Friday, June 6, 2014

Merci beaucoup

The longest day, 6 June 1944. My kind, up-the-street neighbour, Bob, was on Omaha Beach 70 years ago today.

My kind, up-the-street neighbour, Bob, and i were in the shed addition of the barn, where he had stored his two ride-on lawn mowers. He had asked me if he could store them there for winter, and i readily agreed.

He owns both, and when he got the second one, which belonged to his brother-in-law who moved and didn't need it any longer, he gave the first one to his son to use. At the end of mowing season, after he had prepped both for the winter, he asked if he could store them in the barn.

And so, earlier this spring, he asked if he could get them out of the barn. Most of the snow had melted making access to them easier. He had removed the batteries in each in the autumn, and had brought both along with him to put them back in. I wanted to help if i could, and we repositioned one of the mowers so it would be easier for Bob to back it up and out beyond the sliding door. He asked me if i knew a foreign language, because i was explaining something and used my hands a lot. I laughed, told him i knew French, and when i had lived in France, found out just how much French i didn't know, and how speaking with my hands seemed to help. Guess i kept up the habit after i returned.

Bob then related he could remember merci beaucoup in French, but not much else. In his plain yet eloquent way, he explained,

"I wanted to go to college after the war, and I could use the GI bill. In order to be accepted into any college, I had to have a foreign language and I hadn't graduated high school, so when I went for my GED, I had a French teacher teach me all that summer so I could know enough to pass and get into college. It didn't stick with me, though," and here he pointed to his head, "other than merci beaucoup."

Merci beaucoup. It means, "thank you very much."

I was dumbstruck as i realised this nearly 90-year-old man had quit high school to join up, and once the war was over, got on with his life. I couldn't think of anyone in my generation who would have been willing to do that, nor could i think of anyone in younger generations who would be willing to do that. I couldn't say a word as he shouted over the lawnmower's din that he'd be back for the second one later, and waved as he rode the mower up the street. I waved back with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Merci beaucoup, Bob. 


  1. So few left. My uncle lost so much weight from pancreatic cancer he fit in his old Army uniform, which he proudly wore at the last platoon reunion he went to. And that was twenty years ago. Thank you, Bob and Uncle Hank.

    1. Bob is still quite fit and trim, so i wouldn't be surprised if he could still fit into his uniform, although he admitted he is shrinking a little. He's still over 6'2", but in his prime was 6'4".

      I'll have to peruse your blog and see what Uncle Hank stories i may have missed.

  2. It was a different generation and a different threat. I think Americans were more likely to pull together and were more patriotic.


  3. We all owe a very big Merçi to the remaining 'Bobs' everywhere.