Friday, 24 August 2018

Till death do us part

It has been more than two months already. I hade been planning a blog ruminating on the nature of marriage and so on, but never got around to it. Meanwhile here is the 
obituary I wrote for the local papers. There was no funeral service. A trip to the offspring on the coast is in the offing, we will scatter his ashes in the ocean. He would have liked that. 

The person my husband had been disappeared slowly, Cheshire Cat style. He was never the same after the car accident in July 2012, even though he walked away with just a wee cut in his elbow. In retrospect this was the first sign of the illness that would eventually claim him. 

I am doing just fine, enjoying the freedom and my own company. Tons to do, I will never be bored!

The photo is from the late nineties, on a ferry in the Salish Sea, near Cortez island. 

Christiaan Godfried van Houten finally left his tortured body on June 1 2018 in Minto House, Nakusp, after years of struggling with a progressive neurological disease. He died as he had lived: quietly, on his own terms, with no sappy handholding.

Chris was born on June 23 1936 in Pankalan Berandan on the island of Sumatra, now Indonesia, then the Dutch East Indies. His parents were Louis van Houten and Johanna Jacoba van Houten-van der Lee. The families of both parents had ties to the colony that went back generations. 

In WWII he spent three years in a prison camp during the Japanese occupation of the islands. Chris rarely talked about that time. If he did it was mostly to reminisce about tending cooking fires, growing tomatoes, and eating brown beans one by one as a special treat. Only recently have we realised how much of his life was influenced by the scars left by that traumatic experience. 

In 1951 the family moved to the Netherlands for good. Chris never felt quite at home there, or anywhere else. All his life he had a deep need for freedom. He was happiest traveling. This partly explains his choice of profession, an exotic choice in a country without rocks. His fellow geology students would jokingly call themselves "professional campers". 

Chris married Ieneke van der Hout while both were at University in 1965. In 1969 the couple made  the move to Canada, a country where geology is a mainstream profession. A job in Grand Forks brought them to the Kootenays. The couple fell in love with the region. There was another geology stint in Duncan, B.C., but eventually location determined work, instead of the other way around. In spite of having no training as a carpenter Chris built a sturdy cabin, complete with electrical wiring that passed inspection.

Chris loved to drive and was a master at keeping old vehicles alive by careful management, such as double clutching and slowing down well ahead of a potential stop in order to spare the brakes. He was always ready to transport family and friends, regardless of distance or hour. 
In 1999 an epic trip was made to Waterloo, Ontario, to pick up daughter Nienke complete with partner, baby and two cats. Chris was also the go to driver who drove co-grandfather Ernie Blakemore to his many medical emergencies, often in the middle of the night. 
Chris was always interested in the goings on of the world and had a great sense of humor. 

He will be missed by Ien, his wife of 53 years, daughter Nienke (Demetreus Blakemore) and son Alex, grandson Keevan Blakemore, co-grandmother Pat Blakemore, nephew Tim Peper and family in Bears Paw, AB and sister Liesbeth in the Netherlands.

A special thanks to the wonderful staff at Minto House who made his last months as bearable as possible.