Granddaddy slowly drifts off to sleep.
At 1 AM, finding it difficult not to do the same, I finally walk over to the corner of his hospital room and pick up the worn book that has been laying by the sink. I ignore that he took it from the retirement home library (the telltale blue sticker on the book’s bind gives him away), and quietly vow to reimburse Goodwin House for this missing addition their “Large Print” collection so valued by their residents.
Granddaddy has always bragged about my knowledge of French; our mutual love of foreign lands and languages has long served to strengthen the bond between us. Thus, the title of the book seems appropriate: The Last Time I Saw Paris.
Grandmommy would probably want me to give it back. I’ve parted with his gifts in the past – trinkets rarely valued over $.5, mardi gras beads stolen from the donation table at church or flowers taken from arrangements at fundraising dinners, always accompanied with a slight chuckle and a “don’t say I never gave you anything” warning. This one here, though, differs from the rest. As one of the last books he touched, it gives me comfort, and you’d be hard pressed to pry it from my hands.
I slowly open its slightly worn cover, bringing my eyes back and forth between the pages in front of me and the heart monitor beside his bed.
My mind drifts off to Gogul’s first opening of his namesake’s short stories in Jhumpa Lahiri’s famous novel, or even the last blog post I translated for Vinvin, where a bookmark with a bobble so delicately marks the last words his father read.
As a professor emeritus, I can only wonder what last lessons my grandfather may hold for me... and so I read, immersing myself in lecture through the wee hours of the morning.
“Caressing her, he was aware that her soft, sensual body was not like Britt’s or any other twenty-something he had known. Yet wasn’t that also what he loved about her?
Yes, he told himself as he grasped her to him. An overwhelming yes. Her arms were wrapped around his neck and her legs gripped him as though she never wanted to let go. Their bodies were hot for each other. Oh, yes, he thought, thrusting deeper into her. “Yes, I love you, Lara,” he cried out…” – p. 183
You read that right.
The Last Time I Saw Paris is far from an in-depth examination of the Mitterand years or a questioning of the
Instead, it recounts the trashy romance tale of a 40-something cougar whisking her deck repairman off to
Laughing quietly so as not to wake Granddaddy up, I realize that I wouldn’t want it any other way, that his flippant love of a good dirty joke when Grandmommy’s left the room, his carte blanche for me to become a housewife after financing my $50k/year education, his encouragement to love and not take life too seriously have contributed to my tendency to quote Cosmo and The Economist in the same breath, or to peruse Craigslist personal encounters as a guilty pleasure during final exams.
Most importantly, his sense of humor and love for guilty pleasure has given me the strength to sit by his hospital bed and laugh through tears of joy, rather than grief.
As I recount the storyline to her the next morning, it visibly embarrasses Grandmommy, who wishes he would have chosen something with “higher moral standards” to stimulate my young, innocent heart and mind.
She reaches the conclusion that he must not have read it before handing it over, guided only by the title and my love of all things French.
Nodding, I slip the book with its inscription back into my purse, and suggest we get some breakfast before Granddaddy wakes up from nighttime dreams.