Tag Archives: Jacques Barchilon

An (Almost) Unknown Moment in the Life Of General De Gaulle, by Jacques Barchilon

free french (2)
Jack Lawrence on the jeep he drove in London during WWII

This memoir is a guest, posthumous, sharing of my father’s wartime memoirs published originally in French and in the journal of the Free French Forces called Le Lien. My father and I, along with my brother Paul Barchilon, worked on translating these memoirs while my father was still alive. The last few pages I had to translate on my own as he had already died.

An (almost) unknown moment in the life of General de Gaulle

By Jacques Barchilon

(Born Casablanca, Morocco April 7, 1923 – Died, Bayside, California, USA, June 19, 2018) 

This translation is from two issues of Le Lien and includes two articles, #28 July 2012 and #29 November 2013 that have Papa’s war-time stories originally in French.  Nicole and Paul both worked with Papa during the last few months of his life. He translated for us from the French and we typed his words.  The first twelve pages of this narrative were done in this way.. After Jacques’ death, Nicole finished this translation, without Papa’s voice as guide and gauge, but his spirit has hopefully come through regardless.

The following narrative is a firsthand account From Jacques Barchilon, who was a young man and soldier during the French Resistance. An 89-year-old man, the author of this article remembers having seen General de Gaulle in Gibraltar, on the 29th of May, 1943 in the following circumstances.

Four days before, on the 25th of May, in the black of night around 10:30 p.m. on the beach in Tangiers, where I was living with my family, in the expectation of an emigration visa to the U.S. I had jumped with two other escapees into a Portuguese fishing boat, secretly bound for Gibraltar. For the past few months I was in contact with the head of the Gaullist network in Tangiers (we can call her now, after so many years, Madame Many). She was the wife of a doctor by the same name. Without understanding it very well, as a young student of twenty years old, I was already a member of the French Resistance. Madame Many then organized the escape towards Gibraltar. It was necessary to leave secretly because Tangiers was at the time under Spanish control (Frankist/Fascist government of General Franco). I mention these circumstances to give an idea of the somewhat poisonous atmosphere of a city supposedly neutral but which was, in reality, sympathizing with Germany and the Vichy regime.

Nevertheless, after a rather dangerous night crossing (with terrible sea-sickness, bad weather, and all lights extinguished), in the morning of the 26th of May the little Portuguese fishing boat we boarded was accosted by a security ship of the British Navy.  One of their officers welcomed us, rather warmly, and the weather became magnificent. The harbor of Gibraltar was filled with British war ships, which dominated our miniscule fishing boat. I noticed an enormous aircraft carrier whose name escapes me, (Arc Royale, Prince Royal?). I was happy to find myself in a world at war and glad to have left behind me the school-like routine of the Lycée Français of Tangiers. I was ready to join the Free French Forces.

Once landed I was led into  the British barracks where I was immediately transformed into an allied soldier, duly dressed in the traditional British battle dress in khaki wool. This kind of get-up was rather warm in this last week of May. Through the streets filled with English soldiers much more comfortably dressed in tropical shorts,  I was led to the top of the city in an office where I met two French policemen, who looked like ordinary French officers. The two gendarmes gave me a form which I was supposed to fill and sign. It was my “promesse d’engagement dans les forces Françaises Libres, a dater du 26 mai 1943.” (promise of commitment to the Free French Forces, as of May 26, 1943)
All I had to do now was to wait to embark in the direction of England, where I eventually signed other documents about my volunteer enlistment for the duration of the war plus three months, Army Number of the FFL (Force Française Libres) 55, 742. I was onboard an American transport ship called the Santa Rosa, amongst a large contingent of soldiers, perhaps 3,000 ready for England. That was my case, but on this ship, there was also a future leader of the French resistance called Pierre Lefranc. We were not all soldiers for the Free French Forces, rather a cosmopolitan group of Americans, Poles, and other Europeans. From the deck, I was admiring the beautiful bay of Gibraltar when all of a sudden, while leaning barely on the bannister, I saw a small group of French officers on the gangplank going up on our ship, the tallest of them was General de Gaulle.

I was then, a barely twenty-year-old soldier without great knowledge of historical circumstances of the war; at the time, I had no idea of what the general could be doing in Gibraltar, precisely on that day. Why had he come aboard? Did he want to talk to the soldiers and officers ready to go to England? Many years later, thanks to the reading of the excellent war memoirs of General Pierre Billotte, I learned of the early morning of the 29th of May, 1943. General de Gaulle was flying from London en route for Algeria with the intention to create and direct with general Gireaux the CFLN (Comité Français de Libération Nationale). In his memoir, Billotte wrote:

“the 29th of May in the morning we say goodbye to London. De Gaulle is accompanied by Massigli, Philip, Palewski and myself. We leave for Gibraltar by means of a modest bi-motor. The Germans would have had an idea of our passage over the ocean in Spain, would they have made a mistake of a day. The  fact is that an aircraft similar to ours but going in the inverse direction would be shot down. On board, was the admirable English actor, Leslie Howard.” (pp 248 and 253)

In his famous memoirs (Paris: Edition Gallimard-Pleiade, 2000) General de Gaulle does not mention his Gibraltar stop-over. Without knowing the book of Pierre Billotte, one could believe that he arrived in Algeria directly from London. Here is a passage from General de Gaulle: “the 30th of May, noon, an aircraft of the fighting French with Marmier as the pilot, we land at Boufarik, an airport near Algeria” (p.365).
Looking at these passages, essentially that of Pierre Billotte, it is clear that the general and his cabinet of four members must have spent the night in Gibraltar. I mention these details because, insignificant as they may be, they matter because they concern historical figures.

From Issue: No. 29, Le Lien, November 2013: Souvenirs of daily life in England and London in the Free French Forces, 1943, 1944.

First Weeks:  I

The Santa Rosa American Troop transport having left Gibraltar the 30th of May 1943, after a crossing in a convoy,  arrived in the great bay of Greenock, near Glasgow Scotland. It was then the 6th or the 7th of June. We landed and immediately boarded a special train ready to take us to London. It was cold. The kind assistance of the English Red Cross warmed us up with our first cup of strong British tea with sugar and milk. We left immediately, arriving late in the evening in London. We were lodged at the “Patriotic School,” a group of large buildings in the south of the capital, in the district of Camberwell. There were luxurious accommodations. In the big meeting room, a placard informed us that “We must be patient. We are welcomed by the General de Gaulle,” but were told that “England is a fortress defending itself at its doors.” The placard is signed by General de Gaulle himself. A few days later, the French singer Germaine Sablon entertains us with patriotic songs. I remember: “Paris is ours, every street, every house and not for the enemy.” In spite of this all, most of us were a little discouraged by so many trials, so many dangers in the resistance and in our escape and then, there we were, still more or less prisoners under control of the British government. We were quizzed and interrogated by different officers of the intelligence service. We didn’t understand all this distrust, but were glad to provide the English Intelligence Service with information on the German army in France or North Africa. Some of us could even pinpoint locations of German airports.


