What I planned for the day did not happen, but the day was well spent. It is difficult to make each day ‘a million and six times better’ than the day before, but I try.
We got a late start Tuesday, but we were all tired from Monday’s late night. We all slept late and therefore we started late. Warren had a lunch date with a client and took off early. David and Trish decided to visit Sacre Coeur in Montmartre and Julie and I took the metro to Opera to cash Travelers Checks at the American Express office. There was quite a commotion along Rue de San Martin and into Place de Republique. Before Warren left, he told me about a labor rally that was organizing in front of the hotel French labor unions are upset over a proposal to increase the retirement age from 60 to 65 and they held a march to share their concerns today. The tail end of the protest organized in front of the hotel and we watched it organize and go from a few people to many. It clogged the streets and brought traffic to a standstill in the area. Warren reported the traffic getting back into the city was difficult as he returned from his lunch meeting.
Fortunately, the march was above ground and Metro traffic moved smoothly. It was a pretty day; the sun was shining and it was just the right temperature – not to warm and not too cool. The American Express office was about where I remember it, but we were coming at it from a different angle. We found it after a few moments and cashed Julie’s checks. Afterwards we decided to have lunch at Hippopotamus. Lunch was good, it was just nice to sit and chat and enjoy lunch. We got back to our hotel just as quick as we had gotten there and I met up with Warren.
Warren and I decided to head out for the Jardins de Tuileries and make a Starbucks stop along the way. I had my laptop and wanted to check in on a few items. We headed west on Rue de San Martin until we got to Rue de Sebastopol and turned south toward the river. It took about twenty minutes or so but Warren had his Starbucks and I did, too. I set up outside but could not get a connection and gave up. It was a great day for a walk and we continued toward the river. We walked down the Rue de Rivoli, past the Louvre, and finally got to the Seine. Oddly, along the way, we ran into an old friend from yesterday a gypsy who tried to get us with the old ‘I found a wedding ring’ trick from the day before. We called her on it and we even saw her put the wedding ring on the ground! She was gone before we knew it and we continued on our way. We had been there the night before but the perspective was changed.
The Jardins de Tuileries were exactly where they have always been just west of the Louvre. We walked entered from the east end, the entrance nearest the Louvre. As we entered, I remembered a book I had found Friday, before I left. The book, This is Paris, is about visiting Paris from a child’s perspective and was my seventh birthday gift.
I shared it with Olivia and left it on the pillow for J as a welcome. I want to look closer at it when I return. I remember there is a page in the book about the Jardins de Tulieries and sailing boats on the pond. I saw the boat vendor and asked to rent a boat for a half an hour he told me he was closing and offered a boat – gratis. It was breezy; there were just two sailboats left on the pool and the vendor waited patiently. I think he understood what it was like to be a kid and play with a sailboat on a pool. The kids were trying to get them going, but had not figured them out, but they did not seem bothered by it. I got mine in and tried to get it going, I struggled at first, but then I got the hang of it and had it going. It was fun. The boat crossed the pool and I was done. Just enough time to be a kid and I retrieved it and returned it to the vendor with a thank you. It was a great day.
Warren and I continued on our way, walking through the main garden area all the way to the Place de la Concorde. I enjoyed walking with Warren mostly we walked in silence and sometimes we talked when we talked about what we are doing, and we talked about dad. Yes, there were dad stories.
Dad and I had a strained relationship. It happened years before, over something not important, but we rarely talked. Dad became ill last summer. One morning he took a fall down the stairs and had an aneurism or had an aneurism and then fell down the stairs, either way it happened late one night and Julie called 911. That was June 4, 2010 in Oxford, Mississippi. I arrived Saturday, two days later, after the fall. During my visits, there were times when he was conscious and aware. He tried to talk to communicate in some way; eye contact, a smile, hand squeeze, and a hug, but he was silent. The doctor said his condition was serious and explained the aneurism was a serious brain injury; he was cautious about recovery. Julie and I were hopeful for a recovery, too; though, clearly he was not the father that I remember. Unfortunately, I had to return to finish the last day of school and stayed only two days. After I returned, I called daily to check in and there was hope that he would recover. Warren and David made their way to Oxford to see dad. We talked and spoke, but honestly, the period was a blur. Dad’s condition changed in late June and he slipped into unconsciousness. Julie and I talked daily, sometimes twice daily, sadly we talked more times in a week that we had the previous year. Beth and I talked, too. It was difficult to understand, I was miles away in Illinois and dad and Julie were in Mississippi. Dad was not well and he was not improving, in fact, he was getting worse. In July, Julie and I talked and she talked with Warren and David, in Texas, about moving dad into hospice care. Hospice care is medical care for the final days. Hospice care maintains life with pain medication and food, but treatments stop. The doctors said that dad’s condition would not likely improve. It was the middle of July. I flew down to be with Julie and dad and listened to the doctors. Warren arrived a day later, and David arrived Sunday. We would sit in dad’s room and watch him. We talked to him all of the time. Early in the morning, Warren and I would visit together with a cup of coffee and share dad stories, stories from our childhood about justice and injustice, about play, about good times and bad. We talked to dad as if he were taking part in the exchange. The TV was always in the room, usually to sports, he loved sports. He especially loved golf and the British Open was on. That weekend, Dad and I watched Tom Watson battle for a win at age 50. I am not sure he heard me talking, but I was there. Dad passed away Monday evening, July 20, 2009. David was with him and Julie.
We told dad stories on our walk. We shared what we remembered the good, the bad, and the ugly. We talked about places he had lived and what dad’s marriage to Julie meant for us. We walked through the Place de la Concorde to the Madeleine, up Boulevard Haussmann that ironically, turns into Rue de San Martin. We eventually stopped for dinner and continued or periods of talking and silence. The silence was a time to think, to process, to reflect on my life and dad’s. We finished dinner and walked home. Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow we fulfill dad’s final wish. His final wish was to be cremated and have his cremains in France. Tomorrow it happens. The days are ticking down and they are counting. Two more days in Paris, tomorrow will not be just another day.