Today, Thursday morning in Paris, under a beautiful sun, with a balmy 67 F, I am thinking of you all, knowing that the previous heat wave has now reached the East Coast. I am in the full swing of the Parisian rhythm, meaning starting the day a bit later, and seeing the sun out until much much later, with early dinner after 9 pm. The phone ringing and the friends and family asking for latest news and if they can come by, arranging everybody’s schedule so that mom’s home is not like Grand Central at rush hours. Going to refill supplies, medical and otherwise and giving news to the neighbors and the pharmacists.
I have forgotten I am a stranger in my hometown. I smile when someone I have spoken to figures it out that I must be a foreigner to be that nice and helpful, because a true Parisian would never speak with someone they have not known, and even less think of helping with a random information! So I have already heard twice that I have no accent in French and speak it perfectly which is pretty hilarious. It pleases me to be an advocate for the kind ways of the US and be a good ambassador for how helpful we always are, even if I know pretty well that both ways these are just stereotypes.
My mother has had a couple of “bad” days: she barely was alert, until on Tuesday for dinner, when with one of my cousins we had a feast with a “foie gras”, a glass of good red wine and lots and lots of laughter and reminiscence. After such a dinner, mom slept a full night and was more alert yesterday, with a busy day filled with visits, friends, flowers, the doctor who is a young Jewish woman also from North Africa, so we enjoyed sharing out judeo-arabic jargon to explain how mom was feeling (like yiddish, judeo-arabic barely translates all the multiple nuances that could be contained in a single word expression, and it felt good being understood at the same time as reverted to “mother tongue”!)
Talking with my cousins and relatives, either on the phone or during their visits, can be a bit emotionally draining, because I repeat a lot of the same, and some have difficulties grasping with the idea that our always alert, busy, bustling and joyous mom is now barely moving and getting less and less alert every day, with lapses in her memory, while still being so present, smiling and laughing with glee at everyone’s presence.
I am having good conversations with her and she misses her beloved so much that she feels good that we can talk about my father together. I have asked her oldest cousins to take the opportunity to recall their childhood memories, since I have no personal references except from what she wrote about and told us, but she enjoys filling plenty of gaps that are now coming back. This morning, she was not so sure she was living in her Paris apartment anymore and thought that she was in a childhood place because of some visiting plans made with her niece and her grand-baby. Getting her to overcome confusion in a non threatening way has become every hour’s goal. Her pain management has been efficient so far, and everyone makes sure she does not forget to mention when she is uncomfortable.
She still enjoys eating the very delicious food that her aid, Jeanette is preparing. Jeanette is delightful and talkative, loves cooking and is ecstatic about mom’s kitchen which contains everything she needs to prepare food: she can tell mom was a fabulous cook and both of them can bond very well around their meals. Our table is still always open and it is a joy to have guests happy to share our stories and memories.
Thinking of you all and not forgetting you. I will keep you all posted.