Tuesday, May 05, 2015

May 5, 1945 and May 5, 2015: A Story Seventy Years in the Making

Well, the story I intended to post here, has yet to be found. There are at least three stories I have never found back, one about cheating and laundry, written up by the recreation therapist with content mainly from Frank and myself, and one about a time-travelling GI that was written on May 5, 2015 in honour of V-day. It was inspired by Frank, who was from Croatia (before it was called Croatia), and had been in the military; the Recreation therapist wrote it up so splendidly I can never hope to duplicate it, and actually would not want to. Also I am not allowed to return to that particular ward, ever. The head nurse was very explicit that she only wants to see me again in the grocery store.

However May 5th, 1945 was a momentous day in the history of the world. It is the date for the liberation of the Netherlands, known as V day, in these parts. There are so many different V days though. On May 5th, the Germans surrendered and the Dutch people welcomed the Canadian soldiers with great joy and celebration.

Around this time, my Opa and Oma den Boer met, while on parade, and of course Grandpa and Grandma Beekman, having met and corresponded in the war, were now free to make wedding plans and soon immigrated to Canada. Opa and Oma den Boer ended up in France for a number of years, before making their way to Canada, having four of their five children on a primitive farm, somewhere close enough to Paris that my father was eventually born there, a number of weeks premature. As I have written before, he was fed sea water by the nurses, and did not see his mother very often. My Opa pretended to be a doctor just to see him, and was rather disappointed in his tiny size. None of the nurses were fooled, however, by his supposed lab coat.

Grandpa and Grandma Beekman began life in Canada on a farm somewhere in the heartland of Ontario, where, as Grandma related later, she was required to live in a shack, and also bring the blankets for the night, back to the main house every morning. They were called Displaced Persons or D.P. 's and would move around quite a bit as their young family grew to five. My mother was the only girl and second in line. Her older brother was a good sort of boy, but at first had difficulty with English. My grandma was to learn English so well, in her later years she was a champion Scrabble player. Around the time I was born, Grandpa and Grandma were living in Florida, where Grandpa worked for one of his bosses, building a golf course and maintaining it. So I did go to Florida, but have very little recollection of it. My earliest memory is of my baby brother in the air plane. I demanded that my father open the window of the air plane for me, as I must have felt somewhat confined. John had a bassinet where he actually got to sleep.... Not sure if I did or not.

Anyways, I digress. On May 5, 2015 I walked around the Labyrinth at Saint Joseph's hospital and top of my mind was V-day. It had just been painted, and I probably was one of the first to make that trek. It was dedicated recently on the September 22nd, I believe, when it was the longest day of the year. I had done the Labyrinth before, when it used to be hedges, a couple of times, before the new hospital was built, when I was a patient in 2005 and afterwards with a good friend.

The story we wrote that day, involving time travel, and rescuing of people in a factory in the Netherlands, and an epic celebration complete with chocolate, dancing, and jazz hands following the War, and after the rebuilding of the decimated country, was very inspirational. Frank was quite an amazing guy, and could be depended upon for good advice. He was pretending he was in a first class hotel, so naturally I pretended I was in a spa, in between feeling like I was in a monastery or prison. He had his own issues, but I never for a minute doubted his story or his integrity. I met a number of fabulous people at the hospital, and Frank was one about half a dozen patients I will never forget!




1 comment:

Suzanne den Boer said...

I cannot find this story back so far. Must sort through my room.