Joke: ‘This lanky young man knows exactly how love works’

“After I was 40, it looked suspiciously like I was entering my midlife. My daughters were increasingly going their own way, I had been working at the same school for almost twenty years and Peter and I now knew when to press which buttons together. Everything was flowing and I felt: I want to get out, not from family life, but something for myself.

Peter suggested a weekend away with a friend, but it wasn’t comprehensive enough. I really wanted a place for myself, with time and space. Like such a man cave. It became a garden shed at an allotment garden association. A lovely little hut, with a couch, a table and some lights. I was immediately clear to Peter: he could come and have a look, but not stay. He was fine with it for a long time, because gardening was no use to him and his newspapers were enough.”

“Sometimes I went for a day, sometimes a weekend. And more and more often a few afternoons in a row. Peter would then do some chores around the house and I would cook, with what I brought from the country. But more and more I noticed that Peet I hadn’t done anything at all when I came home a few hours later, that the laundry from that morning was still in the machine, even though I had left a note on the table to remind him.

Not that that was a bad thing, but I just didn’t know him that way. Or that he hadn’t eaten all day and when I came home I was cross-eyed with hunger. I was concerned, but Peter waved it off.”

Worried face

“In the garden I regularly spoke with Arjan, my single neighbor who had an apartment in the city and liked to sit among the greenery. He often gave me some of his harvest, because what did he do with fourteen courgettes on his own? We shared vegetable garden tips and increasingly also a chat pot.

Arjan was the first to ask about my worried face and the first to say out loud that I was worried about Peter. ‘Shouldn’t I be home more often,’ I dubbed, but Arjan convinced me to keep taking my own space.”

“Four years later, Peter was diagnosed with dementia and he goes to day care three times a week. It is distressing to see. My once so proud and strong man is now quiet and dependent. In Arjan I found not only a listening ear, but also love Nobody knows about us yet, and that will remain so for the time being I will continue to take care of Peter until the last gasp, and Arjan understands that too.

When Peter goes to day care, I visit Arjan. At home or in the garden. This lanky young man, he’s 54, with his modest life next to my chaos, was alone for years and seems to understand exactly how love works. He makes my life easier, and makes sure I don’t feel alone. And I give him that too. Even now that Peter sometimes also takes some of our time and I sit at home on holidays and other important days, without him.”

Peace, nature and love in the vegetable garden

“My daughters have already met Arjan, Peter too, but to the outside world he is a very beloved family friend. Only when it feels right for both of us will we tell that we have found love in each other. For now my life exists for I mostly take care of my family and I am more grateful than ever for my oasis of peace, nature and now also love in the vegetable garden.

Arjan and I enjoy the here and now. We can do that like the best. I’m older than him, I have a demented husband, I’m worried about the kids, but it doesn’t matter. Because if we are together and proudly look at how well the beets are doing, and I walk into his country with a fresh pumpkin soup, then we are close and we live fully.”

The names Joke and Arjan are fictitious names, their real names are known to the editors.

Wanted: Love Lessons

For the Love Lesson section on RTL Nieuws Lifestyle we are looking for beautiful, vulnerable, funny, inspiring and honest love lessons. An insight, a moment of reflection. Preferably with a hand in your own bosom. Did you eventually turn out to be the one with fear of commitment? Should you never have emigrated for love or did a blended family turn out to be an illusion? Journalist Hanneke Mijnster would like to ask you all about it. You can tell anonymously. Mail to:

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