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Nana's hand shakes in slow motion as she reaches for her tea. I try not to stare but it always makes me nervous when I watch her reach for her tea. And she drinks it so hot. My tea still sits untouched in front of me; the curls of steam dance in the sun streaming through the window by her tiny kitchen table. I watch their shadowy ghosts writhe on the floor near the stove.
This is how I watch her shaking hand without staring. I sometimes feel silly watching the shape of her finely boned hand, floating across her kitchen floor. I know the wobbling will stop as soon as she touches the cup's handle; anchoring herself.
It's become our ritual: third Thursday at ten AM (give or take) the ombudsman from the Department of Health and Human Services comes to visit, to see how she's doing. Make sure she's not using her assistance money to buy cigarettes. Or crack. Who knows?
Nana's nervous when the ombudsman comes. She doesn't like to be alone with him, though he's always polite. She doesn't say it, but I know she feels like her privacy is being violated. I've tried to explain that Mr. Feltzing is very nice, and that there weren't very many that would drive out to see her.
She will wave her hand at me when I ramble on, screwing up her face. She knows. Her hand will flutter around like a baby bird coming in for an unsteady landing on my arm, as she turns from the cabinet with the sugar, or stands after taking cookies out of her fifty-year-old oven. Then she'll squeeze and give a short pat. It's octogenarian for 'shut up.'
The doorbell rings and Nana's eyes slide up from her tea. The ombudsman is here. I heard him coming up the walk. His shadow momentarily interrupted Nana's shadow-puppet show, but Nana missed those clues. I stand to get the door, touching her shoulder as I pass. I can hear her pushing the cookie plate a little closer to the third place she's set, as I step to the door.
"Nana," I say to Mr. Feltzing's smiling face through the door, "the ombudsman's here."