My buddy sent me a photo the other day of “Pa,” his wife’s grandfather. Pa was standing by the edge of a lake with his fishing line in the water.
“Pa’s getting old. He’s coughing a lot,” my friend said via Facebook as he watched the older man from nearby. “I never know when it might be our last fishing trip.”
“I’m having a moment,” he said. “What is ‘a moment’ to you?”
I didn’t have much time to think about my friend’s question. My Facebook chat window was open only as a pleasant diversion from my mounting to-do list. I was distracted.
But as I sat in the banquet room of Indian Meadows in Westborough on Tuesday afternoon, looking at my own grandfather—my Pepere—the question crossed my mind.
I was having a moment.
I glanced at my Pepere while listening to France’s Consul General, Fabien Fieschi, evoke the image of Armand L. Descoteau, then a 21-year-old tank driver who plowed through mine-laden farmlands in Normandy “at great personal risk.”
I listened to Fieschi explain how my French-speaking grandfather was a crucial asset because he was able to communicate with his allies when others could not.
I watched my mother escort my 89-year-old Pepere in his wheelchair to the consul general. I saw my grandfather cry as he received France’s highest military award. Then, I saw him wipe his tears and beam.
It was definitely a moment.
I know I wasn’t alone in being moved by the ceremony Tuesday, in which my grandfather and five other World War II veterans received the Knight of the Legion of Honor, for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and helping to liberate France.
Surely, the friends and families of Robert Nordgren of Auburn, Edward J. Pizzetti of Oxford, Margaret Hammond Walenski of Framingham, Roger E. Wheeler of Berlin and Frank Woolridge of Boylston were similarly affected.
My Pepere doesn’t get around as easily as he used to. Walking is a struggle. The trip Tuesday from my grandparents’ Worcester three-decker to Westborough was the first time he had left the house, excluding medical visits, in months.
“That was a long time ago,” he said, wistfully, when asked to share stories of his deployment. “Sometimes, it’s hard to remember.”
At one point, the memories my Pepere created in Normandy were moments. Maybe he thought as intently of them as I am thinking now of my time with him.
Moments can linger. They can also be fleeting.
I’m going to hold on to this particular moment for as long as I can.