Felicia can only remember her past in fragments, brilliant shards of memory that splinter off in her mind and form patterns that are beautiful, despite the fact that they do not touch. She is ninety, gray-haired and stooped, but her eyes are still the eyes with which she entered this world: bright and blue as the just-washed sky at dawn. It is as if her essence, her Felicia-ness, exists solely within those blue spheres. No one who looks into her eyes, young or old, can resist the chemistry of that gaze.

She speaks to those who would hear her stories. Some people dismiss her as an old babbling fool, but those who take the time to listen leave her presence with the gift of her insight.

“Love is so small it can fit through the eye of a needle,” she says with a smile, as she fingers the rose-petal beads of her rosary.

I am one of the nurses who attend her at night. Most of the time, I just sit and watch her sleep, fascinated even by the slow rise and fall of her ribcage, the play of dreams across her face.


In time I came to see I was wrong to call Felicia peaceful. We’d been staring into the still surface of a lake when I impulsively compared it to her. She’d swung around to face me, a mysterious smile turning up the corners of her mouth.

“Really?” she’d said, and I remember being amazed that such a small word could contain so much inside of it. I realize now that she’d seen my really very innocent comment as a challenge. But then her next response took my breath away.

She jumped into the lake. I remember how hard she laughed as she surfaced, long hair plastered against her head, shirt ballooning around her. She looked waterlogged and messy. I’d never seen her look more beautiful.

Now she sits in the small room where she lives in the ALF , her memories stolen by something they call Alzheimer’s. Her blue eyes are now cloudy, no longer the clear, deep waters I knew. After nearly half a century together I realize how I was wrong to call her peaceful. Unpredictable would’ve been a better word. Beautiful the best.

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