Thursday, January 25, 2018

Brother Nelson in the Netherlands

You already know I took last week off because of Brother Nelson's visit with us for a week.  The most important thing to say from the get-go is that this is a post about NELSON and not so much about what we did or where we went.  It is NELSON I want to remember here....EVERYTHING about him that I can have and hold for the days I will not have him....

To start with, I discovered, as we talked about it, that the reason why this was like meeting him for the first time was because when he was 16 (and I was 13), he started working at the local grocery store after school.  That means he wasn't at home.  And once he graduated from high school, he was off to university, graduated, and got married.

So THAT'S why this is important to me.

To give more scale, Nelson is the oldest of us 8 kids (I'm #3 at 3.5 years his junior) and he lives in Holland, Michigan, where there is a huge Dutch community.  It was time for him to see the real Holland!

SUNDAY, 14 January:

We picked Nelson up at Amsterdam's airport on his 76th birthday!
[He came alone because his wife doesn't fly.]
From there it was fun and games in Amsterdam.

Mid-morning we had a latte macchiato break in the Rijksmusem café.
It was the closest thing to actually being IN the museum.

And then we did the touristy thing, taking a canal-boat ride around the city.
It's what you do when you have time only for the fast-track of the city.

MONDAY, 15 January:

Because Nelson had minimal sleep while flying over The Pond, we took Monday to get settled in.
He stayed in one of our community guest rooms at night and spent the days with us.
Eating.  Drinking.  Watching the news.  Talking.
We even walked to Aldi together that day.

Each day he caught up on his family and my laptop or his iPad.

That's when I really started LOOKING at him.
And started recognizing ME in him...or him in me?!

TUESDAY, 16 January:

After the day of rest, we took our long-distance drive to the Zeeland province in the west of Holland.
Our final destination was Oosterscheldekering, 117 km away.
But our first stop was the Basilica of St. Agatha and Barbara in Oudenbosch, 64 km. away.
[Did I mention that our mom's name is Barbara?]
Astrid and I had visited the basilica in 2010 and knew Nelson would love it.  He did!

We ate an uitsmijter lunch in the quaint small city of Zierikzee, 62 km. from the basilica.
Afterwards we stopped to see the Zeeland Bridge, the longest bridge in the Netherlands (top-right).
It's actually the longest bridge in Europe, spanning 5,022 meters (16,476 ft.).
It was then another 20 km. to the Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier (bottom-center).
It's the largest of the 13 Delta Works, protecting the flooding of the Netherlands from the North Sea.
It's 9 km. long and was built after the North Sea flood of 1953 when 2100+ lives were lost.
The Dutch said..."never again!"

WEDNESDAY, 17 January:

By now, understand how fun it was for me to watch Nelson, seeing what intrigued him most.
Astrid was well prepared to stop on a dime after all my weathervanes.  HA!

That day our favorite Loevestein castle wasn't open, so we went to Doorwerth, 70 km. from home.
We wanted Nelson to see a real castle.

We got there in time to first eat lunch.
Notice how much fun we had over our meals!

I could show you more of the castle but, remember, this is more about NELSON.
And ME in relation to him, my big brother.

From the castle, across the Rhine river, we spied the Driel locks 
and decided to go see them before heading home.

These locks are normally closed but if high water is coming in from Germany,
they'll be raised to prevent flooding.
Have you noticed that the Dutch think ahead in relation to catastrophes??
The world has much to learn from this country that is 26% below sea level.

THURSDAY, 18 January:

You know what they say about the plans of mice and men!
Suddenly, out of the blue, the Netherlands issued a CODE RED wind advisory.
It was actually Code Orange when we drove along the dijk to Brakel to check out the river level.
By the afternoon, 66 semi-trucks had flipped over and all train/plane transportation was cancelled.
The Merwede river reminded Nelson of Lake Michigan during a storm.
Astrid and I had never seen it so tempestuous!

Needless to say, we went back home and decided to change the schedule up,
to walk our Gorinchem city citadel wall that afternoon instead of the next day.
It ended up being a good plan.
And that evening we walked over to our favorite Malle Molen restaurant for supper.

