Even though I’ve been frenetically planning my return to France I haven’t been committing to it. An enormous IF has preceded every thought, all plans have been noted in the hypothetical tense, rather than the future. I’ve made endless lists: confirm reservation before transferring money, book tour before confirming hotel, decide whether and when to rent a car, and all the mundane but necessary decisions that go into making a well-orchestrated trip. But until today I didn’t pay for anything, refused to stop waffling: this flight or that, will there be anywhere to eat near that hotel, can I handle a carry on and a suitcase plus a briefcase all by myself when walking on the ferry and riding the TGV?
Because even though I’ve always been the travel agent in the family, in the end, I’ve always asked Shel to give his seal of approval to the final itinerary, not to mention being the person who carried the passports, held my hand at takeoff and landing, hauled luggage onto trains, opted for comfort whenever possible, walked down dark streets with me, and generally increased my bravery and confidence a thousandfold, since it meant that I wasn’t alone in the world, and that if worse came to worst, we’d be in it together.
But today I pulled the trigger, as it were. I booked everything possible, faxed notes to banks in two countries, and had to actually close my eyes in order to click Submit on the button that will send me to Europe on Business Class, an expense I’ve never before contemplated. But somehow, Shel made me do it. I arrayed before me all the things that would be so much harder about this trip without him, and decided to give myself the one thing I could think of to make it a bit easier. I couldn’t bring myself to do it with my eyes open, but I managed to get it done.
I’ve decided to start my trip in England, and that too is fraught. Shel loved England, and spent quite a bit of time there. But I’ve barely been, and I want to be away longer that the 90 days I’m allowed by a tourist visa in France. So to England I will go, where it will probably be grey and rainy, just like it will be at home.
From there I’ll go spend a month of French immersion at a language institute on the Riviera, perfecting my language skills and being in a place where Shel and I never were together.
And then I’ll go back to our home town of Uzès, where I’ll hold a memorial for Shel, weep with all of our dear friends, and see what of our old life still holds its arms out to me. I’ve timed it so that I’ll be away for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Shel’s birthday, and Valentine’s Day. It’s been quite a day, getting to the point where I can tell you that. Soon it will be six months since Shel died.