gamiila: (bow tie)
Is it bad of me that, despite the fact that I wasn't particularly busy over the weekend, I still managed not to remember that it had been two full years since my father's passing? I would have forgotten all about it if Mum hadn't mentioned it on Sunday.

We met to go to the pictures together, and we saw Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer in a really sweet film called Beginners, in which Christopher Plummer plays a 75-year old who after 44 years of marriage comes out as gay, and almost immediately falls ill with terminal cancer. Ewan McGregor plays his grief-stricken son, who has commitment issues in his own life; and another important role is filled by the dad's Jack Russell, Arthur. It didn't disappoint and I'm glad I picked it out of the meagre list of films shown here in town, most of which seem to be of the 3D-variety.

I went to pay my respects to my Dad's gravesite this morning and when I got back, I was approached for the position of Contact Center Analyst by the same recruitment company that got me the interview at Apple back in January, so with a bit of luck and even if this doesn't work out, they'll be able to help me get into another job soon.

By the way, did I mention that 2 days after I had left the Apple office, the MacBook I had left on the train was handed in there? I didn't, did I - but it did! :-)
gamiila: (pensive)
In many countries around the world, today has been a day for remembering the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians in times of war. My own country, not having been involved in World War I, knows no such tradition, but still, I have been thinking of all the young men who have ever been sent out to fight in a foreign country and either not made it back, or returned profoundly changed by the experience. My father was one of the latter.

He served as a sergeant 1st class in Korea from 1950 to 1953, commanding an international company seconded to the Eighth United States Army as part of the UN intervention force. He was involved in some of the heaviest fighting, but was only injured once when a phosphorus grenade exploded in front of him and left him with a gruesome scar on his right shin. He lived through some terrible battles, but lost many of his men; he remembered each and every one of them and lived with survivor guilt for the rest of his life.

It wasn't until late in life that my father started to relate some of his experiences to me. I'm sad to say that I wasn't always receptive to his stories; Dad would tell of truly terrible things, of killing people and mutilating Chinese corpses, of streams of refugees and women and children begging for food and shelter, of visits to brothels when on leave...things no daughter needs to imagine her father being involved in. He would eulogise the war and would claim with tears in his eyes that his time in Korea was without a doubt the very best time in his entire life, he had never felt so alive...At the time, it struck me as strange that he would say that, but now I understand that he must have felt more alive because he lived in constant danger.

Dad was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, one of only a handful of non-US military personnel to be honoured in this way during this conflict. He was immensely proud of it; none of his other medals meant as much to him, and yet he didn't think he'd done anything especially heroic to deserve it (he'd gone back into a minefield while under heavy enemy fire to help a wounded comrade out, and then as soon as he'd got him to safety, had gone back in again to get the man's blown-off foot - new boots were scarce commodities, it would seem, and at the time it must have seemed to make sense to him and his commanding officer who recommended him for his actions to risk his life for a boot).

pictures of Dad in Korea )
gamiila: (Default)
My earliest memory:

I'm sitting on the cool hard floor in a ray of sunlight, the smell of wet cement all around. A man's brown shoe and blue trouser leg, both liberally besplattered, step into my field of vision while a hand reaches down to pass me a slice of white bread. I reach up to meet it. I know this hand: it is my father's.

My mother once helped me work out how old this memory is. From the description of certain details, such as the shiny black tiles I can almost see in the left hand corner, she could deduce that it must date back to the spring of 1964, when my dad was doing up the house we moved into after we left my grandmother's that summer; and more often than not during that time, minding me. I must have been between 18-20 months old at the time.

I always liked my father's hands. They were very elegant (if such can be said of a man's hands), and strong, with long, slender fingers. My own are a lot like his, though obviously smaller.


