I have currently been in France a little over 18 months. I decided to move to Paris when my daughter informed me that her husband's company was transferring him to their Paris office. He was working in the corporate office in Paris for 3 years and they would return to America after this time. When my family first moved away I was at a loss and missed my daughter and grandchildren so much. I had my volunteering job at the local veterans' hospital near my home. This took up most of my day but the nights were so lonely alone without the grandchildren running around.
On one of my visits to the hospital the young soldier I had been helping was ready to be released and go home to his family. We sat and had a long talk this day. I told him about my family and being in France. He asked me why I did not go there to be closer to them. I had never given this a thought before he mentioned this to me. We sat and talked for hours this day and he told me about Paris and all the fantastic sights he saw. He explained to me that in Paris there is a Military Hospital called Les Invalides. He started to tell me about how the building was constructed; it had museums, monuments, hospital, retirement home, and a burial site for some of France's war heroes. I sat there daydreaming as he spoke.
This evening I went home and waited for the time to call my daughter. I wanted to speak with her and find out how hard it would be for me to come and stay with her in France. My daughter was so excited and overwhelmed that I wanted to move to France to stay with them. She promised me that they would make all the necessary arrangement for my residence visa and stay in France. I just needed to prepare my suitcase and get on the plane. Well this was not as simple as it sounded. I had a little more work to do than packing a suitcase and ordering my plane ticket.
Finally the day came I was ready for the big adventure. I had all of my affairs in order and my visa was waiting for me in France. I had been brushing up on my French which I had not used in years. I ordered all my special spices that were not available in France and had all my papers in order. The day came and I boarded the airplane for the adventure of a lifetime. I was more excited than the two grandchildren the day they left for France.
I had been searching for a hospital I could volunteer at during my stay in France. I wanted to help the men who fought for their country. I had been corresponding with the director at the Les Invalides in Paris France. She was so excited to meet me and wanted to come to the airport when I arrived. I explained it would take me a few days to settle in and get adjusted to the time change. She understood and arranged a meeting for me the following week.
I arrived at Les Invalides in Paris France and was amazed to see this building. I could not believe the size of the building and all the history that was inside. I am happy that Ms. Pierre met me at the entrance of the building. She walked right up to me and said you must be Mrs. Sinclair. I was very surprised that she picked me out from the rest of the visitors that day.
I had a wonderful meeting and a tour of the hospital, retirement center, and museums. She knew so much of the history of France I was amazed. I had to apologize on several occasions for using the wrong context when I spoke. She said it was not a problem and she understood what I was saying. I told her it had been years since I spoke French and I had tried to brush up on my rusty French before arriving. She was laughing and told me that I would have plenty opportunities to brush up on my French during my stay in Paris.
I have been volunteering at the hospital 3 days a week and visiting with the folks in the retirement home twice a week. I am enjoying my stay in France and hearing all the stories these young men have to tell. I have been working closely with an extraordinary young man who is only 26 years old. He came home from Africa wounded when his battalion was ambushed unexceptionally. He lost one of his eyes, was shot in the upper arm, and his leg was trapped under the jeep when it turned over. His leg was so badly damaged and in order to save his life they amputated the lower half of his leg. He was stabilized in Africa and flown home to France. He has been in the hospital here for 8 months now.
France has extremely high tech medicine and the facility here is very different than the ones in America. The families have a chance to live in the rooms with the soldiers. Here each room is specially decorated to make the men feel more at home. I enjoy visiting Basile each day. One visit I asked him if his name had any special significance and he said yes. My name if you translate it means King. I told him this name was very suited for him and he should be proud that his parents gave him such a name of honor.
When I first met Basile he was like so many other soldiers I knew in America. He felt like his life had ended and there was not much to live for. The day I started to visit Basile he was very withdrawn and only stared out the window. He did not want to talk much. Finally he started to open up and told me that his girlfriend came to visit. Her visit did not go well when she saw his leg and eye. She was in shock and broke down crying and ran out of the room. This had put Basile into a deeper depression than he was already in. I was determined to help Basile and his girlfriend work out all their problems so they could get married and live a happy life together.
As the weeks passed Basile started to improve. His eye had healed and he was fitted for a glass eye. This made him look handsome and I made sure that his girlfriend was there when he returned. She was surprised at the eye and how natural it looked. She was pleased and said he was beautiful and told him how much she loved him. From that day forward his moral and depressed improved. He was no longer depressed and was eager to complete his therapy sessions and be released from the hospital.
Basile was having problems with the artificial leg they fitted him with. He could not adjust to wearing this and said that it hurt too badly to learn to use it. Basile was very athletic and I knew he was being difficult. His girlfriend and I worked hard to convince him to learn to walk with the artificial leg. She promised him they would get married if he would just get out of the hospital. She said that she did not want him standing in the church on crunches she wanted him standing on his own two legs.
Basile was fitted with 4 different artificial legs before they found one that was comfortable for him to wear and learn to walk with. He was released from the hospital 6 weeks later. I was invited to attend their wedding a few months back. I keep in touch with Basile and his wife and have visited them at their home many times. I enjoy being in Paris and I am happy that I can volunteer here to fill my days. I look forward to my return home to America but I know when I leave Paris I will miss it greatly and all the wonderful new friends I have here.