This week has been full of joys and sorrows. This week alone could mimic a lifetime of ups and downs.
On Wednesday, we learned that Earl's older brother, Art, had died. We learned less than a week before that he was sick but they weren't sure what was going on. "You may want to come home," his wife Shelley texted Earl. Then he was out of the hospital. Then back in. Tuesday night they texted. They had a diagnosis - histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that comes from bird or bat droppings. At least they could treat him.
|A family photo from 2006, Art giving his daughter Amy rabbit ears.|
The next morning, we got the call that he had died in the hospital that night. The fungus takes a toll on the heart and his had been weakened by a heart attack in his 40s. We were shocked to lose him and felt helpless, unable to hug his wife or daughter or son.
|At Grace's wedding. Art is in the pink shirt.|
Since I've known him, Art has been a fairly quiet, no-nonsense guy. He says it like it is. He had a lifelong love of Harley Davidson motorcycles and a core group of friends in the U.S. and Canada, which is where he met his wife. Earl has long admired his stoic brother for standing up for his principals. Art worked as an electrician and always did the job right, helping out friends and family when we needed it. He raised two amazing kids who both have advanced degrees. We're stunned that he's gone.
Another sorrow, that pales in comparison, is the loss of our cat Louis. We last saw him Sunday morning. I was preparing to teach so I let him out the balcony doors. He does a kind of parcours to jump from the wall to the post, back to a lower wall and onto the sidewalk. He gets wet cat food every morning and evening, and never misses a meal, so I expected he would be in the garden whenever Earl ventured down and opened the door. Louis's an outdoor cat, but continues to spend a lot of time indoors, coming and going at will.
|Louis came home with scratches on his nose one day.|
After I finished teaching, we got ready to go to the market in Esperaza, and I asked Earl if he'd fed Louis. He said no that Louis hadn't come back. That's not like Louis, so I started to worry. He always come back for food.
We had dinner with friends Sunday evening and after dinner we went walking around Quillan in search of Louis. We called and clucked. We showed pictures of Louis to French people who shrugged mostly.
|Louis on the perch that Earl created for him.|
I posted on Facebook in Quillan. I paid to have his picture shared on Pet Alert in our region of France. We put up posters around town. The baker's wife took down the poster in the window that warned people to wear masks and replaced it with the poster of missing Louis.
My friend Sue checked with the vets around town and farther.
Louis is neutered and chipped. If anyone finds him, they have our phone number. He isn't a rare breed, so I doubt anyone has stolen him.
Everyone has been incredibly helpful, telling us they might have seen Louis here or there. We always go in search of Louis. We looked in trash cans; we walked the train tracks. We call him when walking in the mountains far from home in hopes of finding him.
Last night, we were at a town festival when our friend Enzo said he'd seen a cat that looked just like Louis near another friend's house above town. We drove in the dark to the area and called for Louis. Earl walked up the hill; I walked down the hill. A cat came trotting around the corner toward me in the dark. His face was white with gray, just like Louis, but he was long-haired instead of short haired. He came to me and let me pet him. But he wasn't Louis.
People say don't give up hope. They tell me stories of cats that disappeared and came back a week later, a month later.
It seems silly to be so sad about a cat, but when it rains, I picture him somewhere outside afraid, maybe hurt, unable to come home. Because I'm sure if he could come home, he would.
Come home, Louis!
But this week has been full of joy as well. On Tuesday, we picked up Tucker and his friend Nathan at the Perpignan train station.
|Earl, Tucker and Nathan all wore white shirts on Tuesday.|
They've instantly become part of the Quillan social fabric, watching the semi-finals of the Euro soccer tournament, singing songs with the English and swimming in the pools of young Belgian women with vacation homes here.
|Watching the Italy-Spain game at the Glacier.|
We aren't doing a lot of sightseeing, but as long as they're happy, we're happy.
Then yesterday Grace, Jack and three of their friends arrived, flying from Dublin to Carcassonne. We needed two cars to pick them all up, and luckily my friend Derrick volunteered to chauffeur some of them back to Quillan. It's so great to have Grace and Jack back in France. I hope it feels like home to them.
And for us we're thrilled to get to meet some of the friends they've made in Dublin this year during the year of grad school.
Last night our friends Lou and Steve bravely invited all 9 of us to their house for dinner. We made quite a train walking up there carrying wine, more wine, hamburgers and chicken to barbecue, pasta salad and cake. When you bring 9 people for dinner, you have to divide and conquer.
|Our crew without Steve and Lou|
After a delicious dinner and much wine, we played a game called Hammerschlagen, which has become a tradition at Steve and Lou's house. It has to do with hitting a nail with one blow each turn and the first person plus the last person to drive their nails into the tree stump lose. It's definitely a dangerous game.
|Nathan, in a sweatshirt borrowed from our friend Kris, takes aim.|
|Grace takes aim as Tucker watches.|
After dinner, we wandered down to the town square for some music. We didn't stay long because Grace and her friends were tired from getting to the airport at 4 a.m., and then our friend Enzo said he might have seen Louis so we set off to search for him.
Somehow, we ended up with a picture on the town Facebook page anyway.
And Saturday, the Tour de France is ending in Quillan. We're all excited to see the caravan, the riders and enjoy the festivities.
My heart is filled with joy to have two of my kids in town, just getting to hang out with them. But I'm sad for Earl and Art's wife Shelley and his two kids. And, of course, we're sad not to have Louis here to share in the family time.