My dad, Jozef Louis van Eekhout, passed away a little less than two hours ago from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He died in his sleep, more comfortable and calm than he’d been in months, thanks to the gift of medication. He’d struggled with the disease for years, and going as peacefully as he did was more than I’d dared hope for.
A Dutch-Indonesian, he was born on June 10, 1934 in Surabaya, Indonesia. In the dozen years he lived there, he experienced war, revolution, internment camp, the loss of his older brother, Anthonie, and the murder of his father Frederick. From Indonesia he and the rest of his family moved to Holland, where he stayed until following his fiancée, my mother, to Venice, California. He and my mom got married at St. Mark’s in Venice and soon had their two children, my brother and me.
He worked a series of less and less menial jobs until beginning work for General Telephone and Electric, where he stayed for over thirty years.
From 1974 until this January, he lived in Culver City, where was a neighborhood fixture, hanging out at Jerry’s Market, or, when he could no longer walk the two blocks there, sitting in the driveway on the seat of his walker and chatting with passers-by. He loved the dogs best of all. Dogs loved him, too. Dozer certainly did.
He did not travel easily through life and struggled with things small and large more than necessary. A lot of that was the result of the traumas he experienced early in life in Indonesia. But he also had a sense of humor that ranged from sharp to silly. He loved to read. He loved to play cowboy songs on guitar, and I loved to sit on the floor and listen. He had a good singing voice and spent several years singing bass in the St. Mark’s choir. Most of my church-going when I was a kid happened from the choir loft. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone going hungry. He would leave saltine crackers from his salads at Denny’s and Norm’s and Polly’s out on the street in case a homeless person wanted them. Right to the end, he was sharing food with his home healthcare assistants.
He worked long hours to provide for us, racking up as much overtime as he could, often working weekends and holidays. He went to community college for years, ultimately earning his AA from Santa Monica College. Education was important to him, and he borrowed from his retirement fund to help put me through UCLA.
He never made me doubt he loved me. He was a good man. I’m not religious, or even spiritual, but he was. My mom died just a little over three months before him, and he hoped he’d be with her in some kind of afterlife. I hope he got his way.
Vaya con dios, Papa. There’s nothing to worry about. Everything’s okay.