My Polish grandparents are the glue which holds my family together. Which I’m sure would have made them very happy, since they drove each other crazy so much. But we are so lucky to have had them. Even though my grandpa has been gone for over twenty years now, my grandparents are both still in our lives – as they were together. I talk about them, so I hope they are in my kids lives too. If that is possible.
The nice thing about keeping people in your lives when they’re gone – is meeting other people. Strange but true. Take Patrice and Phillipe for example. Phillipe is our marina neighbour, Patrice’s friend. Phillipe came out from Paris just before the light lockdown in Bonaire began. Lucky too- as Bonaire has since tightened its borders so no tourists can enter anymore. Only repatriation and exceptional circumstance.
We’ve been hanging out a bit with Patrice and Phillipe. Phillipe is also known as Fifi. Apparently, Patrice started it when they met thirty years ago, and it hasn’t abated. Phillipe informed us separately he prefers to be called his actual name. I can’t help but hear the song to Fifi and the Flowerpots in my head. I’ve started calling him Phillipe.
Phillipe has been tutoring Lulu with her maths. Patrice set it up. I was reticent at first – Phillipe being very much retired as a banker for a French bank, and having just arrived on his holidays in Bonaire, but Patrice insisted. ‘He has nothing else to do!’
‘Well, he could just relax,’ I countered. In the end, it was Phillipe who started it. He began telling me how much he enjoyed tutoring his godson in maths. How his godson was super competitive though. I listened to it all like I was climbing a mountain. Ok, ready – we’re at the top? Enter Lulu.
Phillipe came to Quest the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. In fact, Lulu has done so much maths in the last couple of weeks – difficult maths too, that she has started hiding when we hear Phillipe walking down the pontoon. Well, not really hiding. It’s a bit hard to hide on a boat.
They do their maths sessions sitting in the Quest’s shady cockpit or down below if it’s rainy. I make them snacks and ply them with water. I’ve watched Phillipe get to know Lulu. At the end of one session, he said, ‘Jack, she will run your business.’ At the end of another, he frowned. ‘Lulu is tired today. She goes too quickly.’ Each day brings new results. Different equations so to speak.
In the middle of all of this present, I get glimpses of the past. Phillipe reminds me of my grandpa. Very old-school and proper, but with a streak of adventure in him. The same sort of dry, self-effacing wit which is easily missed. It’s like finding a lost gem. The girls feel it too. Lucky I’d been rabbiting on about my grandparents for so long. Patrice meanwhile, Patrice is like my grandma. He can get things done. And he and Phillipe drive each other crazy. But that’s another story.