First congratulations on having managed to outlive most men by 17 years. Apart from good genes, what was your secret of such longevity? It couldn’t have been inhaling dust for decades as a soot-faced laborer deep in the coal mines of the Midlands, nor your love affair with diabetes-enhancing biscuits and sugary tea, let alone your addiction to “the chip pan,” frying anything fatty that you could fry, day in, night out, nor that damn smoking of British fags which you refused to give up.
Bonjour Monsieur d’Angers, working poor but loved
Born into a poor French family in Angers, the city of flowers, loved by your parents and Mumut, Zizi, BonBon, and Violet, your cats; Rigaol, your dog; and Jacko, a wild crow—you grew up, unaware of the 485 soldiers who on April 16, 1850, a terrible, thunderstormy, rain-swept day, lockstep marched across the suspension bridge of Angers, realizing too late that the rhythmic pounding by their heavy leather boots made the corroded, old, trestled structure swing wildly and collapse, dragging 226 young men and their dreams into a watery grave.
Bonjour Monsieur d’Angers, anglophile lover, dad, and granddad
A handsome, anglophile Frenchman, you fell in love with a stunning young British woman during World War II. You crossed the Channel for good and the two of you brought three children into this world—Stephen, Brian, and Susan—and created a working class Versailles for your growing family: you and your wife gave the youngsters not only a safe and solid roof, food, and clothing, but the kind of warmth, tenderness, and joy that made your brood a happier family than all the royals from the House of Windsor and Bourbon combined.
Bonjour Monsieur d’Angers, soot-covered miner and widower
Although you knew that your lungs would become damaged badly by drilling deep in some Yorkshire mine, you persevered, night-shifting, and came home from work sweaty, with only the white of your eyes showing, your face black, covered in soot and buoyant endurance. You never gave up. Even years later, when you lost your wife, way before her time, you did not mope and do bloody nothing, but you served as a special granddad for your four grand kids in whose veins some of the ancient blood of Anvers will flow for the rest of their lives.
Au revoir, Monsieur d’Angers, you European digger and giver of life
Even though I have never met you in person, I’ve been blessed by the friendship of one of your three tykes who saw you, every morning, coming back from the graveyard shift at the mine. No longer a kid, she’s as caring a mensch as you once were. Like you, she left her country of birth and now resides in another new world, taking care of nameless wild cats and dogs, even squirrels and crows. Monsieur d’Angers, when I’ll walk slowly across the suspension bridge of Anvers one day, trembling, I shall think of you and yours with joy.