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Knowing How to Turn the Page

It was the evening. I heard the well-known sounds of the house: my sons talked quietly in the surrounding rooms, Florence closed the door of her small office where she worked peacefully. On the first floor, in the kitchen, someone had to lay the table. A noise of plates on the table reminded me of all these great evenings spent with my close ones speaking about everything, putting the world to rights and especially listening to my boys. Tonight, I was alone downstairs but I knew they won’t let me in my corner. By the way, my wife was already around here. Her solid footsteps showed she decided something.

I’d like to refuse but words didn’t come. During this time, Florence put a folding table in the music room. Nicolas brought the plates. His brothers came with the rest. In a few seconds, the rectangular table was set. Florence asked Nicolas and Alexandre to help me to get out of the bed and came across the corridor. And here was I: at my usual place, at the end of the table, like we ate outside on the patio in the garden during summer.

The dinner in the music room was weird. We were tight one against another. I was seated lower than usual, smaller. It was my turn to learn how to grow up!

The meal began. Florence and the boys had to go upstairs to look for the dishes. I was happy they were close to me. They accepted my disabilities and helped me, forget it for a moment, talked with me like in the other life, the one before, when I was not sick… at least visibly sick. I forgot I was seated on a too low chair, that my last boy was taller tah I (no one made jokes, in the past, we would have laughed a lot!). Not a word about my fork I held with my left, a little clumsy, shaking hand which hesitated in front of my mouth. I focused on my simple move because I needed to get used to it. People who didn’t know that couldn’t understand how difficult it was to become left-handed right away. My right arm remained motionless. I didn’t dare to move it because I feared to cause a catastrophe and to spoil this moment of family complicity. I saw us last year. We had been in the same precarious situation when we transformed the house.

We had broken everything upstairs and fitted the attic up. We had lived surrounding by dust for a year and together in the first floor for six months. We had eaten around a little wooden table in the laundry room which was Calypso’s room by now. The boys spoke about their day, they even made jokes in order to forget – probably – they were with a seriously-ill person at home: their father. Florence glanced at me worrily. I didn’t talk much, I knew they hid their anxiety behind the details. I thought about Haydn’s Double Concerto and summer gigs I won’t be a part of. All of a sudden, I said:

Constantin counted on his fingers to put up a front.

Constantin turned to his brother and winked at him.

Nicolas and Raphael froze, the fork on. I made out a glimmer of hope in their eyes. And it felt good! I needed them and their support so much! I talked with fawning but deep inside me I didn’t know if I will be ready. I only knew I will do anything I could for this. I added:

The boys cleared the dishes, folded up the table and went upstairs to tidy. I came back to my room thanks to them and Florence remained close to me, quiet, seated on the bottom of the bed. I realized my resurrection was vital for her: I owed her even if I was not responsible for what happened to me.

Florence was born in an anti-clerical family. She discovered faith and particularly the Catholic Church after we had met. She was so sensible she quickl understood something hid behind. She knew nothing came randomly in this world and my sickness had to be meaningful even though she seemed so unfair.

We kept quiet, united by this new challenge. I knew she was strong and I didn’t have to be weak. My future depended on me, on my will. The way was shown to me , I just didn’t know the obstacles yet. But I had to follow it!

Florence went upstairs where she spoke with the boys. Then she came to bed. She kept a low profile, in her part of the bed in order not to disturb me. I was lying on my back, I didn’t move, I pretended to sleep. Of course, I thought about new coming fights. My wife took some days off to help me. I wondered if she was right. I’d rather be alone…

Did Florence pretend to sleep? Once again, a miracle. Her beside me, in this bed because we were not meant to be. Especially not these origins. Her mother, Chantal formerly loved to sing and found in the city journal the phone number of the Choir I led in Sucy en Brie. She loved being noticed, dancing, standing out. She only sang French songs – mostly Edith ¨Piaf– who was her idol and she completely identified with. She didn’t go to church or believe in something and didn’t listen to sacred or classic music. She was dressed like Betty Boop. She came into Saint Martin Church. She was wearing a leather mini-skirt, black tights and high high-heels. She didn’t ask anything to anyone and took place at the first soprano place. You should have seen my dad’s face while he was playing the organ and the chorists’ ones: they were stunned. Moreover, Chantal prided to be twice divorced and she lived in the apartment of his last boyfriend who had just passed away in one of the rare estate of Sucy en Brie called the ‘Red Pit”. Florence, her only daughter, had worked in an insurance company since she was 18. She was baptized but didn’t receive a religious education. She had up and down young years between an original, extravert mother, a seller to the “Galeries Lafayette” in Paris and a courageous father from working origins who climbed the social ladder in the Public Electricity Company and finally had become an engineer specialized in nuclear. Her father’s name was Michel and what an incredible coincidence: he was also born on April, 28th ! He was a fervent, influent General Workers’ Confederation syndicalist. Michel and Chantal got divorced when Florence was 12. We did not belong to the same world!

After she had read her cards and seen I was noble and a perfect husband for her daughter, Chantal invited Florence to come to see her singing in the choir on November, 11th, 1990 for the Souvenir Mass with the city harmony , the whole city team. When she learnt it was a church choir, the young lady was not happy but she agreed to come for her mother to be pleased. She’ll keep to herself and make her forget. No way to stand up to follo the religious service!

However, she went to the platform where the organ – which was looked after by my father, also the president of the association for more than 20 years – was. I saw her, she was pretty. I thought I had winked at her while I was conducting my choristers. At the end of the service, Florence –who was and still is a fan of photography– offered to come back and do a photo-reportage during the next concert. As a result, on April 6th, 1991, we got religious married in the same church, Saint Martin Church, with the famous Gaston Litaize playing the organ and the whole Saint Martin Choir, after she received her First Communion and just before she asked for the Scrament of Confirmation in Notre Dame Of Paris Cathedral!

It was another reason to fight! Florence, who should have never been my wife, was here next to me. This was the proof God destined us to be together. My life was made up like that; each time I was about to fall in the abyss, a helpful hand held me up. I saw the hand of Providence, free to other people to think differently.