Part 3: Teasing

Written by Bert Plomp

Christmas Eve 1974. Together with Charles, I was at my parents’ house to get warmed up for the Christmas celebration. What was supposed to be a pious Christmas prelude for my parents turned out somewhat differently, partly due to the influence of a certain Reverend Bongers. It didn’t turn into a pious Christmas, but rather a cheerful Christmas Eve, at least in the eyes of both brothers. To tease my parents a bit, I first silenced the Evangelical television channel. Following that, in celebration of the birth of baby Jesus, I tuned the television to another edifying program, namely the special VPRO Christmas show hosted by Sjef van Oekel. My parents didn’t dare intervene. The poor souls were just glad that their two rebellious sons were willing to spend Christmas with them.

Much to their dismay, they were witnesses to a performance by a peculiar minister during the show. Reverend Bongers from the youth ministry. Throughout the entire broadcast, this TV minister tried to convey a godly message to the youthful viewers. It wasn’t easy for him. Firstly, the show was, as usual, very chaotic, and secondly, the preacher was continuously hitting the bottle. Eventually, this servant of God couldn’t utter a sensible word anymore. My parents, who held the clergy in high regard, were beside themselves. Their displeasure only increased when Sjef himself, as drunk as a lord and lying amidst fallen Christmas trees, vomited into the bicycle bag of engineer Evert van der Pik. At the end of the show, our minister exclaimed in desperation: “Gosh, I still have to lead a Christmas midnight mass shortly.” Charles and I were doubled over with laughter. However, Dad and Mom looked very stern. Given their Christian upbringing, they couldn’t really react differently. It wouldn’t have surprised me, however, if they also, albeit discreetly, had to laugh. By then, they were accustomed to the antics of their sons.

My parents had owned a cottage at Camping Het Grote Bos in Doorn for quite a few years. Later, I bought one myself, right next to theirs. After my father’s death, my mother spent almost every weekend at her little house in the forest. Every Friday, I would call her to ask if she was going to the campsite. If she was, I would pick her up at the end of the afternoon with the car. Often, she would ask me if I could bring along a few things for her. I always responded to that question a bit teasingly by saying that there wasn’t much space left in the car. When I arrived at her flat in Napoleonpark in the afternoon, she was already downstairs, waiting for me on the sidewalk with her little dog. She would be smiling mischievously, amidst a half street full of old junk. All stuff she had bought at sales throughout the week. Even though her cottage in the woods was already filled to the brim with such material, she always managed to add new things to it.

My mother lived longer than my father. However, she didn’t become very old. She passed away at the age of 75, like my father, from the ‘dreaded disease.’ During an examination, her family doctor had discovered something wrong with her stomach. A specialist later diagnosed the serious condition. It took about six months before she passed away. Even while seriously ill, she remained a part of the church choir of which she had been a member for so long. She faced her end singing and without fear.

The strength of her bond with her family was once again evident during her illness. Together with my own sister, two younger sisters of my mother cared for her day and night during the final weeks of her life, providing both physical and spiritual support.


For all episodes, click on: Mother and son

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