Another neighbor of ours has died. He's the seventh or eighth neighbor who has left this world since we came to live here a little more than 15 years ago. Four of those neighbors were people who lived to be 90 years old or older. The others were about my age. Remember, our neighborhood or "hamlet" consists of just nine houses. I learned yesterday that one of the nine is on the market. Now another will be sold.
Daniel and his wife Andrée, who lived two doors down the road from us, bought an old ruin of a house here in this hamlet back in about 1970. They spent many summers restoring the place. They showed us pictures. They told me that when they bought the house, it consisted on one big room and a rudimentary kitchen. Nine people lived in that room! Daniel and Andrée transformed it into a beautiful place. I happened to take a photo of it a few days ago. Here it is:
Andrée (I guess the English version of her name would be Andrea) passed away in 2015. She had stomach cancer, and she lived for just two or three months after the cancer was diagnosed. She once said that as a young woman, she had been a factory worker. Then she got a job in the offices at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. I wrote about her and her funeral here.
Daniel was a baker, but not the kind who runs his own shop. He worked in an "industrial" bakery in the Paris area. After years of working in and breathing down tons of flour dust, he refused to even consider ever eating bread again. He and Andrée lived in an apartment in the suburbs northwest of Paris, and they had this house here in the Saint-Aignan area as their lifetime project. They moved here more or less permanently about 10 years ago, but they never got around to selling their apartment in the Paris region. One daughter survives them. She lives nearby. She intends to sell the house here, I'm told.
Daniel was a couple of years younger than I am, I believe. After Andrée died at age 68, his health seemed to decline steadily. He walked with a cane. He still drove his car, and I ran into him at the supermarket fairly frequently. He always had a smile and a handshake to offer, though I don't think he knew my name. He seemed to know Walt and me only as « les Américains ». One day a few months ago I saw him at SuperU and he looked terrible. He had a big bruise on his face and he was obviously not steady on his feet. He told me he had fallen and hurt himself, at home.
He talked more with the other neighbors than with us. This past summer, he told at least two of our neighbors, who had noticed he'd lost weight, that he had stopped eating. He had no appetite and no ambition. His only wish was to « rejoindre sa femme » — to be with his wife again. So I guess he believed in the afterlife. He got his wish. He died at the hospital. A neighbor who knew them well told Daniel and Andrée's daughter that she can console herself with the thought of her parents being reunited.