After two weeks at the Patriotic School, we were on leave for two or three days in London and then were transported to the boot camp of Camberley in a suburb of London where we really began our military life in the Free French Forces.

II

The Free French volunteers contributed to the resistance and to the liberation in their work in London and England in 1943, 44. May the reader forgive me for writing in the first person. In the enormous historical background where great actors, great statesmen work for the liberation of Europe, the modest soldier that I was, is making his modest contribution. With a memory better than mine, other veterans have also made more interesting contributions (see attached bibliography).

The Camberley Camp
Camberley is a little pleasant town in the county of Surrey. It is about 50 miles, one hour by train from the London station of Waterloo. This is the location of the military academy of Sandhurst, the English equivalent of the American West Point. The majority of British statesmen and generals of Great Britain, including Winston Churchill, are former students of Sandhurst.

The basic location of the Free French was on a large plateau, well above the city. We were under order of colonel Renouard. Our barracks were a vast settlement of Nissen Huts (semi-circular shelters of corrugated metal). General De Gaulle mentions our troops at Camberley in his memoir by saying:  “at the camp of Camberley the colonel Renouard introduces me to a battalion of infantry, a small artillery unit, the telecommunication units, etc….Every six months a group of soldiers graduates.” (Paris: Gallimard, Pleiade, Edition 2000, p.242).

The officers and non-coms do their best to form various promotions every six months. Some of my friends had a very distinguished career after graduating from Camberley. My great friend Serge Cany, from Madagascar, graduated as a sergeant, and eventually became a lieutenant. He distinguished himself in the campaign to liberate the south of France. He has a mention in the book Compagnons de la Libération (Jean Christophe Notin, 1061 Compagnons, Paris: Perrin, 2000, p. 741).

Among the officers entrusted to our training, I remember the name of Mantoux. There were two Mantoux brothers, sons of the professor and diplomat who was an interpreter between Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson after the first World War. Military training is often a painful routine, but there were a few pleasant moments; in particular the 14th of July, 1943. The Free French marched through the streets in front of friendly Londoners, as we are on duty in front of the statue of Maréchal Foch, behind the Victoria railroad station. I am proud that I was a member of this company, of my own volition, at that historic honoring of France, occupied currently, but honoring the liberation of  the Bastille on the 14th of July, 1789. This was the last parade of the Free French in London. After the short service, we were free and could stroll in the quiet sunny capital.
The summer of 1943 was very pleasantly warm; the afternoons were long. We could relax at the Camberley swimming pool and playing sports was encouraged. We were even allowed to wear civilian clothes outside the camp in order to play tennis. There was a nice library of donated French books.

We were roused daily from sleep by the trumpet blaring the famous and ubiquitous “Reveille.” Every day after Reveille, we have a period of exercise on the parade ground. One of our southern officer’s could never pronounce it right and calls it the “paragroum.” We were barely awake and very high in the blue sky, we saw the white tracers of planes on their way to devastate Germany. We heard the hardly muffled sounds of large American bomber planes, called “flying fortresses.”
The camp was comfortable and well warmed with coal. However, the cooking was often very bad. I remember having been sent to the infirmary because the military doctors were afraid of an epidemic of dysentery.

Another form of sickness was depression and lethargy, among us, was common. The time was long and we were impatient to start active training and it weighed on us. The two chaplains (whose names I’ve forgotten) were here to cheer us up once in a while. The  more paternal of the two, said, “Boredom is a form of depression.” The other chaplain, whom I talked to surprised me by saying that I received a lot of mail. This seemed suspicious to him. Needless to say he was also censoring all of our mail. The reason why I received a lot of mail is because in Tangiers, neutral territory, where my family was living, there was a little post office which happened to be British. The proximity of Gibraltar made the routing of mail easier. In general, soldiers whose families were in North or South America could also receive a lot of mail, even if all letters were militarily censored. Needless to say, very little mail came from Nazi occupied Europe.

At the end of our basic training we were finally scattered all over the map, duly provided with a military British driving permit, I was assigned to London, which meant, I had to learn to drive on the left.


LIFE IN LONDON
January 1st, 1944  is an unforgettable date for me. With three or four other comrades, we emerge from the Waterloo railroad station. It was raining and we made our way slowly through the slippery London streets, on our young shoulders, we balanced the heavy British duffel bag. We arrived at Dolphin Square, Greenville House. S.W.1 in the Victoria Station-Belgravia district. We had to register at the office of the Free French. I was not told then, but through other drivers, I learned that the young female drivers were no longer assigned to work with the French officers, and that they (the French officers) were especially forbidden from going to their rooms to wake them up, for obvious reasons.

Male drivers were a safer choice. We were moving between the garage and the headquarters of General de Gaulle at Carleton Garden. The officer in charge of the chauffeur service surprised us, pleasantly. He told  us that in over-populated London there is no room for military barracks for foreign soldiers. This is why we had to be lodged and take rooms among the civilian population. We were given 25 shillings each for renting rooms. This can seem somewhat surprising, like a special favor, but in reality, our lodging endowment did not allow us to be lodged in an apartment. We could only be in a room, there was no great luxury. For the noon meal we had a free Dolphin square canteen. For every other meal we had to make do on our own. We didn’t have much money and looked for cheap meals for students.

London was then an enormous cosmopolitan city bursting with allied soldiers of all kinds: Poles, Belgian, Dutch, etc… These soldiers were going to different paying canteens for their meals, where we can sometimes afford to go as well. The American canteens were only open to Americans. We used to say: “The Americans are over-fed, over-sexed, over-paid and over here.” (added by Nicole and Jacques in 2018).

Two kinds of visions dominate my memory, on one hand the complete black-out; you had to learn to navigate in the dark among unlighted streets bumping into all sorts of people in the dark, not to say anything about prostitutes. On the other hand, the memories of subway stations (underground) where poor families were sleeping directly on the ground, sheltering themselves from constant bombing.

Our work was at once serious and important. At seven in the morning we had to pick up our service cars in the garage of Dolphin Square, on the edge of the river. We were to pick up various officers in their apartments and drive them to Carleton Garden, or elsewhere according to their assignments. In the basement of Carleton Garden there was a waiting room for drivers on duty. After six p.m., we had to return our little service cars to the garage; these were either requisitioned service cars or camouflaged Renaults or Peugeots. When we were on night duty, driving was difficult in the black-out (no headlights to guide us in the black night). I remember in the obscurity of a certain evening, a tall and distinguished looking gentleman in civilian clothes asked me to wait in a parking lot of a building I didn’t know. This was General François Astier. He guided me slowly to a parking spot and asked me to wait. After 45 minutes I saw him on top of a stairway shaking the hand of a man round and smiling dressed in a kind of mechanic’s outfit. It was Winston Churchill. I remember a few other night’s service, two or three officers whispered delicately behind me, they did not specifically give me a destination, they simply told me “turn left, turn right, etc…” I didn’t know where I was, some secret destination. The next day, a comrade driver, more experienced than me, explained it to me. “You have driven an agent, having spent his last night in London, before being parachuted into France.”

