Van Rijswijk has just returned from another trip to the hospital with husband Jos when we call her. She has had plenty of time to settle into her role as nurse since the Saturday night when Jos suddenly started bleeding profusely from his nose. “It gushed out as if from an open faucet. It gave us both quite a shock, I'll say that.” The cause: no idea. “His test results for blood pressure, blood clotting and sugar were all good. It could be any number of things.”
Since then, the situation seems to have calmed down and they are following the advice “take it easy and wait”, in addition to “go back to the emergency room if it starts up again”. But if that's at all avoidable, she'd rather not, says Van Rijswijk: “The hospital isn't where you want to be right now”.
They are managing just fine at home in ’t Hofke (a stone's throw from TU/e), she explains. “We can entertain ourselves and we find it easy not to get under each other's feet.” Her days run to an energetic rhythm, “up at 5.30 a.m., put on some filter coffee, have a quick read of the papers. This morning I did the back garden. Really enjoyable.” She often pops out for a cycle ride or a walk, “We live close to the Wasven nature park. It is so pretty there.” When it comes to sporting activity, there is little that she finds herself missing, “I had a gym membership, but funnily enough I simply didn't have the time to use it”.
What she does miss is her social life, visiting friends at home (or having them over), and visits to Café 't Rozenknopje. Online is where she now talks to her friends, including in a private Facebook group full of music lovers who come together to share music, stories both funny and personal, “and sometimes their worries too”. It is actually a December tradition that has been revived as a form of therapy for corona homeworkers.
This music lover also likes to listen to TU/e Community Radio, where she recently heard Board President Robert-Jan Smits speaking about the corona crisis and heard him introduce ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel. “I can get very sentimental listening to something like that. I had the same with Jan Mengelers (Smits’ predecessor, ed.). Don't you feel you are hearing the person speak, much more than the manager?”
The people on campus, where next month she will have worked for 34 years, are also among those she misses. Greatly. Laughing, she says, “Even though they can moan at times.” The campus ambiance is another thing she misses, likewise going to work. After all, as a member of the banqueting staff there is little she can do from home, “except stay in touch with my boss about events that have been requested”. She had signed up to join the home-delivery service run by her employer VITAM, “but that meant catching the train to Den Bosch and that prompted me to think: it'd be more sensible not to do that”.
To nonetheless do something useful, she signed up for Ready2Help, the Red Cross citizen network that lends a helping hand (“they call when they need me”), for the Food Bank (“they seemed to be facing a staffing crisis, but Eindhoven was okay”) and the home-help service, (“if they are ever in need of staff”). The drive to help is simply in her genes, says Van Rijswijk, who counts a severely disabled sister among her siblings. “I enjoy helping people, and everyone in our family is the same.”
Cleaning the doorstep
As long as the ‘organizations’ don't yet need her, however, she is lending a helping hand to seniors in her neighborhood. Grocery shopping for a neighbor in her eighties, cleaning someone's front door step, “I need to be doing something”. Only recently she cycled over to her nieces with a treat from the bakery, “it was after that that Jos became unwell, and one day there they were at our gate, paying us a surprise visit, with a gift they had made themselves. That lifts your spirits. And if you see a familiar face on the street these days, you give a little wave, and then I find myself thinking: ‘That was nice. I hope we'll see each other again soon”.
Perhaps she is taking an overly somber view of things, but Van Rijswijk isn't discounting the idea that it will be the new academic year before she is properly back at work on the campus. “With the news about events as it is, I can't help wondering how long it will be before large gatherings of people are allowed again. I like going to a festival or concert as much as the next person, but I can't help thinking that in future we'll think twice before going.”
So, yes, she is quite concerned, she admits. Not so much for herself and her own health, “but about the bigger picture. Where is this going to end? What will be the consequences of this crisis? Will we see each other again soon, and will we get everything back on track worldwide? At times I find this uncertainty scary.”