Apr. 1st, 2010 03:09 pm
gamiila: (Default)
A few hours ago, I carried my father's urn to his final resting place, and buried it there; while my sister, niece and nephew, my sister's boyfriend and an employee from the cemetery looked on. Monique helped me to fill in the little grave and tamp down the earth before the plaque was placed on top of it, and then we just stood there in the rain for a while, my sister and niece shedding floods of tears while the men and I remained dry-eyed throughout. I wonder what it says about me, that I haven't cried for my dad all that much...certainly much less than my sister, while he and I were supposed to have the closer bond. But perhaps it is because of that: even though he's gone, I don't feel abandoned, and maybe my sister -with all her unresolved issues- does.

(I had intended to insert a picture of the grave at this point, but for some reason I can't get my Nokia software to recognise my Nokia phone today. Oh well, perhaps you'd have thought it too macabre, anyway).

I went to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland last night, and I absolutely loved all 108 minutes of it. The critics have only given it two out of five stars, but I'd happily award it at least one more for the camera work alone. Johnny Depp's Hatter at times reminded me of Edward Scissorhands a little in his sad moments, and of Capt. Jack Sparrow in a few of his mad moments, though for the most part he struck me as an entirely different character to either of them; and I quite enjoyed the relish with which Helena Bonham Carter seemed to play the Red Queen. Also, the 3D effects were out of this world, though I hate the way those glasses always press on the bridge of my nose.
gamiila: (Default)
Honestly, I've never had so many problems with computers and networks before! I'm beginning to think it's me, like I'm radiating some sort of negative vibe that interferes with my router and everything else. Shortly after posting my last message, just while I was in the middle of doing my taxes, the Internet sent me a message to the effect of "So long, sucker! Bwahahahaha ::evil laugh of doom::!", and left me without so much as a backward glance. Anyway, it's back now, so I'd better make the most of it while it remains in a good enough mood to let me post.

So, with two days to spare before the deadline, I've done and sent off my tax assessment. Hopefully I haven't made any mistakes, but if I have I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.

My elbow is slowly getting better, since I'm taking doctor's advice and am only working half days for now. This meant I could spend the afternoon and a fair bit of cash at Ikea the other day; I've since been busy assembling and putting up bookcases and dressers and my first ever real home office chair in a nice white fake leather finish: it swivels and everything!

And finally, after having had to deal with the most appalling customer services organisation in the world on numerous occasions, I've managed to arrange for the interment of Dad's ashes this coming Thursday. I can't believe it's been 6 months since he died...though I know it has. It's just that I can still picture him so vividly, the sound of his voice, the glint in his eye. I hope I'll never forget these things.
gamiila: (Default)
We picked our father's final resting place this morning, my sister and I. He will be interred in the 'urn garden' of the Nieuw Eykenduynen cemetery in The Hague sometime next month, the exact date to be decided still as we've agreed to wait until the headstone of polished green granite that we also picked out and ordered this morning, is ready. That way we can inter him and place the stone at the same time. So it will probably be some 6 to 7 weeks from now.

We've bagged him a lovely spot, next to a bamboo grove and with an impressive water feature close by...and, as we were being informed that the spot we'd picked actually held enough room for 2 urns, I quickly decided that I would quite like for my urn to be buried there as well when my time comes. My sister readily concurred, as she prefers to be buried in the family plot, which happens to be in the same cemetery and currently holds the remains of our maternal grandmother, one of her sisters, and one of our aunts. I didn't know my sister preferred burial to cremation, but since that's the choice she's made, it means she was quite happy to let me have that leftover space if -God forbid- I should die within the next 5 years, which is the time we've purchased the plot for. And who knows, we may just extend the contract after that.
gamiila: (Default)
My sister and I are having to decide on what to do with Dad's ashes. There's quite a number of options to choose from, ranging from the traditional (interment in either a grave or a wall), to the sublime (sending him up 20 kilometres in the sky in a balloon), the morbid (taking the urn home to sit on the mantlepiece) and the ridiculous (having jewelry fashioned out of him). The undertaker didn't even flinch when we asked if we couldn't use the ashes in a tattoo!

