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Brushing Mildred

Updated on February 13, 2013

Every Thursday at 11, Angie

unties Mildred’s salt and pepper

hair, finger-combing it in the

sunlight, steady, sure, listening.

“Used to be do down to my


butt,” Mildred says, leaning

forward in her wheelchair. Angie

laughs, continues to unwind years

of hair as Mildred weaves stories

of the old days, her children,


her lovers, what the sun does

to her face. “Don’t do me

like my great-grandmama did!”

Mildred warns, trembling a finger,

so Angie brushes gently, separating,


joining, until Mildred is a

Cherokee princess sitting in front

of a fire, telling stories

to her tribe of volunteers

and nurses. A week later


at 10:42, plaits gone, Mildred

waits in the day room.

She sits steady, sure, listening

for the scratch of a

pen on the visitor’s log.

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