life stories

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Opa and my Oma, my mothers parents.

My mother was born  January,9, Berchum, Friesland in the north of Holland. She came into this world as the sixth child of some very hard working parents.Three more children were born after my mom. Her father Gerrit Sijtsma(my Opa born June 17, 1883) transported goods all over The Netherlands by transport boat. Whatever transport he could get would be delivered by boat over the Dutch canals. They all lived on this boat.Raising nine children was not easy in such a confinement.The washing, the cooking and the constant worry that one fall overboard, I cannot imagine how they were able to do it. My Opa(grandpa) was the kindest smiling man,his face was strong-looking very weather-beaten , always making jokes.He loved dogs just as much as he loved his children.As long as I can remember he had a dog.He always smoked a pipe and he chewed tobacco, when he spit on the ground all this brown horrible looking stuff came out his mouth. His teeth were brown too. Beside his chair was an earthy looking pot, they called it a spittoon(dutch word, kwispeldoor)in which he would spit the tobacco and phlegm.These pots were usual made from Delfts blue.By the time he was 60 his back was so bend, he walked almost with his nose on the ground.My Oma's maiden name was Stenekes,(my grandma was born 1883) her first name Tetske, the name they gave me.She was the sweetest Oma I ever had. She passed away at the age of 69 and my Opa at the age of 84.My Oma was married before and it was her husband who owed the transport boat, he died suddenly and  my Oma became a very young widow with a child, and a child on it's way.. It was decided that his brother should take over the transport business.Later in life he would jokingly say;" yes, the transport business came not only with a boat but with a wife and two children". But in those days this was the best solution.So my Oma married the brother from her husband.Their life has not been easy, but they were very happy.
My grandparents with their two youngest children and of course their dog.
 A picture with all nine children.

My Opa(grandpa) told me so many stories about the time that they were all living on this boat.The most dramatic story he once told me was about religion. At the time it was around 1947,and I was telling him all sorts of things from Japanese camps and that I had loved the nuns in camp. They had taught me a lot about God. I loved to sing these songs about God and how he would protect us etc.etc.My Opa was very open and tell you exactly what he thought. My Oma would often interrupt my Opa, and would say:" Gerrit,' how can you tell this to a child'. He would just laugh and would say: "This is how I see it, and if they can tell my kids all kinds of stuff  which I do not approve of , then I can tell my own kids,and my own grandchild what I believe and what I think about it. Because it is lies what they are trying to tell these little kids, I call it brainwashing, all in the name of God, money and power. I tell them what I have seen, and how I see it. They can make up their own mind, when they become adults. But for now this is what I am telling them so they have a choice". And so my Opa would tell me that he did not believe in God, that God was you, and nobody else.We have brought up our own children to know what is good or bad, he would say, and what a bunch of fine young adults they are.I have seen too many ugly things, when we were moored with our boat on these inland waters.I have been through two wars, where men killed each other . How can that be, if men on earth should love one another. They should teach Love, instead of showing kids a big cross with  Jesus hanging with huge nails in his hands, and this barbwire stuck on his head, with blood painted all over him.It was 1946 and my mom and I had just arrived from The Dutch-Indies(now called Indonesia) I had started school that year, it was September.Next to the school was a church and one day my friends asked me if I would like to come with them  to attend a church service. I was entering this church and saw this huge cross with a man hanging on there and I screamed and nobody was ever able to take me back into a church.
That is the church in the background.
This is the small town Kolhorn. I lived there two years.
They were one of the best years of my life.

