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Like a Land Without Water

Did I overestimate me? We could have asked for an ambulance to take me home but I refused. Nurses took me in a wheelchair to my brother’s car. AT that very moment, I understood my disability. But I didn’t want to show my fears which assailed me!

When we arrived in front of the doorway of our house in Sucy en Brie, my boys were all here, along the little path: Nicolas, 19, Raphael, 18, Alexandre, 17 and Constantin, , came closer to me – almost in their birth order. They were anxious but so happy I was back. Our young dog, Calypso, ran in the garden and fooled around. Florence opened the back door. Benoit helped me to get out of the car taking all good care.

“We need some help” My wife told to Nicolas and Raphael.

I could not get out of the car. I was pulled and held. Everyone moved clumsily. They held me as they could. It was not easy to unfold my huge 6‘2’’body. My first foot touched the ground – the one which felt– I tried to move the right leg. It was heavy and unresponsive. A log. My right arm was not better and I didn’t know which position it was in. It would have been cut, it would have not been different. And to mange to stand with only one part of my body, I needed all Benoit’s strength and Nicolas’ and Raphael’s. They supported me while Alexandre and young Constantin sped to participate to the rescue mission of a father who couldn’t move anymore.

I understood the upcoming troubles. For a while, I was discouraged. I should have been in a rehability center – at least for a few days – in order to find my normal sensations again. It was not too warm for June. A mild wind rose one of Florence’s hair. My eyes met hers and I could read her confusion. But I felt she was ready – as always – to anything for me. At that moment, a world was taken us apart: the world of my disability. I wanted to come home for her and for my four boys, I wanted to be standing as I had always done.

Nothing was easy when you lost the control of your body and any contact with half of your person. My left side had to assume for my right-side burden. And then, helped by my brother and my two strong boys, I could barely stand still. My right foot didn’t move. They held me… literally. However, a little inside voice – for sure– the voice of the Providence, told me it was a miracle I was alive and all will be alright. So I tried to put my right foot I,n front of the left one. Order and Will came from my whole body but this damned foot was so as insensitive as a piece of wood. “Here is your father, my boys! I’m under your responsibility!”

All of a sudden, when Benoit, who was holding me very tightly, made a move, I felt the ground evading under my only alive foot. I wanted to hold his shoulder but my right hand didn’t follow my move. It moved but didn’t obey my orders and went in front of me as if I was pushing away an attacker. I knocked over Raphael so hard. He was surprised. I apologized, he smiled at me: “Don’t worry, we’re gonna play music together soon!”. Raphael is a good violinist and we often improvise music together. Music is part of our lives and I couldn’t wait to pay again, find out complicity: Nicolas playing the tuba, Alexandre the saxophone or the piano and Constantin the traverse flute or singing.

I lifted my eyes to my boys and Florence. They were in the middle of the path as to show me the way. Her severe face hid me her deep thoughts. Did she believe in my resurrection? And did my four boys who had always supported me realize how my disability was important? I was reading their thoughts: “He is here, this father who is always out and about, teaching, touring, the painter with so much inspiration. Here is the indestructible: defeated, pathetic, unable to go home”. Their moves were uncertain. Fear prevented them from taking the good initiatives. The guide , the watchman of this house, of the family was no more than a defeated man who was not able to sit, stand, go alone to the toilets!

We finally arrived to the entrance door. Constantin fell apart, burst into tears and ran away to hide. He fled from the sad show of the indigent who the stroke took everything from! My brother held tight. I pretended to walk and put my healthy foot behind. The other moved, non-coordinated, and bothered me more than it helped me. Calypso couldn’t stop moving, jumping on me even if she could make me fall when I entered the house. The joy of the animal moved me a lot. When the others will be out, when I will make my first steps alone, my dog will be the first witness of my rebirth.

