For years, there’s been a group of us that has gotten together one Sunday a month to down rakı in the afternoon. With our average age over 70, we’re people that have figured things out about life, witnessed our ambitions fade and put an end to the struggles “to do this and not miss out on that.” We’re people with a similar level of culture and devoid of any material expectations from each other who aim to enjoy a few hours within an atmosphere of respect and love – not to mention laughter.
The leader of the group is me. Thanks to my feverish work on the backstage and my numerous campaign promises, I was elected group leader-for-life. But our group also has a “Doyen,” who possesses absolute superiority. Even if my leadership is “eternal,” my authority doesn’t extend farther than I could throw my presidential sash. Our Doyen’s wife is unwell, so he comes to the meeting with his daughter, making it six husband-and-wife couples and one father-and-daughter combination. During one meeting, our Doyen piped up:
“Mr. President, I’d like to speak.”
Dispensing with the formality of waiting for due approval from the Chair, he presented this stunningly brilliant idea for the consideration of the assembly:
“I move that our next meeting be conducted in Nice!”
First there was short pause of silence, to be followed by cries of approval – but our Doyen silenced them all:
“On one condition!”
Everyone waited with baited breath.
“You will be my guests! For three days and three nights, you will come wherever I take you, you will sleep wherever I put you down for the night and you will eat whatever I put before you! I’m certain that our Chair will not accept any objections to my condition!”
Would it be possible to object? Within the framework of a wide-ranging “democratic understanding,” everyone didn’t really have much choice but to fall into line with what was said. Moreover – and between you and me – wouldn’t a “no” vote against such a generous invitation from a member whose age greatly exceeds that of the rest of the assembly not precipitate an early onset of senility? Thankfully, there was no such misfortunate, and I, in my capacity as the Chair, implemented our Doyen’s order immediately.
We met on a sunny October morning in Nice.
It’s a tradition when going to Nice to absolutely visit St-Paul-de-Vence. Because our Doyen had especially put a short trip to the commune onto the itinerary, we all piled into minibuses, fulfilling our touristic duty to visit this cute town once again despite all having seen it several times before. After circulating through the narrow streets of this medieval town that enjoys an eagle-eye view over the valley below, surrounding walls and exceptional defenses, inspecting the new works on show at the art galleries and paying our respects to Chagall who lies in rest there, we were all a bit peckish, so we repaired to Alain Llorca on our return, where two tables awaited us. Alain Llorca is the former boss of the Negresco Hotel, a fixture in Nice. He hangs out in the kitchen, while his wife is in the hall. The restaurant boasts a fantastic view of the valley and St-Paul-de-Vence, which overlooks it on the hill. The husband-and-wife team have also opened a boutique hotel in the same place: Hôtel Les Messugues, a cute inn with eight to ten rooms. Llorca first offered us a regional champagne. As an amuse bouche, instead of the pissaladière that is special to the Côte d’Azur, he put before us some unique dishes that served notice that “I’m not like anyone else.” Truly, he presented us with unique dishes both for starters and entrées. I liked the Rouget filet, thought the foie gras de lièvre was a bit average and didn’t really think much of the oeuf cocotte, which is made with mushroom and eggs. The drum fish was also not particularly good, and I have to admit that the service was slow amid the evening crowd – despite all of Madame Llorca’s efforts.
But so what? Our spirits were so high that we weren’t in a position to entertain negative thoughts about our food and drink as we soaked in the sunny afternoon while gazing at the verdant green valley and the deep blue Mediterranean in the distance. We were content with life; after all, what is the thing known as happiness other than being able to experience the joy of “the moment?”
Yes, we were content with life; maybe our knees were hurting, maybe the blood pressure of some of us had risen and maybe we should have paid greater attention to what we ingested or even taken some diabetic medicine as a precaution…
We were content with life and at peace with ourselves. At this stage, we were able to just let everything flow and accept things much more easily. Whether this is the wisdom that comes with age or a combination of serenity and resignation I don’t know, but I have the courage to say this: Youth is a richness that one loses without ever being aware of its value, while age is the reward for life experience.
Deserving this reward need not require having wealth; it’s enough to avoid being in need and honorably being able to keep your held high!
Long live old age!