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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)

TITLE: Resistance
By Joan Campbell


It was the last place on earth I wanted to be.

Yet my mother had swept aside my “old people are so boring” and insisted that I join her on her weekly visit to Greenfield’s Old Age Home.

Not many green fields here. The three-storey building was grey and uninviting and, inside the visitor’s lounge, the lavender room-spray did little to cover the sour smell of decline. I hated places like this.

“I’m going to chat to Mrs. Springer,” Mom pointed to a shrunken lady waving enthusiastically from a seat near the window. “Why don’t you go say ‘hi’ to Mr. de Lange, over there?”

I glanced at Mr. de Lange. He was hunched over in a wheelchair, arms as thin as a child’s, and from the jerk of his tilted head it appeared he was napping. I could even see some drool at the corner of his mouth.

“Mom! Can’t I have the lady?”

Mom smiled: “I think you will enjoy him, Bianca.”

I stood a little longer trying to build up courage. From the window I heard the sounds of laughter as Mom and Mrs. Springer shared a joke.

“Mr. de Lange?” I said softly as I approached him. No reaction. Oh great, he was probably hard of hearing, too. Mom was definitely trying to get me back for breaking my curfew last week.

“Mr. de Lange?” His body shuddered slightly and his eyes opened and focused unseeingly on me.

“Grietje, is that you?” And senile? Thanks Mom.

Watery, blue eyes were staring intently at me now: “No, not Grietje, I see. Who is this lovely young lady?” He spoke with an accent that made ‘this’ sound like ‘dis.’

“I am Bianca, Joy’s daughter.” I held out my hand and he took it in a surprisingly firm grip.

“Ah,” he smiled fondly in the direction of my mother, “she has told me about you. Sit. Sit.”

“You have an accent,” I decided to get the conversation started, and therefore over with, as soon as I could. “Where are you from, Mr. de Lange?”



“No, from the South.” It sounded like ‘souss’.

“Were you there during the War?” I knew old people liked talking about the past.

“I was indeed, Bianca. Germany occupied Holland, as you may know?” I nodded, trying to recall European history from an earlier grade. “Difficult times,” he murmured, “very difficult.”

He looked closely at me and lowered his voice: “Have you ever broken the law, Bianca?”

Intrigued, I shook my head and leaned in a little closer.

“But would you if it was the right thing to do?”

“Aren’t laws always right?”

“Not when they go against the principles of God.”

“Have you broken the law, Sir?”

“Yes. To be part of the Dutch Resistance was against the law during the War, punishable by death at the hands of the Germans.”

“What did you do?” I couldn’t keep the note of excitement out of my voice. “Blow up German cars and stuff?”

His laugh, deep and joyful, sounded like that of a young man: “Hollywood has been good for our roguish image. No, I never blew up anything. I hid Jewish people and brought them to their next safe house so that we could smuggle them out of the country.”

“Wow!” That sounded dangerous too. “Did you ever get caught?”

“Well, it’s a rather long story. It started two months after the invasion, when Dirk Grootboer came to me…”


“Bianca?” Mom stood behind me. “It’s time to go, Darling.”

“But Mom, we’ve hardly spent any time here.”

“We’ve been here well over an hour.”

I looked at my watch. Where had the time gone? “But Mr. de Lange hasn’t finished the story. Have you Mr. de Lange?”

“Not even close,” the old man confirmed.

“Well, you’ll just have to come back and listen to the rest next week.”

“Could I, Mr. de Lange?” I pleaded.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he winked. “See you then Bianca.”


As we drove home in silence, two contrasting images crept into my mind. One was of an old man with a worn-out body, totally dependent on others. The other was of a young, courageous man helping those in danger.

“I was wrong Mom,” I said as we pulled into the driveway. “Old people are not boring.”

Today, I realised, I had truly listened. And in doing so I had seen a man with more than just my eyes. I had seen him with my heart.

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This article has been read 775 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sarah Heywood10/21/10
Wonderful! I really felt as though I was there, watching this interchange between Mr. de Lange and Bianca. Your descriptiveness drew me right in.

The story was a good reminder, too, that what we see on the surface (in this case, the elderly and infirm) is not usually what is truly there.

Great writing!
Mona Purvis10/21/10
Overall, a very good entry. I found the story interesting and offering lessons for us all.
I think maybe writing the dialogue to fit the pronunciation would improve it rather than telling the reader how the word sounds.
The pacing throughout is very good.

Charla Diehl 10/21/10
I love the tender side of this story as the heart of your MC opens and sees the old man as so much more. Thanks for the lesson.
Lynda Schultz 10/21/10
Fits well with the theme and has an important lesson to teach.
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/21/10
You did an excellent job of presenting "conversation" and showing the growth of character in a young lady. I enjoyed this story.
Barbara Lynn Culler10/22/10
Loved the line "the sour smell of decline." That covers the many odors found in a place like that!

I am thinking this would have more oomph to it if the teenager was dragged in with major attitude.

Good idea of for the topic.
Nichole Hall10/22/10
You did a fabulous job painting a picture of this place and these people. I found myself getting roped into the story the old man was telling just as Bianca had. Great job!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/23/10
Wow what a powerful story. I loved every word of it. I think the mother was quite wise to bring her daughter into charity work as a way of disciplining her. I love the double meaning of the title as well. Great job!
Colin Swann10/24/10
This is absolutely lovely! Really enjoyed this and would have like to be in on the next visit.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/24/10
I love this piece. I thought of you when I read it and wondered! I'm so glad you're back. I've missed your outstanding stories!
Laury Hubrich 10/24/10
Old people with a history - who knew? Excellent entry. One teens need to read.
Dee Yoder 10/24/10
This really spoke to me. I well remember my dad's experiences in a nursing home before Alzheimer's claimed his life last year. It was sad, and yet, interesting, to pass the rooms and see the bios of the people who resided there. So many had lives filled with excitement and adventures before the disease of age took the experiences from their minds. I loved getting to know who they really were when life for them was young and filled with things to come.

Wonderful story! I loved it.
Connie Dixon10/26/10
This is such a great reminder about the value of the elderly. They have so much to offer if we would just allow them. Great story.
Adrie Zandbergen10/26/10
Lovely story. Only after reading Shann's comment, did I get the double meaning. Bit slow.....