I know Dad wanted for his ashes to be scattered. He didn't stipulate whether this should happen on land or at sea, but since he had no particular attachment to or connection with the latter, personally I'd favour a scattering on land. My sister however, and to my surprise, is vehemently opposed to this. She says she's not ready to say goodbye to him forever, and wants to have him interred so she can visit him often and lay flowers...The surprise in this is that she hardly ever bothered to visit him when he was alive...

But, I've agreed to hold off the scattering for a few years. I don't think Dad would have really minded either way, and if it makes my sister feel better, then why not?
gamiila: (Default)
I've been dealing with and trying to settle my father's affairs since he died a little over two weeks ago. This has meant letters and phone calls to insurance companies, the IR and pension funds, and visits to the town hall and the bank. It'll take a few months before I'm done, apparently, and will probably involve the services of a notary public at some later stage as well. The laws of inheritance, although pretty straightforward in themselves, seem to require them.

Anyway, I've decided to take my mind off the whole gloomy business and focus on a fun future event today: seeing Depeche Mode live in the O2 in December! To that end, I've now booked my flights and a twin room in the Covent Garden Travelodge, and I'm very much looking forward to spending a few days in London and hopefully meeting up with some of yous there and then!
gamiila: (Default)
Bone-weary. Slept fitfully last night. All the events of the day kept going through my mind, and the knowledge that my father's gone kept sleep at bay. Got up in the middle of the night and made myself a cocoa. Watched a bit of nighttime TV, which is even worse than daytime TV.

I picked my flowers up from the florist's; they'd done a terrific job on the piece using many of Dad's favourites, chrysanthemums and dahlias in autumnal shades, with a few deep red whatchumacallits and orange somethingorothers, a really masculine bouquet that I was very pleased with. The more so as it turned out the floral arrangements we'd ordered through the undertaker's never materialised, but of course I didn't know it then and we never even noticed until after the service, so many people had sent their own flowers.

More people showed up to the cremation ceremony than I'd dared to expect, including some colleagues from both me and my sister's work, which was really wonderful. We've both been getting lots of support from our respective employers and co-workers with e-mails, phone calls and text messages, and we've both been given special leave for the week.

I delivered the eulogy and my niece read a poem, then my sister added a few words of her own. Then we both got up and thanked everyone for coming, we had a minute's silence, and then the casket, that she and I had closed together, slowly moved backwards into whatever space is there at crematoria where the dead are prepared for their final journey.

We had a short reception in one of the adjoining rooms, with tea and coffee and Indonesian finger food, where people could mingle and offer us their condolences. Then afterwards, we took 20 of our family and friends out to dinner to a Korean restaurant, in memory of our father who had been a Korean war veteran *). We had a very pleasant evening with good food, a lot of laughter and some tears, and everybody was agreed we'd given our Dad the most splendid send-off and he would have been so proud of us.

*) The first thing I did, the morning after Dad's death, was contact the Dutch Korean War Veterans Association, to ask if they would send a delegation to form an honour guard as I'd seen them do on previous occasions, when others of Dad's former comrades had died. The secretary said he'd do his best, but as those who are left are mostly in their eighties and struggling with various degrees of ill health, couldn't guarantee he'd be able to gather the necessary quorum. In the end, only one vet made it, but he was someone whom my Dad had known and he was most welcome. My sister and I commemorated our father's time in Korea in our speeches, because it was such an important event in his life; it shaped the man he became and so touched on our lives as well. Therefore, our music choices for the service were as follows:

