|Isabelle Anne (August 17, 1916 to June 10, 2013)|
We pick up the story from there.
Paris, Spring 1949…”Unavoidably Detained…”
During the voyage Isabelle meets a very attractive Parisian Philosophy Professor named André. He offers to show her the “real” Paris when they land. Isabelle sees the advantage of not passing up such an offer.
She sends Louis’ sister, Jeanette, a telegram: “Unavoidably detained in Paris STOP Will see you very soon STOP”
On the surface, Paris has survived the war remarkably well and is just as Isabelle remembers it. The Nazi officer in charge of the city had so fallen under its spell that he ignored Hitler’s orders to destroy it. But the scars below the surface run very deep.
Isabelle falls in love with Paris and the Parisians all over again and, in turn, the Parisians, crazy about all things American, are charmed by this stylish young American who speaks fluent French.
Normandy, Summer 1949…”Battle Scars…”
Isabelle travels by train through the countryside of Normandy. Looking out the window, she sees the true battle scars and open wounds of war.
|Isabelle and Gérard|
As she steps off the train Jeanette, her husband, Marcel, and their little boy, Gérard, are there to greet her. The little boy smiles shyly while waving a small American flag. It feels more like a reunion than a first meeting. Tears, hugs and laughter and Isabelle, an only child, will become forever part of Louis’ family.
|Isabelle, Marcel and Gérard. |
Don't you just love the bobby sox and wedgies? My Mother was always on the cutting edge of style.
|Canteen Girls Isabelle and Millie|
Mom and Millie were best friends who spoke on the phone every day until Millie's death seven years ago.
Isabelle gets a call from her best friend and fellow Canteen Girl, Millie. A French ship has just docked at the Naval Base and there is a party for the officers that night. The party is in full swing when they arrive.
René says very little and smiles even less, but he is an excellent dancer. He thanks her politely for the dance and walks off.
One of his friends tells her that René spent the last two years of the war in a German prison camp and that his wife had died the year before. Isabelle suddenly finds herself not only interested in but intrigued by this serious young man with the sad eyes; but, she is once again in demand on the dance floor, so off she goes for a spin.
All at once, Isabelle sees René walk up to the bandstand, grab the microphone and begin to sing. He has a beautiful baritone voice and everyone stops dancing to listen. The song is called “Isabelle” and he is singing it to her.
|Isabelle's wedding suit, made for her in Paris, was a deep blue velvet. I still have it.|
Isabelle and René are married in a little church near the naval base in Toulon. They honeymoon in Nice and Monaco.
France is still suffering from the effects of the War. Everything is rationed and their tiny apartment has no refrigeration.
René tries to teach Isabelle to cook with only limited success.
11 months later, I make my appearance, and three years after that my brother, Paul, makes his.
Philadelphia, November 1963…”Everything Changes…”
It is a crisp autumn afternoon as I make my way home from school. I walk into the house and everything is strangely quiet. My Mother is wearing black in the middle of the day and has been crying. Father Coyle has a cup of coffee in front of him that he has barely touched. No one needs to tell me what has happened.
The best years of Isabelle’s life are over.
One week later, on a sunny day in Dallas, Texas, a single bullet takes the life of our handsome young President, a man for whom my Father had proudly cast his first vote as an American Citizen.
America’s Camelot years are over.
Isabelle never remarries.
For the past five years, my Mother had lived in a tiny room at St. Mary’s Catholic Home. St. Mary’s is run by The Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who are devoted to the care of the aged. They still wear the white habit and veil of a nursing Order, and are among the happiest women I have ever known. They are doing God’s good work, and it shows in their smiles. Of course, that never stopped my Mother from giving them the rough edge of her tongue when she felt they needed it. Not surprising, really. My Mother was born ready and eager for a fight.
“Life is a battle, ma chère enfant,” she would say. “Choose your weapons wisely.” She fought long and hard to defend her dignity as she aged, and she won that battle.
They say that when the time comes, God sends a loved one to fetch you home. I’d like to think that He sent Louis and René to escort my Mother from the battlefield of life. I love the image of the Warrior Maiden walking off, arm-in-arm, with the two great loves of her life. It would have been a beautiful and fitting end to a life well lived. Besides, Isabelle always preferred the company of men.
R.I.P., Madame Mère. You will be greatly missed.
For Part 1, click HERE.
For Part 1, click HERE.