Monday, November 20, 2006

Je Me Souviens

This post's title means "I Remember". It's the Province of Québec's motto. It embodies Québec's and French-Canadian culture: Defending our difference, protecting our culture, remembering our history.

It hurts us sometimes, for we live too much in the past. Yes the past is important, and it helps us, or should help us deal with the future.

But I used this title for something much more personal. When not remembering the past equals no future.

Wednesday, I was cleaning a house in Lorraine, an upscale town on the north shore of the islands of Montréal and Laval. I visit this place twice a week. My favourite home to clean: I have plenty of time to do it, even though I have a little more chores, and it's set in the middle of trees of everykind. The house is well-decorated, but not over-the-top like some of the richer clients I've got.

I usually never answer the phone nor the door, I'm not a butler. But that day, I was vacuum-cleaning right in front of the door when an old lady knocked, seeing me. I had no choice but to answer, if only to explain I couldn't do anything for her.

The lady started to mumble something, half-french, half-portuguese. Since I couldn't understand much after my third attempt, and since she was shaking like an old leave trying to hold to the branch for a few more seconds, to see if anything would happen, I let her in. I was then able to understand some of her confused speech. She wanted to go back to her home in Montréal (A 30 minutes drive). Considering her less than appropriate clothing for the season, I assumed she must have had family really close to where we were. She then said her daughter was living in Lorraine, but she hasn't been there in years.

I offered to walk her back to her daughter's home. She pointed the neighbour's house, saying she thought it was there. It wasn't. There wasn't anybody home and there was no chances someone would have the heart to leave such a poor lady alone in their huge mansions.

So I got her in my old turquoise 1993 Sunbird, (AKA my brother's dump) and I decided to drive her to the local police station. There, we had to wait for a police officer to come to the station, since a recent merger of municipal police forces made it much more "efficient". While driving to the empty police station, and during our subsequent wait, I was able to gather more info. After rebuting a few requests to stop at the bank to pay me, I learned that her name was Mrs. Costa, that maybe someone drove her to Lorraine from Montréal, maybe it was her son, Luis (Doubtful: "Hey mom, I'm dropping you here, think you'll manage to get home?"), that her knees were hurting, that she forgets herself, that police will charge her, that she came from a small village in Portugal, that she was 84 years-old, that she had maybe 5 or 6 grand-children...

The police officer finally arrived, Constable Dumais. A little, brown-haired (cute) young woman with a vaguely familiar face. It's possible, I grew up on the north shore, a few suburb towns away and dated a girl in Lorraine that is still my best friend (after three failed attempts at being and/or living together).

It struck me how young she was. Younger than me. Not only physically, but mentally. Someone who looks, in my subjectivity, of course, as someone who did all her schooling in one shot, became a cop by the time she was 21, with not much life experience to assist her in the very important duty she has to do. No travelling, no experience of a different life than the one she probably expected when she decided she'd become a police officer. I might be wrong, but I grew to see that easily in people, even the older ones. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations doesn't come easily when your life has been a straight line. It's worse when that line was planned in the confused years that are teenagehood.

But I'm wandering. Constable Dumais, Catherine, was really nice and friendly. She was following the book well. She asked questions, she couldn't understand the answers, she got confused. She wrote Mrs. Costa's and her son's names like they were Québecois ones: Constant instead of Costa, Louis instead of Luis (Try to find Luis Costa when you're looking for Louis Constant) so I had to fill in some details. It's at this moment, when Constable Dumais was asking me to fill a witness report, just in case, that she got informed that Luis called the police.

No reports to fill anymore, the son got there minutes later. He was living two houses away from where I was working. His mother was living with his family and didn't get away in a year. He usually was quick enough to catch her, but "this time, she vanished".

I said bye to the lady, she got up to leave with me.

"No, you're staying here" said her son, with the worried, sad smile of someone who's used to all of this, who knows it's getting worse.

One day, soon, she'll leave again, forever. Nothing could stop it, she won't remember a reason good enough to stay. Her family, ironically, will mostly remember the years when Grandma couldn't recognize them and was running away...

Alzheimer kills you before you actually die. It steals your humanity.

Time to go create future memories...


At 11:44 PM, Anonymous Charlotte rants...

so sad! you're a very kind person, i hope when i'm old, i'm lucky enough to meet a young gentleman like you while i'm out of my head and wandering about!


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