- Suicide Is Painless from the M*A*S*H* soundtrack, our Dad's favourite TV show;
- Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits;
- Peace In The Valley by Elvis, which always made Dad teary-eyed whenever he heard it; and
-Old Soldiers Never Die by Gene Autry, which was the veteran's anthem as far as he and his comrades were concerned; it was played at all their funerals
gamiila: (Default)
I'm finding it very hard to write my father's eulogy. My mind's gone blank - while at the same time it's teeming with all kinds of memories of him. How can I do him justice? As soon as I put pen to paper, the tears start and make everything run...I've written and delivered eulogies before, but this one has to be special, and I'm not managing it :-(
gamiila: (Default)
My sister and I met at the funeral parlour to make the arrangements for our dad's cremation yesterday morning. So much to think about! Thank heavens we were of one mind as to how we wanted the service to progress. It didn't take us long to agree on the lay-out and text for the invitation to be sent out, the floral arrangements for the service to be picked, the date, time and place for the ceremony to take place to be agreed, the food and drink to be served there. In this, we were helped by Dad's foresight in having taken out an insurance policy years ago that covered all the basics and some of the extras, giving us a clear idea of how he would have liked things to be done. It also helped with the finances; when the final tally came in, we were surprised to find it hardly made a dent in the sum we'd set aside in our minds (not that we had discussed this at all beforehand). So, for his final and proper send -off, we came up with the idea to host a dinner in a Korean restaurant for all mourners after the cremation ceremony, which is going to take place late afternoon this coming Tuesday (it had to be a Korean restaurant, as the time Dad spent in Korea fighting the communists had been the determining factor for the entire rest of his life, and he ever afterwards thought of himself as a soldier first and foremost, even if he left the army shortly after returning from the war in the final days of 1953). We're meeting with the chef and proprietor later this afternoon to discuss numbers and menu.

Then we spent a few hours writing out the invitations, and calling and taking calls from people shocked at the news of our father's sudden demise. Because it had been quick, and unexpected. He hadn't been ill. He was woken up day before yesterday same as usual, washed and clothed, and then before he went in for breakfast complained of a slight tummy ache. The doctor on constant call in the home had a look at him and deciding that he was just a bit constipated, was in the middle of prescribing him something to ease his stool, when Dad made one final jovial remark...and slumped back on the bed. The doctor said he'd never seen anything like it: one minute, his patient was trading jokes with him, the next, gone into the next world.

I'm glad it happened like this, both for his sake as for mine - it means there's nothing I could have done, even if I had gotten the news immediately. Because I'd allowed my niece to change my ringtone, I didn't realise it had been my phone ringing in my purse all day, and therefore only noticed I'd missed 8 calls when I took it out in the evening...

Before we left the funeral parlour, my sister insisted I see my father. Up until that moment, I hadn't shed a tear (or maybe just one). But she was right, seeing him opened the floodgates, and we stood there, clutching at each other bawling our eyes out. Then she left me alone with him to say a final farewell, and that was hard. Strangely, he looked better than I'd seen him in weeks, very peaceful and still. But he was so cold, my fingers froze when I touched his cheek the way I'd always done to wake him up whenever I found him asleep, and it was then that I realised, he really was gone. When I got home a few hours later, I was so blinded with tears I stumbled and fell on the stairs. I put my left hand out to break my fall, and I think I must have sprained my wrist, because this morning it's swollen and hurts like a mother. If it's not better in a day or two, I'll have my GP have a look at it.

When the home couldn't get in touch with me, they called my mother, who after having given up on trying to reach me, notified my sister. She came down and arranged for him to be taken away, because the house rules stipulate that a dead body has to be removed from the premises immediately. Likewise, his few belongings will have to be removed within 3 days of the death occuring as well, so I'm going down there after posting this, or they'll be destroyed. We don't know if there's anything we want to keep, but we don't like the idea of his stuff ending up in the skip so soon after his death. After that, it's off to the florist's to order a wreath, and to the photographer's to have our favourite picture of him enlarged to poster size, to set up in the crematorium for use in the service. Then all we need to do is make the final arrangements for the valedictory dinner, and for each of us to write our speeches. The wake, or viewing of the body, has been arranged for Monday evening.


