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Jack the Dutchman

It has been two months since I’ve seen my papa, but I can still clearly feel the heartbreak of our goodbye. For more than half of my life, I’ve only been seeing him twice a year. Our farewells have gotten so difficult for us that I can no longer bring him to the airport myself.

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m a daddy’s girl…  And I have been for 53+ years. I’m very lucky to be so close with someone I love, but as we are both aging it also becomes more difficult.

It’s hard for me to admit this to myself, but I know from the way Papa’s face lights up when we see each other that he is at his happiest when he is with me. However, being together is not always possible for us, and even more importantly it’s very difficult. Why? Because we are separated by 4000 miles of ocean and 6 time zones. Papa still lives in the country I left behind in 1984: The Netherlands.

Now he is 90 years old and I’m not so sure anymore if leaving was the right thing to do. I am very lucky that Papa has been coming twice a year for the past 28 years, however I keep asking myself if I should be with him in his last years or, dare I say, months. Shouldn’t I be making these times as happy for him as I can? Close enough to see him a few times a week, to go on bike rides and take him places. My mom, at 79 years is still well and takes care of him as best as she can, but I know that I add so much more joy to his life.

When they were here for a month this spring Papa fell ill with a bad case of bronchitis. He was very sick for about ten days and it took him another few weeks to regain his energy. This is a man who does not take any medication now and never has.  His family doctor barely even knows who he is.  Getting sick was a shock to him, and the fact is, he more than likely picked it up on the plane: 8 hours confined with many strange germs followed by jet lag…  When he was here in May he announced to me that he thinks the end is near, he is tired and he just can’t do the trip anymore :'(. While he was here he spent most of his healthy days enjoying my house, my acre, my comfort… you could feel in the air that he was just taking it all in. For what he is sure will be his last chance.

Now he is home, healthy as far as I know, and I can’t help wondering… Is he thinking of coming again? Dare I hope he will be back? Am I selfish for wanting him to take that exhausting trip again? I’m not going to bring it up yet. Until I do, I have a much better plan: I am going to visit him for 2 weeks.  I can’t wait to see him and I know he can’t wait to see me either!

While I am in The Netherlands besides spending time with him, I am going to see what the local Domestic Violence stats are, how are they spreading awareness, and if there is anything we can learn from them.

So stay tuned and I will share my findings with you. And in September, if you come across two elderly people in Doylestown who clearly don’t speak a word of English (Starbucks is a good possibility), ask the guy (in a loud voice) if he happens to be Jack the Dutchman. You’ll make his day, as he will have made mine by being here.

Liesbeth Bisschops, AWP Community Educator

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