Thursday, May 6, 2010

Les amis de mes amis by Aukje de Vries

I have a friend, Jean-Marc, in Paris. We got to know each other in the sixties. Both of us followed a summer course on American Politics in Nice. It was an interesting course in a nice setting with quite a bit of free time. Jean-Marc and I spent our free time going to concerts and participating in excursions. We have kept in touch since then. He became a diplomat and went on missions abroad. During this time we lost touch with each other, but later when he had settled in Paris, we resumed our friendship. His life had taken a nasty turn. In a car accident he had lost his eyesight. In the meantime his widowed mother, moved to Paris to take care of him and run the household. Fortunately he kept a job with the Foreign Ministry until his recent retirement. A few years ago his mother died. However, while still living, she had recruited a number of helpers and managed to make new arrangements so that he would get all the help he needed. He is living independently and completely in command of his situation which, I think, is an enormous achievement. Remarkably, he has kept up many friendships dating from the different phases in his life including many contacts with other diplomats he had met abroad. His circle of friends is extensive and varied and he keeps in touch. From time to time I go to Paris to see him. So this spring I also planned a brief visit to Paris.

I found him well and we had a good visit. He always tells me a lot about French politics and the world situation, Since I have to think hard before I have formulated a decent phrase in French, he talks a lot more than I do.

It was just the right time of year to visit Paris. Splendid weather, a clear blue sky, many trees in bloom and tulips and other flowers all over the place. I never realized how many smaller and larger parks Paris has. The city is beautifully laid out and it was an absolute joy to be there and to walk and visit familiar places, that bring back memories of earlier times.

But there was an extra bonus this year. Shortly before my departure I wrote to an Australian friend mentioning that I would spend a few days in Paris. I received an immediate reply from her telling me that she was in France and would be in Paris with her sister at the same time I would be there. Could we meet? Yes, of course we could. We arranged to meet at a museum.

Jean-Marc had told me that he had planned to invite some friends for dinner for one of the evenings I would be there. However, his friends were out of town and could not come. Then he suggested that he invite my friend Jane and her sister Nancy instead; they agreed to come.

As planned we met at the museum in the early afternoon. Jane and I wanted to talk. We spent quite some time over coffee, chatting and catching up, while Nancy visited the museum. It was great to exchange all the news and discuss some common concerns.

The visit with Jean-Marc turned out to be a great success. Jean-Marc and Nancy had quite a lot in common and talked very easily.

There is a saying in French: “Les amis de mes amis sont mes amis.” That is to say, the friends of my friends are my friends. Jean-Marc certainly practiced it and we all had a wonderful evening.

Do you have old friends that you look up to visit when you travel ? Have they changed ? If so, how ? How has life treated them ? How are they approaching their own old age ?

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