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  • I call Polina and ask if I can visit. A few months ago she fell on her patio and broke her leg. Now she scoots around her apartment with a walker like a snail on a rug. She says she has two speeds — slow and stop!

    The doctors say she needs to stay in her wheelchair, but Polina is determined to prove them wrong. Her daughter worries and mentions an assisted living facility. Polina says she will not go. Every day she makes her bed and washes her dishes and does the laundry, just like the day before. She can do it all, she says. She does not need to leave.

    When I call, she doesn’t realize it is “Christina from church.” She thinks I am her granddaughter, also named Christina, who has a son and lives in Tennessee. She thinks they are driving all this way to see her. But I don’t know this until I come to the door with a bag of cheeseburgers, and she realizes I am not her granddaughter, and she is embarrassed. I wonder if she also is disappointed, but we eat the cheeseburgers anyway.

    We talk about her childhood in Russia and her love of Mikhail Lermontov poetry and her children, but she stops the conversation when the hummingbirds begin to flutter around the feeder on the patio where she fell.

    It is early September, but it is still warm, and through the window we watch their little, green bodies descend. Their miniature wings beat so many times per second that they seem to disappear. For just a moment these wingless hummingbirds are suspended in the air, and then they zip away like the flying saucers of cartoons.

    “I like to watch them every time they come close," Polina says, breaking the silence. “The cold air is coming. They won't always be here."
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