The Legacy

When I was born, my father was 39 years old, having settled down late in life. His experiences during World War II, particularly his service in the Indonesian War of Independence at the age of 19, left an indelible mark.

My grandmother told me that she had been extremely worried and had prayed for his safety. When he finally returned, he had to spend another 6 weeks under observation in a hospital in Leiden, apparently due to malaria. No one was allowed to visit him. However, his brother, who was 10 years younger, went to see him in Leiden but could only wave from behind the windows.

Now that I am a mother myself, I can imagine how dreadful those years must have been for my grandmother. Sending away her eldest son for military service in the police action in Indonesia, after all the hardships people had endured during the Second World War.

My grandmother was a tall, strong, tough woman. But whenever I barged into her house as a teenager, the conversation always circled back to this. She conveyed her past stress to me. I never questioned why I heard that from her and not from my father, who never talked to me about it himself. But from her look, I could see that she still suffered from it. She couldn’t prevent him from this cruel crossing experience where nobody benefited. Imposed from outside, disguised as a duty to the people and the fatherland, which as a good Catholic you were supposed to contribute to. Which later turned out to be a trap. Due to the perception of Indonesian veterans as war criminals, discussions arose about her honorable son, who would later become my father. He was admired by everyone because he resembled a movie star.

My father returned, but he was not the same person anymore. He joined the family business, surrounded himself with friends, and lived a bachelor’s life. He continued to live with his parents even as almost all his brothers and sisters got married. The only task given to him was to empty the ashtrays before going to bed. This is also what I remember when I became his daughter.

His family wanted him to get married, but he wasn’t quick to agree. He was affluent, enjoyed himself, and drove around the Netherlands to visit clients in a stunning new Ford. While sitting on the terrace with his brother and sister-in-law, he met my mother. His brother invited her to join them. She was 20 years old, just back from her education in Posterholt, where she trained as a teacher. She was introduced to my father and this time he liked her. My mother, a beautiful and alluring woman, had been in love with him for years. 16 years younger and still a girl.



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