Oct. 15th, 2009 05:49 pm
gamiila: (Default)
my father passed away this morning at 9:15
gamiila: (Default)
It's the last day of my summer hols, and weather-wise, it looks to be a good one. Unfortunately, now that the sun has finally started to peek through the clouds, I still won't be able to take much notice nor indeed advantage of it, as I'll be running around doing all sorts of errands.

First off, I have a meeting with the house doctor, a representative of the nursing home's management, and the head of the nursing staff to discuss my father's care and how he's been faring since arriving at the home three weeks ago. Then it's off to the police station to file a report, as it has transpired that Dad has lost his identity card/passport, probably in the move from the care home where he was first located to the last. I went to get a replacement at the town hall, but was told a police report would be required before they could process the application. When I rang the police I was told Dad would have to come to the station in person, and bring identification. When I explained that my father no longer had any identification other than a driver's licence that had expired in 1975, and that moreover he was physically and mentally unfit to go anywhere, they relented and told me that as long as I could bring a signed proxy, they would allow me to come down and file the report on his behalf. I just hope they won't have changed their minds in the intervening days, as I do realise that the compromise we arrived at is highly unusual and probably not even legal.

I'll be meeting my sister and nephew at the train station later, so as to be there at the other end of the country for our uncle's cremation ceremony tomorrow morning. Ronnie's funeral is set for Saturday as well, but as we were already committed to attending our uncle's send-off, all we could do was arrange for a wreath to be sent to his. So before we leave The Hague, I'll also have to find time to pop into the florist's and make sure our floral tribute is delivered on time and as specified.

One bit of good news before I go: my geyser finally got repaired yesterday, apparently not a moment too soon -- the repair man/plumber/gasfitter when he checked it over concluded that it had been a health hazard for some time in that it had been emitting dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas, so he fixed it and installed an alarm at no extra charge. I don't know if it's the reassuring presence of that white box in the hallway, or the fact that there's no more carbon monoxide wafting through the flat, but I did wake up far more alert than usual this morning.
gamiila: (Default)
Dad hates it in the nursing home. He says it's worse than prison, and he wishes he were dead. I understand why he would say that; he can't get off the ward, so is forced to spend his days in the communal area, where the home's inhabitants all sit around without speaking. There's a bird cage, but none of them seem to pay the parakeets and budgerigars any attention. He's lost his reading glasses, but even if he had them, there aren't any books to read; and for someone like him who used to smoke like a chimney, it must be very hard to only be allowed one cigarette an hour.

I spoke to one of the nurses. She says he spends most of his time lying on his bed. I think it's out of boredom, but Dad says it's because he can't sleep; the man in the bed next to him makes too much noise. "I told him, one more peep out of you and I'll beat you to a pulp" -- hardly the kind of attitude to win him any friends, and definitely not the kind of threat the staff take lightly. They've already complained to my mum, and he's only been there 6 days!

It's early days yet; perhaps he will settle in later. If he doesn't, as awful as it may sound to say it, perhaps he really would be better off dead.
gamiila: (Default)
There's nothing on the telly tonight, except for the Eurovision Songcontest, and I stopped watching that event sometime in the early eighties, I think. It's such a waste of license payers' money; and if I did watch it, it'd be a waste of two or three valuable hours of my life, too.

Dad will be moved into the nursing home on Monday. Mum took him for an inspection of the place last Thursday, at the end of which he gave it a cautious thumbs-up. Let's hope that once he's moved, he'll settle into the routine of the home quickly enough, because there won't be any going back to the kind of semi-independent way of life he's led in the care home. I don't think at present he realises how big a change this is going to be, and I just hope he won't have any regrets later on.
gamiila: (Default)
I got a call last Thursday, telling me that the 'indication' as they call it had come through, and that Dad will have to be moved to the nursing home within the next 7 days. It came on the same day my department had been told that because of 'business needs', all leave for the coming fortnight had been cancelled. Definitely a conflict of interests there, then.

