Friday, December 30, 2005

In memory of my father,

He’d throw his head back as he laughed, and he laughed often. The telling of jokes was not a strong point, he’d laugh himself into near unconsciousness before managing to spit out the punch line. He was never without friends, something in this unassuming Dutchman put everyone at ease.

There are photos of him clowning on the parade grounds while he was a conscript in the Dutch army. A devout pacifist, he’s reached an agreement to be a medic and not have to shoot except in defense. He did enjoy the shooting and was very good at it.

etching in his 20sHe was born in a small town outside Rotterdam, at the end of a long dijk with some of the most noteworthy windmills, the Kinderdijk. His father was a landlord, a faux painter and a musician. Not surprising that dad was an artist, scientist and inventor, it came with the genes.

He attended art school as well as university to become a spectrographic analyst. His skills in art are well represented in this etching done in his early twenties.

lab inspired guache 1962This tendency to master not one but many disciplines seems to repeat itself in me also. Judging from the family tree (back to 1402) we were never standard types with just one profession under our belts. There were a long line of clock makers, scientists, artists and pirates to name the most interesting ones. There were also the duller professions, the ones to make a living at, just in case, farmer, landlord, house painter.

lab inspired guacheI like my father’s paintings best when the subject was his work in the lab. He took such a child-like passion for the work and this is reflected In his paintings. His laboratories were his own kingdom, where the elements behaved themselves according to the laws of physics. Much preferable to world outside going out of control.

I was fortunate to work alongside him as his assistant whe I was in my teens. It was the best possible place to get to know my father and see him at his passionate best. He had me every bit as excited about every sample burning is a graphite holder cautiously placed in a great big spectrographic
machine. By fifteen I was expert at preparing samples and had the steadiest of hands. Little by little I was able to use most of the machinery in his lab with a good level of competence.

daddy's girlOne cold autumn day, when I was about 16 I was summoned to the lab by my very excited father. I practically ran the five blocks to the basement lab on Queen’s university campus. My father, grinning like a Cheshire cat held out a bit of rock ruble. “Go ahead, said he “Touch the moon”. Wow, I got to touch the moon." My father had been chosen as one of the scientists to analyze the samples brought back from the moon by the Apollo astronauts. This teenager was jumping out of her skin.

How many can say they've touched the moon?


At 11:35 PM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

A wonderful tribute.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Vi Jones said...

Oh, Aletta, what a treasure trove of memories you have.


At 12:53 AM, Blogger Lois said...

So precious are these family photos Aletta, as I do believe not a lot were taken as perhaps in todays world full of all types of opportunities to record the present.....I have very few with my Father ,a few with my Mother and cousins...I often think men in those days perhaps were reluctant to have their "Picture" taken.

Lois (Muse of the Sea)


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