Here are my paternal grandparents. He was born in Bad Liebenzell, in the Black Forest, in 1911, and she was born in Pau, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in 1912.

She trained as  a nurse, but married my grandfather in Canada and stayed home, caring for my father and grandfather.

As is so often the case with my family, the basic facts give rise to the question, "What the heck were they doing there?"

Why was my grandfather, the son of a couple of missionaries in China, born in the Black Forest? His family lived in China except when they were sent home to Louisiana during the Boxer Rebellion. So how did they end up in Germany?

Then, having grown up in China and, when my great-grandfather died off the coast of Malta, lived with his mother in her native France, my grandfather married a Frenchwoman. So why did they get married in Canada?

I imagine that readers of this probably were also thinking, "What the heck were they doing in China? And Lousiana? And Malta?" I just happen to know those parts of the story.

My grandfather trained as a singer at the Sorbonne, and then became a librarian and translator for the International Labor Office.

My brother and I lived with them in their apartment in Geneva for a while after our father's death. They had an umbrella stand made from an elephant foot. We went for walks in the park, watched boys playing cricket, attended movies, and  ate glace citron on the sidewalk.

My grandmother died of lung cancer after smoking all her life. My grandfather quit smoking and lived for another decade or two, visiting friends and family, tending his garden, and enjoying the good things of life before ending up in St. Jean de Luz.