Florence smiled slightly. She got me back but in which conditions! “She is so courageous, so devoted!” I knew she will help me as far as she can. But I don’t know if it’s enough. Moreover, I don’t have to wait something from anyone. I’m alone in front of my disability. Sickness only accepts solitary fightings.”

Constantin arrived. He was abashed, red-eyed, a little ashamed of having been weak for a while. I wished I could make him feel better and dry his face. Did he cry because of me? If I had been more careful with myself, more attentive to my tiredness episodes and my body which has not stopped from warning me. If I had paid attention to the numerous warnings, the advice of the doctors and Florence. If I had worked less, run less out and about all the time, these tears might have never been shed?

I finally saw the corridor through my blurred eyes of a survivor. On my right, there was a pretty terra cotta vase and tiles gave form to a brown and yellow checkerboard. Next to the vase, there was our room door. On the left of the entrance, there was my music room. It was in this room I made my boys practice, I played to rehearse my gigs or I improvised to the piano, created my own music and arranged the pieces I was ordered or the ones I changed according to my mood. It was where I painted. These two arts and the creativity have always helped me to focus my mind and escape from the devils of my childhood which lurked around and inside me.

At that time, in the landing, while I was against the wall and my boys were regaining their strength, I thought about my life. It was so back and forth and I had no sense of being gone. Then, when my healthy foot touched the tiles and the other hit the step but didn’t find the way to land it, I once again wandered about my place on Earth, here, in this house we have just transformed according my plans. I drew the plans with my student, Nazzareno, who – sadly – never saw the end of the work.

What my life was going to be like? I escaped from death once more while it was waiting for me for so long and not able to take me once again? It was likely to protect and save me I was driven in an uncovered little truck…This day, when my parents had driven me to Saint Symphorien d’Ancelle in Saône et Loire, to meet all new maternal grandparents, Grandpa and Grandma Mathieu, I had climbed big outside stairs. I had always been curious. I perfectly remembered I suddenly assimilated the stairs with another coming from my childhood fears. I was so terrorized that when my grandfather, Gramps Robert, opened his arms to take me, I jumped into the emptiness. I smashed my back, my neck and my head six feet far away on a cement patio. I was unconscious. My all new distraught parents brought me to Macon Hospital and were feared for the worst. The emergency doctor only found out a few light bruises. I was completely shaken but I was very blessed.

Here I was to the threshold of my work room. I didn’t dare to say “my office” even if I often wrote there or my “music room” because my easel next to the piano showed it was my “painter workshop”. To conclude, it was my “everything room”. Near the piano, on my little office, there was a lot of music sheets and a pencil was above them. Just before I went to Henri Mondor Hospital, I had to write music for spots of a great French perfumer and car brands.
As many artists, I force myself to do this kind of jobs. I’m always well-paid, and it is not as despicable as people often say. The constraints are numerous. Some of the composers refuse them because they – supposedly– can’t express their skills. I think the opposite because I have to come in a very precise framework, which becomes a teaching stylistic exercice. I enjoy writing my message in a precise time and style. Most of the great masters of the past I like created ordered masterpieces.

The piano was open. Its black and white keys gave me signs. Will I be able to play again? Even if my parents always thought of school in first place, I showed the deep need in my young years to learn and play the piano, the violin (the only “Gramps Marcel from Metz” had given to me) and the viola. I am also an organist when I am with my chorister during rehearsal and gigs or some Masses. On the contrary, I never compose a piece with the piano but on music sheets with the music in my head. The viola is the instrument I always with me. It’s like a part of my own body, the voice of my soul. It expresses words I would never be able to say. I am a “Violanist” by vocation. Since I am little, at the age of four, I have known how warm and particular it was when I listened to every recording or when I mimed the role of the conductor in front of Dad’s two big speakers. What a delight to be an instrumentalist who shapes, creates the whole sounds and notes!

