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Precious memories….

Mom and Remy, SM

I fell in love with him the moment I saw him

Sometimes I have to admit nature figured a few things out right by giving children to young adults rather than to their elders. Occasionally one reads about some woman somewhere who decides to have a baby at the age of 60. All I can say is rocks of ruck lady, it won’t be easy.

When I think of raising my children, I’m amazed I survived all the challenges — illnesses, sleepless nights, accidents, traumas and everything else parenting requires. Besides these, think of the wear and tear parents endure attending to their off-springs’ intellectual and moral development. How did I manage? And, could I do it now?

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A favorite photo of little Remy

Yes, I love my grandson with all my heart. He’s definitely worthy of my love and surely,

Remy young

All photos of little Remy are favorites

as the grandma in a Turkish series on Netflix often says to her grandson, I would die for him. Still I didn’t do much babysitting. I would have liked to, but wasn’t physically up to the task by the time he came along. The few times I did, I worried because….

My children live in a home with about 30 rather steep stairs to climb. I deal with a vestibular disorder which causes imbalance and dizziness. I once watched him (he was an infant) so my son and his Chandra, as new parents, could get out for a rare dinner alone together in the neighborhood. I worried. I’m good at that as you know.

Muriel:RemyReno2017

2017,taller than me already

What’s if there was a fire? How would I get my precious, little grandson, asleep in my arms, down those stairs? I devised a complicated plan. I would place him on the floor at the top of the stairs, sit on the top step, take him back into my arms, and bounce down on my bum one step at a time. I don’t know if it would’ve worked, but it made me feel better. It was never tested thank goodness!

Many of us, as we age, live with a common condition — arthritis. Babysitting with this active, clever child when he was little required the playing of games. When he was about three, he seemed to have the wisdom of a sage. Did he know I was hurting?

He had just been given a new little suitcase, so we played going on vacation. We walked around and around the kitchen counter in opposite directions, he dragging his empty suitcase, with both of us declaring ‘See you later alligator.’ whenever we passed each other. The next time, the greeting was changed to ‘In a while crocodile.’ We laughed a lot. Afterwards, I was exhausted. I’m not sure if he was truly amused, or just babysitting me.

Remy'staller2018

2018, much taller than me

When my son Rafi was about 14, he’d come up behind me as I cooked breakfast on the stove, give me a morning hug and rest his chin on my head. Remy can’t wait to be able to do the same. He’s rapidly getting there.

Yes, Remy, like that grandma in the Netflix series, I WOULD die for you!

‘The last time I saw Paris….’

photo by Susan Kauffmann

photo by Susan Kauffmann

9 a.m.: Installed on a bench, I’m pouring over the map of the famous Pere

Through the Chunnel, 1st class boring, regular class more fun

Through the Chunnel, 1st class boring, regular class more fun

Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Friends in England teased me about wanting to visit nothing but dead people. Indeed,

I had taken the Chunnel from London to Paris solely for this reason. It is where the likes of Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Bizet, Chopin, Isadora Duncan, Moliere, Edith Piaf, Marcel

The famous 12th century philosopher Abelard & his Heloise, at last united in death

The famous 12th century philosopher Abelard & his Heloise, at last united in death

Proust, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde are buried. Here the 12th century lovers Peter Abelard and Heloise were finally united in death.

If I pay proper homage and breath deeply at the gravesides of these brilliant/talented people, I might even absorb a little of their creativity. I mark the location of each grave I want to see and select the most logical route along Avenue des Peupliers towards Bizet’s final resting place. Just in case no one else has, I tell him his opera ‘Carmen’ (which he believed ‘a definite and hopeless flop’) is popular, famous and beloved today, 130 years later.

Frederic Chopin's tomb, Pere Lachaise cemetery

Frederic Chopin’s tomb, Pere Lachaise cemetery

That duty dispensed with, I turn onto Avenue des Ailantes, looking for Balzac’s grave. What is this? Right between Bizet and Balzac is an ancient, moss-covered tomb with my own family’s surname on it! If I had a name like ‘Smith’, I wouldn’t have given it a thought, but my maiden name ‘Ruch’ is not common. My dad, who immigrated to Canada from Lithuania during the 1920s wasn’t in touch with family left behind, and none lived where I grew up in Montreal.

Was it possible? Could it be? Was I walking around with the same genes as the people in this very tomb? I drop onto a nearby bench contemplating this unexpected turn of events, giving thought to the family I have never known. Unbidden, tears run down my cheeks. I approach the tomb and run my fingers along the rusted gate. I peer within the dark interior, but nothing is revealed. Without flowers to leave behind, I pick up a small pebble from the ground and carefully balance it on the peaked roof as a sign of my visit. Perhaps it is still there today.

Sarah Bernhardt's grave at Pere Lachaise

Sarah Bernhardt’s grave

After whispering goodbye to the “Famille J. Ruch” ghosts, I continue on my way, but that tomb won’t leave me alone. I visit each grave marked on my map, yet questions continue to plague me. How many relatives survived World War II? Where are they? What are they like? Do we look alike? Do any share my interests as well as my genes? Would I like them if I knew them? Would they like me?? How do you locate family you don’t even know?

Later, by mere chance, a friend told me about a genealogy website. I found it, typed in my maiden name and – hey, someone else was looking for people with the same name. I immediately sent off an email to Amanda, who lives in Longmeadow, MA. (USA). We ARE related; our grandmothers were sisters. She has created a family tree and because we found each other, she was able to fill in a few blanks. Amanda sent me a copy. When it arrived, I quickly tore the package open and set to work taping all 20 pages together. There, in black and white, were names and locations of dozens of relatives — in South Africa, Australia, England, Israel, Canada, and the U.S. Some had been murdered during WWII. One, whose dear ones had all perished took his own life; some made it through. Their tragedies and triumphs are, in part, my own.

An inquiry went off to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Could they put me in touch with any descendants of ‘Famille J. Ruch’? They didn’t respond, after all it IS a very old tomb. And, are Amanda and I alike? Well, both of us are writers…..

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Full of surprises

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Full of surprises