Madame Gentille is going home with her new hip. She’s 84 and lives alone in the countryside, not far from the Dordogne river.
She tells me she is longing to get back to her house and garden. She doesn’t mind living alone. Her daughter lives nearby and keeps an eye on her.
Madame Gentille’s dog died last year. She decided against getting another one, although she loves dogs. Her daughter has bouviers des flandres – rugged, woolly working dogs – and bred a litter of puppies recently. Pets aren’t allowed in the clinic, but the park below the salon is public. Her daughter brought the puppies to the park, “So I could watch them from here, in the salon.” Madame Gentille smiles.
Her daughter suggested a cat. “She’s worried I’ll be lonely. But I don’t want a cat.”
Her daughter bought her two birds instead. She’s been looking after them while her mother is in the clinic. They’ll be back in Madame Gentille’s house in time to welcome her home.
“What kind of birds?” I ask.
“Inseparables (lovebirds).” Now there is sadness in her smile. She is silent for a few moments.
She tells me her husband died 25 years ago. Their only son was killed in a car accident. He was 36 years old, divorced, no children.
“It shouldn’t happen like that. Parents should not bury their children. It’s the wrong way round. It broke my heart. My husband was inconsolable. He died soon after that.”
She falls silent again. She has a far away look in her eyes.
“I like being on my own. I never wanted to re-marry. We were like the birds. Inseparables.”