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October 7, 2022

The cold tickles my nose

7:40 a.m.
What is going on this morning? The cold is tickling my nose! I go to the café in the village to write like I do every Sunday. My old fuchsia clothes are still in season, just like my matching socks, but my sandals allow a cold breeze to reach in between my toes. Every time the fall season rolls around, I debate whether or not to get the living room fireplace working. Really! It’s already been five or six years since I last lit a fire in it. Perhaps I have become too lazy to store a full cord of wood in the garage and cart in 4 or 5 logs to place near the hearth each time. Every year I tell myself that all this trouble is not necessary for my happiness, that I have lost the phone number for the travelling chimney sweep, who, by the way, has not knocked on the door for some time.

And yet it fascinates me to hear the logs crackle. I also love having that smoky smell throughout my home. And the best part of the show: the many transformations of the flame changing from white to blue and then from orange to a light amber. I can still vividly remember the old days when the ember’s gentle crackle lulled me to sleep, my heart content and my cheeks warm.

8:48 a.m.
Did I tell you? I spent the end of the summer surrounded by babies: three small girls who are less than three months old, along with two of my great-grandsons. One is 7 months old and the other is a few months past his second year. The time gap between these tiny beings and me is vast. I was almost afraid of holding the girls while standing in case my knees failed me or my left wrist let go. What to do with this wobbly frame? The promised wisdom of age is locked in my head. Nowhere else is it useful to me.

The other night, we were all gathered at a restaurant. With the strollers, the portable chairs for the babies, the diaper bags, small bottles of breast milk – the whole shebang. The moms seemed quite comfortable, smiling and chatting away. Anyone who wanted could take their turn holding a baby, tickle a chin or caress a soft cheek. Sitting there quiet as a mouse, I realize to just what extent age is eating away at me. I really need to build a passageway in my head. A temporary beyond where I can take refuge when it pours. I want to live to 100, but will I ever unlearn to count?

10:05 a.m.
Yesterday I visited a funeral home in Saint-Lin at noon to pay my respects. Sylvain, the milkman at our very first small Cora restaurant that opened in 1987, had died suddenly on a golf course at 63. He was so young and seemingly healthy when an angel had come to get him. His wife, his three daughters and son, all dressed in black, stood guard in front of a lovely picture of the patriarch. Happy memories swirled about in my mind and moved me to tears. And wouldn’t you know, the stoic mother of the deceased started to console me. The room was full of friends and family grieving the loss of such a young man. The mood was lightened by several children scampering through the crowd of young and not-so-young friends of the family. Once again, this bold, strange life stretches out her large hands and takes hold of the flowers she covets most.

11:40 a.m.
Now with my own existence stretched like a long and calm river, I remember the time in my life when I experienced both true happiness in loving my young children while enduring a living hell because of their father’s cruelty. I was walking on a tightrope, and each day I dreamt of escaping. How could I ever fly away with so much baggage? The birds are much wiser than us humans, who have to spend the better part of our lives trying to win our freedom.

A life of misfortune is interminable for some, especially when wrapped in embellished stories. We so desperately want to praise our misfortune that we end up glorifying it. I did it myself some time ago when I wrote hundreds of pages to try to forget all the scorn heaped upon me by my spouse.

In 1967, the year of the International and Universal Exhibition in Montreal (or Expo 67 as it is known), whose theme was “A Man and His World,” I was a pretty 20-year-old, innocent and still ignorant of the facts of life. And yet, my years of classical studies had perhaps in some way prepared me for my dreadful destiny. I knew the history of Ancient Greece and its civilization, could name the gods and heroes from Greek-Roman mythology by heart and had studied the rise of the Kingdom of Macedonia. The land of the great, great ancestors of the man who was soon to become my husband.

All I wanted then was to rewrite Homer’s Odyssey. Instead I ended up entwined with a conqueror from the Kingdom of Macedonia who believed himself to be a descendant of Zeus. Unlike the legend, he turned out to be the hero of laziness, bragging and female conquests.