Posted at 9:00
Saturday 9 April 2022. Rouyn-Noranda. In a small café, before returning to Val-d’Or. There are no empty tables for Steve, my tour manager and me. There are two armchairs on the edge of the window, on a shelf facing the street, where a couple in their seventies is having a coffee. I tell myself it’s not ideal, but I’m not capricious. I sit next to the woman and smile at her. She looks at me with her delicate eyes that express my amazement. “Yes, it’s me. Her husband told me he didn’t expect to see me this morning. I told him I didn’t expect to see him this morning either.
“We don’t bother you anymore.”
“Well, let’s see, you don’t bother me. What’s your name? I ask him.
Her name is Ginette Ménard. He is Laurent Lessard. They betray the perception that one can have of a frail and slow elderly person. Both exude slowness accelerated by excess energy and good health.
He tells me that she has worked all her life as a telephone operator at Cégep de l’Abitibi. She loved her work, her young people, being a woman who made more money than her husband.
“It is true that you have made more money than me. And she didn’t bother me, ”Laurent exclaims, with bright blue eyes, following his wife’s remarks.
Laurent, 76, worked for 45 years at Laiterie Dallaire, which was founded in 1932.
“I was making $ 35 a week, ma’am.”
“How did you live? I ask him, yelling a little too much.
“A pint of milk cost 11 cents, bread 18 cents, and the rent was $ 65 a month. ”
I felt like I was watching a totally fictional costume film. The more I listened and listened to their story, the more I felt like an extension of their life. I have become the result of their time and collective efforts.
Noting their particular joy at existing, I spontaneously asked them: “You must have had a nice pension? ”
“The machine that cleans the food and produces it had a manufacturing defect. Everything that was made (milk, yogurt, cheese) was ruined. We all lost our jobs and I fell into depression. “
I did not know that men of his time could assume the word “depression”.
“I can’t invent other words. I was down. I didn’t tell the others. I wasn’t ashamed, but I didn’t want to talk about it specifically. ”
I saw Ginette’s eyes light up. As if it were his cue. His reflector on, she advanced to the front of the stage with shaky confidence, but she tried, grabbed her mic very slowly and it was her moment.
“I got him out of there. I couldn’t bear to see him on the sofa waiting for life to pass. I told him: swarm or rust. You will come with me to my online dance lessons! ”
Laurent starts laughing, looks tenderly at his wife, takes her hand, kisses her and looks at me sincerely, saying: “The online dance brought me out of my depression. I hated dancing, but there were women, I was happy. “
And I confirm that it always has been. These two humans gave Steve and I the pleasure of talking to each other for almost an hour and a half. We wanted to know everything. Their children, their grandchildren, health, the difference between generations, love, sex, everything that I would have asked a ghost of the past.
I felt the privilege I had of being able to hear true stories that took place a few years before my existence. She touched me. I felt that spending time with them would give me the energy to move forward in my world.
“Are you in a senior residence? I asked them without tact, without shame.
It was Laurent who took the lead.
“No, even if we failed. One day, a friend told us she had won a weekend in a residence. Like the lottery. Instead of earning money, she won a stay in a CHSLD. She gave it to us. We didn’t jump on it, but we wanted to know what it was. We liked it 15 minutes later, we thought we were still good together, alone. “
The generosity of these anecdotes moved me. I thought it was nice of them to take the time to analyze their past, their failures, their joys. I was really touched.
Before I left them, I asked them if I could take a picture with them to post it. To show people who my new Rouyn friends are.
“I’d rather send you a picture of us at 50.” That’s where I would have stopped everything in my physical transformation, ”Ginette told me with a little shyness, but a lot of confidence.
I cannot contradict or convince her. I wouldn’t want to break the fragile trust I had just created with them.
We hugged them, thanked them and went back to Val-d’Or, Steeve and me.
When I think of Laurent and Ginette, I tell myself that aging is the phase that comes after precious memories. We can just slip towards the end thinking that the beginning was awe-inspiring.
Thanks, Ginette and Laurent. You did me a lot of good.