A new life

Times have changed. Mme El retired from active life when her husband left. There’s a new boss in the house, her daughter-in-law Léonine, of Danish origin, brought up in Belgium, and Mme El is reduced to the status of ‘honorary president’ as I call it. She now shares what is generally the lot of the elderly: in her room, on her own, not able to move much, no occupation, no incentive to do anything, except watch passers-by in the street and there aren’t many, shouted at for falling asleep at times, her material needs impeccably attended to by her daughter-in-law, self-proclaimed ‘salariée de ma belle-mère’, my mother-in-law’s employee, because the state makes a payment for such care. Mme El is unwilling to make any effort and calls herself a ‘fainéante’, (‘faire néant’),
laziness, but at her age, after her life, is she not entitled to it ?
Does anybody appreciate the efforts she does make when challenged to read or write or obliged to get up and move about? Did she not do her share of caring for others without fuss nor pay, a list could be made. Did she not work hard all her life? Léonine tells me, that’s a myth. Asked whether anything positive can be said, the answer is straight forward and she adds that she’s known her for forty-two years. I must believe the witnesses who were there before me and hear from neighbour Rose who has also known Mme El for many years that she is a ‘brave, brave femme’, a gallant, valiant, courageous woman always willing to help others, Rose’s mother for one was a beneficiary, while neighbour Alice and other villagers admire her for having enabled her son to go to
university and study the subject he liked, music.

Mme El acquired her daughter-in-law as a young girl with a year left at school and her son barely finished with his training.
She took in the young people and cared for them in their early years until they were financially independent. Fortunately it all turned out well, she says, and he has to live with her, doesn’t he, Mme El makes every allowance for that, be glad they get on, it’s in her son’s interest, and she recognized on numerous occasions that Léonine was ‘vaillante’, hard-working and efficient, while shuddering at the thought of living under the same roof. But isn’t it much better to be in the family home than in a place for the elderly? Mme El isn’t dead sure and doesn’t have negative things to say about an old people’s home where she had stayed for some weeks, but, she says, obviously there wouldn’t be the money to pay for that.