Send My Conscience Home in a Taxi

Externalised Memory

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Goodbye Opa
Tram In Snow
maxcelcat
On Wednesday, we held a funeral and burial for my one remaining grandfather. Who as I mentioned died nearly two weeks ago. The funeral was that much later to allow several people to make it here from overseas and interstate.

I can also report that his full name was in fact "Leendert Boer", a delightfully old fashioned Dutch name. Which was his fathers name, and indeed my uncle Leo's real name.

We did the reverse of the usual thing, and buried him first, before the ceremony. My mother found a delightful cemetery (in so far as a cemetery can be delightful) in a place called Steiglitz about twenty kilometres outside Geelong. My grandfather spent the last five decades in Geelong, specifically Corio, and twenty of those years working for Ford. The cemetery is small and quiet, in a typical Australian forest. Reminded me of the place my friend Daniel is buried in out near Wallen.

I was struck by the distance he'd come. Leendert was born in Gouda (as in the cheese, although the pronunciation in Dutch sounds much more like "Hoow-da", with a hard rolling Dutch H on the front) and was buried on a hot sunny Australian day in a country cemetery something like half a world away. He and my mother and her (then) four siblings turned up in Australia back in 1951.

My four uncles, and my cousin Mathias and myself - the six oldest male Boer descendants - carried him from the hearse to the grave. Something I seem to have done a lot of in my time, most recently when I helped carry Sara's grandmother, when she died on about October of last year. And my other grandfather, about ten years ago, my great aunt about five years ago, and indeed my aunt's father in Bairnsdale back in February of last year. It's actually a good feeling, in a way, very symbolic to be carrying someone on their final journey.

My uncle Ben, who came out from Canada, presided, and my mother sang a song for him. And he was lowered into the grave...

We held the ceremony in a hall in Geelong in the afternoon. Opa was always making stuff, including dozens of toys for us grand children. So when he died, I put out the call to my cousins and second cousins - bring all the Opa toys you have! It seemed a wonderful way to remember him. And we had quite a collection in the end, a whole series of tops, hand carved windmills, a marvellous little steam engine, and a hand-powered vehicle we always called "the flying Dutchman".

My mother and my uncles all spoke. And I gave a speech I'd prepared the night before, about Opa and his toys. I might post the text of it here at some point. This was one of the hardest things I've done. I'm a good speaker - years of Toastmasters will do that - but talking in front of thirty or so members of your family and about as many strangers at a sad event is quite a different thing. Fortunately my experience served me well, and everyone was very complimentary afterwards. I talked about remembering him through the things he made for us, and how they'd always be with us.

We pottered around afterwards, and ate fun Dutch biscuits, and I talked to my relatives. Everyone of my cousins was there along with all my cousin's kids. In fact, the only missing relative was my sister Vanessa, who as I've mentioned is in Kabul at present. She did send a message which I read out.

A couple of old family friends turned up, which was nice. Richard and Adrianna. It was funny to see them, thought, since I haven't in a long time, even though for six of the last seven years I've been living about a kilometre from their house.

We also had a series of photos taken of the entire clan. There are so damn many of us, it'll probably have to be a montage! Twenty eight direct descendants in all!

My cousin Cameron and several other people dragged the Flying Dutchman out to the carpark and rode it about the place.

So. Now I have only one grand parent left, my dad's mother, who we call Farmor - a Norwegian honorific which means Father's Mother. I do love living in an ethnically diverse land. I will have to go visit her more...

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At the risk of sounding horribly, horribly insensitive, I would like to point out that he is no longer your one remaining grandfather.

Late at night on a Saturday, I don't do grammar.

I used to live in Steiglitz... very pretty with it's one court-house...

YAY Fairy Park!!!!

Steiglitz seemed like a nice spot. Man, you have lived in some weird places.

As for the Fairy Park, I saw lots of signs to it, but happily avoided it. Do I want to know what that was about???

sounds like your grandfather meant a lot to a lot of people. On hearing of your dutch cookies i feel like running out and getting some of those spiced cookies that i can never remember the name of

anyways i can't think of the appropriate thing to say after a funeral - a word smith i am not

The word you are looking for is Speculaas, which is the best biscuit on the whole planet. I had a recipe for them, but now I can't find it. It was a good recipe too, very easy. And yes, a large number of them were consumed. My local Coles has them... Must resist the urge to grab my car keys and rush out and get some...

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(Anonymous)
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