When we moved to Brussels fourteen years ago, we did think that we’d be back to Paris very, very soon and forever. Wrong. Totally wrong.
Fourteen years have gone down the drain, bad years mostly and we’re still stuck there.
And it is getting worse, which was something that we never thought would happen because what’s worse than worse?
Two years ago, we were sort of “kicked” out of our house which had more or less been a very unhealthy place to live and we had not yet heard about asbestos in our bathrooms. Why did we put up with such a “posh slum” for so long and why did we moved back right in when it was supposedly fixed up (only half of it)?
Well, the answer is very simple and very complicated. I have not been feeling good for quite a long time and it is quite hard to find new lodgings in-between or after long and hard chemos... in-between hospital appointments, etc.
We had been “kicked out” but we had not moved out. All our stuff had been moved around by the building contractor in charge of renovating the part that had been destroyed by a very bad flood caused by our landlady’s carelessness.
The second reason is that Popeye is forever away on business. When he comes back home, he simply does not feel like finding a new house and above all, he hates the idea of moving.
So we got back into our “home”, only to discover that the renovation job had been very poorly done. Hence problems with our “slumlady”... who just did not understand why we were complaining.
Her answer was: “I have spent a lot of money on the house and I just don’t care any longer.” (Well, care, she never did anyway.)
We are peaceful and law-abiding people. We kept on paying our rent but after a little while, we decided that we had to do something! (Besides trying to find a new place to live which proved to be quite difficult if not impossible at the time.)
We hired a lawyer and we instigated legal proceedings against our landlady, while hoping that she would come to her senses.
Well, she does not and our life has become kind of hellish lately... We are back to trying to find a new place which is a little bit trying since we have quite a few criteria we can’t pass over.
I no longer drive in town and I need to be close to one tramway line, at least because it is hard to get a cab in Brussels. I need to live within walking distance from food stores to be independent whenever Popeye is away.
Popeye can’t afford to live far away from his office or from the Thalys station because in Brussels, traffic jams are a nuisance from dawn to dusk...
So there we are. We know she wants to kick us out. And it’s turning into a game of poker. She wants us out because we are fighting hard (which we should have done a long time ago).
She does not want to get things fixed properly but if we move, she won’t be able to find new tenants until she has really got things fixed. (Because the problems are serious - electricity and plumbing and even worse, new leaks from the roof! Defects due to bad workmanship.) Which means loosing money and she loves easy-to-get money.
So there we are... looking at possible new houses and/or apartments and not finding anything!
And there she is, making our life as miserable as she can, hoping that we’ll go back to being so nice and quiet!
Enough is enough.
Enough is enough because...
Early this year, our mailman was “told” that we had moved away. We don’t know who lied nor why but the guy acted very unlawfully.
He knew we had not moved away. (Swee’ Pea’s and Popeye’s cars were still parked right in front of the house...). Besides, according to Belgian law, as long as a mailman does not get any official mention of people moving away, he’s suppposed to still deliver the mail to the same old address, in care of the “new” tenant.
Our mail disappeared for quite a few months. We had to fight and fight. Who has ever tried to fight against civil services, especially in a foreign country? Well, we did and we finally won. Of course, we never got our mail back because the mailman never wanted to say what he’d done with it! And we had no proof that we had got mail anyway! No mail. No proof. As simple as that... even when I started getting phone calls from some people asking me where I was since I was not answering their mail nor paying bills!
We now have a new mailman and every time there is a relapse (yes, someone still pretends from time to time that we have moved away), we fight again but at least, we now know what to do. At least our mail does not disappear. It’s just sent back to sender. That’s how we know someone is still fooling around.
Enough is enough because...
This week, we got a letter from the phone company. They were letting us know that they would be disconnecting our phone lines in a few days since we had asked them to do so. (Probably because we were moving away, I imagine.)
When I called the helpdesk, I was told that Popeye had called them to have our lines disconnected. They even gave me his phone number. Which is not his phone number at all, of course. I really was outraged. Well, the clerk was very nice so I tried to stay calm. Everything was called off. Promise, promise!
Until next time!
Enough is enough, really...
*Good Luck, and Good Night*
The day had started very poorly. Downpour of rain all morning long. Sudden gusts of wind. Cloudy weather...
Let’s find something positive about yesterday. It was surprisingly warm outside probably due to the southern winds.
I drove up to my friends’ farm, wishing that the afternoon would not turn into a nightmare.
Bernard was home, taking care of some bills on the huge kitchen table. I love spending time in their kitchen. It is cosy and warm.
Yvette came downstairs because my arrival was kind of noisy. It was so windy outside that I had to ring the bell a couple of times before I heard Bernard’s bellowing voice: “Come in. Come in!”
He does not like me to ring the bell. I am supposed to get right in, just the way it’s done in our area in Brittany. This is something I have the hardest time to do... I am too much of a city dweller, from places where doors are always locked.
Yvette was taken aback by me barging in but at least, she was standing on her own two feet. I know that there are some good days after all.