They were here, my two dear violas and all the numerous instruments of the house. They were where I had left them before I left home last Wednesday to go on my trip, my trip to nothing. They slept in their velvet bed. Might I wake them up one day? I could see the birth of the youngest in the workshop of the stringed instrument maker, René Quenoil. Next to it, its elder, a beautiful 1901-Caressa, has been with me for more than 30 years. “For him, violin is over!” This sentence ran over and over in my head and I was afraid of the doctor being right.

Boys helped me to come in the room in front of the music room. Florence, who never did something randomly, and I wanted our rooms to be in the first floor in order to divide the house fairly. In that way, family share meals, take some good times in front of the chimney, pray, read or watch television and welcome friends at the middle floor. The second floor is for the boys.

Florence found her goodwife role right away. She is an insurance executive. She’s used to taking decisions, solving daily broker troubles quickly. Nevertheless, at that moment, she seemed lost. It was no easy task to lay me down. Nicolas and Raphael held my shoulders. Happy to be a part of the rescue team, Constantin took off my shoes.

“No, not laid down”

They all stopped. They turned towards their mother who had stayed behind. I didn’t let her talk because I feared when she listened to her reason. She told something I’d not have liked:

“I’ll be fine if I were seated.”
They sat me against two pillows. My wife made sure I was correctly propped up and the family went away. I will rest a little, find and enjoy all the familiar noises. If the left side was completely responsive to my orders and kept all its reflexes, the other had no reaction. It was only a pack of rags. It was soft, it gave way and I rolled on my side. The good luck – always with me – would like my body to unfold in order to avoid me to fall on the wood floor. I yelled; Alexandre and Constantin rushed and put me in my first position. I realized I was unable to do anything, not even something a 7 or 8-month-old new born would have been able. I didn’t dare look up and stare at my sons. I was almost sorry about not being in a rehabilitation center to hide my decline. I would have been with bow-legged people like I am, some more messed up than others. We could have talked between crippled people, share our pains, our disabilities, our hopes. Set a future of disabled people.

Florence went to look for new pillows for me. Helped by their mother, the boys managed to sit me again. And this time, I was very well-propped up, like an old-feet cupboard. I finnaly held like a living person. Florence asked me:

“Are you OK?”

“Very fine!” I told her and tried to smile to thank my two guys who took up too much space in the bedroom too small now.

The boys were cramped inside and needed to escape. Constantin went out first, he was followed by his brothers. Eventually, Florence pushed my head against her chest and went out. I found out the silence of my home with some little noises coming back and forth sometimes. Noises I never heard before. Here was I. At home finally. However, I flet like a stranger in this bed where I had slept or tried to sleep every night near my wife for already 20 years.

I didn’t wish anything. Seeing my close ones around me bothered me a little, tired me and all I wanted was to stop worrying them. Nicolas stayed to the door, ready to intervene. I moved in an irrational way, stretched my hand, slipped and was about to fall from the bed. Nicolas rushed by my side.

“Are you OK? Does it hurt?”

I didn’t answer. I could only see shadows. My mind was blurred, colored by death. Was I back inside the world of living in order to endure the worst shame? I was a piece of furniture now, something you put at one place where it didn’t embarrass anything. So, as often in my practicing Catholic life, I thought of Jesus holding his cross towards his place of torture. And I hoped again.

Nicolas came closer, he was helped by Raphael. They were the strongest? Alexandre hesitated to take part in this paternal rescue. Place was too narrow.

I was surprised by the strength of my two boys. They picked me up, replaced me in the bed, propped me up seated with a lot of pillows. Florence came back. Constantin came closer and knelt in front of me:

“But you’re crying?”

“No. It’s nothing.” Florence answered instead of me.

“Dad needs to rest.”

“Do you still want to be seated?” My boy asked like a gullible 15-year-old child. “You should lie down, Dad.”

“No, sit down.” I whispered. “It’s better!”

He didn’t ask me why. I didn’t want to explain to him being lied down remembered me the hospital and the awful ordeal I’ve just go through. “Being seated is a living position!”