I'd been feeling grotty, sniffly and sneezy all week, so I took a sickie last Friday, and then, after moping around at home for a few hours, took myself off for a little spot of retail therapy (ssshhhh, don't tell my boss!). It proved quite successful, in that lightening my purse cured my sniffles and sneezes most effectively as soon as I'd acquired these:

Read more... )

But...there is a God, and vengeance is His: the next day, I discovered I had an ingrown toenail, and now I won't be able to wear them any time soon. Well, not this week, I think.
gamiila: (Default)
I spent the day in A&E; not because I'd hurt myself, but because I'd received a phone call from the care home this morning explaining that my dad was peeing blood and they wanted me to take him down there and have it checked out. Five hours of hanging around, then he was sent home again with one vitamin K tablet and the advice to stop his blood thinners.

Oh well. I suppose they know best, even if he is still passing more blood than urine.

On the upside, though: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency tonight! I'm seriously smitten with this series.
gamiila: (Default)
A blackbird landed on my balcony railing 10 minutes ago, and it's sitting there not 2 metres away me from singing its little heart out. If it's hoping to attract a mate, maybe it should look for a spot lower down, in my neighbours' gardens, where its chances of success may be greater. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying this private aubade.

Over the past week, on my way to work, I've noticed two things: one, that it gets light about halfway through the commute, and two, that there's hares frolicking in the fields. Spring has definitely arrived, although at the moment it's still mostly a grey and wet one.

I went out and got myself a 500Gb external hdd, and tonight, I will see about getting it to work. The package promises that it's plug & play which means even an idiot such as me should be able to set it up in no time, and then my pc will hopefully start to behave much better.

Dad seems to have reconciled himself to his upcoming move, though he is a bit upset that he won't be allowed to take his own bed with him. Or his antique cupboard. Or any of his furniture except for his new chair, really...and I can well understand and sympathise. I shudder to think that the same fate may await me too 30 or 40 years from now.

5 Words

Mar. 8th, 2009 10:12 pm
gamiila: (Default)
I broke the news of his imminent move to Dad this afternoon. His reaction was exactly as I had expected: he doesn't like it. I wonder how long we can delay proceedings? Only one way to find out...

I asked [ profile] enigmaticblues to give me 5 words to write about, and these are what she came up with:

shoes, The Netherlands, Common Rotation, Nieces/Nephews, Stephen Fry )


Mar. 6th, 2009 06:41 pm
gamiila: (Default)
I always used to do my taxes myself, but this year I decided to let the Union take care of it (they have this free service for Union members, whereby you come in with your papers and someone will do it for you). I wish I'd done this years ago because my word! I've been doing it wrong all these years, been far too honest (or unimaginative) and have consequently done myself out of thousands of euros. For instance, it would never have occured to me that sanitary towels could be construed as 'recurring medical expenses for a chronic condition'. As a result of this and other clever bits of accounting, I have now been able claim back more than double what I usually do; so I'm well chuffed. Now I'll just have to wait and see if the IR will pay up without asking any embarrassing questions.

I met with Dad's carers this afternoon, and I'm amazed at how quickly they thought Dad could be placed in a nursing home. If it had been up to them, they would have had him relocated within the week, but I scuppered their plans when I refused to concur that he was mentally unfit. I found out they'd had a doctor in to assess his mental state the other week (before they called and asked me to come and talk to them), whose report was inconclusive: yes, Dad can be forgetful to a frightening extent, and he does require more care, but he's not doddering...doddering he is not. His mind is still sound, though it's clear that his brain has suffered from the two strokes he's had and his memory and overall brain function is worsening. In the end, I won't be able to stop Dad's move, but I can delay it for a while by insisting on a more extensive survey to be carried out.

ETA: Oh darn! I knew it was too good to be true: in checking the figures I found the lady's made an error and left off a nought in the value of my flat. So the IR has just this morning received a valuation on a garden shed rather than the des res I inhabit. I shouldn't wonder if I come to do my taxes again, which I will have to do now that I've spotted this error, the return should shrink back to a more realistic, lower sum.


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