After a few weeks we spent more time waiting in Carleton Garden, but also in the district of Mayfair. It was the headquarters of General Koenig. General Koenig was in charge of all secret service in occupied France. In his office there was a room full of advanced radio equipment broadcasting secret messages to French agents.

All the officers who were driving through London showed a certain sympathy towards their chauffeurs (“since when have you been in England, where’s your family, etc..”). It was obvious they were happy about their military assignment and that it was important. I noticed that they had frequent rendezvous to a certain address, well-kept guarded in the American army. They told me, “Go to Kingston.” I soon knew by heart the way to Kingston. It’s only after the war, fifty years later, that I learned the secret of Kingston. It was there that the supreme commander General Eisenhower had located his headquarters, in a quiet suburb, because he prefered the quiet of the suburb.

I was quite aware that these officers were preparing the immanent D-Day landing. They were responsible for the liaison with the resistance in France. Among these officers some were unforgettable, like the American John Hasey. When I asked him “what is this decoration green with black stripes?” he answered proudly: “C’est la Croix de la Liberation” (It is the cross of the liberation of France). Among many others: Bernard Dupérier, the squadron commander, and especially the late Étienne Mantoux (dead in Germany, a few days before the end of the war). He is fondly remembered for his activity during the liberation of Paris. He was the brother of Lieutenant Mantoux of Camberley, also the son of the translator of President Woodrow Wilson, many years before, at the end of World War I.

D-Day soon arrived. The officers went back and forth between Normandy and London. They come back with Camemberts, which they graciously give to the staff still working in London. At first I didn’t know how to eat them, until I was told that the crust was also edible.

Here we are now; this is the pièce de résistance of these memories. My microscopic contribution to the liberation of France. I’m telling things I did not quite understand at the time: simple private that I was then.

During two or three days after D-Day, around the 15th-20th of June, I heard everybody saying, quite frequently: “Monsieur Coulet!, Monsieur Coulet!” without knowing who he was. Here is how I understood without understanding, as I finished my work at Carleton Gardens, the motorcyclist picking me up told me, “Get in the back of me, we have an important mission, urgent!” We arrived at the garage, where they showed me one of our Peugeot light duty trucks in which there was something which I recognize like the twin wheels of a French car. I was told of immediate departure: “you’re going to Portsmouth, deliver this to the Free French navy.” I had no written order.

I left immediately with my shipment. I did not know the way to Portsmouth, but I managed. I asked my way while talking to various policemen, the way was long and slow in the night of the blackout. I arrived at my destination in the black night around three a.m. I was shown where the French navy was. A sailor, hardly awake, takes my shipment and doesn’t give me any receipt. As he unloads what’s in the truck, to do so, he has to remove the back door and doesn’t put it back. I fell asleep, in hunger, in the truck. I woke up around eleven a.m. and then noticed that I had no back door for my truck. I drove to the lost and found, an enormous place. A nice woman in charge said, “Anyone seen a part of a French lorry?” and then I got my back door back. I kept looking for the Free French. I found them under an enormous camouflaged tent, like the top of a forest.

The officer in charge, John F Hasey, recognized me, and said, “Lunch with us.” I would have liked to stay with this small detachment of the Free French. In London, I would probably have been reported as a deserter from my position, with my own countrymen. But, I came back to London and to my position before nightfall. The adjutant Vauxcelles, my superior, berated me, for not having delivered my confirmed regulation receipt. “Where is your return order?” What could I do? I had no orders written of any kind. That was the Free French efficiency.

Many years later (see the bibliographical annex), while reading books telling the history of D-Day. I understand clearly that François Coulet was at Bayeux with general de Gaulle as soon as the fourteenth of June 1944. He was the first French governor of Calvados, appointed by general de Gaulle. I assume that in his function of delegate of the French provisional government, he needed a car, a really French car. Part of that car was what was in the truck in the night delivery. Remember that the Free French soldier Jacques Lawrence had just delivered this French part to be fitted at Bayeux, the first important city liberated in Normandy.

One should read the pages 372-378 of the souvenirs of the Free French called “des hommes libres.” In it, the French diplomat Francois Coulet said: “The general said to me ‘tomorrow, the 14th of June, first visit of the allied bridgehead, I will leave you there as provisional delegate of the French Republic, you will manage.’  But that wasn’t easy, because the allies had not recognized me as a regular French officer.” {Churchill and FDR had created a fiction called AMGOT American Government of Occupied Territory they had not recognized Coulet as a delegate of Eisenhower. They had appointed Americans to all the posts that French men were already chosen for by the Free French} “…I was weighed down by my responsibility, which included an enormous iron truck containing thousands of bank notes of the French. Why? To pay the administration of the French regions to remove the traces of the Vichy government that were everywhere.” {American forces landed in Belgium, they used Belgian money printed in Washington. They tried the same thing with French money, which was why Coulet had real French money in his truck. The Belgians paid their taxes with this false money and all of this contributed to the enormous confusion in Europe.}

One can only imagine the general confusion between AMGOT and the legitimate money under the control of Coulet. One example will suffice. General Montgomery, the son of a high dignitary of the Anglican Church, recognized the authority of Francois Coulet when he is told that Francois Coulet is not a Catholic but a Protestant like him. They were attached to the preparations of D-Day.

Section III

Last weeks in London, V1 Bombs falling and the return to Paris

It was impossible to forget that we were at war every day.  In fact, hardly a week after D-Day, on the 13th of June, the first guided bomb, the V1 falls on the capital.  We pretended to ignore them by pure stoicism, like all the London citizens. But in reality we were afraid. The bombs arrived over the city with a sinister slowness, at the end of their fuel.  We could see them distinctly. On their tail they had the radio control mechanism. The characteristic buzzing of the engine stopped. How could we know where the bomb was going to fall? It fell in an enormous explosion, destroying a whole five-story apartment building. In driving through London, you could take a fatal turn from one street to the other. It was a new blitz.  The destruction was visible everywhere. My room on Pembroke Road, near the French Lycee, was one block from the Earl’s Court underground station. On reaching my room on the third floor, I found there was no door, the hinge had been undone by the explosion. You could only enter the room by lifting the door and moving it. In front of the underground you could see that half the streets were an enormous ruin.  We were all stoic Londoners.

With a comrade from the French navy we went to see the British ballet, we had free tickets.  It was the first time that we saw a ballet, it was Coppelia. In the middle of the show, the V1 bombs started falling. Outside the theater, the air raid warnings were sounding.  In the theater, we heard nothing. But in front of the stage, employees brought an enormous poster to warn us of the air raid. Needless to say, nobody got up to go to the air raid shelter.

