I would like to tell you a little story. It begins a little over 50 years ago in Utrecht when a girl was born who would get the name Alijda Gijsbertha or Lijda for short. She had a few sisters and since it was a big family and times where scares, she grew up in relative poverty. However Lijda was a cheerful little girl and coped with the situation as good as possible.
When Lijda was 9, she was send to a children’s “orphanage” due to problems at home and there she went to school and in her free time she played with the toddlers and among those toddlers was yours truly as well.
Fast forward to 1996 when I was a night watchman for the shelter and one of my day time colleagues had a girlfriend who was also a guest. A homeless woman 33 years of age. Man did this woman produced a volume when speaking. when she spoke in a “normal” way, she could be heard across the street. Although I prefer the company of a bit less loud people she seemed kind enough and when she was introduced to me the first time she was named.. you guessed it.. Lijda. Of course neither of us had a clue about our meetings more than 24 years earlier.
As it goes in the world and especially that of the homeless, loves are gained and loves are lost. For a multitude of reasons a relationship can go sour and the relationship of Lijda and her friend proved no difference. The problem however if your homeless is that your possible sleeping venues are very limited and thus Lijda stayed as regular shelter guest.
One evening (9 June 1996 to be more specific), a couple of weeks after Lijda broke up with her friend she was sitting with another lady on the front door steps discussing a love letter the other woman had gotten when I passed by At the moment of passing I heard Lijda tell the woman that she was kind of jealous since she had never gotten any love letter. Since I am kind of a nutcase and the nights can become boring I promised her in myself that I would take it upon me to write that letter for her and so that night I wrote a letter to her.
In the letter I told her that I had overheard the conversation and what I had decided and took of in a love letter type of rambling about eyes and hair and such. When I finished the letter I ended by saying that although the letter was written with said intent, I wouldn’t mind to see if it would go somewhere when we would try it. When she woke up the next morning and she came for breakfast I handed her the letter (actually way more nervous then anticipated) and went on with my work expecting a “thank you” probably followed by “I like you but nothing more” like I was kind of used to.
To my big surprise when she came back a while later she had a look of surprise, happiness and seriousness at the same time and asked if she could talk with me in private. We went outside and sat down, she thanked me for the letter and said she appreciated it very much. She paused a little while and followed up that she had thought about my suggestion and had decided for herself that she was surely willing to try it and actually looked forward to that.
I was in total shock
After regaining my senses I …how would you say… accepted and so it begun…. we thought….. I can tell you the biggest surprise of the day had yet to come.
When I went back in I got called into the office. You need to know I had left the board of directors for this foundation about 6 months before this and had been in Israel for a while. When I came back I had resumed my work as night watch but had not gone back to a leading place, in fact the board of directors had plans with the foundation that if I had knwn I would have fought hard against and although I had no power within the organisation anymore I had the entire guest list of the N.O.I.Z that would back me with any action I would take and this they knew.
So I had to go…. Upon entering the office I was greeted by one of the board members and the work coördinator and was asked to sit down. I got told the most insane bull story about how I had borrowed money before going to Israel, had supposedly not paid back and that I got fired because of that. If the reason is weak to start with, it was wrong also. I had indeed borrowed money but had paid back the amount earlier before going away. Somehow it never got “noted down”. My contract would be terminated at the first possible time but since they “where short on night watchman” they asked if I would at least finish up my roster.
Of course that was not gonna happen, I was furious and told them that they didn’t need to bother and that my shifts should be taken over by another person. I knew for a fact that there where several good alternatives for myself so I didn’t had any problem by having to deal with that. However since I had no home yet after my return from Israel I was homeless myself again for a while too. Since I was in no mood to sleep at the NOIZ I had no option to take the other shelter in town and so the first days of the relationship with Lijda we where separate and it took a full 3 days before we actually started of with “trying”
Lijda proved to be a wonderful woman. Although a bit overweight, she was quick on her feet, had a great sense of humour and was really trying to get to know me. We talked for hours on end while roaming through the city and had a great time. We both smoked marijuana in the park, had a drink at the canals and enjoyed ourselves very much. So much even that after just 2 months I went down on my knees and asked her to marry me.
She said yes
So now we have the situation that are engaged, want to marry but are homeless. I can tell you that I have never been more serious in my efforts to get off the streets then after that moment. We started to look for ways to get an official income and help and not soon after we got in touch with a few organisations that where able to help and the open places to do so. (even in the world of homeless people there are waiting lists) We got accepted in a project that offered semi supervised housing. The idea is that during the day there are people around that you can go to for help or advice. You also have a personal councilor with whom you make plans on how to re integrate and re socialize within “normal” society.
