Thursday, May 31, 2007


Sometimes, I don't think we realize that we too are growing older. I still feel pretty much the same when I was in my early twenties; and I am in my late thirties now.

Perhaps the reason why I feel this way is because I don't have children and am not responsible for another human being other than myself.

I had a friend here. Her name was Marietje. She was a kind, gracious, funny person. Whenever I was with her, I tend to forget that I am a migrant here because she treated me like one of her kind.

The last time I saw Marietje was in November. One evening, she popped round unexpectedly. That is not common here because Dutch people always schedule their activities, including visiting and spending time with friends. But Marietje was different. She was spontaneous and flexible.

Between November and last Tuesday, I did not bother to keep in touch with her. I am like that. I tend to take people for granted. And it’s not that I am not thinking about them. I constantly think about my friends. I just don’t like friendships to be like a social obligation. That you feel obliged to email, send sms or call them --- because you think of your friend as an obligation.

I am not like that.

So when I went over the newspaper last Tuesday, you can just imagine the horror on my face when I came across the name of my friend Marietje in the obituary section. My world turned upside down. I never thought and never imagined of seeing her name there. Not that evening anyway.

Like the sentimental fool that I am, I played in my mind the times that Marieje and I were together. Just like an old favorite movie.

The times when I would call her and tell her that I was not coming to work because of the pile of snow lying on the street and in my frontyard (I still don't have a driver's license so I could go to work either by bus or by bicycle only. Since I am too impatient to wait for buses, I always end up taking my bicycle).

Marietje would remind me over and over again, that I live here now. That I should not be scared of snow; that I should get used to braving the cold, dark winter's day.

I am not really "scared" of snow. My worry really is getting ill --- you know, pneumonia and bronchitis. Because getting ill during the winter months, entails months of coughing and sleepless nights. Besides, I am too often sick here. I even acquired asthma already.

There are times when I am too embarrassed to skip work. So I would saddle on my bike and brave the icy cold winter's day.

When I arrive at work, Marietje would have a hot cocoa ready for me. She would always greet me with a big friendly laugh, with her naughty comment that I should attach an electric heater to my bicycle. She also makes fun of my attire, but in a friendly way. She said, I looked like an astronaut.

I don't blame her. I mean, with my thick jacket, leather boots and hand gloves, woolen scarf, and leather hat. The only thing lacking in this picture, is a spaceship to make me a full-pledged astronaut.

And now, she's gone. She was only 54. I did not even know that she was lying in the hospital the past 6 weeks. She had cancer of the lungs. When I went to the wake last night, I barely recognized her but the smile on her face looked familiar.

I feel so crushed. I did not even have the chance to thank her. To tell her that she made those cold winter less cold for me because of her warm personality.

That I appreciated the fact that she would wait for me outside of the building when it was time to go home. That although I was annoyed during those times when she was laughing at my astronaut get up, that I was actually also laughing deep down because I know how ridiculous I look. That it was so sweet of her to have the cup of hot cocoa ready for me, when I arrive.

The little things that she did, made her different from the rest.

So yes, it’s true that people will never forget you for how you made them feel. Because although Marietje did not offer to be my bestfriend for life, she certainly made me feel loved and cared for.