The month of July passed quickly during this period of bombing. Perhaps as many deaths as in the original blitz of June 1940. We were all asking ourselves the same question : “When do we go to France?”  But we were still in England. As long as General Eisenhower was in England, the French mission stayed. There was a lot to do to command the internal resistance by radio. There was a well-organized infrastructure, and orders were communicated by reading poetry on the air. The French poem by Paul Verlaine, Les Sanglots Longs, was read as a coded message:

Les sanglots longs, Des violons De l’automne Blessent mon cœur, D’une langueur Monotone. (Long sobs, the violins of autumn injure my heart, a monotonous languor.) Once completed, the poem indicated that D-Day would be tomorrow morning.

* From this point forwards, translation is solely by Nicole Barchilon Frank, minus the help and voice of her father Jacques, who died before we could finish translating.

Finally, Paris is liberated, and everything goes very fast. General Koenig is in Paris. We are at his orders. With the Warrant Officer Vauxcelles and my friend Sargeant Barbeau, here we are all three of us, in service, ready to go to France. We were supposed to drive to Paris, with two service vehicles, on the one hand the caravan-trailer from the campaign, with Warrant Officer Vauxcelles and my friend Sargeant Barbeau, and on the other hand, an American model car that I’m driving. Before leaving we are secretly loaded aboard a cargo ship in a port of the Thames with our vehicles.

The freighter shakes in the night; the next morning we are in front of the coast of Normandy. We land at a slow speed; rolling in on gigantic pontoons of the artificial port the Mullberries, that relays our cargo to the coast. We are finally on French soil, d’Arromanches-les- Bains. This is the still secret site (Gold) of the landing of the English and Canadiens a few weeks before us. After celebrating our arrival by toasting together in a cafe of the Arromanches, we inspected our cars and refueled. I remember checking that the little revolver I was given was in the pocket of my battle-dress.

We drive in the middle of the “Red Ball Road, the one-way road which, night and day, without stopping, carries ammunition, food and gas to the troops of the front already located in the east of Paris. “ [Pierre leFranc,  D’une résistance, l’autre,   Paris: François Xavier de Goubert, 2005, p. 312]

I clearly remember going through a city in ruins: Caen. Today, tourists can buy post cards with juxtaposed photos of the city from 1944 and modern beautifully rebuilt Caen. We arrive in Paris, just before night, and deposit our vehicles in the garage of the Invalides. My adventure in the Free French Forces in England during the war is finished.

POSTSCRIPT OR CONCLUSION

From the perspective of my 90th year, I “run” back the film of my life. I notice that I started serving France during my years in England and continued doing so in the United States in my university career. Indeed, emigrating in 1947, I obtained my first diploma with a Bachelor’s degree in history, continued with graduate studies at Harvard University, to finish with a Doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures. These diplomas allowed me to teach French language and literature in several different universities during many years. Since 1991, I am Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado.

This long paragraph above has a certain relationship with the story, as clearly as I can remember it, of my service in the Free French Forces. It is in my activity of professor, in the work of my publications on the history and the classics of French literature: the “Grand Siècle” (dear to de Gaulle) of Racine, Corneille, Molière, Pascal, La Rochefoucauld (including Perrault and other storytellers)- that I learned and appreciated research and scholarship.

One final reflection. I have sometimes been discouraged (what’s the point?) during the writing of these memories. I found a little courage in thinking about the young students invited to our reunions. It is very important for them to know how their elders, their parents lived. How can I not think that I heard Raymond Aubrac (95 years old) declare that “we must visit the schools … that the children know, that we must not forget.”

~Jacques Barchilon*

* Former soldier of the Free French Forces. Engaged at Camp Camberley England, suburb of London, June 23, 1943 under the name of war “Jacques Lawrence” Matriculation number 55472 Last assignment to the reinforcement battalion of the Second Division Blindée, Demobilized October 25, 1945

The link below: “Video of Papa” is my father speaking about his brother Arturo Cohen and Arturo’s friend, the painter Renau,in the years leading up to and beginning of WWII in Spain and France. This story is about saving art and secretly outmaneuvering Facist and Nazi forces. 

Video of Papa speaking about Renau

Bibliographical Annex:

For everyday life in England and in London, and for a general interest in the resistance, here are several important works, simply in alphabetical order.  We must insist on a common observation in all of the following works: the British civil and military people have always been hospitable, amiable and friendly throughout the years of the war.

 

  • Pierre Billotte, Le temps des armes,  Paris: Published in, 1955. Essential work and cited. This is how Pierre Billotte talks about life in England when he leaves London at the end of chapter III (p.246): …for myself, I will leave a part of my heart there … the welcome the British, of all conditions, have given us will remain unforgettable. “

 

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. First Edition: 1948
  • Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires, Paris: Gallimard-Pléiade. Édition 2000. Capital work, essential and quotes
  • John F. Hasey,  Yankee Fighter, the Story of an American in the Free French Foreign Legion, Garden City: New York, 1942, 1944, Garden City Publishing Co. Inc.
  • Pierre Lefranc, D’une Résistance, l’autre, Paris: François Xavier de Guibert, 2005. The tale of the escapades of life in England is often pleasant, with rather picturesque incidents. Exemplary career in resistance and liberation.
  • Jean-Christophe Notin, 1061 Compagnons,  Paris: Perrin, 2000, Essential and cited work, necessary for the lists and biographies to read about the famous Companions.
  • Daniel Rondeau et Roger Stéphane, Des hommes libres, Paris: Grasset, 1997. In this essential and quoted work one must have read the pages 372-378, remarkable to understand the importance of the mission of Francois Coulet from the time he arrived at Bayeux on June 14, 1944.
  • Serge Vaculik, Bêret Rouge, Paris: Artaud, 1952. Same remarks as Pierre Lefranc’s book for the “picturesque”. On the other hand, an important chapter is entirely devoted to Camberley. One must read how the author escapes his execution by the Gestapo thanks to his courage, and an incredible chance.

 

 

 

Tending to Ending

IMG_5759
My father on Father’s Day, his last awake day, seeing the Pacific Ocean in Trinidad, one of his final wishes.

As I began writing this piece there were four more days of sitting shiva happening in our home. This shiva process has been an incredible blessing for me. I have facilitated and been present for many folks at this time, but never been the one to receive this offering. This last year, my father’s death was always on the table. We all knew it could happen at any time, but his will to live and his longevity, had us all a little fooled.

