Prologue in Paris
“Bonjour” is all she said.
Maybe it was something in the tone of her voice, the look in her eyes, her smile. As they say, she had me at hello. As she extended her hand for mine the question in the back of my mind was answered. Yes! She was talking to me.
My heart was pounding. How could this be happening? Did she have some kind of magical power? I had fallen under her spell. Her hand was small, and surprisingly cold. I thought of the old saying, “cold hands, warm heart.” I returned her greeting. “Hello” is all I said, then “Comment vas tu” came out as my limited high-school-learned French kicked in all these years later.
Wow! I must be dreaming. But, no. This is happening. With a single touch I’m feeling attraction and affection. What’s left but pleasure and passion?
When in France…
Then my wife gave me a nudge from behind and we boarded the tour bus.
Ever since my wife died a couple years ago, my life has taken a turn in a completely new direction. My son moved away with his girlfriend, got married and had a couple of kids. The house full of stuff was no longer necessary, so I sold all of it. Any work I was doing was now done online, from anywhere in the world. So, I moved to the South of France and opened a small brew-pub. I call it Un Voyou.
Every morning I get up early. The first thing I brew is some coffee. Then I tend to my other brewing: beer. Every day there’s something to do: brewing, fermenting, packaging, and ordering ingredients. Sometimes I imagine this is how the Belgian Monks lived. Not bad at all. Then, I walk to one of the cafes nearby to get lunch or just relax with some fresh fruit, a cheese sandwich, and some wine.
Afternoons on clear days I open the front door so I can hear the waves and take a deep breath of the sea air as a gentle breeze washes away the mustiness of yesterday. I can see the sea from the end of the bar where I sit to welcome guests. Some are regulars, some are traveling from all over the world.
The best part of my day, other than the beer, is when I talk with my guests and get to know them. If we enjoy each other’s company in that moment, I ask if I can take a picture.
I label the picture with their first names and the date, print it out and add it to my Rogues Gallery along the long wall that runs from the front to the back. You have to look closely to find anyone who might be famous. Most are just regular people like me and you. They’re all living their adventures from moment to moment with no grand plans other than to simply enjoy life from day to day.
I make a few notes on the backs of the pictures. Maybe one day I’ll write a book.
Every evening one of the local restaurants supplies a tray of food that I share with my guests. I’m sure you’re wondering if those French chefs and their souffles and sauces are really the best in the world. Now I know. The answer is a resounding yes!
When we’re done eating, I take out my guitar and play some gentle tunes. Sometimes a friend or two will stop in to play along. Eventually, everyone joins in by singing along to some popular songs.
On my day off I spend time with my friends at their restaurants or on the water in one of their boats. We make plans for the holidays and the summer.
Maybe I’ll start writing that book.
I end the day, not too late, with a cappuccino and a small sweet French pastry. I will be up early the next day to do this all again. I wish you could see me now.
Aegean Sea Adventure
She had taken my breath away when we first met. She was a guide on a city tour bus. I was touring. After my wife passed away, I moved to the Cote d’Azure and opened a little brew pub. She showed up one day, quite unexpectedly. We both froze in a welcome stare that neither of us had felt in a very long time. This time we were able to take some time to sit and talk.
Turns out, she owned that tour bus, and many more. She had built the tour company over many years. And with the profits she was able to purchase a boat. I had poured everything I had into my pub, both time and money. She genuinely appreciated what I had built and had the palate to appreciate my brewing prowess. When she invited me to go boating, I was all in.
My friends had given me a taste of those day trips along the coast. To do the same with her would be a double treat. We went down to the dock after I closed up for the night. It turned out that her “boat” was actually a 30-foot yacht. This was going to be some three-hour tour!
She told me how she’d sail it back and forth across the Mediterranean between Greece and France on quite a regular basis, on her own. She inherited a Greek isle when her father passed away. But even with all this to keep her busy, she was alone. Until tonight. I thought it would just be an evening trip along the coast, but we got to talking, and drinking, and the next thing I knew we were at her Aegean Island.
So, how is it we happened to meet? How could someone so desirable as she be alone? What could she see in this old man living out his remaining years without any real purpose? Perhaps we had much in common. Was it our losses, our achievements, and our simple approach to enjoying our remaining years?
But there I go, overthinking it. Our daily tasks were enjoyable, and we both took simple pleasure in that. Together, we found another way to share happiness for a while.
It was getting dark, so we ended our snorkeling and got back on the boat. A light rain had started, and I felt the need for a shower. She handed me some soap. We bathed in the rain.
Then, she sat down on the large, cushioned seat at the back of the boat, patted it, and gave me a smile. I joined her.
Clearly, the story is not yet over. We hope the next chapter of Peter’s “memoir” appears here in OLLI Connects. — Editors
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Peter Terzian began his career as a school media and technology teacher in 1980 and retired in 2017. He started brewing a few years ago as a hobby and is now OLLI-USF’s resident expert on turning natural ingredients into tasty beverages. He enjoys volunteering for arts, education, and technology projects. He teaches for OLLI and contributes to OLLI Connects and the OLLI-USF Facebook Group.
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