Tuesday, October 29, 2013

remembering dad

While sorting through some papers, I stumbled upon a copy of my Uncle Nick's speech from my parent's wedding. Uncle Nick is a gifted writer and storyteller (seems to be a trend in the Dykstra family!), who was responsible for translating and editing my grandfather's autobiography. A cousin of mine then had published a few years ago.While I obviously wasn't around to hear the original speech, as I read it all these years later, it sure brought back memories of my dad. This is a little snapshot of my family history, and I am proud to be able to share it with you all.


"I have known Hessel all his life, ever since he replaced me as the baby in the family. Mind you, being more than two years old I did not think myself a baby anyway. And because I was big, and he was small, it always was my job to look after him. A job I tried to avoid as much as possible--forcing Hessel to learn on his own. That's how Hessel learned to become very stubborn. Nobody ever saw him make any mistakes. (I did not say that he never made any mistakes--nobody ever saw him make any.) Least of all, his big brother. You could not prod nor tease him into doing anything that he had not mastered yet. When Hessel said "no!" he did "no."

As toddlers, we were always tied onto a rope to keep us from wandering off. If I could not untie the knots, I ended up strangling myself. [Younger] brother Bill was fortunate enough that during the war years, rope was made from paper. After keeping it in his mouth long enough to soak it, he could tear it apart and make his getaway. Hessel [in contrast], would bring the rope to Mom to show his desire to go outside without running the risk of making mistakes. 

As a five year old, he broke his arm. A bike fell on him. Nobody ever saw his attempt to learn to ride that thing. Shortly thereafter, he drove the two wheeler all over the village without ever ending up against a fence, in a hedge, a ditch, or the canal--like all the rest of us.

Where we grew up [in Holland], the farmers' fields were separated by ditches, 6-12' wide, 3-6' deep, filled with water and mud. As kids, each spring, we spent our time roaming these fields accompanied with a long pole, whose only purpose was to get us across these ditches. Favourite ditches were used for days on end for practice purposes, showing off, or competitions, till the banks were slimy from all the activities. Competitions ranged not only on jumping the farthest with or without climbing that pole during the process, but also on placing the pole closest (or on) the near bank or the far bank, hanging on the pole as high (or low) as possible, hanging on with one hand only, etc.... The inevitable result was always: a dunking. It's an official spectator sport now, called pole vaulting.

Dad gave Hessel a pole too. A beautiful blue painted pole. Mine had never been painted. [But] Hessel would not use his pole. Sometimes he disappeared, (with his pole, I think.) Weeks later, he showed up at our favourite ditch and jumped over it. On the wrong side of the pole. Thereafter, he jumped over every ditch. Hessel never came home with wet feet like the rest of us.  

One day he showed up at the canal where we were swimming. Hessel dove in, swam right across, and back. I never knew how he learned it.

He got his high school diploma in three years. Never studied like the rest of us, so it seemed. 

I took driver's lessons for three days from the car salesman who sold us our first car. After a so-called driver's test, I got my license, and proudly drove the car home, only to meet Hessel as a hitchhiker. I stopped and opened the passenger door for him. Hessel walked over to the wrong side and told me to move over. 'You have your license, I don't,' he said. 

So I tried to teach him:
#1 This is the wheel, for steering.
#2 That is the gearshift.
#3 There is the gas pedal.
#4 There is the clutch.
#5 That is the brake to stop this thing.
'Now, step on #4, step on #3, put #2 in left hand rear position, let go of #4.'
Hessel drives away, no jerks. First gear. 
'Then, step on #4, move #2 ahead to right and up, step on #3, let go of #4.'
Hessel speeds up in second gear, no gear scratching, no jerks.
'Well, step on #4, move #2 as far back as it will go, let go of #4.'
Hessel speeds up to 45 mph--top speed of the car. No gear scratching, no jerks, stayed on the right side of the white line.
Beginner's luck? Let's try again:
'Ok, step on #5, now on #4."
Hessel stops on the right side of the road, on the shoulder. No jerks, motor still runs, did not stall.
Repeat whole process with same result.
I gave up.

The next week, Hessel gets his license, and drives for 30 years without banging into anything. Like all the rest of us.

Hessel also waterskies. When he gets tired of standing on both legs, he kicks off one ski and continues on one leg like a stork. I never saw him fall. Like the rest of us.

Hessel and Dad started a farm in 1953. Hessel bought 1 cow, and Dad 50 chickens, to populate the 65 acres. Three years later, they buy another farm of 100 acres. Hessel had 5 cows. Dad's chickens are dead. In 1973 dad retired, (no chickens,) but Hessel had a purebred Holstein herd for which he has received the top trophies in the County for several years, along with the trophy for the highest producing cow in the County. He now farms approximately 300 acres, and is fully mechanized to run it all by himself

So friends, that is Hessel.
Never made a mistake.
We all like him for it.
Kids and animals adore him.
The community appreciates him.

He has in the past, (or is now) serving as Director of the Holstein Frisian Association, member of the Christian Farmer's Association, deacon and steward of the Bloomfield CRC, board member of  Quinte Christian High School, and probably other organizations. 

Today we have witnessed the vows Hessel has exchanged with Connie before God, our Maker and Saviour, and we celebrate with them. We wish them a very happy life together. 

As Hessel's choice, we know, he made no mistake. 
He took his time.
His eyes wide open -- we thought he was looking the other way!
Nobody suitable in Canada, for 31 years.
Nobody suitable in Holland, 3 visits in a row.
He found her in New Jersey, USA.

Since then, his life had changed. This summer alone already he has:
Gotten extremely nervous.
Broken the hay baler. 
Chickened out of a swim at the Outlet when the water was too cold.
Dented the door on his pickup truck.
Got an infection in his left arm.
Gotten disorganized doing chores after three days of visiting Connie in New Jersey.
Losing some of this hair.

So Connie, your job's cut out for you already. He needs you now more than ever, to snap him out of this very uncharacteristic trend--so that 15 years from now, he'll say that today he made the only mistake in his life; he should have married you 15 years earlier!

Hints to the bride:
Hessel loves thick green pea soup or brown beans. Especially on Saturdays.
Hessel likes a weekly bubble bath in his own bathtub.
As far as I know, all Hessel knows about women is that they need lots of cupboards and closets. That's why he built hundreds of square feet of closets--and as an afterthought, some rooms around it to make it look like a house. He bet me that there's no woman in the world that can fill them up. Show him, Connie! I'd like to collect."
-by Nick Dykstra, August 21, 1982

Mr. & Mrs. Hessel Dykstra

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