It’s been hard for my husband and I not to blame ourselves for taking him to the beach on a day that turned cold. It was sunny when we left the house, but by the time we got to Trinidad, the weather was cloudy. Also, it was the once a year fish festival, so everything took a very long time, which really wasn’t good for my father. The excursion to the beach was the equivalent of an aerobic work-out for a man with a weak heart, bound to hasten his heart giving out. I didn’t think this at the time, because my father, even in his slow weakening over the last few months, still seemed so vital and alive. This is not about my guilt, although I have some, which I think is okay. Perhaps he would have died a few days later or we might have had him for a few months more. If I’d been in charge, we certainly would have had more time together in the sun and in our home. I’m not in charge though, the Holy One is. My father’s pull date was never in my control.

It was a good last day of him being aware and enjoying his family and surroundings. As we were walking by the Seascape restaurant on the pier, my father said “wouldn’t it be nice to have some French Fries?” I’d been cooking for days to make a Father’s Day Moroccan dinner for my Papa and my husband, and I knew that French fries would eliminate any chance of my father eating that meal. I motioned for my husband to take him down to the pier and indicated that I’d go procure the fries as a surprise for my Papa (papas for Papa).

It took forever, because the restaurant was packed. I’d never ordered fries from this particular place, but when I finally got them fifteen minutes later they were in a large brown paper sack, that was warm, with grease coming through. Kevin and my father were coming towards me and I handed my chilled father a hot bag of fries. His face lit up, he put his hand in the bag and encountered warmth and grease and took a bite and was so happy. We all tried some and I have to say, I do not think I have ever had better fries in my entire life. I am never going back to this restaurant because they are seriously dangerous and I might only ever eat fries again for the rest of my life. Ethan, Kevin, my father and I just kept reaching our hands into the bag. It was truly a never-ending bag of magic delicious ever-warm fries.

We loaded my father back into the car and decided to take the scenic route home, hoping for some sun over the water. This was a bad choice as well, because the road was bumpy and my dad had to hold onto the handle above his seat to feel secure in some parts and that was effort-full and the sun never came out, so the view was obscured and it was just a long twenty-minute bumpy drive. By the time we got to our home and I got my father in his bed, he was not feeling well and had spiked a fever. This was the first fever he’d had since I took over taking care of him (over 6 months full-time care) and I knew it wasn’t a good sign.

Our beloved friend Ana, one of our care-givers, and her boyfriend, had come over for dinner. Originally my father had wanted to meet the boyfriend and give his approval or not! This was not to be. While my sons, husband and our company were eating the meal I’d prepared, I was with my father, trying to get him comfortable. The Humboldt Hospice nurse and I were on the phone a great deal and I got Tylenol into him and started him on .25 ml of morphine every hour for the first time. Ana, gave me a short break and I had a quick bowl of soup while she held his hand. Then Issac and Ethan took a turn.

I spent that evening giving him doses of morphine every hour or more, but in the morning he was miserable and uncomfortable and told me he was miserable. At this point the nurse was on her way and I asked him to wait a few more minutes before I upped his morphine dosage. I thought perhaps the nurse would advise me to do something different or more. He agreed to wait and our regular nurse Tiffany came to our rescue. She wasn’t supposed to be working that Monday, but the Holy One and the Angels must have worked some magic for us, because she happened to have traded shifts with someone, without knowing at the time, we would need her so desperately.

This was huge for me and my father, because she wasn’t someone he didn’t know. She knew him, us and our situation. She helped me get my father set up better in the bed and told me to increase the amount of morphine from .25ml to .50ml every hour and to let me know if that wasn’t working. It did work and from that point on, my father was not uncomfortable or suffering, that we could tell. She told me to call family and tell them he had a day or a few more hours most likely left. She felt certain that he’d had some kind of episode, and I felt so too, because his hands were shaking a lot and he just never had that happen before. I spoke with my brother in Boulder and told him to come now if he felt he needed to. He and my daughter looked into it, but it was pretty clear things were moving very fast.

So, with the help of my sons, we set up the computer by the bed so he could see them and they could see him and my smart technology savvy sons made it possible for my brother, his partner and my daughter to say goodbye to my father visually. He was still conscious and saw them and could smile, but couldn’t talk. He was lucid until his last two hours and could communicate with me via his mouth. I would ask him if he wanted more morphine or water or chocolate (his favorite thing in the world). “Yes,” would be open mouth, “No,” would be closed mouth, and this worked for us. When the small glass I was using, made by my friend Bryan Raskin of Mirador Glass, no longer worked, he was hydrated throughout his last hours with dropperfulls of coconut water or water. I hate plastic and the feel of the smooth glass was soothing for my father and for me.

Papa.Judy.Glass.Perla
My Papa, Jacques Barchilon, born Jacobo Alberto Cohen, in Casablanca Morocco in 1923. He is pictured here: in his Free French Forces uniform; on the day of his wedding to Judy, the love of his life, at the age of 75. The beautiful woman in the back is his mother Perla Barchilon. The sign translates as “Careful! Mean Dog, Ferocious Master.” My father had a bark, but never a bite and didn’t have a dog, but this sign was on his door. The glass from Mirador that I gave him his last liquids with, his wedding ring, his watch as well as stones to remember him by, (a Jewish thing).

During my long vigil with my father (from Sunday afternoon until Tuesday, early a.m. hours), in the afternoon on Monday, I started getting a Maurice Chevalier song playing in my head. It was from our childhood and the chorus goes: “Paris, je t’aime, je t’aime, je t’aime.” Which means, Paris I love you, I love you, I love you. Now, Paris is where I was born, where my father had the best times of his life with his beloved wife Judy, may her memory be for a blessing. I changed the lyrics interspersing, “Papa, je t’aime….,” with the Paris part. He loved that and smiled. I told my brother and he found the original record we’d listened to as children and he put that on for my dad, via our technology sharing. My papa loved that.

The computer became a hindrance, since I wanted to be holding my father’s hand and he wasn’t really in a visual mode anymore. So, we switched to speaker phone and for the final hours of my father’s life in a body, my brother, his partner and my daughter were present. My mother and Kenny were also able to say goodbye this way and this was very important and a huge further healing/tikkun. We all sang to him and cried with him and told him we loved him and would miss him, but were ready for him to go. He was pretty lucid until shortly before his dying. The last words he heard was my chanting the Shema to him.

I will write more about my father’s final weeks and his coming to a belief in an after-life, after 95 years of avid and strong atheism. This made his leaving, for me, so much easier, because he was finally less afraid and had a bit of hope about joining his wife and daughter, my sister Paula. He took his final breaths in the arms of myself and my son Ethan, with our family present for him across many miles via technology that was truly a gift.

Jacobo Alberto HaCohen, (name at his birth), Jack Lawrence (nom de guerre, inspired by his favorite author of the time D.H. Lawrence, so the Nazi’s wouldn’t know he was a Jew, in case he was caught), Jacques Barchilon (American name), Jacov ben Perla v’Haim (Hebrew name) lived 95 full, intense, painful and glorious years from 1923 to 2018, he will be missed.

