Miryam sighed as she dropped the last box on the ground. "Okay, Ma, you're all moved in."
Esther looked at her sadly without saying anything. Miryam noticed and went over to her.
"I'm sorry, Ma. We really tried to get the house back, but there just wasn't enough. And you know my apartment is too small and you don't even like the city and--"
"It's okay, darling," Esther said softly. "It's like when your father and I helped you move into youy university all those years ago. It's a new adventure."
Esther feigned a smile, and Miryam kissed her mother's head. "I'll bring the boys to come visit you this weekend. Try to have fun, okay?"
Esther smiled, but didn't say anything. Miryam wrapped her arms tightly around her, and then left. Esther heard the door slam behind her then looked around her new unit. She had to admit, the nursing home was nice, even though she didn't want to be there. An orderly had helped Miryam hang paintings on the walls. Photos of her and Paul on their honeymoon in Barcelona and family photos of the pair and their children against generic blue backgrounds smiled at her. Esther hadn't smiled since the doctors diagnosed Paul with heart disease. He'd held on after the first heart attack, but by the third, she knew she'd have to pull the plug on her husband. She couldn't tell her children by then, so the house's refinancing was poorly done, and she ended up here in Maple Grove.
A knock on the door pulled her from the photos. She stood from her husband's recliner, the only thing she had left of him, and went to the door. A smiling blonde lady was waiting for her.
"Hello, Mrs. Kirchner. I was wondering if you'd like to come to craft night. We're knitting mittens."
Esther had never knitted before, but she knew that Miryam would be upset if she didn't at least try to muscle through. So, Esther smiled politely, wrapped a shawl around her shoulders, and walked down to the large lounge room with the orderly and few other old men who ogled her as she walked. The room smelled of mothballs and was filled with fould-out grey tables. Old people were scattered around the room, expertly wrapping yarn around sticks and pushing out mittens and booties. Dread filled in Esthers head. She went to a corner of the room, grabbed a few knitting needles and yarn and tried to copy an older woman across the room who was about halfway through her third pair of booties.
She had made a few knots, cussed in Arabic quite a bit, and was about ready to throw the needles at the orderly who kept telling her she was doing a good job when she heard a voice next to her.
"There aren't too many Latin people here. Are you new?"
She turned to see a woman looking at her. The woman did not seem to belong in the nursing home. She was old, but not as ancient as most of the people there, and greying black hair that was in two long braids that framed her face. The woman had almond skin and a nice smile with a gold tooth. She was holding needles and thread, and was looking at Esther with these intense black eyes that made Esther feel like an ice cream cone in July. She hadn't felt this self-conscious since middle school when her friend had remarked how her legs looked in the gym shorts.
"Uh, no. I--uh--Palestine."
"Palestine. That's the place with the war, right?"
"Aren't there a lot of places like that?"
"Good call. I'm from Venezuela, and there's a war there too. No one notices though. It seems like there's either outright wars with bombs or secret wars with drugs and people disappearing from their homes."
"Mhm." Esther tried to unknot the yarn from her needles without seeming too awkward.
The woman giggled. "You are struggling."
Esther nodded, though she didn't stop trying to untangle it.
"Here." Esther felt the woman's hand touch her own and her heart felt as though it lagged for a second.
The woman took the needles from her hands and quickly detangled them. Esther watched in amazement.
"What?" the woman said asshe began to start her own pair of mittens.
"You're good at that."
"Oh yeah, I've been here awhile. Me and Agnes used to have a contest to see who could make more mittens for the preemies at the hospital but, she died so I have all this knitting ability for nothing."
"How do you even do this? Why do they think everyone over sixty likes to knit?"
"They don't know what we want. They just know that if we sit in our room until we die, they get sued, so they make us do anything in their power for us to be happy."
"Well do we do anything else? Do we swap war stories on Tuesdays and talk about when we didn't have houses on Wednesdays?"
The woman laughed and patted Esther's arm, sending warmth radiating around her rib cage.
"You are too funny. Though hearing the homosexual Vietnam stories is pretty entertaining. No, we have board games though. That's on Thursday nights. And sometimes they have manicures on Sunday. The Asian ladies hate it."
"I feel like high school all over again," Esther joked. "Only my mom isn't here to yell at me and tell me to stay away from boys."
"My mom never had to tell me that. Hell, she was always praying for a son-in-law."
"Yeah. Luckily, I've always been a disappointment so she wasn't too broken up."
"That's sad. My mom wasn't happy about me bringing home a black man."
"She would've probably had a heart attack if you moved in with a female friend and lived with her for thirty years and raised two children with her."
"Yeah, they don't do that in Palestine."
"They don't in Venezuela either, but that's why we came to New York, right? She hated when I told her that."
"So, what happened to your friend?"
"Suicide. She got Alzheimer's and didn't want to fight it. Not even for me."
"Yeah. What happened to your black man?"
"Yeah, me too."
"Well, I'll be here to keep you company. I pissed off my son's wife one too many times and my daughter is somehow uncomfortable around my gayness, believe it or not, so the only way I'll get out of here is in a wooden box or an urn."
"Oddly comforting. Thanks, um..."
"Nice to meet you, Esther. Would you like me to get those knots out again?"