Location: Oostende, Belgium
Date of Encounter: May 1990
In 1990, my ex and I spent three weeks in Belgium, France, and England, tracing my family's roots and furthering my ex's obsession with World War II. My mother, who survived Nazi-occupied Belgium as a child, and moved to the U.S. in the fifties, recommended several places to visit. The ex and I rented a small apartment in Oostende, a little town on the North Sea. Foxholes and land mines are still partially visible along the dunes, though they are fenced in with barbed wire and "Danger" signs. But that did not stop the ex and I from exploring!
One night after exploring the old World War II foxholes, we drifted off to sleep in the little bedroom in the apartment. I was awakened by a man standing over me in a dripping-wet old-fashioned raincoat, shivering from a rain storm. He was holding a tin cup with coffee in it and began speaking to me in Flemish, the official language of Belgium. I knew enough of the language to understand what he said, "You know me! You know who I am!" He pointed to the coffee cup and said, "I am so glad to see you. She will know. She will know." Well, not knowing who "she" was, I dismissed the whole thing as a strange dream.
In the morning, I rolled out of bed and stepped right onto a soaking wet rug. The wet stain was in a circle, directly where the man had stood in the dream. The ex awoke and I began to tell him about the dream with the man in the old raincoat with the coffee. His eyes widened and he did not speak. In fact, he finished describing the dream to me, because he had the same dream and saw the man standing over me. I still recall the details of the man's face. When we returned to the U.S., I showed my mother the photos we took of the area along the beach and told her about the dream I had that night. My mother looked at the photos and listened to me describe the man. It was then that she explained that where the photos were taken was the exact spot where my grandfather (her father) had been taken prisoner by the Nazis. He was forced to walk along the beach to basically be a human mine detector. If he was not blown up, obviously, the Nazi's were safe to hunker down into the beach area.
My mother, as a girl, was in charge of making the coffee at the house. Getting good coffee beans during the war was impossible, but they made do. She made coffee for her father, mother, and grandmother and passed on that love of good coffee to me. The man in the "dream" was actually a visitation from the grandfather I had never met. Grandfather survived World War II, as did the other members of my mother's family. I made a pledge to my ex that I was bound and determined to visit and be visited by as many remaining family members as I could, since they were scattered across the small Belgian countryside. What I did not count on was a visit from a family member who traveled quite a distance to meet me for the first time.