|Dad, on his last visit to France, 2014|
This blog has been neglected and I’m sorry. Looking back, I see my last Life in France post was 7thAugust, sharing a day out in Poitiers on the bikes. Summer was in full swing, with endless days of sunshine, heatwaves and drought. Life was busy and cycling was mainly just my commute to the Château, although we did our best to enjoy days out, when we were lucky enough for our days off work to coincide.
As anyone whose family spans more than one country will know, when life in the other ‘home’ throws a curved ball, catching it can feel a bit like juggling two lives in two locations. Fast forward to 7thSeptember and Ed and I were in the departure lounge at La Rochelle airport, awaiting my first flight in almost six years. Our faces were glued to the window watching in disbelief as the rain poured down outside and pooled ominously on the tarmac. The plane we were hoping to board was circling above in an attempt to avoid the eye of the storm.
My head was already full of questions, would the rain ease, would the plane land and would we get to the UK, just added to them, and the sense of foreboding that arrives when you realise life is about to change forever. We were traveling for the saddest of reasons, hoping we’d make it back to be with my Dad before he died. The change in weather certainly reflected my troubled mood.
|Stormy sky La Rochelle, 7th September 2022|
After almost an hour and a half, Flight Radar showed a change in the plane’s overhead track, and it stopped circling, to head south. A little bit of me accepted that if this was it changing course for Bordeaux, the outgoing flight would be cancelled and we wouldn’t be going anywhere, except back home. However, the universe hadn’t given up on us, or Dad, and as the skies cleared a little, the pilot tried once more and this time, landed successfully. As we boarded, we messaged Adrian’s Mum who was waiting for us at Stansted, ready to drive us back to Mum and Dad’s. We were on our way.
Despite the predictions form the hospice district nurse, who was just one of a superb team visiting daily, Dad was not only still fighting when we arrived, but also when we left four days later. The time for real conversations had passed, but he was certainly aware that Ed and I were there, and I’ll never forget the cheeky grin I got from him as I said my final goodbye. A week later, on 17th September, Dad died, in the house that has been the family home for almost fifty years.
We come into this life vulnerable, helpless and needing only that those around us love us and keep us comfortable, clean and calm. When age and illness conspire and a body slowly begins to shut down, we come full circle. No matter who we are, where we come from or what we have achieved, all that is important at the end is that we have those we love around us keeping us comfortable, clean and calm.
In years to come, people will ask where you were and what you were doing when the news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had died. My memories will be more poignant than most as I was sitting by Dad’s bedside, holding his hand, and watching his slow breathing. It was an odd feeling grieving for a personal loss as the country was joined in mourning for the Queen.
|Chateau de Javarzay museum|
As I took time to come to terms with losing Dad, the seasons changed from summer to autumn. Overnight, the weather changed too, and October arrived in a swirl of heavy drizzle and gusty winds. It is now the 7th October, the tourist season is almost over at the Château, and this Sunday will be my last day welcoming visitors and sharing our superb museum experience with them. In short, there have been so many recent changes, my mind has struggled to keep up, the words I want to write lost like the sun behind an autumn morning mist.
Thankfully, some things never change and life in the village provides plenty of distractions. With Ed and Pearl visiting last weekend we all went down to the village library for the dictée or afternoon of French dictation. This is always a crowd pleaser (I’m not joking) and we squeezed onto a table together, our pens poised over a new page. This was Ed and Pearl’s first dictée since college, seven years ago, and they were the youngest there by decades, but they entered into it with enthusiasm and a competitive edge too. While it was obvious that I would be the one with the most errors, even I couldn’t help laughing at the hilarity my written French caused Ed (in particular) and Pearl. My problem, they have diagnosed, is that my English ears just don’t hear the difference between the spoken vowels or the silent ‘s’ that everyone else seems to hear, however having just turned fifty-one, I’m not sure there is much I can do to change that now.
C’est la vie !