The primal force that motivated my determination to get myself and the baby girl to Bordeaux was not only to see my family in its entirety or as close to that as possible, but really to see my aunts and my two remaining uncles. My oldest aunt is 88 and in a wheelchair, she is still sharp for the most part, she might be a little fuzzy around the edges but it’s harmless. Her wheelchair is necessary because her good leg through years of overuse has become completely arthritic. Personally, I find her remarkable because she suffered a stroke at fifty paralysing her on the left side completely, she overcame with the help of everyone, family and doctors and when my uncle passed away, she still carried on with the same grace and dignity. She actually went out and bought a modified car do that she could drive herself around, she was past seventy at this point. When I saw her on Saturday, it made me so happy to see her alert and having fun.
My Tonton who has always had me across from him at the table, who would listen to me at every age whenever I had something to say, has become old. He is now 85 and having worked tirelessly all of his life as a landscaper/nursery owner is in constant pain in both knees. What makes it more difficult is that he is a very tall man and he isn’t as rail thin as he used to be, in his golden years he has cultivated quite a sweet tooth. My Tantine now scolds him the same way she used to scold us when my cousin Leon and I were children, “stop with the chocolate, you two!” now she isn’t saying you two, she is just scolding him. What made me so happy was seeing that my Tantine, who is as much of the backbone of the family as my Tonton is, hasn’t changed a bit, she is 80 but she still has quite a bit of energy. I felt much better, because seeing my Tonton slow down made me sad. It really drives home that life is so transitory and we accompany each other on this journey of life for a short time, I don’t want it to end. I love having them in my life.
My other Tantine, who I call the most beautiful, is also slowing down, still tries to do as much as before but she pays the price nowadays. However when she is at family gatherings, she is gay and vibrant and if there is champagne, watch out she will not refuse a glass or two. She is adorable. She is a phenomenal cook. She has made us Vietnamese spring rolls and Vietnamese soup a countless number of times and those two dishes are hours of work. She is an amazing woman.
My other Tantine and Tonton came all the way from Sainte-Etienne, I told the baby girl that this Tonton gave the best hello kisses, three times on the cheeks and he does it with gusto. He takes you by the shoulders and as he kisses each cheek, he tells you want a wonderful niece you are, how you are still as young looking as ever, seeing you made his day. And when he does and says all this, you know that he is sincere. My Tantine, I know always had a special place in her heart for my sister and me because we are the daughters of her baby sister that she adores. My heart broke a little because she wasn’t doing as well as I had remembered but I still got my kisses and I walked around the garden with her which was very nice.
Clearly, you can understand why I absolutely had to come to France, what better reason to come than to see my older generation who love me and took care of me when I was little in France.