L'hiver
From my father’s home, which I brought back with me to my home, and which exactly describes what he received from my brother and me. “Quand un père chéri, glacé par la viellesse, Reçoit de ses enfants les soins les plus touchans, Il voit le sombre hiver s’écouler sans tristesse, Et s’endori attendri dans leurs bras caressans.” When a beloved father, made brittle and hard by old age, receives from his children the most tender and touching care, He sees the somber winter of his life evaporating without sadness and falls asleep attended by their caressing arms.

 

 

 

Sharing Stories, Settling Down, Sorting, Sifting and Slowly Letting Go.

Morocco Street by Perla
Painting of Moroccan street scene by Perla Barchilon, mother of José, Arthur, Lili, Jacques and Maurice, my paternal grandmother. The colors here are not as bright and vibrant as the painting itself.

 

“I’m depressed, Nicole and I have many regrets.”

“Well, Papa, that’s understandable. You are slowly dying and your body is getting weaker every day. This is not easy or pleasant and your mind is completely aware of this slow degradation of your body. Your beloved wife died a few months ago; you have lots of reasons to be sad.  I think you are incredibly courageous to be navigating this time the way you are. I wish there was more I could do to help you feel better. Would talking about your regrets be helpful? I’m here if you want to share.”

And then my father started to tell me about his deepest regrets and how badly he feels and what a failure he was with certain people. He mentioned how he behaved towards his mother. This was his first statement of regret. My father has never said one nice word about his mother in the entire time I’ve been alive. Every story about her is negative and puts her in a bad light. So, for him to say, he felt badly about how he treated her, is pretty monumental. I feel waves of energy and spirits are moving through the space as my father shares. It’s a timeless and powerful moment. I also need to mention that my father regularly shares that I am like his mother, especially around how much food I prepare and eat, but unlike his mother I do not force him to eat anything.

I ask him about what he regrets in terms of his behavior towards his mother, my grandmother Perla. He says he wasn’t empathetic to her and didn’t have empathy towards her situation. I asked him if he’d ever apologized to her and he said he had and that  she had told him: “You never need to apologize to a mother.”

Perla Posing
Perla, age sixteen or seventeen, Morocco right around the time she married my Gran-papa, around the turn of the century.

This is the first remotely loving story my father has ever told me about his mother. I can see her dismissing my father’s apology with this statement in one way and also being very moved by it. My grandmother, Perla Barchilon y Cohen was an amazing woman, but she wasn’t the mother my father wanted or needed. Nevertheless, he has a portrait of her in a place of prominence that my mother did of her, when she came to Paris for my birth over 54 years ago.

We spoke more about his mother and I asked him if Perla had ever been empathetic or sensitive to him, if she had taught him how to be kind and empathetic? He said “No,” and I pointed out that he didn’t have any role models growing up about how to be the way he wishes he had been. I told him I was amazed at his empathy and how he was still growing and working on improving himself. We spoke about how Judy, May her memory be for a Blessing, was the person who finally taught him the empathy he wanted to have. She showed him how to be kinder and to think about the feelings of others more. He agreed with me about this and it made him sad to talk about Judy.  Perhaps we will revisit this mother regret, but I hope that he feels freer to let this one go now.

IMG_2165
Perla Barchilon, age seventeen probably.  At the age of sixteen, she was married to my grandfather Jaimé Cohen (Spanish version of  the Hebrew name Chaim). He was 20. She had five sons and was a wonderful painter in Morocco in the early part of the last century. She lived through World War II in Morocco and her artwork was celebrated and respected for over fifty years. She was a Jewish woman in a Muslim country and she was a painter. I remember her still painting when I was a little girl in Morocco. She was a very old woman at that point in her seventies, which now that I’m 54 doesn’t seem that old to me. She was born around 1898 and died in 1988.

I am in this very complex place of trying to comfort my father in any kind of way that works for him. I’m trying to balance my inclination to impart, share,  and perhaps somehow convince, through my touch and my heart and my presence, the tremendous relationship to Holiness and to Hope that is possible for my father. I don’t want him to be sad, depressed, afraid or certain that his end is an end. He has no belief in any spiritual system at all.

Whereas, I am walking into and out of Olam Ha Bah and the Angelic and Supernal Realms often. I feel these energies surrounding my father and I’m wanting him to feel the presence of the Divine and to know that he will be safe, at peace and not suffering after he dies. This is my need. My father is a devout Atheist. He maintains there is no such thing as a soul, so he doesn’t have one and there won’t be any Heaven for him.

In the Jewish tradition, we have a final confession as part of the dying process. We didn’t borrow this from the Catholics, they probably got the whole idea from us! Our confession is very different though. It is called a Viddui and is said by someone when they are on their deathbed. It is a general request for forgiveness for all wrongdoings in our lives and a listing of those wrongs. It also has a clause/caveat that states, we might not be dying, a miracle could happen and we might recover, but we still want to be clear now. I love the language of this, asking for forgiveness, stating our wrongs and then saying, we might get better, who knows? This might not be a final confession after all.

In addition to the final confession, there are daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles of self-scrutiny, correction, confession of wrongs to the person one has wronged, making amends and attending to the patterns that might be causing us to make these errors. We’re all about confession, it just doesn’t happen in a box with a priest and a screen.

I keep looking for opportunities for my papa and I to cross the bridge between my world and his. I don’t need him to change or believe, I just want him not to be in pain or distress, physical or emotional. If there is something I can offer to ease his suffering, than I want to do it. He appreciates my touch, my cooking, my massages and my taking care of his daily and nightly needs. He is grateful for my care and the care of my brother Paul and the caregivers we have working with us.

Since I’ve been living with him in his home in Denver, there have been many moments of storytelling and he has asked me to query him and volunteered to share whatever stories or ideas with me, with my brother, and with others who want to know more. How can I ever know all that he wants to share or even what questions to ask? I think I know my father pretty well and most of his life’s stories have been written down or lived together or shared. I think he is not a mystery to me. I am so wrong about that.

I ask my father about his dreams in the morning. I ask him about his sadness and if he wants to talk about anything, when he volunteers that he is sad.

I ask him what he wants for breakfast and how long I should wait before checking on him when he is in the bathroom. I ask him what number heat setting he wants on the heating pad and I ask him if there is anything I can do to make him more comfortable. His reply is usually, “Make me forty years younger and smile.”

His dream the other day, the one he remembered to tell me, went like this:

“I dreamed I was in the home of a very famous man, you will know who he is, Freud. I was rearranging the furniture in his house.” Another dream had been that he was in NY, and there was a starving, lonely cold child on the street and he was with Eloise (the famous NY storybook character who lives in a hotel). She was talking to someone about how much money should be given to this girl and my father and she agreed that it should be $100,000.00. What’s interesting about this dream is that he didn’t remember the name of Eloise, but he remembered that his niece Coco loved this character and so I suggested we call her and ask her if she remembered the name of the NY storybook character. Just as we reached Coco, Papa, said “Eloise!”

