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By Nicole Pyburn


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Abigail is 102 years old. She has absorbed the smell of the ancient house she
lives in and the plain oatmeal she eats. The cheek I kiss is rough and the
wrinkles run crazily like cracks in parched earth.

The sunken eyes that search my face are pale blue and cloudy. I must speak, loudly, before she can recognize my voice, but I pretend she knew me first from her unfocused eyesight.

Her thinning white hair is held back modestly in a hairnet and a
few strands have come free. As she shuffles to her chair her hands shake and
she reaches out to hold onto the table. Her feet are bound with three socks
and thin, faded, pink slippers to keep out the impending numbness.

Her clawlike hand, cold, grasps mine, and I see the blue raised veins that line
her hands and run up her arms. Her bluish lips stretch into an almost
toothless smile to give some semblance of happiness and to try to conceal her
utter loneliness.

She gives the impression of white-that white that is so
cold it is almost blue. Her hair, her hands, her eyes, her lips, even her
brittle fingernails-all bluish white.

When she finally speaks, her voice is scratchy from a century of use and months of neglect. But it is strong, as she is strong. Her thoughts are scattered, but they convey her absolute trust in God, her love of life, and her joy in my presence.

She is exhausted. She is ancient. She is amazing.


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