We sat down on the bench by the table, in a very companionable bubble of friendship. Bernard resumed his filing and signing checks.
And Pomponette came into the kitchen. She jumped on the table. We guffawed because she went right to Bernard and gave him a big kiss on the lips. A cat kiss.
He looked so delighted. His hand went right to her head and he started to pet her which she loved and she nestled against him and all over the papers.
May I digress to say that Bernard used to hate cats. He liked our cats all right because they were ours and he knew they stayed home. But I remember leafing through his hunting notebook in which he had to record every animal and bird shot and killed. I remember feeling really upset and angry when finding: “Black/White/Tabby cat shot” followed by the day and name of the place.
Hunters claim that cats hunt and kill rabbits and young hares therefore they are pests and must be destroyed.
Last September, one of his granddaughters found a black kitten in one of the trees by the farm. The kitten had been scared to death by the sheepdogs that roam around the farmyard.
Had he been alone, Bernard would have done what would have been obviously right for him at the time. He would have grabbed his gun and shot the kitten. It was so deeply ingrained in his hunting genes.
But the young girl was adamant that the kitten had to be “saved” and brought home... home meaning the farmhouse.
Bernard who loves his granddaughter to distraction had to give in, thinking that once she’d be gone, it would be over very quickly...
What a joke!
I am pretty sure that Bernard fell in love with the sweet tiny black ball of fur that started right away to purr in his arms when he got her down from the tree and brought her into the kitchen to protect her from the dogs.
I was there at the time and it was quite incredible... He said that someone had to go buy some food and kitty litter! Which was done in a flash (almost, considering that the village is 3 miles away).
By the end of October, the kitten was flourishing! She was still tiny and would probably remain so. A perfect young female cat. Black with a white medallion on her breast.
Bernard had turned into a doting “father cat”. His Pomponette was the most beautiful cat ever, the sweetest thing that had ever happened in his life. First thing to ask whenever I’d drop by: “How is Pomponette?” and then he’d look around and start looking for her... She usually isn’t very far from him.
“Isn’t she beautiful and sweet?”
“She is the most beautiful and sweetest cat ever, Bernard.” Which is true by the way.
Oh, I love those times because she’s a darling cat, so gentle and affectionate. Exactly what he needed in his blown up life.
Exactly what Yvette needed too - some sweetness in her abyssal sickness. She is very fond of Pomponette. It is so obvious.
The small cat is a little bit afraid of her but she is so gentle that she never struggles whenever Yvette handles her a little bit roughly. And then she runs back to Bernard. Almost as if she did understand the quagmire Yvette’s life has become.
Two months ago, Pomponette had a fling with an unknown cat who was lucky enough Bernard did not spot him.
Last week, I knew her time of giving birth was getting close. I told Bernard to watch her closely. She’s so small that I did fear she was at risk.
The kittens were born two days ago in their sitting-room, in the afternoon. Bernard got rid of them right away which was a sensible thing to do since they were barely alive and one of them was already dead.
Pomponette did not even realize what had been going on. She resumed her love life with Bernard right away. Funny little cat.
Of course, he’s made an appointment with the vet to have her neutered. He was scared something bad would happen to her during the delivery. He does not want to live through the experience again.
The new Bernard is so touching that I don’t even feel like making fun of him by reminding him that he still breeds sheepdogs and used to breed hundreds of sheep.
Yesterday, he mentioned that he’s spotted an cat roaming around. He looked at me with twinkling eyes.
“I’ll have to go get my gun.”
I know he won’t kill a cat anymore.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*
Yesterday, after spending a long, a very long time walking on the beach, I came home and turned my Mac on... straight to Facebook. Trying to make up for loneliness, I guess.
A girl I am very fond of had posted an article from the NY Times I had tearfully read a few hours before... All about an odd form of dementia. Actually more a love story about an aching void.
Last Friday night, our friends Bernard and Yvette drove Popeye home from the station. It was very late because of train trouble on his way from Paris.
Since I no longer can drive when it gets dark, Popeye who was feeling quite desperate aboard a train stopped in the middle of nowhere called Bernard.
Why Bernard? Because whenever we have a problem in Brittany, who do we call? We call Bernard, of course.
Bernard and Yvette are very close friends ever since we moved to Les Tertres. Actually, before Bernard retired, he used to farm our fields... We used to laugh a lot about it! And... fight about it too!
Even though we differed on many environmental issues, we still got along well enough to be part of their extended family. Throughout the years, a game has been going on... I'd start talking about ecology and there he'd go ranting and raving (at me, of course). Then I’d laugh in his face. Got you!
Well, sometimes I was not joking at all. There were very serious issues at stake. Bernard is very bright and knows that they are serious... Then the fight would get a little bit more serious. At least it used to get serious.
Nowadays, there is no fight because you see, my friend Bernard is living with ‘an aching void’, his wife. And he loves his wife a lot, so much, so much.
‘Aching void’ may sound mean but those of you who have been sharing a lot of time with someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease will understand.
