 2 months, and the kids grew to love visiting him. He was getting older of course, but enjoyed having the kids over.
We will all miss our dear Opa!!
Opa was not a religious man, but God be with him till we meet again!