In 1972 my parents bought this house from fellow ex-Gouda immigrants and settled into this quiet cul-de-sac, beside the creek. My mother made the cups of tea and coffee. My father invited anyone he met to come and visit. Mainly fellow Dutch Australians. Through the Dutch-Australian clubs and the friendships that had started in the migrant hostels, in the mid-fifties, there were always visitors or people to go and visit.
And then there were all the relatives, from the Netherlands, who liked the idea of a 5 weeks holiday, down-under. One aunt came ten times. Another aunt and uncle three times. Mother’s favourite expression translates as: Many tame sheep will fit into a shed. (Room for all.)
Now, she’s gone, and my father (will be 90, 14 July) gets two visitors, on Fridays and sometimes his two grandchildren, who are currently up to their ears in work and study. He gets 3 x two hours ‘home-care’, a week.
When there were no visitors, for years, my father used to cross the road and sit with his neighbour and argue about whether Holland was better than Australia. Whether soccer was better than rugby. And agree on Labor being the best party to vote for.
He has not crossed the road for a number of years now. The neighbour comes and sits with my father and hears exactly the same conversation, that he’s heard for so many years now.
So many relatives came and went. So many visitors through the years. And now there’s Ron, the neighbour. Such a lovely, patient man! Understanding, kind and still able to stir my father by calling soccer a girls’ game and always leaving with: “Well. I can’t sit here doin’ nothin’ all day. Gotta go and have me beer and watch the footy.”
Father’s standard reply: “Well. If you’re looking for me, I’m at number 3.”