His mental acuity stuns me, and I truly feel at half his capacity. I can’t remember things from my childhood or my children’s childhoods, the way my father remembers his niece’s favorite storybook from over fifty years ago. His memory is a golden mine of treasures and I don’t think my brother and I will ever plumb its depths.

220px-Eloise_book_cover

For now, though, I am grateful for my technology that is allowing me to record his stories when he wants that done. Every tale he tells is a golden offering that will be of value to me and to all of our family.

I hope I have the presence of mind and the loving care and support my father has when I am leaving this world. We all deserve to be with those who love us and where we are comfortable, surrounded by our art and what makes us feel at home; to be safe and to suffer as little as possible.

IMG_4556
Portraits of Perla and my brother Paul Barchilon by my mother Helen Redman, hanging on the wall with paintings by Perla. Also, a Moroccan print of my brother’s in the bottom corner.

 

 

 

 

Having Arrived…

Shabbat Flowers.
Shabbat table and flowers on Paul Barchilon’s  coaster in the home of my father.

It has taken me a few weeks to actually get here. Here being Denver, Colorado in the condominium of my father and his wife Judy, may her memory be for a blessing. I was grieving leaving my life and my husband, my garden, the Redwood tree who is my friend off my deck, my bed, my community and so many other parts of where I live.

But now, Here I am, Hee Nay Nee, הנני

I am fully here and arrived in Denver. Even though I moved here in mid-December, it has taken me a little while to actually get and BE here. I was going through the motions; getting the meals cooked, the laundry done and attending to my father’s needs just barely. I say just barely because my heart wasn’t in it. I’ve been preparing for this time, for years, literally over 15 or more. I’ve known that there would be a brief moment between raising children and my needing to help care for my father, my mother, my beau-père and my mother- in-love. That time has arrived and regardless of preparing for it, the actual transition to it, has been, like all transitions, not so easy.

I felt so bad, not being happy to be here, not being happy to serve. In my piece S.O.S (Surrendered Open Serving)  I wrote about serving the Holy One with Joy. This work is serving the Holy One, while it is also serving my father, my family and myself. Doing it with joy, is the part that I wasn’t able to just swing into. I needed to grieve not being with my husband. He is more than my mate in this life. He’s my life-line and being physically near him and with him nourishes my soul and my cells in ways that are central to who I am and how I do all that I do. He’s the silent, behind the scenes, invisible partner in everything I do.

So, the adjustment has taken a little bit of time. Now, when I take my Shabbat break from my father for the two days I have off, I start to miss him and feel pulled back to him. He and I have formed a new bond, similar to the one that we formed when our roles were reversed and I was the infant with huge physical needs unable to meet them by myself. It’s such an interesting pendulum swing and one that so many folks are fearful of.

I am not afraid of being needy or not in control. I am prepared for it and expect it. I also don’t think it’s so terrible to lose control. Part of why I am less reticent than others has to do with my fundamental Emunah/Trust in the Holy One and in the goodness of folks in my life and in the world in general. I also have less fear than most people about what is on the other side. And I believe it’s our calling, all of us, in smaller and larger ways to care for one another on this planet and also for the planet. Some folks will be care-givers of the earth, or a water-shed or a species of frog. Some folks will stand guard over a forest or a flower or a polar bear. Some of us will care for wounded soldiers or special needs children or adults. Some of us will cultivate awareness in art and music and bring comfort or a wake-up call to others. Whatever ways we find to listen and honor the voice of caring in our lives, it is real and present and of value.

As I spend this truly precious time with my father, he is weak, not-well, tired, sad, frustrated about his bodily functions and process and also very much mentally present. He wants to share stories and talk about hard things in his life. He asked me to record him recounting the few days leading up to and the day of my sister Paula’s death. She died at the age of 21 months old, over 54 years ago now. He wanted to share this video with my mother. The two of them have now talked about this time. This is something they never had done and it has been painful, intense and beautiful all at the same time.

To me, it is a huge tikkun/healing. It’s also been that for my parents. It’s never too late to have healing in a relationship or in a fraught situation. My mother and my father, despite all the territory in their past, have found their way back to a very tender place with each other. A place (my sister’s death) that they are closest to and can share feelings that no one else can. Across the 48 years since they’ve been together, this time and this desire on my father’s part and my mother’s willingness to listen and attend to all of this with caring and compassion has created a bridge. That bridge serves everyone in my family and most especially me.

My sister Paula’s death has colored every facet of my life. She’s been very present for me recently. I’ve been feeling her suffering and confusion at being alone, or what I perceive as those feelings, as my father and mother re-live the specific details of her tragic death. Today, I will go to her grave and sing her some songs. Her grave is a very unique and special one that many folks recognize who live here in Boulder. I will honor her, as I have my whole life, by trying to live my life with more gusto and more aliveness, with a double dose of the blending of my mother and father and all that this shared combination of heritage and story means as it flows through my veins and muscles and heart.

 

 

The front and back views of my sister Paula’s grave marker, which was commissioned by my parents and made by DeWain Valentine. The rocks are traditional Jewish offerings that I bring when I visit to commemorate my presence and as place-holders for my memory being as long as a stone’s for her.

The other night at Shabbat in the basement of Rabbi Marc Soloway of Bonai Shalom, we said the Mourner’s Kaddish for a thirteen year old boy who died last week. Children dying is terrible and not how we want our lives or the lives of those we cherish to unfold. Death is just not something we can ever overcome or get away from. It’s not fair, it’s not easy, it’s not fine or pretty or simple. We do all kinds of things to try to wrap it up that way, but the reality of it is anything but wrapped up neat. In the Jewish tradition, we have space, communal space, at every prayer service, for all those grieving to be supported, to name their beloveds and their pain.

This naming doesn’t fix the wound, but it gives us a container, a shared vessel for our hurt to be in, and it helps us feel less alone in our most tender and broken times.

It takes all my resources to show up for this dying time with my father and with others as well. I have very little energy for conversations or interactions with folks, because all of me has to be present now for these precious moments with my father, my brother, my mother and my family. It takes all of me to hold the space as we walk on the bridge between this life of my father’s here and now and the destination he is moving towards. It takes all of me to stay present for the feelings I have about when he will no longer be in a body here with us to tell stories to, or enjoy an artichoke with, or laugh at something silly or remark on something so intelligently that I feel like a total idiot in comparison. My father’s intellectual capacity far out-shines most folks I’ve met. He is still so sharp in his observations and thoughts. I’ll miss that, I’ll miss it a lot.

Nicole.Dad.1.10.18.2
Papa et moi.

So now the river of tears flows, as it can only flow when I have some space and time to be by myself and not be having to attend to his needs or anyone else’s. I’m very grateful for my time off, even though I’m acutely aware that every minute I’m away is one less minute I will have with him………forever.

