My Dad lives in the Netherlands, in a very quaint little village called Velp that’s near the German border and a 10-minute bus ride from a city called Arnhem. He was born in Velp, and grew up here. In his late twenties he accepted a job in Hong Kong and that was the beginning of an adventure that included marrying my mother and having his two children, and living in Hong Kong, Japan and South Africa. After my mum died 15 years ago he returned to Velp and has been living here since.
If you’ve seen the movie “A Bridge Too Far”, you’ll know how significant this part of the Netherlands was during World War Two. Papa was a young lad at the time. The Allied forces freed Velp when he was 12 years old and that day is still celebrated annually some seventy years later.
Whenever we’re in Velp I like to go on a walk with my Dad that takes us past the home where he grew up. I love hearing his stories about living in Velp before, during and after the War. Some of the stories make me sad, but they also help me understand my Dad, and appreciate him even more.
My great grandfather — my Dad’s grandfather — had their house built in 1906. My Dad, with his little sister, his parents, and a few of the neighbours would seek shelter in their cellar during air raids. During the toughest years of the war food was very scarce and kids stopped going to school. At one point my Dad’s father was taken away by German soldiers to dig trenches for their armies, but he managed to escape. These experiences have shaped my Dad into the amazing man that he is today.
We took these photos when we were with Papa last week. Here we’re standing in front of the house on Koning Straat.
The house has a stone with the inscription, “R Tuinman, oud 5 jaar, 1906”. This was a dedication to my great grandfather’s son Reijer, who was 5 years old at the time.
The shed at the back of the house was converted into a workshop for my Dad’s father, my Opa, who was a carpenter by profession. My Dad was a Chartered Accountant before he retired, but he’s very handy because he spent many a weekend in his father’s workshop learning about carpentry.
My Dad’s almost 83 and still the most independent, resourceful, tenacious, practical, and hardy person I know. He is a survivor who does not let things get the better of him. His strength is coupled with an incredible gentleness and great patience. My Dad is also the most charming person I know, and I couldn’t be more proud of his willingness to live for his children and grandchild after he unexpectedly lost the love of his life to cancer.
We at YLF wish you a happy Father’s Day this Sunday.
I’m wearing outfit 9 in the series on my travel capsule for a 4 week trip.