Homesickness-Heimwee Epilogue

(read Dutch Heritage page first)

Epilogue circa 1970’s, me. For some reason, I have not been able to put my feet on my Dutch-Frisian home soil again.

Beloved family members drove Pake (Frisian grandfather), Mammie and I over antiek weggetjes (antique roads) to find my grandparents’ last farm house – the home I yearned for. Finally we were there.

We had the clearest of views, 25 meters away, but… We. were. not. there. not there. The home with the attic window I had once looked out of was across the canal. I was on the reverse of my six year old child experience (Dutch Heritage page).  No bridge across was in sight in either direction. We decided not to drive the kilometers necessary for any of us to walk the farm house grounds.

Heimwee, all I wanted was to be back in that house. I can’t find my photo of their home right now, which stood among houses along a canal, with farm land in the back. This different photo communicates the mood and feeling for me, and perhaps for your sense of home as well…

Epilogue 1980’s -1990’s, my parents In the early 1980’s my parents were able to go on a world cruise that included the former Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. Just the cruise was a victory. In the 1970’s my father experienced a severe spinal cord injury from surgery gone wrong. He spent 9 months at Houston’s Texas Institute of Rehabilitation in 1976, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford is now recovering.

In the years after TIRR, Pappie (Dad) had been able to return to work, reawaken his own artistry and love of music, and find one sport he could still enjoy with his disability – scuba diving. For the rest of his life Pappie had neurological damage, pain, and only partial control of all neuro-skeletal action below the waist. His greatest victory was simply being able to walk. Something about the fight to recover had made Pappie a happier man. He and Mammie (Mom) set off on their cruise with great joy.

Like me, Pappie was blocked from his home by a body of water. He and another Japanese concentration camp survivor dropped a commemorative wreath near Java. He visited Java; he spoke the language of his childhood – Bahama Malaysia; he ate his childhood food; experienced the scenery of his childhood. I always thought that like me, he was truly blocked from his home, the island of Billeton.

“No,” Mammie told me recently. “He could have gone, he thought it would be too painful.” (this is the Jobsis family home on Billeton as it looked in 1941)

Later, Pappie met a woman online who also was a camp survivor and had lived on Billeton. She and her husband and my parents formed a powerful friendship. In the 1990’s they visited Billeton, and brought back video for Pappie, his childhood home still stood.

Epilogue 2000’s, the new millennium, my generation

Tante Mechtelien and I drove to Beppe and Pake’s old farmhouse once again, the old address clutched in my hand. Their previous village, near Leeuwarden, Friesland, The Netherlands, has a funny name whether said in Dutch or English – Snakkeburen.

I walked the farmhouses along the canal. Farm land spread behind,  glowing green, lit up by sunlight shining through soft rain. I could not be sure if I was at the correct farmhouse, several had been made into country homes. But, ahhhh, I was there.

In 2008, my father “Kees” A.C. Jobsis passed away and completed his final journey home. I don’t know if I can every describe how much he will be missed, or how strongly I celebrate that he is free at last.

Some time in 2011, my sister Ann will journey to Bali, Java and Billeton to walk the paths our father walked.

It was as important to journey home with Tante Mechtelien in 2007, as it was to seek home one more time. I close with a quote from Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest who spent most of his life in the U.S., and Canada, from his book The Wounded Healer:

“A man can keep his sanity and stay alive as long as there is at least one person who is waiting for him. The mind of man can indeed rule his body even when there is little health left. A dying mother can stay alive to see her son before she gives up the struggle, a soldier can prevent his mental and physical disintegration when he knows that his wife and children are waiting for him. But when “nothing and nobody” is waiting, there is no change to survive in the struggle for life.”

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