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old friends

A quick word before I lie down – just came back from the friendly local pharmacy where I bought expectorant cough pills, throat lozenges, and a sleep aid, at a cost of 24 euros – about $35. Not cheap, this sickness business. I am not better and have written to ask my son to make me an appointment with our mutual doctor for as soon as I get back. Time to get to the bottom of all this. My lungs hurt, couldn’t sleep because stuffed up. And outside, all day, the most gorgeous Parisian day.

Something surreal about being here in this incredible city and feeling rotten. But I’m glad I bestirred my bones this morning anyway to go and visit a very old friend. Michele lives in a suburb south of the city, took me an hour and a half by metro and suburban train to get there, but it was worth it. She was a student and then a scientific colleague of Dad’s; we met in 1964 when I was 13 and she was 27. Now she’s 87, has had cancer and a back operation, can hardly walk. Her husband Daniel, who was considerably younger, died suddenly a few years ago of a brain hemorrhage. She lives alone in their house, almost a farmhouse, in the countryside, her sons not quite close enough. She’s a lovely open woman who used to hike and camp and do ethnic dancing.

We had a most moving conversation, because — here’s the story — not long after marrying Michele, Daniel had a passionate affair with my mother. After that ended he went on to have many more affairs; that’s just who he was, and she put up with it because she loved him and wanted to keep the family together. He was an extraordinary man, a musician and teacher, organizer of events and communes, full of ideas and energy. He could even pilot a plane. But his ways were hard on her.

She took me to lunch in the beautiful village of Gif and then we returned to walk very slowly through the woods outside her house, and to look at the photo books she’s made of adventurous trips Daniel took with their grandsons.

And then the long metro ride back. Madame is out for a walk; it’s just me and my medication. One more day in Paris. A trip to remember, despite all.

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4 Responses to “old friends”

  1. Juliet in Paris says:

    Beth, there’s a POLLEN ALERT, we’re all suffering. My nose has been running like a faucet for a week now, stuffed up head, ears ringing. Same for everyone in my office.

    “Alerte rouge aux pollens : bouleau, graminées, cyprès… presque toute la France touchée. Dès jeudi 4 avril 2024, le pollen, notamment de bouleau, va s’envoler et envahir presque toute la France. Cyprès, chêne, platane et graminées devraient également être de la partie.”

    You need to buy ActiSoufre (or another brand), a nasal spray they call “pulvérisation nasale”. You can also buy antihistamines for allergies, but get the kind to take at night as they make you drowsy.

    As for Paris’s marvellous transit system…yes, it works well…when there’s not a general strike.

    • Beth Kaplan says:

      Juliet, thanks for the alert – but I don’t have allergies, so I don’t think it’s pollen – it’s in my lungs. This too shall pass. And yes, I know about infuriating French strikes. But when it’s running, the system is phenomenal.

  2. Kathy O'Brien says:

    what a difficult, complex story … and your friend does not look 87 years of age

  3. Beth Kaplan says:

    Michele has always been youthful, and her hair has never turned grey. It’s naturally dark, even at 87!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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