Thinking of old Times

When you’ve been many places, countries, woods, etc., as I have, it is natural to think about old times. Times that stand out in memory, as pleasant and stress-less times. Often in my young years (age 4-6 perhaps), not long after the end of World War II, in Nijmegen, (Netherlands) Mom, Dad and I went on long Sunday walks after Holy Mass. Mass was in the St. Petrus Canisius Church on the Molenstraat, Nijmegen; a church badly damaged in the war. Afterward we went home to pick up a bag with sandwiches and stuff and we took a trolley car to the beginning of a wooded area. In this wooded area was a walking path that went all the way to the village of “Berg en Dal” (Hill and Dale). It was a beautiful trail, about 16 km long, along grassy fields (sometimes with cows grazing), loose woods going up and down. In the fall, when it was a little cooler with leaves beginning to turn, it was a great walk to take.

 

I thought of these walks this evening, as I was changing my screen’s background to a fall-winter scene, but also of the people, my parents and friends that often came along. None of them are still alive as they were older than I, and I’ve been away from Nijmegen for a very long time. I left the Netherlands 65 years ago and returned only two or three times, the last time I believe in 1970. I visited someone in Nijmegen when I was in military service but had no reason to visit later as there is no family left.

 

The walks in the woods I will never forget, however, and the person I last visited who also participated in our Sunday walks was a good soul by the name of Truus (Trudy). Truus was a professed Secular Franciscan, and so even when I was very, very young, that Franciscan influence was there. Truus suffered a great deal in her life, in the war, a bad marriage to a chap that didn’t take care of her, she suffered from TB and as a result ended up with two amputated legs, just below the knees. Nowadays there are great artificial legs that work well, but 60+ years ago prostheses were primitive and had ankles that did not bend. Think about it, trying to walk on cobblestones (very common in olden times) with feet that were stiff and unyielding, must have been very painful. Yet Truus was always upbeat. She was my “nanny” because my Mom was sick all through the war and as a baby I needed someone to take care of me.

 

Truus went on an annual (or more often) retreat in Alverna. There is a town by that name about 10 km southwest of Nijmegen. I think we took a bus to get there in those days. Anyway, the Third Order, as SFO was called then, had a house there for that purpose. She often had me along although I recall only one time. But back to the walk through the woods. The woods were very still except for animal sounds, birds, cows, etc., and there was a great opportunity to meditate on the Lord though I doubt I was doing that at very early age, I just enjoyed the company and nature in general, and the sandwiches and snacks. I also enjoyed being treated to ice-cream in the restaurant in Berg en Dal, and the tram-ride on the way back. These are some of the best recollections of my parents who passed away in 1961 (Dad) and 1981 (Mom). They were great parents and they are in Heaven.

 

I don’t know how many of you have such nice memories, but I hope you do. Those days went by fast enough when I grew up, away from parents, time in military, etc. People only think of childhood memories when they are very old. Maybe that’s what’s called second childhood, who knows?

 

How time flies ….

God bless you and keep you!

Fred Schaeffer, OFS, 2019

 

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A Gift of a New Life
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by Fred Schaeffer, OFS 2019

Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

Divine Mercy Fraternity

Vero Beach, FL

 

Term expires: 2/10/2022
 

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