September 1947 - July 2019
I used to be a different man. Today, I would like to think I am a better man and I had nothing to do with it. It is all her doing, and I told her so on our wedding day. I told her almost forty years ago that I was marrying her not only because of the person she was, but the person I became when I was with her, a person I liked.
I asked her to marry me a year into our relationship. She said no - something about my not being ready. Four years later, thinking I was ready, I asked her again. She said yes.
I was still not ready.
About a month into the wedding preparations, she sensed uneasiness. She asked if I wanted to go through with it. I was no longer sure. Without the slightest hesitation, and without the slightest hint of recrimination, she cancelled the whole thing.
We did not talk about getting married again until a few years later.
We had now been seeing each other for about seven years. We were playing backgammon at my place. I think I was winning when she said, “if I win this game, we get married.” She liked to talk about how she won me in a game of backgammon. I like to think I let her win because I would have been a fool not to.
I met my future partner in life at Communications Canada. She was a professional translator on a temporary assignment at the agency. That was 1973. Four years earlier, she had moved to Ottawa from Montreal, her hometown, to complete, on a scholarship no less, a Masters of Linguistics at Ottawa U.
Lucette was the only child of Adélard Carpentier and Anne Marie Mercier. They came from Montreal to join her in a large apartment on Elgin Street. I spent, maybe seven years of wonderful Sunday evenings with her and her kind and generous parents. Evenings which began with a lovely supper and ended with a game of cards or watching Les Beau Dimanche.
I would not have had the courage to ask that beautiful young woman in an enclosed office still working away on a Friday afternoon, but it was either giving it a try or admitting to my sister Rosa, who was in town with her husband Laurent for a teachers conference, that I did not have a date for a ball at the Chateau Laurier, to which they had invited me.
Lucette loved to dance. She admitted later that that was the reason she accepted my invitation: she would get to dance. I definitely did not woo her with my awkward impression of Fred Astaire. But still, at the end of the evening she said she would like to see me again. Thank you, Lord.
For our second date, I invited her to my studio apartment where I cooked for her what I thought was a simple dish. Most of our conversion that evening ended up being a back and forth with me alone on the bed and her in the bathroom getting over my impersonation of someone who knew how to cook. She decided then and there that, from now on, she would be doing the cooking. That was a bonus. I was just glad she still wanted to see me.
Shortly after we became an item, she joined the elite of government translators/interpreters: the fifty or so professionals who provide translations services and simultaneous interpretation to the House of Commons, the Senate of Canada, Parliamentary and Cabinet Committees and Party Caucuses.
Her range of interest, her knowledge of art, food, history, her extensive travels, before and after we met, meant that many an evening, when she could not talk about her day because of that secrecy thing, there was always still plenty to talk about.
Later, during the years when I was working in Montreal, she completed a Master of Business Administration, adding economics and commerce to our conversations. I loved talking economics, having taken a few courses at Simon Fraser during my phase I think I want to be an economist, only to be stumped by the mathematics. This was not the case for Lucette; she loved numbers. Soon she was doing my tax returns and doing them much better than I could.
Having a dilettante for a husband, a husband who was never sure if he was doing what he was meant to do, did not faze her one bit. She took it all in stride. Because she believed in me, I started believing in myself.
Before joining the Public Service Lucette taught French as a second language at Ottawa U. One summer the University sent her to Aix en Provence, all expenses paid, to teach French to adult Canadians looking for the ultimate immersion experience.
Lucette made friends easily. It was inevitable that her students became more than acquaintances. When the public sector told me to take a walk, she contacted a former student who paved the way to a successful career for me in the private sector as a consultant in computer-based information systems.
Lucette once joined me and new business partner on a trip to London to meet with clients who had expressed an interest in an application I had developed. On landing, Gerry and I ignored her advice ˗ a bad idea ˗ that we all get a good night sleep, and headed off to the Soho bar and theater district where we promptly got mugged.
Again, she took it all in stride, just a slight admonishment that we were businessmen on a mission and not tourists, and we should behave that way. The next evening, she got us three of the best seats to an amazing production of Les Miserable at the Palace Theater. When the cab driver asked her, “where to?” she said: “The Palace.”
Buckingham Palace ma’am?” he enquired. An understandable mistake.
With Lucette’s providing corporate guidance and home-cooked meals we did well. My last years as a computer consultant would be spent at Bell Canada headquarters in Montreal.
As I mentioned earlier, Lucette used the opportunity to earn an MBA while tending to her day job and her responsibilities as Vice President of her Union. Where she found the time and energy to meet me at the train station every Friday and drive us home to a table set for two and a romantic dinner, I will never know.
Lucette was 34; I was 30 when we married. She told me she could not wait forever to have kids. I was never ready and forever came to pass. She was a great partner and I am sure she would have been a great parent and an ever greater grandparent.
As an only child she will have to depend on the memories of other than her progeny to recall the wonderful, resourceful and thoughtful person that she was. That is where I come in.
You may have noticed, as you entered, a book about a book which some of you may think out of place. Her DNA may not live on, but the words we crafted together and the message they convey will, of that I am sure.
It was shortly after 9/11 when I walked into my local Chapters and noticed a pile of Korans stacked near the entrance. I purchased one, took it home and started reading. I had always dreamt of writing something more useful than a User’s Guide for a Management Information System.
I told Lucette that I would like to write about what I had read and would re-read many times over. I expected it would take me a year or two, three at the most to complete a sort of layman’s guide to the Koran. Ten years was more like it. Ten years that turned out to be some of the best years of our time together.
Most days began with the buzz of the alarm clock; my signal to get up and go downstairs to make the coffee. Ten minutes later, a warm cup of coffee in each hand, I would make my way back up the stairs, leaving one cup on the desk in my home office, and the other on her bathroom vanity.
Back in the bedroom I would open the curtains, then walk over to the bed to kiss her good morning. She would shower and get dressed and I would drive her to her job on Parliament Hill, a five to ten minute drive depending on the traffic.
For 35 years, she was one of the fifty or so elite professionals who provide translation and simultaneous interpretation to the House of Commons, the Senate of Canada, Parliamentary and Cabinet Committees and Party Caucuses.
After a hurried goodbye and have a nice day – Wellington Street, in front of Parliament, is a busy street in the morning – I would make my way back home and begin my day’s work which was, for about ten years, bringing order to the Koran.
When she got home at the end of the day, depending on the season, and the weather, we would sit on the front porch with a glass of wine and some munchies and she would read and comment on my day’s work. I always had a copy of Fakhry’s interpretation of the Koran on my lap ready to answer her questions. This was when her Masters in Linguistics, specialty Translation, came in handy.
Sipping her wine, she would patiently explained some of the nuances of Fakhry’s translation that I had failed to grasp or that I might have misunderstood.
We agreed on most things when it came to Islam and the threat it posed to Western Civilization except, that she believed it would all come to pass, that the moderates would win the day and the March of Civilization would continue and we would not see Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which ushered in the Age of Reason, undone.
She was always the optimist. As our layman's guide to the Koran grew from a few hundred pages to encompassing the entire book, her optimism was severely tested, but her dedication to what would become our project to make the Koran accessible to the layperson never wavered.
If we can, believers and non-believers, have the type of discussions Lucette and I had about Islam – taking time-outs if the discussion gets too animated – then her optimism that a modern interpretation of the Koran and mutual respect and understanding will eventually overcome fanaticism and intolerance may be validated and nothing would make her happier.
Love you Lucette
Lucette's 50th (video)