There’s an elderly French couple living in my building I’ve come to know.
They walk arm in arm, taking the air, moored happily in each other’s longtime company.
I love how they look, elegantly plain without fuss, his white hair kept slightly long, combed back with a perfect part. Hers, a matching shade just gracing her shoulders, a glimpse of her femme fatale at rest, more than gone.
They have no children, except for Montague, their Maltese, they treat like a son who walks nobly beside them fully aware of his importance as the second male of the family.
Seeming ageless, I was surprised to hear Monty developed arthritis in his back legs and couldn’t walk, now being pushed in a pram, pharaoh style so he can peer out on their strolls.
After just seeing him in his navy-striped turtleneck, as regal as ever, I was shocked learning he had died of a sudden seizure.
With my arms filled with early lilac, I made a condolence call.
The Missus solemnly answered, no lights on except for a candle where Monty’s ashes sat in a pewter urn, with his picture next to it.
“Where’s your husband,” I asked, since, I’ve never seen one without the other.
She started to cry. “My Augustin won’t eat, won’t sleep. His heart, it is broken. He won’t even weep…he sits like a statue. I am so worried for him.”
I asked if I could see him. She nodded, leading me to their bedroom where he indeed sat, motionless by the window.
“It’s your neighbor,” I said softy, still not sure what I would say, but then, words came.
“I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved him. I loved him too,” I said, our grief entwined. “I remember the first day we met…when I asked to pet Montague, you said no, he might bite a stranger? But after sniffing me all over, he licked my hand as if to say, the girl’s alright. Do you remember that?”
He turned and said, “I do. He liked you right away.”
Then his wife, watching from the doorway said, “It’s why we too liked you right away. Montague…he was our protector.”
“And you his,” I said, “and he’d want to know, the two people he loved most would be okay even without him. He was such a happy dog, and so lucky to be so loved.”
The silence in the room made me think my attempt had failed, but when I turned to go, the husband said, “Please, we will walk you to the door.”
He embraced his wife tenderly, wiping a tear rolling down her cheek, then took my hand, kissing it like the true Frenchman that he is, as I, alas, took my leave with love and loss in place of lilac.
Hope, however, rode in on her steed because…
Three days later, there they were arm and arm, taking the air, moored happily, once again, in each other’s longtime company.