Catharine

Catharine
van den Hamer-Degenkamp

"This is the best time of my life"

 
 

A mere two years ago, he saw her walking at the Ten Kate market in Amsterdam. With two heavy shopping bags dangling from her crutches. If he could help her? Since then photographer Jeroen de Bakker (30), visits Mrs van den Hamer-Degenkamp once a month. "To keep her company and to chat a bit.”And occasionally I take a picture. "This is the result." The first few times I visited her I was speechless, her life story was just unbelievable " For me that was quite a lesson. Behind every person, but especially behind old people, there is a story. How often don’t you notice elderly? You just don’t realise what kind of experiences the’ve had."

Mrs van den Hamer grew up as an orphan, under the tyranny of nuns in various orphanages. A car accident at a young age shattered her leg – After that she couldn’t walk without crutches and a brace anymore. She spends most of her days on the sofa in the living room: From eight o'clock in the morning with a puzzle book on her lap. Every day at half past twelve she goes out for her daily stroll to the market. At seven o'clock in the evening she turns on the television and at nine she goes to bed.

She doesn’t get many visitors. Occasionally a man helps her with grocery shopping and once a while some people come and visit her on Sunday. "It is poignant and perhaps lonely, but she is actually very happy. She says, "This is the best time of my life. I used to be sick so often. Now I have peace. "

Yet that peace is relative. Mrs. van den Hamer lives on the ground floor and has been robbed five times. “She always opens the door when her doorbell rings. People just push her aside or scam her." Most recently a couple of men dressed as police officers asked for her her debit card and security code. "They stole €4.000,- from her account."  Yet she is not afraid. She hit a man on the head with a stick when he tried to get in through the window. 

In that respect she is quite lively. Recently I rented a wheelchair to take her on a walk downtown. "She hadn’t  been there for over forty years, she said." And when it began to rain, she didn’t care. " She said, "Most of the rain doesn’t hit me anyway.”