The photo of this delapidated house (taken after the Algerian war of independence) at the tip of the promontory is where my family used to spend their vacations. I hope that by today it would have been renovated into the magnificent place it used to be.
It is there that when the wind was coming from the East, the waves would come crashing with violent force and my aunts, uncles and countless cousins woud enjoy a 'Frita' at the main dinning room's zinc covered table enjoying the sound of the waves.
It is from the house's balcony over-hanging the rocks below that my uncles François, Joseph, Jules (the singer) and Vincent (the businessman) would pull out their fishing rods and reel in with extreme ease the next few meals. These guys were experts at fishing, at singing, working hard and at enjoying life. Most particularly François who was the 'Ray of Sun' of the family as my mother would often say.
Always laughing --- He contaminated me with that --- always jocking, always positive an overall, all-around fantastic human being.
My uncles were a bunch of lean machines, good looking dudes with enormous physical strength from pounding, day in, day out on 10lbs sledge hammers making wine barrels. As for the women they were extraordinary cooks as well as super hard working people, loving wifes and mothers. Happiness and prosperity flowed in their veins together with good red wine and anisette.
Unfortunatly, all these beautiful propencities semed to vanish fast after the country's Independence and the following 1962 exodus. The family dispersed in different countries, most of them to France though. All ended up destitutes after having to leave everything behind, in their early fourties having to re-build something on a heap of sorrow, regrets and monumental vissicitudes. They never quite recovered fully but all faced adversity head-on without fear. However, gone was the light hearted attitude toward heard-working but an earlier, otherwise easy life.
For many years I roamed the world in search of a purpose and to a great degree lost contact with my family except for the fact that they always remained in my heart and my thoughts. I did my very best however to keep in touch. There was no iPhone then....
However I soon had realized that my uncle Francois' impact on my life. How he had inculcated in me this good humor of his that was one of his main traits of character as well as his love for truth (or at least what he believed was the truth). He would look at facts and would not react to situations with only feelings. He had gotten that from our stern grand father we all called 'The Judge'.
I loved that about my uncle because I was at the time living an emotional hell at home. Francois was my safe harbor. He was the one that instinctively knew when I needed help and comfort. He provided that without ever lecturing me nor judging my parents.
His wife Yvonne and Raymonde, Joseph's wife, Yvonne's younger sister never said a mean word about anyone related to me and always treated me with love and care. I did not need to say a word for them to pull up a chair at the dinning table.
Francois was my inspiration, someone I looked up to.
I will never forget the day when a bunch of my cousins, including my brothers, fresh from the Lycée (college), heads filled with their newly learned Marxist ideas were touting the goodness of that ideology and the so-called mean exploitation of workers by mean American business. They were targeting François because they knew he was not going to agree with them and they had 'superior education' on their side. He calmly respoinded: "Before the Americans came to Algeria, we were wearing espadrilles and had not much food on the table and women were relegated to the kitchen or the bedroom. (Shocking!). By the time Americans left we had food, shoes with real soles, plus I do not recall any of those GIs ever disrespecting any woman. Not even Arab women. So, come to chose between the Communists and America... Sorry but I choose America."
Today, together with my fantastic Indiana born wife Susan we say:
Tonton François, Thank you for having been YOU.