I think it reminded me of the women I had seen hanging on trees and being punished by these Japs, when I was in these camps on Java in world war II,( I still cringe when I see these crosses ). My Opa was so mad, he wanted to know who had taken me to church.I was so scared because my friends who attended this church had told me if I would not go to church I would burn in Hell, because that's what the priest said.He would take me on his lap and would make all these horrible things disappear from my head. He would tell me about the beautiful country site with beautiful birds and meadows so green and the lambs and cows.How peace full it was and so quiet. He would talk about his life on his transport boat, and how everybody would bike or go by boat to their jobs, that there were hardly any cars, only the filthy rich(he would say) had a car, a metal beast.
Later when I was older it's when he told me the other things he had seen, and why he was so opposed to Churches.I am coming back now to the most dramatic story he ever told me and he was telling this to me with tears in his eyes. I must have been about twelve or thirteen years old.He told me that he wanted me to know this, it's very ugly he said to me, but now that I am a big girl he felt he had to tell me.I had reminded him, that he had promised me to tell me this ugliness he had witnessed.
And so began his story;
One night he had moored his transport boat in this beautiful quiet spot in the middle of nowhere, it was a beautiful night and the moon was almost full.He had gone on land for a walk, which he did often. Suddenly he heard splashing and from the spot where he was sitting he saw a small row boat with a Priest rowing the boat.It was funny he said, because here was this priest in the middle of  the night rowing a boat with a long cloak(he called it a dress)in the middle of this waterway.
The Netherlands with their many water ways.
Every where you go in The Netherlands there is water.
All of a sudden the Priest would stop rowing and a small basket was thrown into the water. The Priest quickly would row away. My Opa wanted to know what was in the basket, because he had seen this before, and this time his inquisitiveness got the better of him.He was able to retrieve the basket.What shock he got when he saw what was in this basket. He told me he cried and still got tears in his eyes, in the basket was a dead newborn baby.And it was not the first time he had seen this, but had never before thought anything about it.He knew for sure that the baby was murdered, and that these baby's were born in this Monastery. He told me that he had often seen this happening while he was moored near this Monastery.I cannot believe that this God they preaching about will forgive them for what they are doing, he said to me.The sad part of the whole thing was, that nobody believed him. That is God's house you are talking about; he was told. How dare you!In those days you could be put in jail, for telling this. So he kept quiet. But he loathed the Church and he could get very upset with anything what had to do with preaching about God.
My Opa, one of his last pictures, still this twinkle in his eyes. He always had something mischief up his sleeve.

 He told me that other things had happened too, but would not tell me. Now I understand what more he would have liked me to know, but in those days you did not dare talk about what was really happening behind these closed doors. All he said to me that there were men in those churches hiding behind these funny clothes they wear, but that they were sick men who did not know what and who they are.I did not understand at the time.But now I understand.Just before he died, he told me that he was going to a beautiful place, far, far away.And if he would meet God there he would let me know. I have never heard from him.I know he has a smile on his face and I can see the twinkle in his eyes.
My wonderful Opa and a little dog , he thought my  half-brother should have.
Notice the wooden shoes.(klompen)

My husband was brought up as a Catholic and when he was 16 years old his parents told him he was allowed to make his own choice. He never went to church again,neither did his sister.They went to catholic school and the most important thing they had to learn was the catechism. There was literally hell to pay if they forgot about anything about these lessons.As of today my husband still knows every word from the  Hail Mary.
The Catholic Church in Zandvoort, where he had to go to confession. Memories!
This is the catholic school he attended. It's still there. He took this picture last year.

The most funniest thing, and he can still chuckle about is, when he had to go to confession.His friends were waiting outside the church. He always told the priest the same: "I was not nice to my mother, my father, my sister.I spend the money I had to put in the bag in church and spend it on candy". Then the priest would say to him;"Oh my son, you can go and God forgives you for all your sins, say your prayers". He still knows every prayer. This same Priest had abused some of the boys from the school.The priest name was Piet van Diepen. When we were in Holland last year we talked to one of his friends from those school days with the nuns.This friend  was abused by this priest for the longest time. His parents were devoted catholic and never believed him. They told him to be quiet and never tell anybody. Needless to say that he is not believing anymore either.
He never married. Thinking back about his childhood he said; "I remember as a little boy I had to go to church every Sunday. At the pulpit stood a priest in a black robe and he preached as if his life was depending on it. During this long ,long preach he screamed and ranted, his face became red, almost purple at times. As a child I thought this was so scary. He went on and on, and people in church were sitting with their heads bend in these benches. For an hour all this priest was preaching about was how bad we all had been. Everything was wrong with society, and venial sin.... We always went home perplexed and confused. More then ever I left the church so depressed, because I thought I was bad, the worst part was that I felt that God had left me with this dirty priest, that two faced son of a bitch, and my parents forced me to go to listen to this priest bull shit". I better don't repeat what more he had to say. It's very sad,very sad.
I hope that I did not offend anybody with these stories, but it's the truth.
It's better to take notice to what your children have to tell you.This friend told us, he can't understand how his parents every Sunday were able to repeat what the priest had preached in church, and forgot about him, their son.

Legacy of life.

How do we hand down the good things in Life
When sadness invades with so much strife.
There is a way, believe in ones self
The ability to achieve but not in wealth,
Gather thy feelings of Love and endure
A way of life that is more sure,
Nothing is easy be determined to try
Your legacy from the past will get you by.

Win Rainer.


  1. Hi Thea ! this is your HK Facebook friend.Just the other day ~ an acquainted deli counter employee @ Safeway supermarket told me a story.One random Christian person once said to her " If you don't go Church regular ~ you will go to HELL " and she responded with no hesitation " Thanks for the invitation !! " lol

  2. Thanks for your reply. I like the answer. My husband and I always tell our children always to look in the mirror. When you look in the mirror you see a person and that's you.This person in the mirror you cannot fool.As long as you can look that person strait into the eyes, you know if you did right or wrong.


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