We lived there for several months learning lots of things. Of course there where always things setting you back a bit or disagreements with the staff but overall it was a very useful time and slowly but surely the time came we got offered our own home. It was an appartement in one of the highrise neighborhoods and we got a nice sport on the 9th floor overlooking a park. It was a nice neighborhood and we decided it was time to get hitched finally. After much debating with our financial councilor a date was set. . it would be 11 June 1999, exactly 3 years after our relationship started.
It was a few weeks before the date that Lijda started to get the first problems. The white of her eyes slowly started to turn yellow. She went to the doctor which told her to get blood tests at the hospital and tests on her liver. After tests came back she got told she had a scar on her liver and a mild form of tuberculosis. Nothing could be done about the scar but medication was given for the tb and besides her eye and skin color being slightly yellow there was not much of a problem.
When we got married we had a big party. Lijda had a red wedding gown and I had a white tuxedo. Both our wedding hall and party hall where also in red and white these being the colors of my hometown. It was like they say the best day of our lives with some friends of Lijda being the witness of the bride and my bro being mine as well as my best man. The food was good, the atmosphere was great and the guests a mixture of relatives of us both and a lot of our homeless friends. I can tell you it mixed very well. A lot of dancing and eating and drinking, the rare occasion I drink alcohol is during certain parties and I had made sure that they had my favorite, a good bottle of Dimple whisky. In good tradition I carried my wife over the doorstep (two actually) and our wedding night began,,,,,,yep, some things are private 😛
A few days after our wedding we where at the train and bus station and in a hurry to catch a bus home. We started to run to catch it and when I was half way I noticed I was running alone. I turned around and noticed Lijda laying on the ground on her stomach with both arms straight forward. It scared the crap out of us of course but when Lijda went to see the doctor nothing could be found.
Over time walking went slower by the day and she started to complain about fatigue , sleeping legs and pains. Again we went to the doctor and to hospitals where blood was taken and tests were done but still nothing could be found.
Over the course of the next two years the situation kept going downhill, Lijda started to get problems with her motor skills problems with talking clearly. She lost her appetite and problems with her teeth. Of all these things only the teeth could be explained. it got fixed with a denture (that she never uses). After about 4 years it got to the point that to be able to get around she had to get around in a wheelchair.
Due to different circumstances we also got into financial problems again at that time and there came a moment that we became cut off of all power water and gas and in the end got evicted. Again I went out to seek help and again I was able to find help. unfortunately it was only for my wife and so we got separated again. My wife was in a “sick bay”that was run by the Salvation Army while I was back homeless. fortunately the situation with Lijda her health stabilized in the sense that it didn’t get worse anymore. It took a few months before a more permanent solution was achieved when we got back together in a 24/7 shelter where we quickly started to get back to a situation that we had most of our independence again.
About 5 or 6 years ago we where able to get our present apartment which, although on the other side of town, is a spitting image from our previous one. We are situated on the edge of one of the bigger channels in Holland with a great view and living there is good. Then 3 years ago Lijda broke her hip. She went to bed one night and when waking up the next morning she had terrible pain in her hip. unfortunately it took a while to convince the M.D that it was more than just an inflammation that could be healed with antibiotics and it took two weeks before they discovered a triple break.
Lijda went to the hospital to get an artificial hip. I don’t know if it is normal but it took almost 2 months before the operation was finally done followed by a few months of revalidation therapy, all this time Lijda remained in the hospital and so this was the third time we were seperated for a long period of time. She came home after a good 6 months and I am happy to say no further mishaps have gone on in our lives.
During all of this, Lijda has been amazing. Besides the complaints you can expect with pain and discomfort she has always been accepting with what was happening to her. Even when the hospitals and doctors gave up on finding a solution, she kept her head held high. She has always been a loving and caring woman with a lot of compassion for those around her and (most often) not more “demanding” than proper for her situation. She bares her burden with grace even though I know it can’t be easy.
We will be married 15 years this June and they have been wonderful, exciting and amazing years with all its ups and downs and I am feeling blessed that she is allowing me to be her love and support. She is the love of my live, the light of my eyes and the thorn in my side. She is my absolute Every Day Hero, she is Lijda