She had been calling me Karen for a while now. My name is not Karen. In the back of the stifling car, we sat together in silence. Timidly, I looked down at the aged skin on her fragile little arms. I could see the blue-green of her veins beneath so many years on this earth. Slowly I reached out to pat her hand. I memorized the hands I had known forever, the clear varnish on her nails, the dainty silver wristwatch.

These were hands that embraced me so many times as a child. The hands that wiped away tears when I fell off the swing-set. The hands that made egg salad sandwiches with me every Friday for years.

I was only seventeen. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I could feel hot tears welling up in my eyes. I’m not even sure if she could sense how sad I truly was in that moment. She was sick. Her memory was failing. This woman had been there for me my whole life despite no blood relation.

Gently I took one of her hands between mine. I didn’t care that it was nearly 100 degrees in that car as we drove back to her daughter Karen’s house. I softly kissed her hand and pressed it to my cheek. I kissed her hand one more time. The tears were coming faster now. She definitely knew I was sad. We looked at each other for a moment and neither of us said a word.

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