Christina de Jong Lantinga (daughter)
I am Christina, de jongste dochter (youngest daughter) of Herman
and Stiny, commonly known as one of the twins...
My dad was good at so many things. He was a Renaissance man. What strikes me though... and not just me, but my twin brother Paul too... was that he was really good at BEING... actually, this morning at the graveside I heard that put more poetically: he lived the mystery of being. He was very much a contemplative person. In fact, I think Dad saw life as a series of opportunities for contemplation. But even in his contemplation he was accessible and ready with a smile, and, if we were lucky, a story or two.
To look at the externals, one might only have a seen a placid Dutch immigrant who smoked a lot, read a lot, and ate a lot. These externals cannot explain why we will all miss Dad so much.
Like the Brandaris, a lighthouse on Dad's beloved island of Terschelling, Dad was a large presence and not so sophisticated to look at. He was quiet much of the time (the Brandaris is a silent lighthouse). But his light shone steadily and brightly and I had only to look toward him to be reminded of where home was, and to be guided there.
I think I had to grow up a bit before I was able to perceive some of what went on with my dad. Initially, as a child, I experienced him primarily as a protective, loving bear. A sure way of knowing someone loves you is when that person tells you (repeatedly) voorzichtig! Watch out!
As I grew up, when he didn't quite abandon that role of protector with me, the baby girl of the family, what I might have experienced as comforting as a child became a source of irritation as I tried to spread my wings. For instance, for some reason I was not able to get my driver's license until I was eighteen. My brother Paul got his immediately when he was sixteen. Paul maintains that I WAS quite scary behind the wheel, and so dad hated to see me there, but even two summers ago he wouldn't let me drive the car on the way to the family reunion in Quebec and I had to remain squished in the backseat with Simon and Gabriela, my children. Of course, when I did manage to break away to drive Gerine's car for a while, we lost track of each other and what followed was a tense couple of hours in which Dad, Mom, and Gerine probably worried themselves sick that they would never see me again.
That said, he didn't so much like letting Mom drive either. Ever the protector of those he loved.
Probably against his better judgement sometimes Dad supported me in the steps I took to claim my place in the world, allowing me to experience the consequences of my decisions--not always easy for a parent to do, I know that now. When the consequences were good, he was proud and happy, and when they were bad, he was empathetic, supportive, and never said, "I told you so." He knew that not only would I need to make decisions for myself, I would insist on it. Sometime he caught me off guard though, and saved me--together with Mom--from something that might hurt... or cost a lot of money. I remember once a couple of years ago Mom and Dad were visiting us and I was having a big argument in the kitchen with Mom about something that I very much wanted to do... probably I wanted to travel somewhere. Dad was resting on the bed upstairs, reading. I was feeling SO frustrated, and when I had to go into the bedroom to get something I told Dad just how frustrated I was. He listened, having already turned his book upside down, and then said with a little smile, "But you know she's right." DAD! But somehow, with those words so gently said, he diffused my frustration completely right then and there and I had to laugh.
In my life Dad was the eye of the storm: a calm centre in what could feel like so much chaos and busyness. I said that I think he saw life as a series of opportunities for contemplation, and in his all of his contemplative pursuits--digging in the garden (or burying the odd fallen tree or broken-down piano), reading, writing, playing music, listening to music, stoking a fire, smoking a cigarette or a pipe, eating favourite foods--he was virtually undistractable. He did what he was doing, no matter what anybody else was doing, or what anybody else wanted him to do. He simply didn't seem to be bothered by the expectations of others... except maybe my mom's from time to time. I remember all too well him hurrying me to get my room or some other part of the house cleaned up before she came home from her shift at the hospital! Op ruimen!
Everything he did do for us was not because we expected something from him but because he wanted to do something, to make something, to help in some way. These are gifts from him which I will treasure forever. I wish I could tell him that the pine night tables he once made for me and my husband Paul were used as "base" in our moving truck three weeks ago! When I asked the movers what "base" meant they said "solid support structures, on top of which everything else is piled."
I did not know that just over two weeks later from that day I would be losing a solid support structure myself, and so I find myself teetering now. But amazingly these last few days I have begun to feel Dad around me and I know he will always be with me, guiding me with a strong, bright, steady light, guiding me home. I know I will see him again, and we will be together in the arms of our Heavenly Father. I look forward to that day with all my heart.