Last night I was talking to the bestie on Skype when I got a message through. It had been left in the morning, and when I read what it said I felt that indescribable feeling you get when you can’t quite, for a second or two, believe that what you’ve been told is true.
The message was from the person I call my French mum. She was an au pair back in the early 70s, and she wasn’t treated very well. My mum had an easier time of it – they worked in the same place – and she and my dad took Jeanine under their wings and looked after her for the rest of the time she was in the UK. They have been friends ever since. When she got back to France, she told her mum about my folks, and in return, Maryse treated them like stars, because she so appreciated that they took care of her daughter. That was in 1972, and she never forgot, always greeting them (and me) with wide, beaming smiles and making us feel at home.
In the last few years, she’s been suffering with Alzheimer’s – and she began to stop recognising people. Last time my parents went to see her, she was all over my dad, but she didn’t recognise my mum, and I know that stung. It would have stung me. Over the period of a couple of years, she degenerated rapidly, and Jeanine had a task on her hands looking after her beloved mum.
So last night, I got this message. My parents’ little French mum is no longer with us. Once I had processed the message – it was very brief – I said to the bestie I should go. I could feel myself welling up and my chest heaving, and I was going to spill over. Which, a few minutes later, I did. And took enormous comfort from the fact I have a very understanding boyfriend with a snuggly shoulder to cry on.
I hadn’t seen Maryse in years, but that makes no difference to how I feel. She was my French grandmother and I loved her dearly. We all did. The thing that makes me not feel quite so bad about it is that she’s no longer suffering. And she really was suffering. Now, she’s at peace.
Au revoir, Maryse. Je t’aime. xxx