Yvette is my friend. She’ll be my friend until the end that is getting closer and closer. But spending time with her is more like facing ‘an aching void’ than a real person, the real person she used to be and will never be again.
She was diagnosed very late because her family doctor thought she was going through depression. (She was only 56 at the time.) And it took me a long time to realize what was happening because I was going through cancer #2 at the time. I did not spend a lot of time at Les Tertres for almost one year with going through surgery and chemo, etc.
We kept in touch by phone but it was like being a galaxy apart, really.
Yvette had been crying on the phone while she was telling me she was having troubles reading because her vision was deteriorating. She was complaining about being unable to take care of the farm accounts. The main point though seemed to be that she couldn’t see very well anymore.
Bernard was getting desperate because she obviously had no sight troubles but she was crying a lot and getting worse.
When chemo ended, I came home to Les Tertres.
I remember Yvette was smiling and quite happy again. She still had 'sight' problems but she had decided that she was probably suffering from MD, just like me. And since I had been able to recover partially, she was hoping she’d be just as strong and recover too.
By then, her family was getting terribly worried. She’d leave the farm and get lost while going shopping. Daily life was becoming definitely weird. Her doctor sent her to a specialist in Rennes. I can’t even say that it was too late because AD leaves you without hope. There is nothing to be done. Especially in places like Brittany, in a rural area.
When the family members learnt the dreadful news, some decided it couldn’t be true. Some did believe the neurologist and decided to try to find a way to help her. There was a lot of crying and despair.
She was not told about the results of the tests because this was the unbelievers’ wish. At the time, I wondered whether it would have changed something. I still do.
I knew a lot about AD because in Brussels, I had worked with a young movie-maker who was filming a documentary about AD patients. I remember being aghast most of the time... But I did not really knew those people so I did not feel emotionally involved even though I was very disturbed at the time.
I begged my neurologist to take Yvette into a medical protocol. He said that he had to subject her to some tests before making his decision.
She came over to Paris with her husband and one of her daughters-in-law (they already did believe she was suffering from AD). They stayed with us (Popeye was in Mexico at the time). We went to the Opera which she loved very much. Such a great memory.
And then we went to the hospital. She wanted me to attend her tests. “She’s my friend,” she told the neurologist.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been there and sometimes I am glad I witnessed the whole process even though it was one of the most painful experience I ever went through. (Even today, on a scale from 1 to 10, I do think that witnessing her struggle through very, very simple tests was worth a 9 while learning I had cancer was barely up to 6, at least for cancer #1.)
Of course, it was way too late. The neurologist was very kind but it was too late.
For a while, life could still be a lot of fun even if we had to watch over her like a child. AD was spreading so fast that a good day was to be cherished and enjoyed without ever thinking about what would happen next.
Yes, she was like a child. Weird especially the day she turned 60 and 61 and 62 and 63... Why should I concentrate on days and times while everything was going down the hill so fast and so irrationally?
Her husband is wonderful with her. Really wonderful. He never complains. There are days when ‘she is doing fine’ and there are days when ‘she is feeling rotten.’
‘Fine’ is so pitiful and ‘rotten’ is so awful. But he is there.
They had planned a lot of fun things and traveling they wanted to do when he’d retire. Well, he is retired and fun things are not even talked about anymore. She no longer even wants to get in the car to go visit her sisters she was so fond of.
Nowadays she’s physically aging a lot and very fast. One week does make a difference.
I know she no longer knows who I am. She’s still nice, most of the time, with me, that is. The other day, she even said: “I like you a lot, you know.” And I went through this phase: “Who is ‘you’?” but I smiled back at her: “I like you a lot too.”
I have to accept to be ‘you’. At least I’m still a little bit present in her life.
Cancer is so much easier to deal with. You don’t believe me? I am terribly serious.
Cancer is cells gone crazy. AD is brain destruction. You can try to fight against cells gone crazy. How can you fight AD with something which is no longer a brain?
You get very sick with cancer. But you still get a chance to survive.
You can’t survive AD. And you are terribly sick all the time. Sick is not the right word. You go through hell every day. And your family goes through hell every day. And you never get a chance to survive.
Tomorrow, I will go to the farm. She’ll be sitting on the sofa, so still and silent. I don’t mind her being silent because she tends to be quite incoherent nowadays. She will sigh a lot and look at her lifeless hands resting on her thighs. Then she’ll say: “Do ‘you’ want to take a walk?” I’ll agree. She’ll stand up with my help. But since her ‘brain’ has lately quit to tell her how to walk, at least most of the time, she’ll grab my arm. We’ll take a few steps. She’ll start complaining about pain in her feet and then we’ll turn back. We’ll sit down on the sofa.
A few minutes later, she’ll say to me: “Do ‘you’ want to take a walk?’ I’ll agree and...
Maybe tomorrow there will be a respite and she’ll be able to walk around the room and even go outside in the farmyard. And I’ll be so happy she can move around for a while.
But if there is no respite, I’ll be so frightened again.
It is up to 10 these days on the pain scale.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*