Being present for what is going on in my life is one of the ways I honor the Holy One and my family and the planet. I cannot know when my life will be taken. I cannot know when my father will leave or my husband or a beloved friend or my children. I pray I won’t have to navigate losing a child, as my parents have, and as so many mothers and fathers in history have had to, but I cannot know.

So, every day I hold my family in my heart, in my prayers and I endeavor to honor them. I do this with my friends and my community as well. Mostly right now though, I’m just right here, tending to my father as he falls further from this realm. I hope to help ease his landing on the other side as best I can. I’m not alone in that. My brother and my children have shown up in various ways, as have some of my father’s nieces, nephews and friends to remind him of how precious he is and how much he is appreciated and loved.

What more can any of us do for those we love?

Papa Painting
“Dad wanted to help! He is 94, and doing hospice at home. My sister and I are taking care of him. He has seen me painting tiles non-stop for my big commission, and today he asked if he could help. Took me a little extra time to clean his work, but he was just barely able to do it. He made three tiles. I told him you never know, someone could dig up his tile in 10,000 years. He liked that!” Paul Barchilon

Papa’s Perseverance, Pain and Power

Dad on Bike
My 94 year-old, WWII French Resistance fighter of a father, still resisting tyranny, the tyranny of a body aging. He is a hard-working, hoping to heal himself human and he blows my mind.

This post was written over the course of several weeks. I am now home in California:

Wednesday June 21st, 2017~ I’m relaxed at this exact moment. I just had a two hour Tok Sen Thai Massage at Siam Sensation. This is my first break in six days since flying to Denver on June 14th to take care of my father post his wife’s death on June 7th. My brother and his partner are spelling me for a few hours. It’s been hellish and hard and I’ve had no time to cry, really. Tears leak out in moments, but the work-load is pretty constant. Caring for a 94-year-old beloved who is in fairly constant emotional and physical pain is a full-time, many person endeavor. My father’s just six weeks from having fallen and broken his hip, then gotten hip replacement surgery, followed by a minor heart attack two days later and being intubated despite his DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order and then having to be in a rehabilitation facility for a month and watch his beloved wife, of the last 18 years, Judy wither away and die. This is the territory I entered when I came to Denver for the second month in the last three. I spent all of April and one week of May here helping with the hospital stay and the transition to the rehabilitation facility.

It’s a week later, once again, getting a respite at the home of my brother, his partner and my daughter. Sitting in the back yard of my childhood home. My father gave my brother and his partner this home when he moved to Denver to be with Judy. This was where I spent half of every week as a child. It’s more lovely than it ever was when I was growing up. My daughter has filled the downstairs with the art of my grandmother, her great-grandmother Perla Barchilon, her grandmother/my mother Helen Redman, and her other grandmothers’ (Maren Frank and Rachel Heller’s) art is also all over, as is my brother Paul Barchilon’s and also my daughter’s own art. The place is clean and colorful and not-cluttered. It feels like home in a completely different way than it did as a child. My brother and his partner also live upstairs in the home they designed and it is completely fantastic as well and full of art, beauty and calm.

Papa blue robe
Painting of my father, by my mother Helen Redman, in the entry way to the downstairs, pottery by my brother Paul Barchilon, decor by my daughter

Is this  where we should move my father? Should he go into an Assisted Living/Nursing home, a thought that initially made him cringe (since starting this article my brother and his partner looked at many homes and found two that are within budget, barely and that my father also didn’t hate). We cannot afford full-time care-giving for him at his place through an agency. We cannot afford over-night care for him either through the agencies that provide that. With his funds, possibly a few hours a day could be managed, but that’s not going to cut it, in my opinion. Furthermore, he hasn’t been alone since March 30th when he fell and broke his hip. We are most likely, at this point, hiring someone to care-give outside of an agency, which is half the cost, which is pricey, but within his budget and allows him to live at home, which is what he wants. My brother will have to manage all of this and we will vet the person and make sure their police-records are checked, but it’s not the same as a family member.

Shira Home
My daughter’s clean and lovely living room downstairs from my brother’s place full of books and beauty.

My tears are still intermittent. The reality is that my father cannot live on his own, not yet, perhaps not ever. Despite two months of my time and life and the practically constant care and presence of my brother over the last six months, my father is not healed enough to live on his own. Both my sons have flown out to help for a week each and my daughter is also a regular presence in his life and home now. My Papa thinks he wants to be independent and on his own in his own home, but he’s had the loving and devoted presence of his wife in that apartment and since her death, he has had a steady stream of loving family. This will no longer be the case. There are kind and devoted folks in his building that care about him, but they cannot care-give him or be there in any kind of medically responsible way. He doesn’t want to live with my daughter in her study, which we would convert to a bedroom. He doesn’t want to live anywhere but his own home, who can blame him for that?

I haven’t had the energy to see any of my friends while I’ve been here. I cannot even make phone calls or emails much. The schedule at night has been my father needing help every two hours or so, with blankets, incontinence issues, pain management, difficulty breathing, thirst, etc… So, I’ve been in a pretty constant state of sleep deprivation, with nights off once a week or so on Shabbat if we pay the $300 it costs for one night’s care for him or when it has worked for my brother or my daughter to spend the night. Obviously not a sustainable situation.

Issac Nicole feet
Issac’s wounded foot taking a break, next to my tired feet from hours of moving things around in Dad’s apartment to try to get his office converted into a room that a care-giver/live-in could actually live in!

And I’m not even touching the sadness here, the pain of my father’s loneliness sitting at the table while I do the dishes or the cooking and he looks out the window missing his wife with every fiber of his frail body and incredibly clear and cogent mind. He told my son Issac and I, while explaining that he was going to speak to us as if we weren’t in the room so he could say what was on his mind, “I pretend she is on a trip or out doing errands and this lasts for a few hours and then I remember that she’s never coming home.” There were tears streaming down his face while he shared this.

Dad Post it
The note I found in Judy’s bedside dresser while cleaning things out in my father’s apartment.

This situation is so damn hard.

dad and Judy
Thanksgiving in Colorado a few years ago. 

And, my daughter said the other night, it’s not even bad really, because we are all loving with him and each other and he isn’t destitute (he taught French at CU Boulder for 45 years and has a good pension). He has options and we will figure out how to navigate all of this, with the capable minds and bodies of my daughter, my brother and his partner here in Boulder and myself and my family here in California. In the long-run, this story is a love-story, a family caring for each other and the person most in need with kindness, effort, intelligence and profound love. Whatever difficulties have been in my past with my father or in my brother’s past; my papa had a temper and he has never approved of my spiritual calling or my emotional nature (he thinks I should have been a lawyer!). Still, he has always loved us, gifted us with his time and caring, and been there for us in BIG ways. It’s our turn now.

Dad Waving
My father in a moment of less pain in the new recliner/lift chair in his living room at home.  I realized we needed to get him this chair, in the middle of one particularly difficult night. He can sleep for two or three hours comfortably here, and it’s his new favorite place to be!