FRIDAY, 19 January:

Our last full day together began with Kinderdijk...the magical UNESCO village of 19 windmills.
We had some of the best light of any time Astrid and I have ever been there.
It's only 29 km from home.

The mechanical screws were working overtime, pumping out the water.
I was glad Nelson got to see them operational.

From Kinderdijk we drove to Fort Altena in Werkendam, 34 km from Kinderdijk.
Our favorite Fort Vuren was closed because of a bat population they are protecting right now.
But Nelson still got the general idea from this 19th century fort about the Dutch line of defense,
going all the way back to before WWI.

That day we had lunch at the fort (top row).
Back home we went to our 3:30 Happy Hour, here where we live, to eat advocaatjes (middle).
And then for supper we ate Dutch pancakes at our favorite pannenkoeken restaurant,
out in the polder (bottom row).

SATURDAY, 20 January:

With a tear and a smile, and breakfast under our belts, we drove to Amsterdam in time for Nelson's noon flight back to America.  

I really do mean with a tear and a smile.  I know that this is probably the only time, first and last, that I will ever have like this with Nelson, the Elder of our Hart tribe.  I have a catch in my throat as I say it.  Trust me when I say I will have and hold it for the rest of my life.

THANK YOU, Nelson.  THANK YOU for choosing us.
We'll never forget it.


  1. Such a strong family likeness, Ginnie. Memories to treasure!

    1. Yes and Yes, Marie. I had no idea how much alike we really are!

  2. I love every single thing about all of this! I can just picture him staying in your community guest room as I've had that privilege! :) You two are definitely brother and sister, for sure!! What a wonderful memory to have and who would have thunk that he would be living in Holland where there's a huge Dutch community!

    1. I love that you can visualize so much of this experience, Robin, because of your own visit with us. All of these memories, including with you, never go away!

  3. Like Nelson and Robin, I know what it's like to visit and stay in that guest room too. :)

    All I could think looking here and reading is how like children you are. Kids hang out like this. It really touches me, and I again feel verklempt. It's a beautiful post, Boots, and I am so very happy that the two of you (three of you) got reacquainted in that glorious place you call home.

    1. Your words really touch me, coming from you, Ruth. Nelson has become so important to you and me both, so we share this experience as though you were with us. You really were, in spirit! I love you.

  4. It was a total pleasure to have Nelson here as a guest. I watched you two and I do have to say you are alike, from the outside and the inside. Ruth is right, you both looked like children you once were and continued from where you stopped in childhood. A very special bond between you. Nelson it was great to see you again and show our country. Thank you for taking such special interest of the things we showed you. I love all the pictures. What a memory to keep. IHVJ.

    1. I can't tell you how much fun it was to share Nelson with you, Astrid. You had to see him and us together with your own eyes. Thank you for YOUR part in making this all happen...especially for all the photos you took! I love that we have this memory to keep forever.

  5. awwww!!! what a great time with you two!!! i can totally see the family bond there, and it's not JUST because you look so much alike! i can see the love.

    I'm sorry that there had to be tears with your smile... life is way too short isn't it? and that fact makes for a LOT of tears...

    but the love makes it all worth while. <3

    1. The love definitely makes it all worthwhile, Elaine, especially because life IS short. A tear and a smile often go hand-in-hand and we learn to cherish them both. (sigh)

  6. What a fabulous time you shared with your brother.

    I am amazed that the two of you look so alike. You could be twins :-)

    1. It tickles me to death, Cherry, how many people see the resemblance we have to each other. I had never seen it till now, so I'm thrilled! Thanks for stopping by and commenting here.

  7. I hope I'm still traveling at 76 and not just cruising you know.

    How cool is this that you get to show your brother around, too bad his wife doesn't fly.

    What do they say....two peas in a pod? That's what you are.

    Have a great week!

    1. I know what you mean about still traveling at 76, Maria! I'm almost there and trust I'll still be as fit as Nelson is. Indeed.

      Two peas in a pod really does sum it up. I couldn't have said it better!