When Swee’ Pea was a very young child and my Bonne-Maman was still alive, we spent every summer in Arfons, her birthplace.
Those of you who have read my blog from the very beginning know that I come from a very strange family.
On my grandmother’s side, we skipped an entire generation.
It’s quite easy to get lost in my family.
I had one grandfather, Bon Papa Mathieu who actually was my great-grandfather.
His eldest daughter was Marie, my mother’s mother, my grandmother, Swee’ Pea’s great-grandmother.
Bon Papa Mathieu’s only son, Martial, was my mother’s uncle, my great-uncle and Swee’ Pea’s great-great-uncle. But to us, he was our uncle.
My grandmother, was divorced when my mother was 3 years old. She never got married again. Hence the lack of a real grandfather, real uncles and aunts on my mother’s side.
But what’s “real” worth when you do have love and support from people who act as if they were truly generational relatives.
Swee’ Pea loved to go spend some time with his Tonton Martial and his wife, Tatie Mimi. He was by far the youngest member of the family. And they loved to have him around.
I still remember the day I took the picture.
They spent a lot of time in Arfons as soon as it’d get warm. Both were retired teacher.
That day, it was very warm and cosy in their garden. I remember that Tonton Martial was thumbing through a catalog. Why? Because I took pictures!
Swee’ Pea had been sitting on his lap, ‘reading’ the catalog too when Tatie Mimi called him. He went down to see her. She held out her hands to him with so much love that he squatted by her and put his head between her hands.
She was stroking his soft curly hair and he started to suck his thumb. This was pure bliss. Such a wonderful moment no one wanted to break up.
Old caring and loving hands and a very young boy. She was 75 and he was 20 months old.
I could tell you hundreds of stories about Martial and Mimi.
They were kind and sweet. They still were great teachers and they loved children a lot.
I have to admit that Tonton Martial was my favorite. One of the things I especially liked about him was that he didn’t know left from right.
This is still a problem for me. I have to use my hands to give directions to people even when I am on the phone. And then I get all mixed up anyway.
My uncle’s problem was so bad that one story went around for years and years at family meals. (Our family was too small to involve a family reunion.)
My uncle was driving his car while one of his sons was giving him directions.
“Papa, turn to the left.”
“Which one?” asked my Oncle Martial.
Martial passed away the way he used to live. With a joyful and contented heart.
He had been diagnosed with bone cancer. At the time, nothing much could be done about it. The whole family decided not to tell him he had cancer.
He also had quite a few problems with his heart which did not prevent him from spending a lot of time fly fishing trouts.
Despite his cancer, he moved back to Arfons with his wife as usual as soon as the weather got warmer. On a wonderful morning in May, he went to the baker’s to buy a “baguette”.
He loved to stroll around Arfons. He had a lot of childhood friends there and he’d spend hours talking with them.
That very morning, he came back home still smiling over a story he’d been told. He stepped into the kitchen and said to Tatie Mimi:
“This is such a wonderful day.”
He gave her the “baguette” and was still holding one end when he fell down and died right away.
Not much fun for Mimi but such a wonderful way to die after all.
By then Swee’ Pea was still quite young and he missed his ‘Tonton Martial’ a lot.
But we all had so many good memories that we were very happy he died smiling on “a wonderful day."
Mimi outlived him for many, many years. She had several grandchildren and many great-grandchildren but she remained very fond of Swee’ Pea even though he no longer was the youngest member of the family!
But I'm pretty sure Swee' Pea did miss his 'Tonton Martial' a lot because they were so close.
*Good Night, and Good Luck*