I visited a neighbour one day in October to wish him a Happy 97th Birthday. That’s a pretty good achievement, surviving life’s vacillations for 97 years. He’s Dutch, born in Amsterdam he says, during the war (the first one). His greatest achievement, he says, was becoming a submarine navigator during the war (the second one). But what about his long long long life? He says everyone wants to grow old, no one wants to be old.
Before we sat down together on his birthday, he took a cooked sausage from the lunch delivered by Meals on Wheels, cut it up into small pieces, put them into a small decorative plate and stuck a toothpick into each one. He poured himself a glass of red wine and invited me to join him in his birthday celebration.
He is the eldest of 12 children and has no idea if the others are alive or dead. They all stayed in Holland while he moved to Australia, and now he only remembers the names of 5 of them. But he remembers his childhood, and often sings a Dutch song that his mother sang when he was small, a song of thankfulness for being saved from a shipwreck, ‘Als g’in nood gezeten’. He wrote it out in Dutch, and then translated it into English for me:
He has sung the song for me many times. For a while, he forgot some of the verses, so we turned on his computer and found, to his surprise and mine, that he still has an Internet connection. We looked up the verses, then he sat and sang it from start to finish. At the end he was so pleased with himself that he turned to me with this delightful smile. I snapped him.
Aart was a seaman and says he has seen more of the sea than most people, spending much of his life on it and under it. He now lives up the street from me, that is, several hours’ drive inland, so I asked if he’d like to come for a drive to the coast to see the sea. But he has no desire to see it again, and prefers his memory of it. He rarely leaves his house, and likes it that way. He wants to die there. If he gets what he wants in the end, without doctors and carers insisting he goes into an aged care home, then that will also be a great achievement.
Thanks WordPress for the photo prompt. It was good to reflect on achievement.